“From the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, “Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice”, looks at the dramatic changes made in the operations of South Carolina’s Charleston Fire Department following the deaths of nine firefighters on June 18, 2007. The video, produced by STATter911 Communications and Greg Guise Media, focuses on how the leadership of the late Chief Tom Carr helped the department recover after such a devastating loss”
I’ve gotten several comments, e-mails etc since attending the Harrisburg, Pa Fire Expo last weekend. Like all of the trips Rhett, Zach Green, the MN8 FoxFire Team and I take, this one’s success was well beyond expectations.
I hit some of the highlights of our Expo adventures in my latest post. Use the link below to read that article if you missed out on the details.
Most of the comments I received were “private” although lots of Brothers and Sisters we met “tagged” themselves in photos and left some great “public” comments. Several of the messages dealt with my visit to two neighboring companies … Colonial Park Fire Company (#33) and the Progress Fire Company (#32). Both were AWESOME visits!
To begin with, Lt Mike Rodkey of Colonial Park hit me up to invite us for dinner. We had never met prior to his invite.
After a few conversations and some scheduling, we arranged to meet them at the station for dinner on Friday evening after our first day on the Expo exhibit floor. I was exhausted.
My wife (Donna) had traveled with me to Harrisburg and accompanied me to Colonial Park. We felt welcome as soon as we got out of the truck.
This was obviously not my first invitation / visit to a firehouse. It was also not the first time I had been invited to share a meal with a Company of firefighters but each experience is as emotional as the first.
I can’t explain it but there’s “something” special that happens for me at these events. I don’t know why Brothers and Sisters across the Country choose to share these things with me but they do. It’s humbling.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the crowd. There was a lot of people gathered but what stood out most was the number of wives and children …. FAMILY …. it was obvious to me that Colonial Park is a firehouse vs. “station.
Something as seemingly simple as the station tour can make an overwhelming impact on a first time visitor to a station (house). My tour was given by a young “live-in” member, “Cheech”. The PRIDE he displayed in showing me each and every little detail of the station was infectious. He knew and explained the history of things like their custom kitchen table, the run board, the photos on the wall displayed in custom diamond plate holders. Their Public Safety Education trailer and custom made “props”.
They have a “Trophy Room” near the front entrance of the station. Trophies and photos line the walls and the center piece is a early model rig used by Colonial Park. Sam Swartz conducted the tour of this room. Sam has been a volunteer at Colonial Park for over 50 years! That in itself says something about who Colonial Park is … about the type of Company they are.
While I was getting a tour of the house, others were cooking and setting the table. It wasn’t long before we all sat down to a fabulous meal…. TOGETHER. Sharing a meal (or “breaking bread” as we call it) is also something very personal. This wasn’t each person grabbing a plate and gulping the food down in which ever secluded place each chose. This was a group of firefighters … husbands, wives and children … a FAMILY sitting down to eat together, talking across, up and down the table and they had invited ME into their group.
I often hear people on the job talk about the mythical “Brotherhood” and how it either doesn’t exist or is fading. I couldn’t disagree more.
After our meal, we gathered for a few pictures and I had to say my “good-byes” for the evening. I got a little emotional while talking with them … I do that more and more here lately. You see, I explained to them that the Brotherhood is NOT dead. It’s alive and well in houses just like Colonial Park all across our Country. Sometimes, the members just have to slow down for a minute to see it. Sometimes, it takes someone like me, looking (coming) in from the “outside”; to point it out.
It can be overwhelming to see it working … the Brotherhood. To KNOW it still exists. It’s overwhelming to me because I need it. I need to KNOW it lives and that I’m a part of it …we CAN’T do this job alone. The Brotherhood is a big part of why I joined the Fire Service and I couldn’t stand seeing it gone.
The Brotherhood doesn’t have to be something big …. something tangible. The heart of Brotherhood is often found in the seemingly small things. TRADITION, PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT is shown in a multitude of ways.
I also fielded several questions about the kilts Rhett and I often wear. And for those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between a man wearing a dress and a kilt …. I’m not sure you really want to know what that difference is though …LOL
Rhett and I currently have two kilts that we LOVE. One is Alt Kilt, the other a Bunker Kilt (click on the names for a link). Kilts are a huge part of Fire Service history here in the USA. Yea … kilts.
In the beginning of our Countries development, being a firefighter (or police officer) wasn’t a highly sought after job. In the big cities, these positions were often filled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. When these members died, their funerals were often traditional of their homeland …. kilts, bagpipes, drums etc.
We wear our kilts out of RESPECT and to HONOR those who came before us. So Brothers and Sisters (or whoever) will ask us why and we can share some of the history and TRADITION of our job. We wear them with PRIDE (plus … we look so damn good in em! LOL)
I get the same thing here at home or around the station. The odds are that if you drop by my house, or see a pic of me from the station; I’m wearing my bunker pants.
No, we are NOT as busy as a Rescue Company in FDNY but I EXPECT to be! The first time our rig rolls out the door (on a run, for training, to the grocery store etc) I have em on. You’ll hardly ever catch me on the rig without them on.
