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26 Secrets Firefighters Will Never, Ever Tell You

You never forget the first time you save a life.

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1. We don't just put out fires.

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We respond to a wide range of emergencies as well, like road accidents, floods, terrorist incidents, chemical spills, and rail crashes. This means we have to be experts in a wide range of life-saving techniques (including how to use a dinghy).

2. And we're not all men.

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You don't have to be a big, bulky bloke to do our job, plus some of the equipment that we have to lug around is lighter than it used to be. Women aren't just allowed to be firefighters, we actively encourage it and we're really keen to recruit more.

3. You never forget the first time you save a life.

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The sense of satisfaction, elation, and accomplishment is completely overwhelming. And it feels quite strange when they're immediately taken off you and whisked to hospital; you often never find out what happened to them.

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4. You never forget your first "real" fire, either.

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We train endlessly in fake buildings in conditions that simulate fires until it's almost second nature (like tying your shoe), but nothing can truly prepare you for the first time you run into an actual burning house. It's a crazy, terrifying adrenaline rush.

5. It's really hard to describe what it's like to be inside a burning building.

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You're surrounded by crackling and popping, the bang of lightbulbs exploding, the hiss of steam, and suffocating heat, which gets so bad that sometimes our sweat evaporates and burns us. In short, it's chaotic, hot, loud, and scary.

6. Plus, we usually can't see anything at all.

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In movies there are always pretty, bright flames that help the hero see where they're going. In reality, it's pitch-black and incredibly smoky. We have to navigate by touch, but we wear heavy gloves so it's hard to tell what we're feeling.

7. We're often called out by people who have ended up in deeply embarrassing positions.

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We're the ones who get called out when a guy has managed to trap his dick in an unwise place, like a vacuum cleaner nozzle. You'd also be surprised how often we have to cut adults out of those tiny swings that are designed for toddlers.

8. It's not a myth: we do rescue cats from trees.

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Not to mention dogs stuck down manholes, cows who've fallen in a pond, horses in wells, squirrels stuck in a drainpipe...you name it, we've rescued it.

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9. We get called out for deeply dumb reasons as well.

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At least a guy with his dick trapped in a toaster or a cat up a tree genuinely needs our help. But we also get calls from teens who can't get their earrings out of their ear, or people who can't figure out how to unlock their car. It's so frustrating.

10. We don't care whether you broke the law.

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We're not law enforcers, so we don't care how your car ended up on someone's roof. We just assume you're a bit of an idiot, and try to get everyone out safely. Save your excuses for the police; they'll be far more interested than we are.

11. Our co-workers are like a second family.

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The high-pressure situations we face help us to forge a tight, close bond. We meet up with each other's families and have joint birthday parties. We even take holidays together. The camaraderie really helps us get through each shift.

12. We also love to play pranks on each other.

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We've been known to hose new recruits down with icy water, burst saline IV bags over our friends' heads while they're trying to nap, or fill co-workers' lockers with expanding foam. We're like a bunch of daft kids, but it helps us let off steam.

13. Our kit is pretty damn heavy.

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Our flame-retardant suits and helmets (made from Nomex and Kevlar) are hefty enough. Add in an oxygen tank and the fact we're usually lugging a bulky hose and heavy tools as well, and you can see why we have to be in good shape.

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14. We fight over who gets to hold the hose.

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The big thing for us is who gets to be on the nozzle. It's the most fun position, as anyone who's used a hose will tell you. Because it's so sought-after, only experienced firefighters get to do it: It's basically like a long-service award.

15. And we all want to drive the fire engine, too.

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Yes, we face death and danger almost every day, but they let us drive a big red truck with a siren, which makes it seem worth it.

16. We spend a disproportionate amount of our time responding to AFAs (automatic fire alarms).

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They're usually installed in large buildings like hospitals, retirement homes, and student halls, and they go off all the time. We have to go out fully equipped and prepared for the worst every time they do, but it's usually burnt toast or pizza.

17. Bonfire Night may be hectic, but Christmas is our real busiest time of the year.

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You've got people leaving fairy lights on for too long, knocking over decorative Christmas candles, and accidentally setting themselves on fire while trying to pour flambéed brandy over their puddings. It's not a relaxing day off for us.

18. We witness some truly haunting things.

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You can never forget the sight of your first body, and it comes back to you with alarming regularity. But we're given help and support by our commanders and teams, and it spurs us on to try to rescue as many people as possible.

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19. Male firefighters must be clean-shaven at all times.

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Which is why you won't see any of us sporting a gigantic hipster beard. Facial hair gets in the way of our helmet and vital breathing apparatus.

20. We're not paid as much as you might think.

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The starting salary for a trainee firefighter in the UK is £22,017, which then goes up to £29,345 after training. It's not exactly a huge amount when you're risking your life every day, although we do get additional pay for overtime.

21. We work really long shifts.

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A lot of us work 12-hour shifts from 11am to 11pm, sometimes even longer if we get a call right at the end of the day. We tend to work two-day shifts followed by two night shifts and then have four days off, which helps us recover.

22. We get yelled at by homeowners a lot.

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Because of our heavy equipment, we're advised not to run. This can frustrate some homeowners, who've already had to wait for us to arrive. They often end up screaming at us because they think we're dawdling or being "laid back".

23. We get hit on all the time.

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Particularly when we're doing routine calls, visiting an office, or checking on an AFA in a busy town centre on a Saturday night. We get followed around, and people try to sit on our laps. Oh, and they often accuse us of being strippers, too.

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24. Hoax calls are a constant and dangerous problem.

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You'd be genuinely shocked to know how many of our call-outs are hoaxes, although the 999 operators do manage to weed some of them out. And while we're attending to a hoax, we're not available to deal with genuine emergencies.

25. And so are disaffected, stone-throwing kids.

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Bored kids sometimes call the fire brigade, then bombard us with rocks when we arrive. They also do it when we're trying to fight real fires as well, which means we have to retreat and aim our jets of water from further away. It's not ideal.

26. But we wouldn't change our jobs for the world.

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The long shifts can put strain on our relationships, our work is dangerous, and our pay isn't great, but we feel honoured to serve and protect the public. Plus the thanks we get from the people we save really helps to get us through each day.

Please stop putting your dicks in weird places though.

This post was written with help from a UK-based firefighter with three years' service. Also H/T this Reddit thread.

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