The recent firefighter fatality in Asheville has sparked a blaze of public sentiment for the profession. I don't seek to degrade firefighters, but I refuse to get caught up in the wave of arbitrary admiration by a portion of the public bent on somehow “owning” the mourning that really belongs to the family of the fallen. Why don't we have parades and set up scholarship funds in the names of deceased HVAC technicians, fast-food workers or exterminators? Don't they work to make our lives better too?
Firefighters are generally reckoned to have very dangerous jobs, thus the glorification. Fewer than a hundred firefighters die every year while on duty. A significant portion of those deaths are due to cardiac arrest or stroke, which could be attributed to the physical stress of battling a fire, but I'd guess many are also due to existing health issues. Uniforms don't magically defy the obesity epidemic. Firefighter calendars are like college girl-calendars. They don't all look like that.
You see, professional firefighters have pretty cushy jobs. They know it, too. Ask one. They get paid to sleep, eat and watch TV, play video games, etc. They generally have excellent benefits of municipal jobs: paid vacation, retirement, health and life insurance.
Every time a Firefighter dies while actually fighting a fire, conventional society jumps into lock step to deify him. Nothing spring-boarded this quasi-religious arbitrary glorification more singularly than the firefighter deaths on 9/11.
We don't become heroes by dying; we become heroes by saving. The first rule of the first responder is protect yourself. You've got somebody to save tomorrow as well. There are, after all, about 3,000 civilians killed in fires every year in the U.S. It appears that not being a fireman is a damned dangerous job too.
— Norman Plombe