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The Most Dangerous Jobs in the World?…Deadliest Catch VS. Firefighters

Last night, I watched the season premiere of the Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel. I used to watch the show religiously, but over the past couple of years I had discontinued watching it. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but Deadliest Catch always seemed to capture my attention. Billed by some as the most dangerous job in the world, how could firefighters not be impressed.

In the 2 hour episode last night, the crab boat “Western Venture” caught fire. It had me thinking about how similar their jobs are to ours. Firefighting is often billed by some as the most dangerous job in the world too. I am not here to debate which job is more dangerous, just simply compare the two of some similarities.

Let’s start with what brought this entire comparison to mind… Comparing the crews on Deadliest Catch to that of firefighters operating at a fire.

Crews in peril

The crab boat “Western Venture” had a fire on-board. The crew left the vessel in a life raft and in the end all 5 souls on board were spared. The crew on the boat was all alone in the Bering Sea. Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and a plane for recon. In the end, the crew was picked up by a “Good Samaritan” boat that was nearby.

Western Venture = Firefighters calling a Mayday
Coast Guard = Rapid Intervention Team (although the Coast Guard is much farther away)
Good Samaritan boat = Other firefighting crews on scene who realize they can assist the Mayday crew and help them to safety.

But really what got me thinking about this is the fact that when the EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) beacon was transmitted from Western Venture, Deadliest Catch crews stopped what they were doing to listen in. None of the crews on the show were nearby to assist Western Venture, but they listened and discussed the events. They spoke about what the men on the boat were going through and how helpless they were. They might have gone so far as to offer a prayer. There was also an undertone of driving home the need for understanding of how bad that experience can be, and how it can happen to any one of the boats.

Isn’t that what us firefighters do?

September 11th, Boston, West, West Webster, Houston, just to name a few recent ones or during my tenure. Did you get online and listen to radio traffic? Did you assemble others at the firehouse? Did you discuss what they are going through? Did you offer prayers for those involved?

Apparently, crab boat fishermen have similarities to firefighters. If you watch the show, you will see the mutual respect for each other, yet extreme competitiveness. Egos, attitudes, physical and mental toughness…they are the same.

Think about it some more…

They operate all alone yet they do have some people to call  for help. We operate with other firefighters, yet firefighters are all we have to call for help. Neither occupation have many outlets to call for assistance.

They operate in extreme cold, especially the water. If they were to fall in the water, they only have seconds to live. We operate in the extreme heat. Their air temperature can be our IDLH. Falling in the water is equivalent to us being caught in a flashover.

And then there is the Captain…

Wow, what huge similarities there are among Captains on the show and Captains within the Fire Service. There are some who are leaders, and some who simply manage. If you watch the show, you will see the distinct differences between them.

Some have crews who love to work for them. Some have crews who love to talk about them. ALL have respect that they are the Captain of the boat. Very rarely have I seen any insubordination. Whether you like them or not, the Captain is in charge.

Sure, crab fishermen’s jobs are dangerous. So is firefighting. Yeah, neither are dangerous 24/7. But when we are in the thick of it, we are on our own and operating in or near atmospheres which are IMMEDIATELY DANGEROUS TO LIFE AND HEALTH (IDLH).

What are some other occupations that you find similarities to?

deadliest catch vs firefighting

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Brett Adams

    Most careers in public safety have this in some way or another, Fire, Law Enforcement, EMS, Military, but also the most dangerous of jobs develop this way due to the fact that each person is watching each others’ rear.

  • Christopher S. Thompson

    Nice article Rhett, as Brett said in another comment, we all depend on our partners whether that is one other person, the crew with you on the truck, engine, etc or the other officers on the street on your shift. I found in EMS that when I worked a shift on a truck with a regular partner we knew each others patterns, mannerisms and behaviors and could tell if that last call was bothering one of us. I remember an episode of “Deadliest Catch” where the boat was having a rough start to the season and the captain got on the loudspeaker and said he was ready for one of their boats traditions where they all got hair cuts to try and break the string of bad luck they were having. Everyone on the boat complied with the tradition EXCEPT “The Greenhorn” and that refusal pushed him further out of the crews good graces and alienated him even more. I think in that episode “The Greenhorn” said he had signed up to “fish” not participate in “frat house games”, but out in the middle of The Bearing Sea what other choice do the have? The can’t get the “rook” with the side discharges while polishing or sit him in the chair with the broken leg. I guess my main point is when your butt is on the line, who can you depend on, the new guy who refused to be part of the group and get a stinking hair cut or the rook that laughs off getting drenched with the side discharge fitting or ended up on the floor on his butt? Yes, fisherman in Alaska and firefighters both have VERY dangerous jobs but those jobs are made safer and more enjoyable with the quality of the team you’re surrounded with. You learn that you can depend on each other and you become a second family and you can always depend on your family……

