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  • Benjamin Martin

The Enemy is the Stuff Trying to Kill Us: Not Other Firefighters

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Imagine a fire service where two people could disagree passionately on things, and one person stands out because of the merit of their ideas, not by the cheap shots they took attacking someone else. The fire service needs more ladies and gentlemen willing to act as ambassadors of our mission, instead of being concerned with acting as their own hype man. I can seldom go a day without seeing someone under attack on social media or at the kitchen table. The fire service has figured out how to take all the crap we used to just talk about at the firehouse, and instead broadcast it across the nation.

But imagine the possibility of a fire service where two people could disagree passionately on things, and one person stands out because of the merit of their ideas, not because they plagiarized someone else or by the cheap shots they took attacking someone else. In such a fire service one could show up to the job, give it your all, and go home to your family the next day without having to worry about the character assassination that comes when you choose to stand for the right things. Sign me up to work in that fire service.

My enemy is fire…Not other firefighters.

Each year in March our group at Embrace The Resistance sponsors and hosts a three-day conference in Virginia called the Fire Ground Commander. The conference has a singular focus of providing attendees experience to help them win on the fireground and in their firehouses by providing topics ranging from engine and truck operations to leadership. We have on rule when we select speakers—passion without ego. The conference typically features five national fire service speakers, with a handful of local talent sprinkled throughout. This year’s group of instructors included Mike Gagliano, Jeff Shupe, Nick Martin, Chris Naum, and John Dixon. Last year we were joined by Ric Jorge, David Rhodes, Dennis LeGear, Jonah Smith, and Andy Starnes.

I consider our group fortunate to have had a chance to meet and spend time with these guys. Perhaps the thing I respect the most about them, and where I am going with this post, is that their credibility is never contingent upon having to tear down someone else’s. Far too often I’ve sat in a class only to hear the instructors launch attacks on others in an attempt to inflate themselves and their points. It’s as if there is only so much credibility going around these days, and if I have a little, well that means you can’t have any.

And, despite the fact that these gentlemen each have in their own right contributed immensely to the fire service, there simply isn’t any ego involved for them. They are capable of fiercely debating points while somehow creating a space where people are not afraid to approach and ask questions. They balance their expertise with an unwavering sense of humility. They truly are the gentlemen of the fire service.

My enemy is fire…Not other firefighters.

One of our speakers, John Dixon, is an excellent example. John’s credibility has been challenged on more than one occasion, and I received pushback for inviting him to speak. But, I can tell you first hand his presentation was one of the best I’ve seen after attending more than 40 conferences. I found him completely credible and highly recommend him. Sorry, but I’m not sorry if that recommendation riles you up.

If you are nodding your head as you read this perhaps you are tired of all the bullshit that weighs down the good people who are willing to put the effort in every day.

In today's fire service we are working to build leaders who genuinely care about you and will do anything, including tell you something you might not want to hear, if they think it will help you succeed in the long term. This is the type of place where instead of complaining about what you don’t have, leaders chose to value and train people of all work experience backgrounds, race, and gender.

So, what say you?

Are you willing to put in the sweat to build such a place, or are you content in your station recliners?

Will you continue to step on people and tear down your brother or sister firefighter to make a name for yourself, or are you willing to fight for the future of the fire service.

Which is your enemy—other people or fire?

And as Mike said, are you with me?

Author Bio: Benjamin Martin has over eighteen years in public safety and currently serves as a Captain with a large metro fire department in Virginia. He is an international speaker on Leadership, including his entertaining and unique takes on emotional intelligence and organizational culture. His leadership articles have appeared in Fire Engineering, FireRescue, Fire Department Training Network (FDTN), International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI), FirefighterToolbox, and FirefighterWife. He is the founder of, which features leadership training and support for existing and aspiring leaders. You can email him at

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