Christopher Cane On His Role As a Professional Firefighter

As a lifelong resident of Key West, Florida, Christopher Cane was raised fully immersed in nature, sun, and sea.

As a first-generation Key West Islander, he graduated Key West high school with honors, but little did he know that his passion for his career would come at such a young age. Christopher Cane found his calling when he was invited to investigate an opportunity sponsored by his local fire service – the Explorer program that eventually set all wheels in motion.

At sixteen, Christopher Cane began training in what became his lifelong career as a Firefighter. During his training he received recognition for his impressive skill set and was eventually hired at his agency of choice. 

Christopher has been fully absorbed in his career as a firefighter honing his skills and sharing his knowledge with others. He became the vanguard for exploring new ideas and technologies and was promoted to trainer for his agency. Beyond that, his long-term goal is teaching, instructing, and helping others to hone their skills. As an industry visionary, he is focused on effecting positive change and positively impacting coworkers, the public, and the industry, as a whole.

What was your inspiration in becoming a firefighter?

When I was in high school, I had a friend that was involved in the explorer program. The explorer program is similar to the ROTC program provided by the military to recruit high school students. Law Enforcement and Firefighter Services perform similar recruiting practices for their prospective career paths. My friend encouraged me to check into it. I got involved and quickly identified that I had a passion for fire service and emergency response.

What are the keys to productivity as a firefighter?

The key to obtaining promotions as a firefighter is formal education. College degrees are highly sought after, and many agencies prefer applicants to have associate degrees. For anyone planning to work their way up the chain of command, then a bachelor’s degree or master’s program is often required for a higher-level position. Anyone considering this career should not shy away from seeking out formal education early. My advice would be to continue studying and sharpening your skill sets, so you are equipped with the necessary knowledge to seek out a higher position. 

What is a long-term career goal?

Some people are more interested in trying to climb the ladder and rank. My long-term goal is effecting change in training new firefighters locally, and I hope it has a ripple-effect within the industry. People with a passion for firefighting are receptive to acquiring the knowledge of their trade. My goal is teaching, instructing, and helping others to hone those skills. I want to instruct new people with a passion for fire service who may struggle to get into the industry. At my former agency my long-term goal was pursuing the training division, and I was offered that position. Now, beyond that, I am more focused on effecting positive change and providing a positive impact on my coworkers, the public, and the industry, as a whole.

How do you measure success?

I measure my success by the people that I have been able to help, especially the ones that go through tough struggles. I do not necessarily measure success by a paycheck or a title or even an office. Success is being able to look back on my career and at specific individuals and know, these people were really struggling with this aspect and I helped them get over that hurdle. That is what I perceive to be a part of my success and my accomplishments.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned throughout your career?

The most valuable lesson I have learned is to be humble and help others. Be that somebody that others can turn to for help, whether it be personally or professionally. Just keep trying to improve yourself every day.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to become firefighters? 

The path for entry requirements is straightforward. While hours may vary from state to state or agency, the basics are standard. It is important to note that there are a lot of specialties within the fire service industry, from vehicle extrication to medical skills.  I tell people to find the speciality that interests them and then dedicate all of their time and energy to learning more. Find something about it in an article, a video, podcast, whatever it is, but try and learn something new . Never stop learning or engaging with new educational material. 

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome?

One of the biggest obstacles was that everyone makes a plan for their life and their careers. They create somewhat of a roadmap for everything. Whatever it may be, I am going to do this, and then this, and then I will reach my goal. And, like a road map, you are going to find that the road that you thought you should take is blocked, or the road is closed or under construction. Life is very similar. When you have to deviate from that plan, it does not necessarily mean that you cannot continue to pursue it. It just means that you have to take a different route. Early on, I took those detours as failures. It took a while to understand it was not that it was a failure. I thought I missed out or was passed over for a promotion years ago. I learned more and reapplied and I tested better, I prepared more and scored higher than I did the first go round, and was able to achieve that promotion. Learning that failures are not “failures”, they are simply detours in the path that we placed in our roadmap through life or careers. We aren’t going to travel on a straight line. Life is going to meander from time to time.

Who has been a role model for you? Why?

I would consider my wife as my role model. It might sound cliche, but she and I have been in the same industry.  I’ve seen a lot of the struggle that she has had to go through as a female in the fire service industry. Her perseverance through personal and professional adversities is admirable. How she maintains her composure, maintains an interest and a passion, maintains empathy for others, and in the faces of some of those adversities is impressive. She really is a strong, capable person, and I turned to her For a lot.

Would you consider being a mentor to other up and coming firefighters?

Absolutely I would consider being a mentor for other people. I think that everybody should find someone after which they can model. Being available for people, not just and as somebody that they can turn to for professional guidance, but also personal guidance. I do not think mentoring is as available as it should be, or perhaps once was, but absolutely, I would consider that. 

What is one piece of advice you have never forgotten?

I would say it goes back to what I was saying about obstacles that have been overcome. Your path to life is not a straight line. There are detours, and changes, whether it be in timeframe, or the direction, no matter what the goal is. Understanding that, does not mean you are not going to reach that destination or be successful. That was simply one path you thought you were going to take to get there. It may not be the one that you actually end up taking. Just keep working towards those goals. Do not let any detours distract you from what those goals are.