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Most, but not all, of the people in the first group do things that most people would think of as positive externalities if they thought in those terms, and as such they are professions they themselves might pick if they decided their main goal was "to help other people".

The latter group, well....

"My father reminds me of another reason why firefighters are at the top of this list: the very real sacrifice they make in terms of their health."

Sure, but a lot of people are desperate to trade that for the psychological perks of being a firefighter. That is 1) feeling like they've accomplished something worthy 2) feeling heroic 3) the status and glory of being a hero. In fact, there are far more people who want to be firefighters than will ever be recruited. While I acknowledge firefighters efforts and all, if the sacrifices they make are costs they gladly accept, how much are they really sacrifices?

Lots of workers sacrifice their health and safety in the course of their work. Most of it is a lot less glamourous and a lot less recognized than firefighting. Most firefighters have willingly assumed this risk; most other workers have not.

That's a valid point. It occurs to me that coal miners (among others) face similar risks. So maybe we're back to my original point...

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