Blowin’ Smoke with Christopher Brennan

The featured member of the fire service in this article is one who had made an impact with individuals across the country. I first met Chris in 2012 at FDIC, and I had followed his articles prior to meeting him. I am thankful for Chris taking time out of his busy schedule to complete this Blowin’ Smoke article.

Christopher Brennan is the author of The Combat Position: Achieving Firefighter Readiness (PennWell 2011), editor and contributing author to Fire Service Warrior Foundations (Spartan Concepts 2012), publisher and editor-in-chief of the website www.fireservicewarrior.com and regular contributor to Fire Engineering on the topics of Firefighter fitness and decision making.  Chris is the founder of the “Fire Service Warrior Concept” which postulates that firefighters will experience greater longevity and wellness, as well as reduced risk of injury or death, if they have prepared themselves to Thrive on the Fireground.  Chris has presented programs at the Fire Department Instructors’ Conference, the Nebraska Society of Fire Instructors Les Lukert Conference, for the Pikes Peak Firefighter’s Association, the Illinois Fire Chiefs’ Association, and the Terry Fund – Colorado Chapter, as well as to numerous other state and local departments.  Chris has been an active instructor and consultant for Fire, Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, and Public Heath agencies, for the Department of Defense, and for friendly foreign governments since 2001, has 16 years of experience as a paid-on-call, part time and career firefighter.

How many years have you served in the fire service?

I am in my 17th year of service.

Why did you join the fire service?

I got into the fire service because I liked the idea of doing something that was physically and mentally challenging that also gave me the chance to help people.  I was raised doing a lot of service work and a career that allowed me to keep that up has meant a lot.

Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference?

I think that the writing and instructing I do has been the biggest way I have tried to make a difference.  I’ve pulled I a lot of material from law enforcement and military communities that I had never seen in the fire service with respect to training the body and the mind to thrive on the fireground.  I’ve gotten emails from firefighters who have said that the work I’m doing has helped them turn their career and life around.  That means a lot.

Have you accomplished any specific personal goals during your career?

Publishing a philosophy book for the fire service is the biggest personal goal I set for myself that I have accomplished so far.  I am currently in line to be promoted to Lieutenant at my department and that is another challenge I hope I have the opportunity to test my hand at.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge that the fire service faces today?

I think the biggest challenge the fire service is facing is the constant demand that we “Do more with less.”  The only way to do more with less is to reduce the work load of an individual through a technological change or to maximize the ability of the individual firefighter.  I see it as my responsibility to help firefighters maximize their ability.

During your many years on the job, how were you able to push through the darkest of times?

I try very hard to not look upon any time as “the darkest time” but to see whatever moment I am in as being a chance to live my life, to grow, and to learn.  Over the last 16 years I have had a friend die after being lost, running out of air, and having a building collapse on him; I’ve experienced a divorce and ten years later a custody battle; I’ve had a friend die from occupational cancer and my wife has battled cancer for the third time in her life.  These experiences have been difficult of course, but at the end of the day I still consider myself to be a very fortunate man and I’m grateful for all I have.  Throughout this world there are people who are suffering every minute of every day from famine, from a lack of clean water, who live in oppressive nations where their safety is in constant peril, and who are subjected to horror and abuse at the hands of loved ones.  I have the chance to read, to think, to write, and to fight fires.  Recognizing how fortunate I am pushes me.

If you could provide some of the younger generation of firefighters with a few “words of wisdom,” what would they be?

Don’t Stop; I have that tattooed on my arm, and it’s burned in my soul.  Don’t stop striving to be your best; don’t stop training; don’t stop learning.  Never accept mediocrity.  However even more so than that I think they should commit to memory the words of wisdom from a man far more eloquent than I, Chief Tecumseh:  “So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

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