Comfort Kills Progress

Comfort… I know. You’ve been in the fire department a little while, have a good grasp on the job, a decent reputation and someone told you “you’re a good fireman.” You’ve probably been in about 5-7 years and feel like you’re not a new guy, but your not an old guy. Life is good. What else is there? You’re comfortable. Yea… Comfortable is not a good thing…

You know what “comfortable” means? You’re dangerous. It also means that comfort’s close friend is right around the corner. Complacency. Trust me you don’t want that either bruh. Keep learning, moving, leading and stay sharp. Don’t settle. Find something to advance in. Anything. Don’t stop because you’re feeling comfortable. It’s dangerous. 

Comfort is the killer of all progress. Comfort will tell you to stop moving and start settling. You don’t want that. You’re comfortable right now? Don’t be. It might be time to make yourself uncomfortable. It might be time for a new fire service goal or task. There is nothing wrong with gaining confidence in your abilities as a firefighter. It will make you “feel” comfortable in performing the job. However, comfort as a mindset is dangerous. Don’t do that. 

– Josh Chase


SENIORITY. When I joined the fire service, seniority was a thing. I was a new guy and looked up to the guys who had come before me. I wasn’t straight out of high school looking for a fire department father figure, I just knew these guys had been where I wanted to be and done some things I wanted to do. I respected that. 

When I arrived at my first assignment, I already had some time in the Army and a military deployment under my belt, but I still had respect for the senior guys in the fire service. I was not a firefighter yet and knew I had to learn to become one. To me, the badge on graduation night was a license to learn, not a gateway to firefighter entitlement. I understood that though some military principles would apply, guns and hoses were very different tools to tackle very different enemies. I respected the fact that I was new and needed to watch, listen, and learn from the ones that were already here. I didn’t do it perfect, I just did it. 

The senior guys had been to fires, EMS calls, and seen things that I had not seen yet. Things I only heard about in the academy and in stories that I wanted to experience. They cared about the fire service, their craft and were good at what they did. So, I watched them, learned from them, asked questions, learned to respect the fact that they had come before me, and the fact that I was building my career on their shoulders. Yes, we wore the same t-shirt, but we were not the same. My shirt said “firefighter” just like theirs did, only they were firefighters who had fought REAL fires. We were equal in the sense that we were human, but not in the sense that were equal players on the fire ground. Those are just the facts. We were not the same and I was ok with that. Still am… 

Seniority meant something when I joined up. It wasn’t a sense of entitlement because you had years of service. It was a sense of accomplishment because you had poured years into a hard career, were still here, doing it well, and didn’t mind teaching a new guy a thing or two. I looked up to the senior man and wanted to be the senior man when I “grew up” someday. It was a title that was never officially given but could be definitely be earned. Honestly, seniority in itself does not make you a leader. However, if you’ve put in the work and not sat in the recliner every single day, people will follow you for good reason. If you haven’t put in the work, please do not think that years of service alone qualifies you to lead other firefighters. It does not and if you’ve slept your whole career the only place your leading people is to a good nap. 

-Josh Chase

Look in the mirror

Look in the mirror… “Man that guy sucks. Why is he still here?” Ever been part of one of these conversations? I have. Plenty of them. I’ve found myself in them, started them, and not stopped them prior to them getting out of hand. I’d love to say that I’ve been above this my entire career, but I haven’t. I have sat and openly discussed other firefighters faults with other firefighters and then waved as the guy as he walked by. Jacked up, I know. 

What’s even more jacked up is this group you are discussing these things with is probably discussing your faults when you walk away. Then when you are left in the group and another guy walks away you discuss his faults and motives behind his career decisions. You think you’re part of a group that has a common interest, and you are, it’s just not bettering the fire service, loyalty or the people on the job that need help. 

If you see something wrong with someone, help fix it. Train them and bring them up to where you are. Maybe you are further along, not better. Get ‘em there with yah and stop talking shit behind their back. It’s not effective for anyone. Especially considering you yourself probably have something you need to be working on. Last I checked, there is no perfect firefighter. We all have a lot of growing to do in different areas we can help each other improve on. Come together and work as a team. 

You got a guy that’s good at training and a guy that sucks at it, pair them up. You got a guy or girl that is a fitness guru, let them lead fitness in the station. Everyone should be helping each other somehow, someway. Not consistently talking shit about each other to make ourself feel good and hide what we aren’t good at… Look in the mirror the next time you catch yourself wanting to get down on someone. Evaluate what you suck at and lets start working on that before we rip on one of our crew members. 