I EXPECT fire. I also wear my seat belt … ALL THE TIME. I don’t want to be out on the road and catch a run without being ready. I can’t undo my belt and stand up to get dressed while responding. I don’t want to roll into a “job” and jump out of the rig to get dressed in the street. I can however slide on my coat and SCBA on with the seat belt secured…. that’s why I wear my bunkers. I’m ready to work.
I don’t get what the big deal with our kilts and bunker pants is. If I wore a baker’s apron and chef hat I could understand it. We are FIREFIGHTERS … it’s what we wear and what we do!
Anyway, I’m back on duty tomorrow but will catch up with ya again as soon as possible. Until then, stay SAFE and in House!
I just returned from the Fire Expo in Harrisburg, Pa. It was another GREAT trip, full of BROTHERHOOD but not without it’s ups and downs. It was almost like a roller coaster ride … let me try to explain.
To begin with, although Harrisburg is a show Rhett and I have been wanting to attend for some time now, it was not on our schedule this year. As it turned out, Zach Green and our MN8 Fox Fire team really needed us so we began scrambling. I was able to work it out but Rhett wasn’t. Once again this year, I would be traveling without him.
The good news was that my wife was able to take some time off so she could go in his place. Donna has never traveled with us (or me) to one of these shows before so I was excited to get to show her what they are like and everything we do.
Donna and I loaded up the “Blog Mobile” and pointed her North….. we wouldn’t make it far though. About 15 miles into the trip, I stopped at the only stop light we would encounter between the house and Harrisburg. When I stopped, smoke was visible from under the hood, right at the windshield.
She says to me (as if I haven’t noticed it) … “I think the van is over heating”. My reply was simple… “nope”.
“We’re never gonna make it …. this thing is over heating already …. I’m telling ya” she says.
As the light turns green, I tell her … “Honey … it’s NOT over heating … IT’S ON FIRE”. You should have seen the look on her face…LOL. I pulled into the store parking lot just through the light and we get out. I popped the hood and she was rolling. Donna was about to panic and asked me “what are we going to do?”.
Calmly, I told her “calm down … I’m a fireman … look in the cooler and get me a beer” (I had a cooler packed for Expo). Then, her panic turned to anger …. “You’re NOT going to stand here and drink a beer while this van burns up!” LMAO. I didn’t pack or have any water (or an extinguisher) …. I need SOMETHING to put this thing out I quickly explained. Get me a beer and start emptying our luggage.
So there I am …. shaking and opening beers to extinguish the fire. You can imaging the look on Captain Week’s face as Roanoke County’s Wagon 10 rolled in!
Turns out, that while sitting in the driveway since FDIC; a bird had decided to use the engine compartment as a place for nesting. It was turning out to be a GREAT start of our trip!
We arranged for a tow truck and switched vehicles to get back on the road. We were running beside a gasoline tanker as it blew a trailer tire and sat for hours in bumper to bumper stopped traffic due to a crash just south of Harrisburg but we eventually made it to our hotel.
The next morning, the MN8 FoxFire Team would assemble on the exhibit hall floor for the first of three busy days.
Once again, we had Andrew Arnold and the Box Alarm LeatherTeam in the booth so it was almost like we were twice as busy.
Box Alarm and MN8 FoxFire have teamed up to deliver yet another GREAT product! With Box Alarm’s quality work (and a LIFETIME GAURANTEE), using 8-10 oz bridle leather (tanned in the USA), 3M’s flame resistant reflective fabric combined with MN8′s advanced illumination technology, these two “by firefighters, for firefighters” companies have delivered one of the best radio strap combination packages on the market! We debuted them at FDIC and SOLD OUT! They were just as popular in Harrisburg. To learn more about this new product, CLICK HERE or HERE.
I’m always VERY busy giving demos while in the booth but I also get to spend a few minutes talking with hundreds of Brother and Sister firefighters. I think that’s one of the things I like the most about working these shows … meeting and making new friends within the Fire Service.
After the show on Friday, I did just that … met and made some GREAT new friends.
Donna and I got to spend the evening and share a meal with the Brothers and Sisters of Colonial Park Fire Company.
I have to tell ya …. these Brothers and Sisters “get it”.
When Lt. Mike Rodkey invited us out, I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off. When “on the road” we (the MN8 FoxFire Team) usually travel as a team and it’s difficult to drop in and visit a company with a crew of 8-10. On top of that, we had about 4 separate invitations / obligations for that evening and we were already worn out from the long days work in the booth. All things considered, Zach and I decided to split the team and try to cover as many obligations as possible. I was glad I made it to Colonial Park!
My visit started off with a tour of their house and rigs. “Cheech”, a Colonial Park “live-in” member; rolled out the red carpet. You could see the PRIDE in the company and it’s members as he showed me every little detail. Everything was neat, clean and in order …. another example of PRIDE.
I also got to meet and talk with Sam Swartz.
