Deadline Detroit | Retired Detroit firefighter: It’s not our job to water protesters – even rioters


Dan McNamara was a Detroit firefighter from 1977 to 2014, retiring as a battalion commander. From 2002 to 2013, he was president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association.

By Dan McNamara

As a daily Deadline Detroit reader and a retired firefighter, I am always interested in “The Anonymous Cop” column. Watching the police over the years has inspired our respect and gratitude. No one will ever thank them enough.

In his most recent article, which helped us better understand why the police acted the way they did in the assault on the United States Capitol last week, the writer referred to the firefighters. He suggested they could have helped repel rioters by spraying them with hoses, as firefighters did in the south during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

After discussing the column with many active and retired firefighters, I would like to expand our professional vocation.

The professional duties of a firefighter are stated clearly and succinctly: to save lives and protect property. How do we do it? Like our brothers and sisters in blue, we are usually not called unless disaster strikes. No matter their size, we always respond.

Our duties go far beyond saving people from burning buildings. We are proficient in Dive Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Hazardous Material Rescue and Mitigation, Auto Extrication, Shipboard Fire Fighting, Ice Water and Water Rescue vivacious as well as other highly technical and skilled operations. They are all designed to save lives. Each year, we pay tribute to our comrades who have died or been seriously injured during these efforts.

Most firefighters are also medically trained. From medical first responders to the highest levels of paramedics, we are on the front line to help, rescue and assist. We will be with you from disaster to hospital.

The point the “anonymous cop” made about tricking people on people, however, angered everyone I spoke to. Whatever the circumstances, firefighters never do that today. Decades ago, officials could have ordered firefighters to use the hoses as weapons during racist, politicized, inhuman and senseless events.

Fortunately, laws, respect and decency prevent this from happening today. Personally, I remember hearing ignorant people suggest the use of fire hoses as a possible tactic during the Detroit newspaper strike, but no one ever took this idea seriously.

I can assure Deadline Detroit readers that firefighters are dedicated to serving and, if necessary, saving lives. It is our oath and our sacred belief. When you see a fire engine or ambulance running around with flashing lights and blinking sirens, know that they are about to help you, not hurt you.


The anonymous cop: Capitol police were right not to shoot during the insurgency on January 8

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