Introduction to Fire Chaplaincy

by the Massachusetts Corps of Fire Chaplains

wtc1The purpose of this publication is to provide a brief introduction to fire department chaplaincy.

It will provide basic information, but certainly does not cover every issue in detail. We recognize that all of us continue learning as we do this important work.

All fire departments have their own culture and sometimes their own language. The information presented here applies to fire departments in many locations, but your fire department may do things a bit differently. For example, in some places a rescue truck is a big truck that carries lots of equipment for making rescues, including some very specialized gear. In other places if the officer in charge calls for “a rescue” it’s an ambulance that is required.

There is no substitute for time the chaplain spends with his or her department, getting to know the personnel and the culture of the department. Dropping in to have a cup of coffee with the duty crew may be the most valuable work a chaplain can do on a day to day basis.

What you need to know about firefighting

No one expects the chaplain to be an expert in firefighting. But you do need to know something about this business for your own safety. You may also have the opportunity to explain the actions of the fire department to bewildered onlookers or homeowners. One example will serve to illustrate. The fire department arrived at a two story home with smoke seeping from every crack and crevice. They put a ladder up and even before there was water being applied to the fire they were cutting a hole in the roof. Smoke billowed out of the hole in the roof and then ignited. A bright column of flame shot from the hole. A neighbor asked the chaplain, “Do these guys know what they are doing? The fire didn’t look too bad until they cut a hole in the roof. Now look at it!” What the neighbor did not understand, and what hopefully you could explain, is that the house was charged with smoke and heat. Rushing in through the front door would add oxygen to the mix, possibly igniting it in an explosive manner. The house would have been completely destroyed and it could have been deadly for the firefighters. The vent hole in the roof allowed some of the smoke and heat to escape. The fact that it ignited at the vent is acceptable. The roof will have to be replaced, but the house can be saved.

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