Sam is like the 2nd or 3rd most ACTIVE Senior member of the Colonial Park Fire Company with 50 YEARS OF SERVICE!
Sam showed me around their trophy / display room where they housed one of their earlier pieces along with numerous trophies, photos etc.
He also shared some of their HISTORY and TRADITION with me. I could have listened to his stories all week! IT WAS AN HONOR meeting him and having the opportunity to hear his stories!
After the tour, it was time to eat and just like everything else I had seen from Colonial Park, they went all out.
London Broil on the grill …… and I mean MELT IN YOUR MOUTH London Broil!
There’s something very humbling to me to get to sit down at a table with a group of firefighters and their wives, husbands and family and share a meal. A meal that they paid for out of their pockets and yet decided to share with me. It’s humbling because I know the sacrifices they’ve made to be able to do this. I’ve shared in it. It’s like we’ve known each other all along even though we’ve never met. It’s BROTHERHOOD.
We took a few photos and I got the opportunity to shake each of their hands and thank them before Donna and I had to head out to our next meeting. I would like to say to them once again … THANK YOU!
Eventually, we made it back to our hotel room for a few hours sleep. Before we knew it, we were back on the floor at Expo. The 2nd day was as busy as the first. Once again I got to meet several GREAT Brothers and Sisters during and between my demos.
After Saturday’s show, we were off to the “Progress Bash”. Although it wasn’t a F.O.O.L.S Bash, it was very much like one.
This Bash was hosted by the Progress Fire Company … just down the road from Colonial Park.
These Brothers and Sisters know how to throw a party!
The place was PACKED and we had a BLAST!!
I wasn’t the only one wearing a kilt (BunkerKilt.com) but I was shocked to see that I was the only one wearing my helmet (Phenix Helmets) . I do have to admit that I wasn’t the best looking one there in a kilt. I can say that for certain because the Girls of Fire House Dolls were also on hand. We took a few pictures together and I even got to review their 2014 calendar … TRUST me … use the link I provided and look them up … yo’r gonna LOVE the new calendar!
Stan Jaworski was also on hand with his camera. Stan is well known for his photos and I’m personally a big fan. Check out some of his pictures from the 2013 Progress Bash HERE and find him on Face Book HERE .
There were also some Pipes and Drums in attendance. I never caught their name nor learned if they were like a “renegade” bunch or not but either way, they did a very nice job! Here’s some video…
So it was another late night to bed and an early rise for day #3 of Expo. Again we were shocked at just how busy we remained. Just like days 1 and 2, we got to meet so many dedicated Brothers and Sisters.
We also had a very special guest salesman in the booth.
Word got out to 14 year old Ian Swarr that our Team was a little overwhelmed at our first Harrisburg Expo so he came to the Rescue.
Zach and the crew actually got to have dinner with Ian the night before and I thankfully were able to convince him into helping out on Sunday.
Ian is a true inspiration and I’m honored to call him my friend. He even took Donna around the Expo floor to introduce her to all his friends and “show her the ropes”
I’m not sure exactly what they did but they both returned with a sack full of swag and smiles on their faces …lol. If you want to talk about “heart” and meet a GREAT young man… look no further.
There’s NO WAY I can mention everyone I got to see and spend some time with this weekend. I won’t even try because I know I will leave someone out. There are a few however that I want to give a “shout out” to and I think I know a way to encompass the rest.
Once again, we got to spend some time with the guys from Fire Cam. These guys are AWESOME (even Dave Statter hangs out in their booth). Rob Schield and Cris Burch are another example of guys who “get it”. If you’re not familiar with Fire Cam and their products, YOU SHOULD BE.
This is the ONLY Fire Helmet Camera designed by Firefighters. You can learn more and find them on the web by CLICKING HERE . Also find them on Face Book HERE.
Another name I want to drop is Clayton Murphy of Crosstitched. Clayton was also set up at Harrisburg and spent some time with us. For those of you who don’t know, Crosstitched is the designer and supplier of the IronFiremen / Fire Critic “Hey Brother” shirts. Crosstitched is another Firefighter owned company that needs (and deserves) our support. Clayton is a SUPER guys and ALL of his designs ROCK! Wait until you order some of his shirts … as soon as you see the box he ships in, you’ll know he’s a class act! He also does CUSTOM shirts !
Visit their Web site HERE or find them on Face Book HERE
I apologize for not listing everyone I met and spent time with. It is also nearly impossible to include all the pictures we took. I did put together a small photo album on Face Book. Take a look and feel free to TAG YOURSELF if included in one of the shots. Also, please share and / or tag me if you have a photo of us from Expo. Use the link below to view the album …
I have a few more stories to share with from Expo but I’ll catch them in a later post. There have been a couple LODD’s over the weekend and storms are tearing through the several states leaving huge paths of destruction and several dead. Please keep all those affected including the Brothers and Sisters responding to these incidents in your thoughts and prayers.
Botetourt County’s Emergency Services has made our local news again. Just over a year ago, the County hired Carr Boyd to serve as their Emergency Services Coordinator. It was a HUGE debate and met with a lot of criticism.
