Hey hey hey, Ishes! Man. I have been the other half to the same firefighter for 15 years now, married for 12 of them.
Listen, I think we all love a hot firefighter, right? I mean. I do. Something about a man in his bunker gear or left over soot on his face when he comes in and says “hey babe” on his way to the shower after a long call that lights my fire. I doubt I am alone here.
But, I digress. The calendars of half naked, buff firefighters don’t paint an accurate picture.
It doesn’t show you the behind the scenes.
It doesn’t say WARNING: Here is all the ish you will have to put up with and survive allllllll of these things if you start dating a firefighter or end up marrying one.
So, here I am 🙂
Now look, I married a VOLUNTEER. It is a funny thing that there is even a difference between a career and volunteer and I believe that as a member of the fire family, we all experience most of what I am about to share, but both sides….career versus volunteer also share their own struggles.
I won’t pretend to know the struggle of a career fire wife. I can only speak of the volunteer fire wife experience.
So, let’s dig into alllllllllll of the things, I wish someone had told me before I said “yes” to the fire family life.
#1: You will never drive through their first due area without hearing “this one time, right here on a call” and eventually you will end up with your own “This one time, I parked here while you played firefighter” stories.
Ishes, listen to me. I love my husband. And for the first year or 2 it was so cute to hear “Oh hey, I fought a fire here once.” Or “Oh this one time, there was a wreck right here and…”
Now, it is basically like when my 8 year old is trying to tell me about friggin Fortnite.
I zone out and smile. Not because I am not proud of him, but there is a 100% chance that I have heard this story already. 15 times.
He can remember every damn call. But, not what I told him yesterday.
Eventually though, you get to play this game too. Be patient your story time is coming, ha!
The stories are ENDLESS of us driving through his first due area and his phone going off and next thing I know, we are rerouted. Parked on the side of the road. There I sit alone in the car.
2 hours while he helped with a fire in the attic of a fellow firefighter’s home.
1 hour while he helped load and unload hose during a dryer fire in their second due area.
2 hours on a car fire on New Years Eve as we headed home.
Sometimes, it is me leaving him at a fire or accident scene, while I head home and I pick him up later at the station.
It is always the toss of a coin whether or not we will actually get to run errands or if I will be working in the truck while he plays firefighter.
Wondering how true that is? I took this picture when we were on the way to the grocery store and the tones went off.
#2: If you want to eat a hot dinner, realize that many times you will eat alone.
I can still remember the early days of my relationship with Steve when the tones would go off. We would be 2 bites in and he would jump up and kiss me while yelling “love you, babe” on his way out the door. In those days, I would wrap both of our plates and save them until he returned home. But, eventually, I learned to eat alone. A LOT.
It wasn’t always easy to smile as he kissed me, reminding him to be careful. It was hard to not resent him running out as we started a meal. I was young. I didn’t always “get it.”
It can be so hard to try to be happy and supportive when you come second to a stranger’s emergency. And, I know that sounds selfish, but that is just honesty. Maybe others won’t express feeling that way. So, I will.
#3: People would say he isn’t a real firefighter and would show disrespect instead of grace.
Here is one I wish someone would have warned me about, that makes me want to throat punch people 🙂 The utter disrespect some people have for volunteer firefighters. The people who say they aren’t “real” firefighters.
Before they run into burning buildings, these men and women are trained and certified.
If you are bold enough to tell me that these men and women are LESS than a career person, I am going to remind you that fire doesn’t care if you’re being paid or not, it will take a life regardless. Not getting paid or not working shifts legit does not change the fact that I could lose my husband in a fire while he tries to protect his community.
In fact, I could argue that my husband puts his life on the line for FREE. No obligation except a desire to do right by his community.
I’ll never forget the day we stopped for a car fire on NYE and my husband met the fire truck and immediately they went to work.
The owner of the vehicle thought I was a bystander and began blatantly disrespecting the fire department. “There was no excuse for them to take that long to get there. What are they even doing? Sleeping in recliners?”
Listen to me. I know that no one moves fast enough when you are in the middle of an emergency situation. I get it.
But, these fire companies have a 5 minute response time, which means that when the tones go off they have 5 minutes to get out of the station. For many small towns, to get a full truck, it can require them to push that 5 minute mark.
Then, they actually have to drive to the scene.
This can feel like hours for you, I get it.
Feels like a lifetime to me every time my husband puts his life on the line.