  • joe

    One point left out is the fact that many times, the jobs are made even more dangerous by stupid actions performed by the men. You watch some of the antics and the way they perform some tasks on the crab boats and you wonder why they are doing it that way. Then someone falls in and you say, he was hanging off that stack of pots with no life line. Then you hear about lost or injured firefighters who were performing an interior attack when the building was beyond saving and there were no missing persons. So many times people go beyond the limit of safe behavior for what?

    • theroaddoctor

      We are killing firefighters in cardiac related causes (also strokes and cancer) and in apparatus accidents.

      We are not killing very many firefighters inside structures, and certainly not in structures that are beyond saving. I don’t know where this stance comes from, but it’s time to put a stop to this thinking.

      It does no one any good to to pay so much attention to deaths in this regard, while almost completely ignoring what is actually killing our members. It’s purely anecdotal, but the fire leaders that harped on the fire service killing firefighters inside structures the most, while failing to mention anything about health related causes were some of the most out of shape individuals I have ever seen. I’ve always attributed that to be the reasoning behind the lack of focus on what it really killing firefighters.

  • Sean Yates

    I work offshore on a tug but I come from a fishing background. I’m a firefighter when I’m home. Both are equally dangerous. When offshore for all intents and purposes there is no 911. All we have is each other. There is no mutual aid coming andno safe evacuation route. Stay on the boat as long as possible. When conditions are so bad that the better option is a 10′ diameter raft is the best option it’s bad! And it’s not just Fire. Heavy weather for days on end sap your strength as you get no sleep. Simple fatigue can producer a serious cut prone to infection while making lunch. Or you can fall down a ladder or suffer a heart attack. The danger is everywhere. They is no emergency room. Siometimes days away from even a helicopter. Most OSHA regs can’t be applied to a boat. When performing deck ops it’s impractical to be harnessed when you are required to move all over the deck over and under lines in a very dynamic situation. Lots of heavy objects are being thrown around. It’s actually safer not to be. Situational awareness is paramount. I have been sailing for 24 years and fire fighting for 16. I can honestly say my paying job day in and day out is more dangerous than fighting Fire. We have no break and don’t go back to the station. It’s 24/7 for 21 days. I have been scared more at work than I ever have in a fire. That being said fire fighting can be an extremely intense for a few hours. What I feel makes fishing in particular so dangerous is the fatigue. These guys only have so much time to make a living. If they aren’t fishing they aren’t making money. A typical week shrimping saw me getting about 6-8 hours of sleep for the entire week. That and rampant drug abuse. My life and my family’s livelihood depends on 4 other guys. I will not tolerate drugs or alcohol on the boat. But it’s everywhere on fishboats
    By the way USCG licensed merchant mariners are trained in shipboard firefighting medical response some up to paramedic level as well as life safety and water survival. Most fishboats…nothing.

    • Sean Yates

      To add to the end of the report. The Captain is the Captain. Offshore he is right next to God. If you don’t like or trust him when you get to the dock grab your bag and walk up the street. The Capt ain’t going anywhere. I have sailed with a dozen captains over the years. Only Worked for one I didn’t trust and I walked off the boat. He can be the biggest POS out there as long I know he is not going to get me hurt we will get along just fine!

  • Big spot

    True but the Fire Fighter can back out of a Bad situation 99.9 percent of the time while the crabber has to stay and ride it out, that’s the difference.

    • cynical one

      99.9 percent of the time?? what fire service world do you live in????

      • Big spot

        retired now,Worked both jobs on a professional level and know and loved them well. Fire fighting is by far easier and not as dangerous as the crabber. As far as the 99.9% goes the .1 was to given to those that are incapacitated or unable to back out.

  • Steve

    For 30 days of work, each deckhand recieved 45,000 dollars…..nuff said,