Are Firefighters REALLY Heroes? 


The word hero comes with mythic connotations. Maybe you think of comic figures such as Spider-Man, Batman, or Superman. Perhaps you envision a personal hero like a celebrity. Are firefighters considered heroes?

Firefighters are certainly heroes, as they risk their lives to save others. This isn’t an occasional facet of their job, but something they do nearly every single day they work. They’re also brave, strong, and wise. 

Maybe you’re not completely sold and you could use some convincing. That’s fine! In this article, we’ll talk about what makes a hero, what qualifies firefighters as heroes, and how you can thank them for their hard work. 

What Is a “Hero,” anyway?

A hero can be so many things. The neighborhood kid who rescues a grandma’s cat from a tree is technically a hero. So too are the comic book characters we discussed as well as action movie characters in the fictional realm. 

You can also have personal heroes, like those you look up to. Perhaps that’s a teacher, a parent or sibling, or even a celebrity. 

With so many definitions, what exactly is a hero? Let’s look at some official sources, shall we?

Merriam-Webster says a hero is “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” 

They have another definition that’s more encompassing: “A: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. B: an illustrious warrior. C: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities. D: one who shows great courage.”

Wikipedia says this about heroes: “A hero (heroine in its feminine form) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength…The original hero type of classical epics did things for the sake of glory or honor. Post-classical or modern heroes, on the other hand, perform great deeds or selfless acts for the common good instead of the classical goal of wealth, pride, and fame.”

Looking at those definitions, we can assume that heroes embody the following qualities.

Strength

Whether through physical strength, mental strength, or a combination of both, a hero is quite strong. This is part of what allows them to achieve the feats they do. 

Intelligence

A hero doesn’t have brute strength alone. They must think through their plan of attack before they do it, and that requires brains as well as brawn. 

Bravery

This is one of the trademark qualities of heroes in both real life and in fiction. Although they experience fear as anyone else does, heroes don’t show it. They’re always brave in the face of crisis or calamity while others panic. 

Selflessness 

As the Wikipedia definition said, heroes aren’t in it for the fame, pride, or wealth. Instead, they want to help others, and that’s the driving force behind their behavior. They’re deeply selfless, thinking of others rather than themselves. 

Are Firefighters Heroes?

Now that you know the qualities of a hero, it’s time to answer your main question. Are firefighters REALLY heroes?

To that, we say yes! Now, we must note that not everyone is going to agree. Despite the amazing work that firefighters consistently do, some people don’t regard them as heroes. To these people, it must take a mighty huge pair of shoes to fit the role of a hero. If firefighters don’t meet the requirements, then who would? 

Most people you ask would indeed say that firefighters are heroes. Here are some reasons why that’s true.

Firefighters Constantly Risk Their Lives on the Job

Selflessness is in a firefighter’s job description, or it ought to be. When firefighters arrive at a home or building to combat a burning fire, they do so because those people need help and not for any other reason. 

They have a passionate, vested interest in helping people (and pets) and saving buildings if that’s possible. 

In doing so, they know they’re putting their lives at risk. After all, in 2019, 3,515 United States people died in a fire, says the U.S. Fire Administration. Some of those casualties may include firefighters.

Now, we know what you’re going to say. Aren’t firefighters just responding to calls because that’s their job and it’s what they get paid to do? And aren’t heroes supposed to not be in it for the money?

Well, let us put it to you this way. Not all firefighters make a livable wage doing what they do.  They’re not in it for the money. And what about the volunteer firefighters who perform their services for free? How can they be in it for the money?

Even for the fortunate firefighters who are paid well enough to make a living doing what they do, what motivated their career choice in the first place? According to 2022 salary information from Indeed, the average firefighting salary per year is $50,894.

That’s not a small chunk of change, but plenty of other jobs pay more money. An aspiring firefighter could have chosen to work in a cushy office, earning just as much money, and never put their lives on the line, but they didn’t. They chose to become a firefighter, and it’s not only because of the money. 

It’s due to a dedication to helping people. 

Firefighters Possess Enormous Strength

You’ll recall that physical and mental strength are requirements of any good hero, and firefighters have both in spades. 

Firefighters must be physically strong to carry out the everyday rigors of the job. Fire suits–which include an air pack, boots, gloves, a coat, pants, a hood, and a helmet–weigh 45 pounds or more on average. 

Fire hoses are anything but lightweight either. About 50 feet of fire hose weighs 20 pounds if the hose is 1 ¾ inches. If the hose is four inches in diameter, then 50 feet of hose line is now 40 pounds. 

Firefighters must be capable of navigating homes and buildings in their fire suits without being slow about it. They also have to be able to effortlessly handle hoses and other heavy equipment. Plus, they must have stamina and endurance to complete a job to the end. 

This kind of strength is built through tireless hours of training at the gym (or the fire station).  

Firefighters Must Be Brave

When everyone else is running away from danger, firefighters are running towards and into the source of danger. They know that at any time, their job could kill them, but they don’t think about that.

They think instead about the people who are trapped in a building and need help getting out. That’s what motivates a firefighter to keep pushing forth even when their job is difficult (which is quite often!). 

Although they try their best to, firefighters can’t save everyone. Sometimes, a civilian will die on their watch. In other situations, it’s a fellow firefighter. Even through these harrowing experiences, firefighters can still put on a brave face and go back into burning buildings in the future. 

Firefighters Are Quite Smart 

One of the most underrated facets of being a firefighter is intelligence. Firefighters must be capable of making snap decisions at any and every point. These decisions have to be the right one, as there are always lives at stake.

More so than other jobs, firefighters are great at thinking clearly under pressure, as they can’t let the stress fog their minds. 

How Can You Thank a Firefighter Today?

Admittedly, you hadn’t realized how much firefighters do day in and day out. The next time you see your local firefighters, you’d like to give them your heartfelt thanks. How can do you do that?

Well, first, we must mention that firefighters never expect a thank you. That’s not why they do their jobs. They do it out of a commitment to saving lives and bettering their community. Anything more than that is just a nice bonus. 

If you’re still interested in expressing your gratitude, here are some ways you can do that.

Just Say Thank You

That’s right, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Verbally expressing your thanks is enough to make a firefighter’s day, trust us!

Send a Gift Basket

If you’d rather do something more grandiose, a gift basket is a good option. Fill the basket with practical items. That doesn’t mean the items in the basket have to be related to firefighting, but rather, things that those in the fire department can use.

For example, gift cards are always nice, such as for a restaurant or a store. 

Write a Letter

Handwritten letters are such a rarity these days that it will surely be a treat for your local fire department to receive one from you. The letter can be reread anytime the firefighters need a little pick-me-up. 

Donate to a Fire Department Near You

Instead of spending money on gifts, most fire departments would rather you take that money and donate it. Perhaps you give funds to the fire department itself or a cause they support. It’s up to you where you donate, of course, but it will make a difference. 

Drop Off Some Food 

Firefighters rarely get time to make home-cooked meals, so anything edible and homemade will certainly be appreciated. Don’t feel like you’re limited to just cookies, as you absolutely aren’t. Try making hearty meals that will fill up a firefighter to do their best job yet. 

Although not everyone thinks so, firefighters are largely regarded as heroes. They put their own health and wellbeing behind everyone else’s, display endless bravery, and are strong and resourceful where it counts! 

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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