Surviving the Firehouse

A Rookies Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life

Non-Fiction - Education
200 Pages
Reviewed on 10/28/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Surviving the Firehouse is a work of non-fiction and an educational work by author Mauro Porcelli, who gives his real life experiences over in the self-described ‘A Rookie's Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life. After twenty-five years of experience in this field, Porcelli appreciates the severe impact that the initial demands of firefighting work have on the young and the new to the profession, often ending their careers before they have really begun. In this collection of stories, advice, anecdotes and personal reflections, Porcelli provides his book as a ‘mentor’ to new firefighters, helping them complete their first year through many different aspects of the job.

I think this book is a wonderful idea, and I found it to be tremendously well written from an authenticity standpoint. Mauro Porcelli writes as though he’s having a direct conversation with you, giving that mentor feel to the text, but those thoughts are also very well organized and easy to discuss, topic by topic. Not only does the book cover the traumatic details and expectations that newbies may have within their job, but it also goes deep into the camaraderie, office politics and practical struggles of day to day life in the firehouse itself. From a standpoint of community, communication and people skills, there’s a lot that anyone could learn from this text, firefighter or not. Overall, I would certainly recommend Surviving the Firehouse to be read by both rookies to the workplace and old hands alike, so that a rounded experience and shared knowledge could be had by all.

Fiona Ingram

Mauro Porcelli is a retired, highly decorated City of Orlando Firefighter/Paramedic with twenty-five years of fire service experience. In Surviving the Firehouse, Porcelli has one goal: to create a blueprint or road map to help the rookie firefighter make it through that trial by ordeal that is the first year of a firefighter’s career, as well as helping the seasoned firefighter with issues that may be of concern. The career of a firefighter, glamorous though it may sound, is very, very hard, dangerous, risky, and can put terrible mental, physical, emotional, and psychological strain on the people who put their lives on the line to save others, animals, and each other in the battle to survive. Forget the unrealistic television versions of series such as Chicago Fire. Real life is much more perilous. As the author says: “No one is born a firefighter. The skills needed to fully comprehend the interactions and dynamics around the firehouse on a day to day basis are complex, especially when you are new. Learning to work with a crew of four to twenty-four strong personalities at the firehouse is tricky business and demands foreknowledge and skill.” Surviving the Firehouse teaches just that.

This book is extremely clear in its layout, with chapters starting at the beginning –- The Firehouse Culture –- right to the very end –- Your Legacy. In between, Mauro Porcelli covers everything one needs to know: preparation for the course, pros and cons, dealing with comrades and co-workers, ‘burning’ issues, how to treat female co-workers, required levels of mental and physical fitness, how not to be an idiot, career management, and much more. Working well with others is of paramount importance and being a firefighter is not about going on an ego trip and notching on your belt how many fires you’ve put out, how many lives you’ve saved, etc. Firefighting is about having the right attitude, knowing what teamwork is about, as the team must work as one unit, working together under pressure and especially when things go wrong. Contributing what one has learned, adding to the pool of knowledge is paramount, and passing the baton is part of the job. It also includes knowing when it’s time to retire.

I really enjoyed this book. The author’s style is matter of fact, yet conversational with humour, use of personal experiences, and I felt as if I were sitting listening to him telling me what I should know, if I were ever to consider firefighting as a career. Believe me, it is hard work and not for the faint-hearted. The author’s love for his job, his commitment, and passion for a job well done are evident and comes through in the writing. He doesn’t mince his words and that’s a good thing, because messing up on the job can mean the difference between life and death. An aspect I found very interesting is how the tragedy of 9/11 changed everything, from government attitudes to funding. This is a quick read, given the author’s succinct style of writing, but what an eye-opener, filled with facts and sensible advice. Extras include end matter with rookie rules, and easy recipes that every firefighter will love! I’d recommend this book for anyone considering a career in firefighting, or just interested in learning more about the people who are there when you need them the most!

