You know my advice here is don't be so serious about "the", you are not talking about "an" here, actually. Denis is absolutely spot on but it wouldn't sound too bad to add "the" to your example 2. Excuse being that, you can, actually, argue that when you refer to firefighters, they do, always belong to some our so-called "specific group" of things. They are never peddlers, they are never scalpers, but firefighters. And that makes them "specific" from other jobs. But you know what to choose in a formal test situation. And if you know American slang culture well enough, you would find "the" almost appears in most of the sexist slang terms, where according to the books, you are not supposed to apply it. And in daily speech people would feel comfortable to always say, "the Americans are stupid", "the Chinese always do that", even though they are not talking about the Chinese in a group, his colleagues, or something, but like you say, "general phenomenon", in which case the "the" is apparently redundant by THE book.