Bobby Masucci

Ethnography: Firefighting (Final Draft)
My Grandfather joined the Waiting River Fire Department in Long Island, New York in
1970 at the age of 24. When he was growing up, being a firefighter was his long term goal. He
says there isn’t anything more rewarding then helping a person that is in need. He describes the
lifestyle as spontaneous, non-stop, always having to be ready for any situation, and at times
satisfying but also dangerous.
There are many different codes that are used for certain situations. For example a “10-79”
would indicate that there is a fire, and “10-55” is dealing with an impaired driver. We stay in
close contact by radio. My Grandfather says he works out every Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday. The exercises include running, biking, swimming, stretching, and lifting. There is a wide
variety of gear simply for a wide variety of different situations. Such as fire suits when entering a
burning building, and swim gear when there is a water rescue.
When I asked what it took to be a firefighter he informed me that being mentally strong
was the hardest, yet most important feature to obtain. There are days where we could get a call
about having a cat stuck in a tree, and days where we get called in to a “10-23” meaning to
appear at an accident. “The hardest part about the job is the loss of life” he says. With being a
firefighter you quickly realize how fast bad things can happen to people. Not only that, but it
happens every day all over the place. People often take their life for granted and aren’t aware of
how fast it can be taken away. “I have to witness it on almost a daily basis. It will physically,
mentally, and emotionally destroy you at times. But you have to keep moving forward, and

believe that God has a plan for everyone. Which is why you have to be strong in all three ways.
On a positive note, saving a person’s life is the most rewarding thing on the planet. Knowing that
I played a role in keeping that person alive is the biggest emotional, and mental boost
imaginable. That’s why I became a firefighter, God out me on the earth to save lives” he
explained. He describes the people that he works with as part of his family as well. When people
say firefighting is a brotherhood they are exactly right. Were always there for each other and
forever will be. Being a part of September 11, 2001 is a prime example of how much love and
selflessness we have for eachother.
When I asked my Grandfather if there are any physical disabilities that wouldn’t allow a
person from being a firefighter he explained if a person is physically, or mentally incapable of
doing a job that’s usually how it is approached. Of course there are other obvious limitations like
if the individual has missing appendages or has a life threatening illness. My Grandfather suffers
from colorblindness, mild asthma, and more recently Parkinson’s disease. Because of his
colorblindness he is less likely to drive the firetruck, and very rarely operates a boat. With his
asthma he carries a rescue inhaler when going to any call, and brings extra facial protection to
ensure asthma doesn’t become a problem when on the job. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in
2014, however, it does not affect him enough to retire firefighting. With that being said; as time
goes on he can feel the effects of Parkinson’s wearing on his body. Grandpa describes it as
debilitating, somewhat frightening, and becoming more and more of an everyday battle. But his
attitude remains optimistic and positive. “Physically I am in the best shape possible for an old
man”, he says.
Firefighting consists of removing one or more of the three elements essential to
combustion; fuel, heat, and oxygen thus interrupting the combustion chain reaction. Firefighting

was developed around 24 BC by the Roman emperor Augustus, by incorporating vigiles who
took action when there was a fire in the city. When firefighting originated equipment in ancient
Rome and into early modern times was the bucket, passed from hand to hand to deliver water to
the fire. The first modern standards for the operation of a fire department in America was in
1631, and was established after a major fire in Boston.
In most urban cities a fire commissioner controls the department; other cities have a
board of fire commissioners with a fire chief as executive officer in charge of the department.
The captain is the basic operating unit of his company when on the job. Firehouses are usually
organized by different types of rescue such as, engine companies, ladder companies, and squad
or rescue companies. When an alarm is received at the central dispatch office it is then
transmitted to fire stations, thus alerting a number of crews about the situation. Almost all
modern departments are now equipped with computer aided dispatch systems that have the
ability to track the status of all units and provide important information regarding the scenario. A
major disadvantage to being a firefighter is the risk of injury or death. Firefighters are exposed to
toxic fumes, intense heat, unsound building structures, explosives, and hazardous road conditions
due to accidents.
It takes a special type of person that is willing to sacrifice their own life in order to save
another. Many lives have been lost in the career of firefighting, and it will continue to happen
every day. It takes a true Samurai mentality when it comes to this occupation. Knowing that any
day could be your last, but still willing to put oneself before others to keep them alive.
Firefighters, and all other figures of authority should be gives the highest amount of respect and
gratitude for all that they do.