What Is a Firefighter Worth?

Editor’s Note: The Sturgeon Bay Fire Department held a Promotion and Recognition Ceremony on Jan. 5, during which firefighter Ethan Jorns was sworn in as a new lieutenant within the department; Kory Nell was promoted from part-time firefighter to full-time firefighter; and three of the department’s part-time firefighters – Randy Lynch, Lucas Pierre and Isaiah Scudder – swore an oath for their role that promised, in part, “the wisdom to lead, the compassion to comfort and the love to serve unselfishly whenever they’re called.” Prior to the ceremonial promotion and recognitions, Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief Tim Dietman gave the following speech that we’re publishing below, in full, with his permission.

by TIM DIETMAN, Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief

What is a firefighter worth?

I guess that depends.

We live in a country that seems to have forgotten what our priorities are. A man can be a skilled athlete who happens to throw and catch a football well, and make millions and millions of dollars to do so. We, as a society, are not only OK with that, but we gather in front of our televisions and cheer that man on. Meanwhile, a firefighter kisses their children goodbye before every shift knowing the harsh reality that it very well could be the last time they will see them. 

They are the people that you call when your elderly father has a stroke. They are the people that will extract your 16-year-old child from a mangled vehicle on the highway in the middle of the night. They are the people that will be there in a heartbeat when your newborn infant stops breathing. They are the people who are exposed to countless dangerous scenarios and have seen horrific things during our career that would psychologically haunt most of us for the rest of our lives. We trust them to save our homes and belongings in the event of a disastrous fire, and we trust them to keep us breathing and our hearts beating when we face our most critical moments. 

What are they worth to you? 

Firefighter Ethan Jorns was promoted to a lieutenant position by the Sturgeon Bay Police and Fire Commission. 

They sometimes will go days without sleep, and make life-altering decisions on every call they show up to. They have missed family meals, bedtime stories, Christmas mornings, school plays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving dinners and their own children’s birthdays. We all know that life is so very short, and firefighters sacrifice precious time with the most important people in their lives to save the lives of the most important people in yours. 

Part-time firefighter Kory Nell was promoted to a full-time firefighter position. “You’ll be guaranteed long days and sleepless nights, but not without personal gratification,” Fire Chief Dietman told him during the promotion ceremony. “The life you save one day will just be another one in your career you love doing so much.”

There seems to be a serious misconception that firefighters are in it for the monetary gain, which we all know has never been their thought. For an individual that has chosen this selfless career, it begs the question: Is it worth it?

I’ll leave you with this: I believe the fire service is the greatest job in the world, whether you are paid to do it or not. And remember this: The fire service doesn’t owe you anything – it’s a privilege to be a part of it, and your words and actions should reflect this fact. If you live by this creed, I have no doubt that you will continue to be successful and that you will inspire those around you to do the right thing as well.

I congratulate all of you for your hard work and dedication. Without it, without you, no fire department can survive.

(From left) Part-time firefighters Randy Lynch, Isaiah Scudder and Lucas Pierre are sworn in by Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief Tim Dietman.