It feels like a lifetime while I wait for the text that tells me he is coming home.
They aren’t sleeping in recliners and being nonchalant about your emergency.
These men and women don’t all hang at the station all day. They have lives, they have families, they have jobs. They are missing meals and family time as they run out of the door to help YOU during your emergency.
Believe me, they don’t want to wait 5 minutes to get a full truck.
But, they also don’t want to show up driver only and be useless, and trust me, you don’t want them showing up driver only either.
#4: There is no such thing as a shift.
While we can argue that volunteers can pick and choose their calls and when they fight fires, the thing is, most of them know when the need is there and know when the station and their brothers need them to step up.
For us, that means many holiday dinners, I have showed up alone. Because on Christmas morning, there is a house fire and Steve runs when the tones go off.
Do you know why I don’t get mad on those holidays? Because thank God, it isn’t my house. Thank God, there are men and women willing to show up to help.
#5: It isn’t just fire that fire wives have to worry about.
I will never forget one night, the tones went off for a camper fire as we were getting ready for bed. Steve kissed me with the usual “bye, Babe” on the way out of our apartment. In those days, we had a scanner that you could hear friggin all over the apartment. I thought that it would give me some peace to know where he was and what was happening.
That night, after he leaves, dispatch comes through with information, telling them the scene is not secure. There was a domestic dispute and the husband has a gun and doesn’t want fire trucks near him.
I sat on the edge of my bed, sick. Praying. Sleep never came until he was back in bed next to me.
Another late night call came in for multiple arsons of large orchard houses. Initially, the report was one house, but as they began fighting one, reports began to roll in for a few more houses. State police came across the scanner telling them they located a man in a truck with a shotgun, watching the houses burn from a hill.
I nearly paced a hole in the living room floor that night.
We don’t just worry about the fire claiming the lives of our loved ones. It is fire trucks getting into accidents, unsecured scenes, crazy people, getting hit by cars on the side of the road, or even them having a heart attack on scene, which happens far more than most of us even realize.
#6: That volunteers rarely get the recognition they deserve.
These men and women choose to risk their lives for NOTHING in return. No money, no recognition, nothing. They’re a special breed of people that can clean up fatal accidents in one second and come home and transition nearly seamlessly back into their day to day.
They see death and destruction day in and day out. Not everyone is cut out for fire and EMS. It takes a special human to help others, and carry the weight of the ones they couldn’t save.
It takes a special person to handle things that would give most of us nightmares.
Helping people during their worst moments.
Even after their worst calls, they can pick themselves up and run again when the tones go off.
And despite all of this, they are rarely given the recognition they deserve.
#7: One day, you may get to see them through the eyes of the people who matter most. And it all becomes worth it.
Some of this fire wife gig is light hearted and fun. There is a community that you are always a part of. Other fire wives get you.
But, it isn’t easy, friends. It takes a special breed of person to be a fire spouse. Holding down the fort behind the scenes.
Despite the ups and downs, the hard parts, the pacing and worrying, and the meals left to get cold as my husband runs out of the door to help strangers, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now, we have a family. Everything I have survived and overcame - the lessons I have learned - now my kids have to learn these lessons.
I have had many meals where I sit at the table alone and the kids stand at the door watching their daddy pulling out of the driveway.
I’ve put our kids to bed as they cry for their daddy, not understanding what he may be doing and not knowing when he is coming home.
I’ve taken our kids to Christmas dinner alone, while my family asks where Steve is or they say “Steve on a call?” Because even my family gets it now.
You see, all of the hard things are even harder now. Now, we have 1 grown kid and 3 small kids at home.
Our adult son recently became a firefighter after years of watching his father chasing calls.
Our youngest daughter eagerly tells EVERYONE that her daddy is a firefighter and one day she will be too.
Daddy has been able to take our 8 year old to school on a fire truck. He has been able to take the firetruck to our girls preschool and the girls got to show off their daddy.
It is such a powerful thing to look back at all of the hard things and now, we get to see these tiny humans we created, see the hero that is their daddy. (BTW my husband HATES being called a hero).
But, I married a hero.
Hell, I love this fire wife life so much, I said I still do in a vow renewal ceremony in 2018.
I hope you can read this and see the struggle and beauty there is when it comes to saying a big “YES” to becoming a fire wife. The sacrifice. But, also the love and admiration and pride we have when we get when we get to say, “I married a firefighter.”
Keep embracing the ish, friends!