Lessons learned as the significant other of a firefighter

CarolinaFireJournal - Dedra Cline
Dedra Cline
10/05/2012 -

Welcome to a new column for Carolina Fire Journal. This column will be for the significant other. Significant other being defined as a person, such as a family member or close friend, who is important or influential in one’s life. Here we will try to give support to the significant other on many different topics. Topics such as — Why does it seem as if my firefighter always has to work on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or any important day? How do we support our firefighter when they are away on these important days? There will be additional questions and concerns.


Do you remember the first time you met your significant other? How about when you found out they were in emergency services? How about after being married for five years your significant other told you they wanted a career in emergency services? What about the moment a mom found out her 18-year-son wanted a career in emergency services?

My DH and I had known each other for many years when we went out on our first “date.” I say “date” because we were just going as friends to dinner with other department members. I quickly learned just how much these department members were like family to him. These were people that he could discuss many issues with. What I think about the most is the fact that even after we announced our engagement, not one wife took the time to tell me what it would mean to be an “emergency service worker significant other.”

I’m not saying you have to be something special. However, you better be a very independent and strong individual. I learned this very early in our “dating time.” He missed dates because he was on the mandatory call backlist, missed holidays because it was his shift to work, attending get-togethers alone because he was on shift. I think the list could go on, but you get the idea.

Should we even mention the time he was called back for a call? That wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was the only info he gave me was that people were trapped. “People trapped?” Really? I am a woman and we require additional information. Is it children, a family, department members? I needed information, but the phone lost service before I got that information. Finally after about five hours, he walks in the door with his bunker pants still on, walks over to me stinking. As I was telling him to get away from me, he pulled something from his pocket. What he pulled from his pocket was an engagement ring. You see, weeks before he had proposed. Not sure if I was ready to be part of the emergency service family, I did not give him an answer or accept the ring. Just days before this call I had finally said “yes.” What I did not know was the special plans he had made to give me my ring that night. The plans that were put to the side because he was needed on a fire call. Even after almost 18 years, I still don’t know or remember who was trapped.

After it was all over, it wasn’t the messed up plans that bothered me. What bothered me was that I could have missed the opportunity to let him how I really felt. So, lesson number one – no matter how mad or upset you are, never let your significant other leave for a shift or a call without a hug, and saying “I love you” and “be careful.”

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