The Fire Chief of my home town has had a YouTube video made about him. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the format; it has been used hundreds of times on YouTube. It is the famous Hitler rant.
Hitler sits at his desk surrounded by his staff of officers, all the dialogue is in German so the humor of these clips is contained in the subtitles.
Now the video contains some bad language in the subtitles and that is unfortunate it could be just as funny without the language but I don’t want to judge. I also have no knowledge of who the video maker was.
I believe the purpose of the video was to express some discontent with the way the new chief is guiding his department. I worked for 6 different fire chiefs over my career and every one of them wanted to make his mark on the job.
Some were concerned about big concepts, but all had some small details, some pet peeves, some thorn in their paw about how the public perceived us as a department and once they became king things were gonna change.
For some strange reason uniforms always seemed to be of a huge concern. I don’t know why, but uniforms were always one of the first things changed. Small stuff from the kind of footwear that was approved to what shirt we wore and so changes to our clothing were implemented early in every administration.
Here’s the thing in over 30 years of firefighting and paramedic-ing I never once had a patient or a victim of a fire complain about how we looked when we got there and did our job. Not once did someone refuse our help because of our appearance, not once.
Never had a complaint filed with the administration that addressed how poorly we were dressed when we put out the fire or saved their life.
The fire departments in pretty much every town and city in America are almost always rated as the best use of tax dollars out there. People love us and they love what we do and so do we. They could give a rat’s ass about how we look.
So this issue of outward appearance is purely a subjective matter that resides with the king not the public. Where it comes from I have no idea, maybe the uniform is the most important aspect of the chief’s life, maybe it is how he defines himself, maybe it is what makes him feel important, I don’t know.
So the video expresses frustration with someone that sweats the small stuff and then becomes fixated on it like an overbearing parent. It is said so well by Cartman on South Park “You will respect my authority!” It reaches a point of obsession this one tiny thing.
This Chief is prone, as I understand it, to basically sneaking around town following lunch time and dropping in on fire stations in an effort to catch his employees breaking very important policies like watching TV or having a little cat nap in the afternoon. Heaven forbid, the social order would collapse and all would be lost if the guys had a nap.
For my entire career an afternoon nap was accepted practice, it was harmless and many days the afternoon nap was the best sleep you got because you would be up all night running calls. Also for most of my career we were allowed to go to the store on duty and buy our food for the day.
We drove the truck over to the grocery store parked out front and went shopping. It was a good system, we never knew for sure who was eating or how many. So we got to work found out who was eating, pooled our money, came up with a menu and went shopping.
We were always in service and prepared to run out of the store jump on the truck and go. Sometimes we were closer to a call, but we were always ready to go. It was cool we got to interact with the citizens answer questions sometimes or give a kid a tour of the truck, people loved it.
But this is another practice that has been ended due to worry that someone voter might be upset with the notion that firefighters can go to the store on duty and buy food.
Change is never easy for any organization but a little sugar helps the medicine go down a bit easier. Firefighters will work like dogs for a few atta-boys, but constant complaint and nit picking wears on morale.
In my conversations with many of my former co-workers they all say they have never seen morale at a lower point on the job. No raises for over 6 years, increased workloads, and now constantly being ridden like ponies by the Chief is grinding some down and this video was a result of those feelings.
The video would have been a non-story I believe if handled differently. When the Chief was questioned about it by a local reporter Daniel Chacon of the Gazette he responded with a threat that the matter was being investigated by his IT department and that if it could be proved that it was done on duty using department resources he was gonna have someone’s ass.
That caused it to blow up, the video had had about 1300 views at that time, it now has nearly 5000 views. All the local media picked up on it and even some national firefighting web sites have run it. It has now lasted an entire week in the news cycle.
I believe if the Chief had said yeah I saw it and it was kind of funny but I have a department to run and can’t be distracted by silly YouTube videos, this thing would have died right there.
So I guess the irony of the video is that it says the Chief sweats the small stuff and then he spends an entire week dedicated to engaging conversation about a very small thing.