A Few Words on the Fire Service

Public Safety Ministries Inc. (PSMInc) is dedicated to “Promoting Spiritual Fitness in the Public Safety Professions”. Now granted, the vast majority of my focus has been with law enforcement since that is where I come from and that is where I serve as Chaplain. For those who don’t know the story, I originally intended to call the ministry Peace Officer or Law Enforcement Ministries, or something along those lines. But when I was bestowing my wisdom of future ventures on my EP peer in the fire service, Chief George, (you remember him don’t you? The agnostic Jew raised in Catholic school?), he enlightened me to the fact that fire service personnel are in just as much need for spiritual fitness as “you cops”. Hence, Public Safety Ministries was born.

Well I got a message the other day from Brad Bloom, publisher of Faith and Fitness Magazine. This issue contains an article called A FIREFIGHTER’S STRENGTH FOR SERVICE. He thought some of my readers may enjoy it, and I agree. I especially enjoyed the introduction story and thought I’d share it here.

By Bob Markowski and Ralph Haynes, Introduction by Phil Black
Southern California, October 2007 – Houses were burning all around us. Split-second decisions dictated whose homes would be saved and whose would be lost. It was the type of triage none of us enjoyed. In a strange way, firefighters are often at their very best during these times of oppressive heat, devastation, and danger. We are trained to remain level-headed and situationally aware even in times of extreme emergency.
As we attempted to suppress the fires burning in any one particular house, there came a time when we knew that the house could not be saved. At that moment, we would give each other the sign. The sign meant that we would make one last run through the burning house to collect whatever we thought would be most important to the family that lived there. We would pull family photos off the wall, pick up jewelry boxes, grab important-looking file cabinets, snatch video cameras, photo albums and computers – anything that we thought would be of sentimental value to the residents. We pulled antique cars out of people’s garages and parked them on the front lawn. This all had to be done in a matter of 30 – 45 seconds – seconds before the house went up in a ball of fire.

Those are some of the most worthwhile minutes we spend as firefighters – helping to save something — anything of value to the residents. We witnessed families return to their homes after the fire to find nothing more than a concrete slab. Yet next to the slab on the burned front lawn, they saw a pile of framed photographs, old home movies, mementos, jewelry boxes, or file cabinets – all untouched by fire and smoke. The families would look around and wonder how such a thing happened? How did their most prized and important possessions end up saved from the wreckage? They would look left, and right? Still, they had no idea how it happened. Then they looked up into the sky – and all their questions were answered – for they knew God had a role in this salvation.

Our fire crew would look at each other and not say a word. We just went about our business of cleaning up with a little more appreciation for a job that allows us to serve others in such unique and unconventional ways.– Phil Black, San Diego Fire Department

Oh yeah, and there’s another reason I’ve got some interest in the fire service. My dad spent 30 years with the Minneapolis Fire Department and my son Pete is a firefighter and going to school in Fairbanks Alaska.