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Firefighters: The Role of Family Traditions

July 28, 1994

In response to Diane Cameron's comments on July 7 regarding Gordon Dillow's June 23 article "In the Line of Fire":

Nepotism should not be confused with tradition. The phenomenon, as she so calls it, that is highly prevalent throughout the state of California is due to tradition, not nepotism. Nepotism is favoritism extended toward relatives. There is a branch of government called civil service that makes sure the testing process is fair for everyone involved and that favoritism does not exist.

Those of us who are still fortunate enough to be part of the brotherhood of firefighters know that knowledge, hard work and dedication are the ingredients to career advancement, not nepotism. There is a comprehensive testing process one must go through in order to advance their career.

I have watched many of my peers dedicate years of sacrificing and hard work to advance their careers, and most of them have no relatives in the fire service. Most of them have been drawn to the fire service due to tradition, not nepotism.

Tradition is the transmission of knowledge, opinions, doctrines, customs, practices, etc., passed on from generation to generation. When one grows up surrounded by tradition, and is so proud of his father as a role model, who also had a firefighting father as a role model, tradition plays a very big part when one ponders on what to do with his life.

These men are "pristine heroes," and the media glamorize them not because of nepotism or tradition, but because they lay their lives on the line to protect life and property.

When Dillow's cover story about my family appeared, it was about tradition, not nepotism. Perhaps if Diane had stayed with the Los Angeles Fire Department longer than a year, with a little hard work and dedication, she too could have advanced her career and passed on the tradition of the Fire Service or even become a role model for one of her family members. That is the "flip side of the coin."

SCOTT HOWARD SCHNEIDER

Torrance

P.S. Many, many thanks to Dillow for his article and to Ken Hively for his great photography. In the name of tradition, this memento I am sure will be passed on to another generation of firefighting Schneiders.

*

I am the wife/mother/daughter-in-law/aunt of the firefighters mentioned in Gordon Dillow's article "A Family Tradition" (South Bay, June 23), and I am highly offended by the reaction by Diane Cameron in the July 7 letters column.

In response, I would like to say that "nepotism" in its proper context refers to a family member taking advantage of a position to hire other family members (even if they are unqualified). If she had truly understood the article about my family's inspiration and dedication, she might not have been as quick to react and place blame for her own lack of achievement in the one year she served with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

California fire departments have worked hard to give equal opportunities to females, including modifying older stations to accommodate female employees.

My three sons and two nephews gained positions on fire departments by hard work, studying constantly, taking tests (and sometimes being bypassed, only to study harder the next time). Not one of them received any accolades or special attention because their grandfather, fathers, or uncles were also firefighters. It was their own diligence and efforts that got them on to the respective fire departments for which they work, not familial dispensation. They have earned their careers and the respect of their co-workers.

Good firefighters are good team members who do not point fingers at others for their own lack of success. Each of our family members has achieved success through each of their own achievements, not through some "good ol' boy" network as Ms. Cameron implied.

I am proud that my sons and nephews respected their grandfather and fathers enough to choose a similar career and follow an honorable tradition. I am proud that each of them worked hard to achieve their own goals on their own merit. The newspaper article was a tribute to my husband's 40-year career of fire service with the city of Torrance.

In all fairness, she did get one thing right: I am proud to stand behind my "pristine heroes," as she put it. I've stood behind them when it took a lot of studying and disappointments trying to get on departments. I've stood behind them when they came home exhausted and done without sleep. I've stood behind them when their families have missed them. I've stood behind them when their lives have been endangered by natural and unnatural disasters. I've stood behind them when they attended fellow firefighters' funerals.

And Ms. Cameron, I'll continue to stand behind them because they continue to serve our community honorably and quietly. They don't complain. They don't blame others. They do their job.

SHIRLEY SCHNEIDER

Torrance

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