Are you burning out?

By Chief Sam DiGiovanna

It has been a very tough year for everyone. In the fire service, “we train as if our life depends on it because it does!” But there is another danger that places us at risk called burn out. Not like backfiring or burning out unburned fuels during a brush fire, but ‘mental burnout.’ 

At times during your career, you may feel your motivation begin to burnout. Though a little dysphoria is normal, the blues can turn into full-blown job burnout if it combines with overwork and the feeling of under-appreciation.

But before you begin blaming the administration, your captain, or the C — Shift, give this some thought:

In the fire service (or for most professions), our job has different career stages. It is easy to get complacent or feel safe where we are. In fact, many of us talk ourselves right out of taking a promotion making up many excuses. Less likely than burnout, you may have reached your "expiration date."

Like a milk carton, we also have expiration dates. If we do not "renew" ourselves, we will likely get sour, lumpy, distasteful, and downright nasty. You may want to step up, take come classes and go for that next promotion!

Read each of the following items and rate how often the symptom of burnout is true for you at work or away from work. Use a scale of 1 through 5, where 1 = rarely true and 5 = usually true. Then total up your score.

        1. I feel tired even when I have gotten adequate sleep.

        2. I am dissatisfied with my work.

        3. I feel sad for no apparent reason.

        4. I am forgetful.

        5. I am irritable and snap at people.

        6. I avoid people at work and in my private life.

        7. I have trouble sleeping because of worrying about work.

        8. I get sick more often than I used to.

        9. My attitude about work is "Why bother?"

        10. I often get into conflicts.

        11. My job performance is not up to par.

        12. I use alcohol or drugs to feel better.

        13. Communicating with others is a strain.

        14. I cannot concentrate on my work like I once could.

        15. I am easily bored with my work.

        16. I work hard but accomplish little.

        17. I feel frustrated with my work.

        18. I do not like going to work.

        19. Social activities are draining.

        20. Sex is not worth the effort.

        21. I watch TV most of the time when not working.

        22. I do not have much to look forward to in my work.

        23. I worry about work during my off hours.

        24. Feelings about work interfere with my personal life.

        25. My work seems pointless.


25–50 You're doing well.

51–75 You're OK but take preventive action.

76–100 You're a candidate for burnout.

101–125 You're burning out.

If you really feel you are suffering from burn out, like putting out a fire, you should get professional help from a licensed qualified therapist and get this under control sooner rather than later.

Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department, and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. He also is VP of Fire Operations for