Oh, you need an example? I got one for yah. Early on in my career, I focused hard on job skills and performance. For the most part, I became proficient for where I was in my career. What I did not focus on was not being an asshole all the time and talking to people like they were people, and not all like me. So, I’ve had to work on that part of it and found people that were better at it than me. Trust me, I’m still working on it… Just work at it. If we spent more time fixing our own faults verses talking shit about the faults of other firefighters we’d be part of a salty crew who knows the job inside and out and is good at it.

If you’ve taken the time to read this far, let me say this. This article is not for the paycheck collectors in the departments. They are here for the t-shirt, the fish fry, and the “prestige.” They know who they are and have no intention of getting better. They are place holders. It is best to still help these individuals, and by that I mean help them find a new job at Chic Fil -A or Starbucks. I think you get payed pretty well there now. There they can work without putting peoples lives in jeopardy that are in the fire service for the right reasons. 

-Josh Chase


Exposed…This job will expose you. You will only get out of this job what you put into it, and one day you will be exposed. You will be left there wondering and knowing that you could have done and performed better if you had only actually prepared and applied yourself. Seriously, we work in a career field full of risks, but hesitate to prepare for them. Why? 

For years I’ve heard “complacency kills” over and over. However, that’s not true. It’s you, it’s me, it’s us. It’s our lack of motivation and respect for the oath we took and the citizens we serve that kills. Complacency is just a result of a mindset that is dangerously adopted by many. 

You don’t think your weaknesses will be exposed? You can’t hide forever. Either they will be exposed to the few, or the masses. What will you do when that happens? Will you pout about it like a child; or see it as an opportunity to change? Hopefully the latter. 

You may not be exposed to other people. You may know your own weaknesses and choose to do nothing about them. Then, when something tragic happens who will you blame? Will you even be honest with yourself about your own need for change? This can be one of the hardest things… 

When you are exposed to yourself. When there is no one else to blame and it is up to you to have personal integrity, admit your weaknesses to yourself and start fixing them. Poor decisions on the fire-ground should eat at you a little bit no matter who’s looking. If no ones looking and you think you got away with it, consider that a lesson, not luck… Take the lesson and make the change. Luck is not a reliable strategy.

Josh Chase

Quitting is an option.

Quitting is an option… One of my least favorite sayings in the fire service is “Quitting is not an option.” That is simply not true. It is in fact an option. Actually, when things get hard; what is the first thing you are challenged to do? Oh yea, quit! Why do we keep shoving this down peoples throats like it makes us tough? It doesn’t. All you are teaching people to do, is to be unprepared with the thoughts and feelings of quitting once they arrive in their heads. It’s time to teach people how to deal with the temptation to quit. Maybe we tell them “Quitting is an option, but I’m going to show you how to push past it.” Someone should do that. Ok, I will. 

One of the biggest contributors to pushing past the thoughts of quitting is having a worthy goal or vision in mind when you set out to accomplish something in the fire service. I say worthy for a reason. I lofty goal does not really offer you a reward worth fighting for. A worthy goal offers you a worthy reward and the joys of sweet victory once you accomplish it! You want to deal with and push past the thoughts of quitting? What’s your goal? Better yet, what’s your purpose?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to teach an academy at the training division. With an academy full of new recruits, I knew we were going to lose people for multiple reasons. However, my main goal was to not lose people to quitting! I knew they would be pushed to the point of wanting to quit, but I needed them to understand that when those feelings presented themselves we pushed passed them. Why? Because we expected them. We prepared for those thoughts with a worthy goal. 

Day one of the academy I passed my firefighter badge around the classroom. The one I earned in my academy when I took the oath. I let them hold it, look at it, and picture having one of their own. Their goal was to graduate. Their goal was to be a firefighter and have their family and friends pin their own badge on them. Their worthy goal was to obtain the title of firefighter that would give them a license to learn and grow in a new career. 

When things got hard, I reminded them of that moment. I reminded them that quitting is an option, but if you push past that moment you will continue on a path to becoming a firefighter. It works the same way for you my friend. Quitting is an option. So, when you are presented with that option; how will you handle it? Keel over, shut up and quit? Or will you look back on the reasons you got started with your challenge in the first place? Push pash the option to quit. It’s too easy. Need an example? To quit writing this article, I literally just have to stop

-Josh Chase