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A fireman
A railway locomotive fireman


fire +‎ -man



fireman (plural firemen)

  1. (firefighting) Someone (especially one who is male) who is skilled in the work of fighting fire.
    • 1993, Nancy F. Cott, editor, History of Women in the United States. Historical Articles on Women's Lives and Activities. 15. Women and War, page 432:
      By February 1944 there were over two thousand women employed at the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company [...]. There were also female firemen on almost every shipyard crane [...].
    • 30 June 2019, 'Don't call us for cats stuck in trees', Fire Brigade warns (Daily Telegraph)
      For firemen everywhere rescuing cats from trees has been as much a part of the job as tackling blazing buildings.
    Synonyms: firefighter, smoke eater
    Hyponyms: firewoman, hotshot, smokejumper
  2. (rail transport, nautical) A person (originally a man) who keeps the fire going underneath a steam boiler (originally, shoveling coal by hand), particularly on a railroad locomotive or steamship.
    • ca. 1913 The wreck of Old 97 [ballad, Blue Ridge Mountains], verse 3:
      He looked around his cab at his black greasy fireman, saying 'shovel on a little more coal, and when we cross that White Oak Mountain, you can watch Old 97 roll'.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, chapter IX, in Capricornia[1], page 140:
      No grass grew under a train when the engineer let Fireman McLash take the throttle.
    • 1949 May and June, R. A. H. Weight, “A Short-Lived Pacific Class”, in Railway Magazine, page 196:
      A few keen enginemen, such as Driver Rosewarne of York, could coax good work out of them when engaged in heavy East Coast express service, but to most footplate crews, especially firemen, they were rather heartbreaking and backbreaking machines, and gradually were relegated to secondary or fast goods duties.
    • 2013 August 24, Sophie Wyllie, quoting Tina Pinney, “Volunteer Tina steams ahead and becomes qualified fireman on North Norfolk Railway”, in Eastern Daily Press[2], →ISSN:
      I was elated to pass because there were times when I did not think I was physically capable. It is quite rare for a woman to become a fireman.
    • 2022 January 12, Benedict le Vay, “The heroes of Soham...”, in RAIL, number 948:
      The driver remained at his post, while telling fireman Jim Nightall to get down on the track and run back to uncouple the burning wagon from the rest.
    Synonyms: stoker, bakehead (the latter is informal)
    Coordinate term: engineman
  3. (rail transport, by extension) An assistant on any locomotive, whether steam-powered or not.
  4. (baseball) A relief pitcher (reflecting the figurative analogy of rescuing the situation).
  5. (mining, historical) A safety inspector in coal mines.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (firefighting): Historically only a man, but now used to refer to female firefighters as well. In modern usage, the gender-inclusive term firefighter is generally preferred.
  • (rail transport): This term is commonly used for both males and females, firewoman is rarer in this sense.

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