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Firefighter edition! Ping gets into all the parallels of being a professional motocross racer and being in the fire department.

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Ping,

Straight up… Was it easier to pull chicks as a pro racer or now as a firefighter?

Racerx217

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Racer,

It’s a fair question, but there are a couple things that keep me from answering it properly. First of all, I was single when I was racing so I have statistical data to back up my opinions in that regard. Was it easy to “pull chicks” as a pro racer? Can confirm. If you need further proof, just glance at current racers and their girlfriends/wives. You’ve never seen such a group of average-looking dudes with smoke-show arm-pieces; almost all of them fighting way above their weight class. 

By the time I got into the fire service, I had been married over a decade, so I wasn’t looking for more company, and whatever “game” I had back in my single days was long gone. Judging by the stories from my single firefighter friends, they don’t seem to have trouble finding female companionship when they want it, but firemen are also good story-tellers, so I’m guessing there is a decent B.S. ratio in all of their stories. 

The difference between the two comes in location. As a racer, the girls typically come to the races looking to meet a rider. When you call 9-1-1, it’s doubtful that you are trying to score a date. That means that in order to squeeze the juice out of being a firefighter, you have to advertise that you are one. This is why you’ll often see them driving massive bro-dozer trucks, always in red, with their union sticker in the back window, a fire helmet hitch cover, and a thin, red line flag sticker somewhere on the truck. Lots of Affliction merchandise and “truck nuts” sold to this crowd as well. They will likely be wearing some type of clothing indicating that they work in the fire service and will tell you all about it the first chance they get. Trust me, these guys don’t just seem like egomaniacs to you… they seem like that to all of us. But, when you’re young and single you play the cards in your hand, I suppose. 

Hope that clears things up for you.

- PING


Ping,

What was that most difficult thing for you on probation?

5 Tips for a rookie FF?

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Probation is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. For those who don’t know, getting hired with a premier fire department includes a written test, physical agility test, polygraph test, psych evaluation, oral interview, and Chief’s interview. After that you go through a training tower that can last as long as three months of intense training in all facets of the fire service; six days per week and ten-hour days. Once you’ve completed that, you are assigned to a station shift and you are placed on probation for 12 to 18 months. During that time, you are trained on a regular basis, including fire ground operations, paramedic skills and knowledge, physical training, oral presentations, and public service functions. There are typically several pass/fail tests along the way and you are constantly being evaluated on calls. Failure in any one of these areas can result in termination, and often does. Keep in mind that throughout all of this you are treated like a second-class citizen. The fire service is a paramilitary organization, so your academy is like boot camp where they are literally screaming at you and trying to get you to quit. Some do quit, other simply can’t perform under that pressure. Throughout probation you are expected to do all the cleaning, all the cooking, answer the phone, answer the door, and basically volunteer for anything that needs to be done. You are the last one to go to bed and the first one up, and you better have coffee ready, the paper laid out and the dishes put away. 

All that to say, the hardest part for me was being a 38-year-old adult. I’d lived a lot of life prior to getting hired, (most new hires are in their early 20’s) so to humble yourself to the point you’re getting yelled at and talked down to by guys ten years your junior is not easy. If you could have heard my inner monologue while I was cleaning toilets or vacuuming the house you would have blushed. That was very difficult for me, but I got through it. 

Five tips for rookie firefighters:

  • Have a good attitude and a smile on your face at all times. This is not easy.
  • Be the hardest worker on a fire. This is not easy.
  • Stay busy all day. If you’re at a slow house. This is not easy. 
  • Ask questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Again, not easy.
  • Remember why you are going through this. Family, public service, career… whatever drove you to get to that point, keep it at the forefront of your thoughts. 

Thanks for the question and best of luck. 

- PING


Ping,

Do you find any parallels between a career in MX and a career as a first responder?

Backinthesaddleagain

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Backinthesaddleagain,

There are so many parallels! I’ve spoken about this several times, including during The Whiskey Throttle Show with retired LAPD chief Charlie Beck. One thing Chief Beck said was that in law enforcement or the fire service, you are forced to make quick decisions that can have life-altering consequences. Going for a rescue in a burning building, pushing a drug dosage, using lethal force, and even driving the apparatus to calls. These decision-making skills are absolutely necessary and quite rare to possess. Now, think about how many life-altering decisions you have to make as a motocross racer. Shifting gears at the face of jumps, setting up passes, selecting lines, and just about anything to do with the start and first turn; it’s chaos and you are making decisions in fractions of a second. Plus, we’re all just a little addicted to adrenaline, which makes us the perfect candidate for jobs that give you that bump. Racers also understand the never-give-up mentality that you must have as a firefighter or a cop. An entire week in the fire academy is dedicated to what we call the Rapid Intervention Crew, or RIC. This team is on standby on every incident and their sole purpose is to rescue firefighters inside the structure if one of them goes down. If you’re that guy who’s down inside a burning building, you want a team outside that refuses to give up on you. Your family wants that. Your kids want that. And that’s why it is a mandatory trait of those in one of these public service professions. Motocross guys have that in spades, to a fault at times. 

There is also the camaraderie of the crew, which is much like a race team crew, the physical fitness component and the medical component. Even if you haven’t had any medical training, as a motocross guy you likely know a bit about human anatomy and you know the proper way to deal with somebody who has been injured, because you’ve been that guy before. There are so many comparisons between the two jobs, including the excitement. I’ve said this before, but the only thing that compares to walking down the tunnel at A1, with the stadium light on and fans packed into Angel Stadium, is going code 3 to a known structure fire; same adrenaline rush and same skills required to keep the nerves in check and perform when the gate drops or when you climb out of the fire engine and grab a hose line.

- PING

Do you have burning questions that need answering? E-mail Ping at ping@vitalmx.com. Want more? Click the @PING tag below to quickly find all the previous columns.

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