Several of the County’s Volunteer Chiefs ( two, more so than others ) were very out spoken and did not support the hiring of this position. At the time, it seemed as if their main argument against the position was that the Coordinator would have the authority to assume command of an emergency incident if necessary. One Chief (now former) was even quoted as saying ….
if an emergency services director assumes control of a scene “there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings and busted noses.”
They were using terms like “my scene” and saying things like they didn’t need anyone coming in “here” and telling them how or what to do. There were a lot of egos flying around and it seemed to me that the only people who could get hurt were the ones whom Botetourt’s Emergency Services were there to protect … it’s citizens and visitors.
Here’s a quote from an article I posted back when this all started … “This job is NOT ABOUT YOU or being in “CONTROL”. It’s not YOUR fire. It’s about the people we have sworn to serve and protect. There is no shame in asking for or accepting help. If supplemental paid positions will decrease response times and increase the level of Public Safety in Botetourt County, then I’m all for it and any Chief in his right mind should be as well. Drop the egos and do the right thing guys. DO YOUR JOB … I have family who lives there and I’m depending on you! ALL OF YOU !” Read that entire article in the link below …
Above, I said it took “them” just over a year to accomplish their goal. By that, I meant the group that opposed the position in the first place…. YEA …. they never went away (well … one of em did). Some are actually still serving as Volunteers within the County (some being Chief and/or Company Officers).
More “hurt feelings and busted noses” for Botetourt County’s Emergency Services.
First off, I’m EMBARRASSED. I’m embarrassed and ASHAMED. There’s a WHOLE lot more to this story than is being told (in the “main stream” media anyway).
I’m embarrassed and ashamed because it seems as if Chief Boyd has been hung out to dry. The only person stepping out in support of him is, the newly appointed (and former) Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief; John Manspile. In an article on Roanoke.com Cheif Manspile said …
“He’s been exactly what this county needed,” Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief John Manspile said. “He’s been doing what was practical, what needs to be done. … I can’t see where he’s done anything wrong.”
Chief Boyd has yet to comment publicly on the issue. He’s showing a level of tact and restraint I don’t think I myself possess.
I’ve been looking (waiting) for someone to EXPLAIN. To tell us the details. Why would Chief Carr relocate his family all the way from NC to work a single year and then retire? Because he was FORCED OUT … that’s why (or that’s my opinion anyway).
I’m getting reports (off the record) that some members of the group that initially opposed the position and Boyd’s hiring never gave up their fight.
Reportedly lead by one of the Volunteer Fire Chiefs, who is himself a convicted felon; this group set out to rid the County of Boyd and apparently they have succeeded … BUT AT WHO’S COST?
It’s rumored that the group discovered an issue with Boyd’s training. I say “rumored” because I haven’t confirmed it as of yet. We know he was a Captain (and “Acting” Battalion Chief) in Charlotte, NC before coming to Botetourt County. He must have had some training.
The rumor continues that the group took the issue to the Board of Supervisors and gave the option … Boyd’s resignation or the resignation of several of the volunteers. If that is indeed the case, and how it “went down”; then the Board made the WRONG decision.
Is this a “paid vs volunteer” or a “good ol boy club” issue? The County has already said that they plan to fill the position. I wonder if the same group opposes that? Or maybe it was just Chief Boyd they opposed? I wonder who they would support for the position …. one of their own?
Someone who wouldn’t have to make the tough decisions. Someone who wouldn’t have to enforce policy? Ahhhhh ….. the ol 2 steps forward, 6 steps back game!
Just recently, the Botetourt’s Board of Supervisors heard the story of Volunteer Companies being unable to staff units while citizens were on scene performing CPR for extended period of time.
Like many other Departments across the Country, Botetourt needs to find new ways to meet the needs of their citizens. They need to find a new way of doing business in relation to providing Emergency Services. Carr Boyd was doing just that.
I’m not sure if the answer is through a Combination , Career or all Volunteer System but I do know they need to become “forward thinking” rather than taking leaps backwards (like it appears they just have). I also feel that whatever direction they decide to go, convicted felons and those who place personal gain over Public Safety shouldn’t be a part of it. The past Buchanan “issues” in Botetourt should have proven that point to the Supervisors.
I have spoken to Carr Boyd recently. Although he would not comment on the current issues, he did share that his main concern at this point is assuring that the members of Botetourt’s Emergency Services are taken care of (career and volunteer members) through this ordeal.
I’m sure he could have “thrown some stones” …. he didn’t. Instead, he took the road of a good Officer … of a good Leader … even after all this, he’s “looking after the men” (and women). Carr Boyd is a CLASS ACT. I wish some of remaining Officers in Botetourt County were more like him.
I wrote this post a couple days ago and have had it awaiting publishing in my que. Apparently, someone was looking over my shoulder as I was typing. I say this because of a comment I received last night. If you missed it, I posted it in a short stand alone post late last night.
