Linguists see no difference
In terms of linguistics, “fireman” would be a more faithful designation of profession by analogy with the words “polar man” or “oilman”, but in Russian there are many examples of how a rule “pasueth” before an established tradition. Historically, the adjective “firefighter” was used to refer to a member of the fire brigade, and the word “firefighter” did not appear until the late 19th century and immediately had to be disliked by fire fighters.
Professional firefighters began to call firefighters members of so-called volunteer fire brigades with no uniform or special means. This emphasised the division between professionals and amateurs and the neglect of the former to the latter. Despite the fact that popular dictionaries mostly consider the words “firefighter” and “firefighter” synonyms, the fighters themselves are convinced that this is not the case.
Literally since its introduction, the word “firefighter” carried not only a neutral meaning, but also an additional estimate. So, at the beginning of the 20th century in Moscow firefighters called people posing as victims of fires. More often than not it was professional beggars who came to Moscow from nearby provinces to collect money “for burned”.
Also, in criminal jargon, a firefighter is a thief who either sets fires to steal valuables, taking advantage of panic, or marauds while fighting a fire. Some fire fighters claim the firefighters are the ones who set the fire at all, its victims. Finally, there is an insect firefighter beetle, the official name of which is the red-legged softgirl.
Most likely, historically this division still rests in the period when professional fire crews began to contrast themselves to amateurs, and all additional explanations and meanings neutral, in principle, the words “firefighter” appeared later. For example, in the middle of the last century, in the Soviet Union there was even a special award badge “Honorary Pozharnik”, and it was not given to pogorelians, criminals or bugs, $ distinguished themselves in the course of extinguishing the fire.
Many researchers believe that the use of both options is entitled, and the conviction of fire-fighters that their profession is called “firefighter” is essentially based only on professional jargon and is an attempt to separate yourself from the “ordinary” once again. The fundamental difference between concepts is noticed only by firefighters themselves, and most people make no distinction between firefighter and firefighter.