I am writing in response to Norman Plombe's Aug. 31 Xpress letter "We Become Heroes by Saving." To quote Mr. Plombe, "Every time a firefighter dies while actually fighting a fire, conventional society jumps into lock step to deify him."
Perhaps Mr. Plombe does not realize that firefighters place themselves in harm's way to help people, not only while "actually fighting a fire,” but also when they perform their duties as first responders answering calls at homicides, suicides, hazardous-materials spills, motor-vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, trench rescues, swift-water rescues, missing-person searches and a plethora of other "cushy" situations that HVAC technicians, exterminators and fast-food workers have neither the training nor the stomach to handle.
Mr. Plombe, if you don’t seek to degrade firefighters, please don't confuse a fallen firefighter's funeral procession with a "parade" and don't assume you know how "cushy" our jobs are. It is true: we sleep and eat on the job. We work 24-hour shifts. Occasionally we read and watch TV on the job. We also train on the job.
To be realistic, firefighters accomplish more before noon than most people do in an eight-hour day, yet we are on the job for another 16 to 18 hours.
As for our excellent pay and benefits packages, most firefighters work second jobs just to make ends meet. On average, our retirement after 35 years of service is about 54 percent of pay. True, we have paid vacations, a health-insurance plan and life insurance that our family members hope they never have to be dependent on.
You are right, Mr. Plombe, "we don't become heroes by dying." I don't know any firefighter who considers himself or herself a "hero." We all do, however, genuinely like helping people.
— Jim Hitesman