They Call Me Poodle

The pressure is on. There is no turning back. You have wanted this your whole life. If there is ever a time when you feel as though you are under a microscope, it is during an intense series of job interviews – like the ones you will experience in the firefighter hiring process.

Here is what I mean:
A guy goes in for his oral interview in Berkeley, Calif. He had education, experience, and street cred. He is ready to knock ’em dead. He was asked to tell the board about a stressful situation at work. The goal was to learn how he handled the situation.

He started talking. He had been on a CDF Hele-Attack hotshot crew and knew stress. He tells them about a grass fire in the middle of nowhere. He talks about how the captain on the scene was messing everything up. He continues and reveals that he stepped up and told this particular captain – with 20 years of experience – how he should be doing things differently. This young buck was there to save the day.

One of the captains on the board asks the newbie if he didn’t think maybe the captain in question was doing it a different way. The newbie responded that they were just “city firefighters” and were not good at wildland firefighting. The captain then looks him in the eye and says, “I’m the captain you were talking to at that fire.” As you can imagine, the firefighter candidate began a tap dance, a moonwalk, and then died that slow death we all fear in an interview.

Here is something to consider. Are you planning on being a firefighter in the city, county, or state where you live? If your answer is yes, you need to understand this. If you are in a related field like volunteer firefighter, EMT, paramedic, nurse, or even a seasonal forestry firefighter, we will know who you are and what you’ve done before you get through the door. When people come out of our four-month training academy, they are shocked to learn that we know who they are and every mistake they make. I’ve heard stories and rumors for departments up to 250 miles away. Trust me.

When I was in the firefighter 1 academy, I had a curly perm. I shaved the sides of my head and dyed it red. As a result, I was given the nickname of Poodle. That was in another county almost 20 years ago. People still call me Poodle sometimes, and they don’t even know why. Today, I have short straight hair.
Here is my advice. Be kind and curious. Understand that the reputation you get now will follow you for your career.

Captain Rob – AKA: Poodle