Use the link below and take a look… it may help you understand just a little more of some of the challenges (and types of people) Carr Boyd faced over the past year…
I don’t know who she is or why she’d make this comment. I haven’t posted in a while yet she chose to comment on a post dated from May 3rd and on a topic that never mentioned her.
Maybe her guilt is troubling her? Maybe she thinks that I’m planning a post on the Botetourt County Emergency Manager, Carr Boyd’s resignation. Maybe she thinks I’ll say something as to how someone she’s connected with may have been at the root of or at least in part responsible for part of the problem. I’m not sure of her reasoning but she did not use any of the wording or language that would cause me to delete her comment. I’ll post it.
Just like me, CHRISTINE PADERICK is entitled to her opinion and I’m happy to share it here on my site. I don’t agree with it but it’s hers … just as mine is MINE. Here’s what she had to say…
Christine, if you are indeed “tired” of reading my “BS” …. dont hit the link or type my url into your browser. On a side note, if YOU need someone to talk to … I often share a variety of great links for counseling
First off, let me say thank you for the continued support. My last post, “You can’t teach Heart” was very well received and I appreciate it . It’s nice to know that I still have a few readers / followers out there.
I do need to clarify one thing though. I’ve received several e-mails, phone calls, messages etc following that post saying how good it is to have the “old” Captain Wines “back”. They say they are glad I’m past (or over) my grieving etc….and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I know I took you folks to some “dark” places over the last 4 months but I felt compelled to do so. I shared with you some of my thoughts’ feeling and lessons learned following my brother’s death by suicide. I tried to be as honest and open as possible.
Just because I’m a little more visible and posting on a more regular basis doesn’t mean I’m “past” or “over” anything. I NEVER will be. There’s a hole in my heart that will never be filled.
There’s not an hour that goes by that I don’t think of Jackson. The reminders are EVERYWHERE and I can’t hide or run from them. I’m slowly learning to embrace them but it’s hard.
I’m fighting depression every minute I’m awake and I still grieve his death. It’s getting better but, it’s been an uphill struggle. I never knew or understood what a horrible illness / disease depression was (is) before the events of December 30th.
I haven’t told ya in a while so I’ll remind you now that we are ALL “climbing”. We are ALL fighting demons of one sort or another. I’ll also remind you that we are NOT alone … there ARE folks out there who know and understand what we are going through and they stand ready to help us through whatever challenges we face.
If you’re like me and need someone to talk to or lean on, PLEASE try one of the links below …. there’s no shame in it. It’s working for me and it can for you too …
Ok ….lets move on. So around where I work, it’s promotional testing time. That equates to “silly season” for me!
I call it that because everything required to participate in the process and because of all the “jockeying for position” that’s already started.
We will be testing for Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant, Captain, and Battalion Chief. There will also be a Deputy Chief of Operations appointed due to an upcoming retirement. As far as the other positions, we don’t even know how many are open yet (around here, it all depends on who’s counting).
Promotional testing can be one of the most stressful events of a firefighter’s career. Usually, there’s a huge reading list, hours upon hours of study (additional times away from family), the testing process itself and then the waiting game.
We have a written test to narrow the field of candidates (Lieutenant-Captain) followed by a practical portion. For the Lt. candidates, the practicals are made up of a 10 minute presentation (on the same subject / topic which is announced following the written test), a driving course / evaluation, a pumping evolution and an IMS / Fire scenario.
The 1st Lt., Captain and Battalion candidates will also face a fire / IMS scenario, a “problem employee” situation and a presentation. Battalion Chief candidates will work an “in basket” scenario instead of the presentation. Again …. all very stressful.
Rhett actually took his written test on Wednesday. He take the practicals next week. Being that he is already a Lieutenant, he has the option to test for 1st Lt and / or Captain. He is testing for both.
GOOD LUCK to all of our candidates (at every level). As a Company Officer, I hope you’ll remember to take can of your members. If you do, you’ll have a long and enjoyable career. If you don’t …. LMAO … well lets just say that they can make you life hell.
That brings me to recruitment. I HATE that word. I guess it’s not so much the word as it is how many Departments go about it (“recruitment”). They’re doing it WRONG!!
I’ve always said that if someone has to come out looking for you, and then try to convince you that “this” is what you want to do or who you want to work for … THEN I DON’T WANT YOU. We’re FIREFIGHTERS ….. we deal with lives not files, folders or boxes!
I hear of Departments complaining about a lowered number of applicants all the time. They look at all these “outside” reasons in search for a reason /solution and always miss the issues core.
To me, it’s an internal issue. An issue within that Department. In my opinion, it shows a lack of (or poor) leadership / management (or something along those lines). Either way, I’d bet that the members of that Department are NOT happy. That’s sad because our MEMBERS are our best recruiters and it’s so easy to keep firefighters happy!
Think about it. When the members are happy, they reflect a positive image of their Department. When they’re out in the community and someone asks them about “what they do” or where / who they work for, a happy employee is eager to share that information and does so in a positive manner.
On the other hand, an unhappy or disgruntled employee’s response will most likely be “you don’t want to work here”…. OUR MEMBERS ARE OUR BEST RECRUITERS!
