An adage about the bravery—or insanity—of firefighters is that they run into a burning building when every else is running out. (The adage sometimes says that the “rats and roaches” are running out.) It’s not known who originated the adage or when it began, but it’s been popular since at least 1981 (when it was cited at least twice in print).
“There’s an excitement to it—running into a building where everyone else is running out” was cited in May 1981. “People say we’re crazy because when everyone else is running out of the building, we’re running in” was cited in November 1981.
17 May 1981, Mobile (AL) Press Register, “TV reporter also firefighter” (AP), pg. 3-D, col. 2:
“There’s an excitement to it—running into a building where everyone else is running out.”
(Walt Hunter of Philadelphia, PA—ed.)
Google News Archive
24 November 1981, Record-Journal 9meriden, CT), “Town Mourns Death Of Chief Casale” by Rob Obie, pg. 18, col. 4:
“People say we’re crazy because when everyone else is running out of the building, we’re running in. But that’s our job, that’s our responsibility.”
(Fire Chief Arthur Toth—ed.)
10 January 1983, New York magazine, pg. 27, col. 2
“You’re running into a fire while everybody else is running out.”
Women & Work:
Photographs and Personal Writings
By Maureen Michelson and Michael R. Dressler
Pasadena, CA: NewSage Press
While everyone else is running out of a burning building, I am running in!
28 July 1991, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “Inside a firefighter’s `madness’” by Ellie Baublitz, Carroll County sec., pg. 14:
“So, what kind of madness makes someone run into a burning building when everyone else is running out?”
December 1991, Ebony, pg. 40, col. 3:
“You can’t have good sense anytime you’re running into a building that rats and roaches are running out of.”
Preparing for Terrorism:
An Emergency Services Guide
By George Buck
Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers
The old adage that firefighters are running into a burning building while the rats and the roaches are running out still applies in the 1990s.
29 May 1998, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL), “Female firefighters defy tradition” by Natasha Korecki, Neighbor sec., pg. 1:
“My brother asked ‘Why do you run into a burning building while people are running out?’”
7 February 1999, Boston (MA) Globe, “Cast in heroic role, firefighters bask in public acceptance” by David Armstrong< Metro, pg. A31:
Fire Commissioner Martin E. Pierce Jr. said firefighting is the only profession that requires someone to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out.
Thoughts on Fire:
Life Lessons of a Volunteer Firefighter
By Dr Frank McCluskey
Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc.
In some cities firefighters are called that city’s “bravest.” To run into a burning building when everyone else is running out does take a special kind of person.
Newark Mayor Enters Fire In ‘Come To Jesus Moment’
April 13, 2012 12:00 PM
MARTIN: You know, I used to ask my father, how did you get yourself to run into a burning building when everybody else is running out? He says, I don’t think about it. I just do. I wondered if there’s something in your background that made you - or can you think about what it is that made you go in there when it would have been really easy not to?
Buffalo (NY) News
Deaths of 19 firefighters underscores the risks in protecting lives and property
on July 3, 2013 - 12:01 AM
There’s an old saying that firefighters are the ones who run into a burning building as everyone else is running out. Let’s reflect on that as we honor the sacrifice of the heroes who have given their lives to protect others and remember that many more are risking their lives every day.