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uni'wissen 1-2013_ENG

is largely a result of historical and cultural factors. Another distinctive marker of firefighting culture is clothing. The helmets worn currently by New York firefighters are reminiscent of the leather helmets of previous generations. “They still revere these helmets today because they serve as a reminder of the so­called war years, the celebrated era in the 1970s when the FDNY had to extinguish numerous fires set by homeowners who wanted to collect insurance payouts,” explains Hochbruck. Firefighters are generally conservative: “They cling to traditions and are reluctant to introduce new technologies.” The typical, traditional heroic figure is still alive in many parts of the USA. “The most respected fire departments, the ones that shape the public image of firefighters, are those in New York and, to a considerably lesser extent, in Chicago and Boston. There are applicants who give up better paid positions and endure long commutes for the opportunity to work at these departments,” says Hochbruck. The image is shaped to this day by the media and individual Wolfgang Hochbruck visited the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in 2009 and observed firefighters conducting a training exercise. Their clothing alludes to their culture: The helmets are reminiscent of the leather helmets from the so-called war years, a celebrated era for the FDNY in the 1970s. Photo: Wolfgang Hochbruck departments of Santa Clara and Brownsville. He even participated in firefighting operations with the unit in Santa Clara. He conducted interviews with the members of all of the units he visited to learn about their motivation and experiences. Hochbruck found similarities between the USA and Germany, particularly in modes of behavior. “There is something of an international firefighter habitus,” he remarks. The language of firefighters in these two countries is similar particularly in their use of metaphor, and they also use a similar type of humor to come to grips with stressful situations. A firefighter who had the toughest job in an operation, for instance recovering a dead body, is allowed to make a sarcastic remark. The act of laughing together provides release and protection against a potential trauma. Fire Departments Are Conservative The structures and equipment, on the other hand, are very different in the two countries. For example, fire departments in the USA have separate units for fire extinguishing and rescue operations, the engine and ladder companies, respectively. In Germany there is no distinction of this kind. The American organizational principle A scene from the film Backdraft with the actor Kurt Russell: The movie still has a great influence on the image of the heroic firefighter today. Photo: DVD Backdraft/Universal Pictures 22