My good friend and Brother Tiger Schmittendorf is one of (if not “the”) our Nation’s top fire recruiters. He’s pictured on the far left in the photo above left (with Me, Rhett and Dave Statter). Tiger runs several web sites worth visiting and if you’re having recruitment issues / problems then he’s the man you want to see.
I’ve been using that saying for several years now and believe it to be true.
We are surrounded by the absolute best instructors this profession has to offer on a daily basis. They can teach most any subject … strategy and tactics, search and rescue, ventilation, water supply, pump / ladder ops, incident command, high rise firefighting, Mayday, RIC etc. The one thing they can’t teach is “HEART”. You either have it or you don’t.
I’m not sure I can exactly define what I mean by “heart” but it’s at least a passion for “the job” as well as the drive and determination to fulfill the duties expected of us (both on and off the fire ground). It’s the willingness and eagerness to “do the right thing” no matter the cost and to sacrifice for others.
I’ve always said that all I need is a month or two in the same station and/or one working fire to know whether or not a probie (or non-probationary firefighter for that matter) “gets it”. That quickly, I can determine if he or she has “heart”.
You can buy all the newest and latest gear. This gadget, that one and two more of these. You can put this sticker or that one on your helmet, this decal on the back window of your truck. Wear any tee-shirt you want with whatever logo or saying on it.
Give me one set of steps, leading to an attic where fire is rolling down on you while blowing out the eaves and/or dormer.
Push into the fire floor from the adjacent window or the floor above to search without a hose line. Try a little VES (Vent Enter Search) when the floor is rocking.
Crawl down a dark, black, smokey hallway. So dark you can’t see your nose or the lens of your mask. The heat so hot that every breath you take hurts. Reaching out … feeling for anything you can find…. a hole to fall into or a body…. who knows? It’s your first time in this situation …. you’ll wonder how close you’ll be to that body when you find it and what it will look like when you get there.
It’s already hot and getting hotter. Open the nozzle or not? Keep pushing or back out? Someone will understand …. the circumstances just weren’t where we needed them to be … right? Nobody will blame or question you. There are multiple reasons to quit and turn around but only two reasons to keep pushing…. 1.) Someone is (or may be) in there and 2.) this is what you took an oath and signed up for …. it’s your DUTY and job!
Do you have the HEART to push on or will you quit? It’s not easy … if it was, any and everyone would do it. If you don’t (have the heart), I’m sorry…. IT CAN’T BE TAUGHT.
How about the EMS call at 3am? The nausea and vomiting for 2 days. The abdominal pain or difficulty breathing despite the fact they smoke 3 packs a day.
Do you get up bitching? Complaining and cursing? Are you mad because you came to work, fully knowing your job was to staff the ambulance ; and they actually asked you to run a call? Did you think there was a call volume “limit” when you joined?
Or, do you realize that although this is your 15th call of the tour, it may be the caller’s 1st emergency. Do you even consider that the person you’r responding to may be a family member of mine. Maybe they are kin to someone you work with…. maybe they are related to you? If you knew that going in, would your outlook have changed? It shouldn’t …. every run should receive the same commitment.
To me, that’s a little bit about what “HEART” is on the job….. it’s doing our job and doing it with PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT.
There is also “HEART” away from the job and I guess the better word there would be “off duty” because those of you who have “HEART” are never really “off the job”.
Rhett and I are fortunate in that we Know, meet and see a lot of Brothers and Sisters who “get it” … who have “HEART” and/or display, understand and promote “The Brotherhood”. We see examples of it on a daily basis because we know what we’re looking for. The sad part of what we see is that so many Brothers and Sisters look right past it never knowing what they saw.
I could give ya many, many examples but instead, I want to share just a few with ya from our experience at FDIC 2013 (this will by far not be ALL the examples we encountered).
Take the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb for example.
This is the first time FDIC has had 343 climbers. This year, they actually surpassed that number.
NONE of these climbs are easy. I often see folks in the staging areas and think to myself … “”they are going to have a hard time making 110 stories”. They HAVE to know that going into the climb themselves yet, they register and show up anyway. THEY CLIMB! That’s HEART!
During the climb, you’ll find many who, instead of making a “race” out of it; stay behind to assure every member completes their journey (climb). Anybody can pass the Brother or Sister in front of them and push on to “look good”. It takes HEART to hold back and assure nobody is left behind.
I’m surrounded by Founding and Committee Members of the Stair Climbs. You would think “that” sacrifice would be enough.
NOPE … Brothers like Rhett Fleitz, Brian Brush and Andrew Catron continue to climb. For them, this is their 6th or 7th climb (maybe even more for Brian).
Why? They’ve done their duty. By completing just one, they’ve accomplished more than most. For them (us) it’s not about that. It’s about HONOR. Honoring our fallen.
It’s about SUPPORT. Supporting the NFFF and our fallen’s families.
These Brothers “GET IT”. Not only that, they want YOU to get it as well! They promote the Climbs and sacrifice their time to serve on committees, organize events etc.
