Combustible

Igniting Spontaneous Banter

Recommended by shane and bill

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Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Shane says: This book spoke to me in terms of being a good officer, especially a fire ground officer.  This is our “battle field” and it is important to lead there by example, with confidence and composure. 

Bill says: Why read this book if you can just watch a movie? Because If you only watch the film 300 for your information on the Battle of Themopylae, you are cheating yourself. It's an entertaining movie, but not exactly accurate, and it definitely lacks the detail of this book.

Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading List, which is a pretty good endorsement, but I read it because it made Shane's list.

There certainly are some lessons in this narrative for leaders AND followers. Loyalty. Duty. Commitment. Professionalism. These are all covered here, and I think the book is truly valuable for leaders. HOWEVER, I have real reservations regarding one of the other messages of this book; specifically the idea that makes the story of the 300 Spartans so compelling: their willingness to die. What I worry might happen, with more impressionable younger firefighters, is that they take this example of sacrifice (in the case of the Spartans) for the principles of resistance to tyranny and oppression and apply it to the fire service.

No doubt, each of us has taken an oath to protect others at the cost of our own life if need be, but the Spartans in this story actually seek out a death on the battlefield as the honorable way to die; a "glorious death." The idea that a firefighter might do the same is more than a little troubling to me. Our dedication to our profession and to our brothers and sisters is our most prized quality, and I certainly revere those firefighters who have made that ultimate sacrifice; what Lincoln called the "last full measure of devotion." But to seek out a "noble death" in a burning building?

There are lessons here in this book; good ones that ultimately make me put this book on my list of recommended reading, but I can't recommend this book without warning that all the Spartan qualities exhibited are not necessarily easily applied to the fire service. That's why I'm only going to recommend it for officers.

Recommended for Officers