The Fire Service is a Great Career–That Doesn’t Last Forever

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

This past week, I posted the following on my Facebook account:

That’s me, at my first job at Allied Ambulance Services, circa 1979.

Hard to believe that it was 40 years ago today, August 13th, 1979, that I arrived in Richmond, Virginia to start my first job in public safety working as an EMT for Allied Ambulance Service.

Over the next 28 years I would get my first firefighter/medic job with the James City County (Va.) Fire Department outside of Williamsburg, Va., in November 1981.

Not long after that, I would leave there to join the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department, nee the Chesterfield Fire Department in May 1982. I would serve with the women and men of CFEMS until my retirement in December 2007.

What a great “1st Career!” Loved it as much the last day as I did the first!

Proud day when I earned my “3rd Bugle”

And boy, what a ride it was. Earned my first promotion to company officer as Sergeant (Later regraded to Lieutenant) in 1985. Made Captain in 1989 (Three years ahead of my goal of 10 years). And finally, Battalion Chief in 1999.

In addition to numerous rotations through our Emergency Operations Division, I would serve 9+ years in staff assignments that included: EMS Division Director; Emergency Communications Center Co-Manager; and Chief of Training and Safety Division.

My point, up to here, is that most of what happened was how I’d planned it. In addition to my “10-year Plan to Captain,” I wanted to earn my college degree (BS from the University of Cincinnati; Masters from Grand Canyon University); and complete the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy (January 2001).

That’s me conducting a safety briefing as the Incident Commander during live fire training in an acquired structure while I was assigned as Chief of the Training and Safety Division.

Two of those three staff assignments were assignments that I applied for when the opportunity; for the Emergency Communications Center gig I was dragged “kicking and screaming” into that job by my Deputy Chief at the time, Steve Elswick. Turned out to be one of my most challenging and most satisfying posts of my career! (Thanks, Steve Elswick, wherever you are!).

What’s Your Plan?

For those of you just starting out in this crazy and wonderful business, the end of your career might seem so far away, but it’s not. It seemed like my 26-year career with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department went by in the blink of an eye. Most other fire service retirees are likely to say the same thing.

See Related: 7 Truths About Fire Service Retirement

So, I urge you to make your Plan B today. First, you never know when your fire service career will end. An injury could do it tomorrow. Or your inappropriate use of social media.

But back on the positive side, it takes time to do the career building and networking that you’ll need when you get that length-of-service retirement. In our system, I was eligible to retire with at least 25 years of service and at least 50 years of age and I took that option (It was part of my plan).

My apologies to Snoopy and the late Charles Schultz. Snoopy’s a much better writer than I am!

Come December 1st of this year, I’ll have been retired for 12 years (Yikes!) In that time, I’ve had three different jobs and I’ve been on my 4th gig (freelance writer) for the past 7 years. You have to be flexible and agile in retirement!

So, where will your fire service take you?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,