I’m not saying you have to “climb” to “get it” but these Brothers DO and that’s why they CLIMB!
I’ll give ya another example…. Kim Fitzsimmons.
Many of you may know Kim from her Face Book Page. Others may know her from her fire ground photography (or her drawings with red crayons…LOL)
Seems like a pretty full plate towards “the Brotherhood”, “getting it” and/or having “Heart” huh? Well, Kim learned of the “Meet-Up” Rhett and I were having at FDIC and she decided she just couldn’t miss it. She drove all the way up to FDIC just to attend our Meet-Up knowing it was sponsored in part by the NFE! She wasn’t “looking” for anything …. she wanted to support and promote the NFE while sharing and spreading The Brotherhood. She made the drive alone … she “gets it”. Kim has HEART!
Here’s another NFE Officer Club Member who “gets it” ….Jill Boden.
Jill attended FDIC all week. We first met her at the FOOLS Bash but have known her for some time now through her Face Book page as well as the Officer’s Club.
She attended the NFFF Stop Drop and Rock and Roll Event as well …. anywhere support for the Brother / Sisterhood was needed, Jill could be spotted.
She “worked the room” of our Meet-Up like a pro. Introducing herself and spreading the word about the NFE, the NFFF and more. Jill also “gets it” and she displayed it all week!
Not only does she look after us …. she’s devoting her time to take care of our spouses as well!
Her mission … “Strengthen, ignite and rescue Firefighter marriages. Nurture our fire wife community with encouragement, support and friendship. To Build up our fire wives in mind, body and spirit to be wise, strong and enduring. To bring an even deeper sense of community to the fire service family”.
Must I say more? OBVIOUSLY … Lori “GETS IT”. I hope you get it too! Use the links below to get a head start …..
Ok …for a final two (but not the only remaining) examples from FDIC, I’ll go back to our Meet-Up.
At the end of the night, a young (or at least “younger”) Brother came up to me. He wanted to buy me a beer (the event was over and the open bar changed to cash bar). He was in the group of members from Tennessee that included Shane Lester and William Banks.
Some wore helmets, others cowboy hats. They were ALL Brothers who obviously “get it”.
Anyway, I already had 2 full beers in my hand (I know…. what are the odds of that…LOL) and it was last call.
I told this young brother that instead of buying me a beer that I obviously didn’t need, to give the $5 he was going to spend to the Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation.
I watched as he walked over to Ryan, Zane, Nathan and Rob Wiedmann and handed them the money. HE HANDED THEM THE MONEY! I can’t tell you how good it felt to see a young member “GET IT”. I hope he understands what (and why) he did what he did. He summed up what our Meet-Up was all about!!
Some many other Brothers and Sisters in attendance that night kept thanking me and Rhett for hosting the event. They kept saying that we were what the Brotherhood was all about and how much they looked up to what we do for the fire service.
I explained to each of them …. Rhett, Shane (NFE), Andrew and I did nothing. We rented a room and bought a bunch of beer.
They …. EVERY Brother and Sister in attendance did so much more. They gave the true display of Brother.
Again I’ll say that I and many others can / could teach you / them to perform most any task required of us in the Fire Service. We CAN’T teach them to sacrifice their time and money to spend time promoting the Brotherhood and supporting organizations worthy of our attention.
Despite having to drive 8 hours in the pouring rain, we made it home safely. I hope everyone else did as well.
I’m worn out … mentally and physically. Spent some time with the Buckaroo and my beautiful bride before heading out to the hot tub for a little “unwind” time while thinking over everything we experienced this week.
Can you tell by the pic? You can take the fireman out of FDIC but you can’t take FDIC out of the fireman! LOL
What I mean by that is FDIC is so huge and all encompassing that there’s no way you can attend and not come away with something. A full week of training and Brotherhood shared by the absolute BEST in our business! I’ll share with ya a little of what I experienced and brought home …
Unfortunately, Rhett and I did not attend any of the training this year. Our schedule simply wouldn’t allow it.
This year, we represented 2 GREAT companies and friends of the Fire Service while working their booths on the exhibit floor.
Black Diamond Boots asked us to be in their booth this year and we couldn’t have been more pleased. Rhett and I are both big fans of Black Diamond and the X2 Boot. We wear them in our gear and have for years.
That’s what makes it easy for us to be in a booth like Black Diamonds (that and the “Booth Babes”) …. it’s a great product and we use it daily. We believe in it and can talk to potential buyers in an up front and honest manner.
When we’re standing there selling these boots, we are WEARING them. We wear them ALL DAY LONG … 3 days in a row! We work in them, we climb in them. We can do this because they are a great boot …. they fit well and they’re comfortable.
Would you trust a fire boot salesman wearing Nike tennis shoes? I didn’t think so. Anyway, we got to meet a lot of great Brothers and Sisters shopping for boots. We (Black Diamond) even gave a pair away each day. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to try on a pair. It was GREAT meeting you all. We know you’re gonna love this boot so be sure to visit their web site or find them on Face Book to locate your local dealer.