Jack Magnus

Surviving the Firehouse: A Rookies Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life is a nonfiction occupational/educational memoir written by Mauro Porcelli. Porcelli began his career as a firefighter in 1988 and retired in 2012. His purpose in writing this book is to arm new firefighters, as well as those considering taking on firefighting as a career, with a purpose and a tried and true set of behavioral protocols to follow. He acknowledges the appeal that firefighting has and discusses the competition that has arisen for available openings. He stresses the need for a clean background and a commitment to physical fitness as prerequisites for admission, and he explains what happens when you go to a firefighting college. Porcelli’s book is filled with invaluable advice for getting accepted to a college and on the job. Everything he tells you is geared to the fact that a fire station crew is a family. They eat and sleep together, and function under extraordinary pressure and in the face of danger at times. Getting started on the right foot can make all the difference.

Surviving the Firehouse: A Rookies Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life is a must-read for anyone who is considering a career in firefighting. My interest in his book stemmed from having friends as firefighters and a grandfather who was a fire captain, and this book gave me so many insights into the vocation and the fire department life. I finished it having an enhanced appreciation for the dedication of firefighters. Porcelli imparts what it’s like as a new recruit and how much effort is necessary to become a working part of firefighting families. His book is well written and meticulously organized, and the photographs he provides enhance his story. Surviving the Firehouse: A Rookies Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life is most highly recommended.

Gisela Dixon

Surviving the Firehouse: A Rookie's Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life by Mauro Porcelli is a non-fiction memoir and how-to guide on how to be a successful firefighter and have a long career in the field. Surviving the Firehouse is written mainly for the benefit of new recruits and new hires that are new to their job or at the beginning stages of their careers. In the book, Mauro delves into his own experience and career as a firefighter to offer tips and advice to newcomers such as how to prepare for interviews and exams, what to expect during the first year or two on the job, the unspoken rules that operate around a new hire, the pros and cons of working in a small or big city fire station, how to act and behave during the early stages of a career, the importance of being respectful, punctual, and a willingness to go above and beyond, kitchen and cleaning duties, being a team player, promotions, finances and retirement, the importance of the union, and much more.

Surviving the Firehouse is an A-to-Z crash course that will be tremendously helpful to any new recruit in the field. In fact, I feel that the lessons provided in the book are applicable not just in the firefighting field, but in any career. There are some basic lessons that are needed for any young and ambitious person just starting off in their careers and this book provides that. I also liked how the section on being sensitive towards harassment in the work place, and especially around females, has been addressed. I feel this topic can probably be elaborated on more with perhaps some insights from female firefighters themselves. Mauro’s engaging, straightforward manner of writing and his genuine desire to help others makes this a great read.

Faridah Nassozi

A firefighter's rookie year can be very challenging if one does not have the right hand to guide them through it. Starting right from orientation, one learns a lot in their first year in the firehouse and this often shapes the rest of their career. Through his book titled Surviving the Firehouse: A Rookie's Guide to Surviving the Firehouse and Fire Department Life, retired firefighter Mauro Porcelli hopes to be that guiding hand. From his decades of service, he knows every corner of the fire department and hopes to help young firefighters navigate their careers successfully. He shares his experiences, the challenges and rewards of the job, the mistakes often made by many and, most importantly, the lessons learned along the way.

Surviving the Firehouse is an engaging, refreshing and very informative read. The book is a 360-degree coverage of a firefighter's career from the beginning to the end, as seen through the very experienced eyes of a retired firefighter, with photos that bring more essence into the story. It also highlights the sense of oneness that exists within the firefighting community. It is not enough to just pass on the torch to the next person. You also need to pass on the knowledge gained from your journey. By sharing his experiences, Mauro Porcelli shows rookies what to expect from the job and what the job expects from them. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone new in the fire department, someone planning a career in that field, or an already existing firefighter looking to get their career on the right track. It would also make an interesting read for anyone curious about the ins and outs of a firefighter's life.