What to Read: 3 Books Every Firefighter Should Read Right Now

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

This is one from the “oldie, but goody” file here at Talking “Shop” for Fire and EMS. I’ve posted it a couple of times because I’ve really come to view these three books to be “must reads” for firefighters and fire officers. With Thanksgiving now in the rear-view mirror, and many people thinking about Christmas gifts, here’s an idea for the firefighter in your life (Or a “hint” for you firefighters to drop around the family!).

Before I go any further, I am EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to everyone–especially my sisters and brothers in the fire and EMS fields–who are showing up every day to continue providing the necessary and essential services that people in our communities need during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

So, in addition to making sure you get plenty of rest (when possible) and eating healthy (when possible), take time to get away from what’s going on to get into these books (Personally, if I was going for one right now, I’d go with Chief Linda Green’s book! Sorry, Burt and Dawn!).

I’m grateful to know three very special people, Dawn Balstad-Johnson, Dr. Burt Clark, and Asst. Chief (Ret.) Linda Green, and even more grateful to have read all three of their incredible books. Here, for my money, are three outstanding books that would make great additions to your firefighter library or that of a firefighter you love.

I Can’t Save Your Life, But I’ll Die Trying by Dr. Burton Clark.

Dr. Burt Clark, Executive Fire Officer,
Researcher, Author, Speaker, Instructor

Dr. Clark’s book is a compilation—an anthology if you will—of his writings on the above topics over the course of the last 40 years. If you’ve missed the opportunity to “tap into” the brilliance of one the premiere fire service leaders of the past several decades, Dr. Clark’s book is a great way to get your “homework” done, albeit a little late.

We all talk a great deal about the influence of our culture on how we operate in the fire service, but few have had the ability to fully grasp the topic and outline it in easy to understand terms as does Dr. Clark. When one reads his book, one can immediately grasp the concept that if we want to really make improvements in firefighter safety—really get rid of LODDs and injuries and “close calls”!—it’s not about better equipment or protective gear or SOGs.

Exposed Carcinogenic Exposures on The Fireground and 11 Work Practices to Minimize the Risk by Dawn Balstad-Johnson

Dawn Balstad-Johnson, CEO/Founder of Kaizen Safety Solutions, LLC

Dawn Balstad-Johnson is a unique individual in the firefighter safety and health world. Why? Because she’s “bi-lingual” in that she’s a industrial hygienist by education and training who spent 19 years working in the Safety Section of the Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department (Probably the premiere fire department in the U.S. when it comes to firefighter health and safety, for my money!).

And it’s that unique combination that makes this book such an important piece of our ever-growing body of knowledge regarding the increased risk of firefighters developing all types of cancers because of on-the -job exposures.

Solving the Post Traumatic Stress Brain Injury Puzzle: A First Responders’ GPS by Asst. Chief (Ret.) Linda Green, CALFire

Asst. Chief (Ret.) Linda Green, CALFire

This is a must read for first responders who have feelings of being stuck somewhere and not knowing how to get back. The author carefully explains her circumstances and how she got there then takes you through some steps toward recovery. Best thing I have done for myself in a long time.

Book Review on Amazon

A must read for any First Responder and their family experiencing PTSD…..a functional guide to navigate through their trauma and find healing. I retired with 39 years in the fire service….I only wish I had these tools then!

Book Review on Amazon

Chief Green has written what I firmly believe is a groundbreaking addition to the expanding body of knowledge regarding PTSD and firefighters (Really though, Chief Green’s book can help anyone suffering from PTSD, regardless of their role in life).

After a 26-year career with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department I’m pretty sure that I made it through to my length-of-service retirement in pretty good shape, physically and mentally.

But reading the first half of Chief Green’s book–where she takes you through her own descent into the “PTSD hole” through her powerful prose and the (almost) daily entries in her journal–led me to realize that there were many episodes and particular calls during my career where things could have taken a bad turn.

And therein lies the real power behind Chief Green’s book. In the first half she takes you all the way to the bottom of her own “Dante’s Inferno,” only to then take your hand and lead you out step-by-step in the 2nd half of her guide. Who better to help you get out of a hole than a person who’s been in the same hole and gotten out?

Best wishes to everyone for a safe holiday season and continued happiness and good health in 2021. Now 2020, get the h%ll out of here!

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 FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].