Firefighters, along with police officers, are our heroes back home. Overseas, our dedicated servicemen and servicewomen are putting their lives on the line for our freedom. If you’re like the majority of American citizens, however, the heroes you interact with on a frequent basis are probably firefighters and police officers. As this is a site about firefighters, I will use this space to focus on some of the trials and challenges that firefighters, both professional and volunteer, face every single day.

Obviously, firefighters risk their lives every time they go into a burning house or building. Battling extreme temperatures and conditions that most would consider the stuff of nightmare, firefighters put it all on the line whenever they are working. These risks can have immediate physical effects, and firefighters are regularly susceptible to burns, heat injuries, and injury due to falling debris. There are also some injuries and damage that can happen after the firefighter leaves the burning building, goes home for the night, or even enters into retirement. Imagine if your career involved you breathing in heavy smoke very often. You might have some lung-related after-effects, and that’s exactly what can happen to firefighters. It is true that firefighters wear certain types of gear to prevent them from breathing in too much smoke, but they can still suffer from asthma, lung disease, and other respiratory illnesses.

Another thing that firefighters can suffer from is more common among members of the military, but firefighters (and police officers) are still quite vulnerable to it. I’m talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, which is also known as PTSD. PTSD can be a very debilitating mental and emotional complication, and many times it adversely affects both a firefighter’s personal life and professional life. PTSD is a very serious issue and there are many resources out there for people facing it in their daily lives. If PTSD is something that affects a firefighter, it can cause him or her to avoid going to work or, in many cases, can cause him or her to have an anxiety attack on the job. This can be a danger to both the firefighter and the people around him or her. PTSD is fairly prevalent among firefighters, and certain studies have found that almost 40% of firefighters suffer or have suffered from PTSD.

Clearly, firefighting is a risky profession, and the men and women who perform it, both professionally and on a volunteer basis, should be commended and exalted. Risking their lives and exposing themselves to mental, emotional, and physical challenges, firefighters are part of the heroes back home. Forget the Avengers – America’s firefighters are the people we should be making movies about.

Learn more about the challenges I’ve described by visiting these pages on asthma, respiratory disease, and smoke inhalation. Also, check out PTSD and how if can affect firefighters.