We only spent 4 hours with Black Diamond. The rest of our time on the floor was spent with Zach Green in the MN8 FoxFire booth.
Rhett and I have been part of the FoxFire Family for several years now. We’re a natural fit!
It’s another product that we use every day on the job. It’s a product geared toward firefighter safety and accountability …. AND IT WORKS!
By firefighters for firefighters … who understands us better?
This year was VERY exciting for Zach and our team as we unveiled several NEW PRODUCTS at the show. One of those products is a SCBA Identifier Tag. Another GREAT “Illuminating” product to aid us in visibility and accountability.
We also had our good friends from Box Alarm Leather in the booth to help promote our Illuminating Radio Straps.
That’s right …. made right here in the USA by Box Alarm Leather, they come with a lifetime warranty and THEY GLOW!
Rhett and I have been big fans of Box Alarm for years as well. GREAT quality with quick and reliable service. They are the company who made our custom fronts as well.
You can purchase the Radio Strap, a universal radio case and anti-sway strap as a complete kit or purchase them separately (they ALL “Illuminate”!!!). Be sure to visit these links to learn more and order yours today!
It’s a GREAT event! “Over the past ten years, Stop, Drop, Rock ‘n’ Roll has played an important part in helping us honor America’s fallen firefighters. It is a chance for firefighters to give back to the fire service and have fun at the same time. Through a small donation at the door you have all helped the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation honor and support the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.”
This years entertainment was none other than Darryl Worley and he did ONE HELL OF A JOB!
He played acoustic and sounded GREAT and even took the time to sign autographs and pose for pictures afterwards. He ended the show with one of his hits, “Have you forgotten?”
The only thing better than listening to Darryl sing was getting to dance to his music with the CEO of Phenix Helmets, Nicole Clesceri ! I’m not sure of the final numbers but I think the auction went ok as well this year. I do know that everyone in attendance had a good time and we can only hope we raised a LOT of money for the NFFF and our surviving families.
Another event we attended was the Fire Rescue, Fire / EMS Blog Network and Firefighter Nation “Meet Up”.
For those of you who don’t know, Rhett, Dave Statter and I (along with SEVERAL others) have our sites hosted by the Fire / EMS Blog Network. The Network is FULL of many great writers providing us all with a variety of resources related to the job.
Fire Rescue Magazine Editor in Chief, Tim Sendelbach recognized several of our writers for their contributions this year. I was honored to have been one of those recognized. It was totally unexpected … I was humbled and HONORED.
Afterwards, we headed over to dinner with our MN8 FoxFire family.
Every year at FDIC, Zach treats the team to dinner on Friday night.
It amazed me to think back over the past few years and realize just how much (and quickly) our team / family has grown.
Speaking of renting out an entire Building …. later that evening, Rhett and I also hosted our very own “Meet-Up” at the Hard Rock Cafe and it too was a HUGE success!
WOW! There were 100-150 people who came out to share a few drinks and some Brotherhood with us. We have always wanted to do something like this but for one reason or another haven’t been able to pull it off.
For me, beyond the attendance; there were several highlights of the evening. The first, was a special presentation made to me by Erin and Stephen Foster of Ayden’s Gifts .
“Our missions are to bring handmade memorials to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Our goal is to paint something for you to cherish for years to come! Whether it is a plate, mug or figurine!”
This presentation was totally unexpected and caught me off guard. HONORED and HUMBLED doesn’t even begin to define what (or how) I felt. I’ve spoken here on the site many times of late about showing and sharing emotions (despite the outer appearance of being “tough” firefighters) …. Erin and Stephen brought me to tears that night and it happened in front of a huge crowd.
Im still not quite sure what to say.
The quote above is from their site and as far as I’m concerned, they have succeeded in accomplishing their mission! Just look at the detail here.
It’s in Carolina Blue … Jackson’s favorite team / color. It has the Carolina logo. The foot, to me; symbolizes all the “foot prints” Jackson left in my life and on my heart. The quote on the outer rim is from an Allison Krauss song that I posted about just a few weeks back in a post called “Positional Awareness … Where the Hell am I ??” .
PLEASE …. take the time to check out their site. Read the story of why they do what they do and look at some of their art work. Be sure to like and follow them as well.
Another highlight for the night was having FDNY’s Rescue 2 member Rob Wiedmann stop by.
You may remember Rob (and Firefighter Gersbeck) was seriously burned in a December 19, 2011 Crown Heights fire in Brooklyn, Ny. It was an unimaginable event that was caught on video. Dave Statter still has it up over on Statter911.com CLICK HERE for the video .
Rhett, Zach(MN8 FoxFire) and I teamed up to collect money for Rescue 2′s MayDay Fund which supported the families of Rob and James. Our reader support for the fund raiser was nothing short of amazing AMAZING and we soon hand delivered a check to Captain Flaherty and the members of rescue 2.
Rob actually dropped by our booth on the exhibit floor of FDIC. We said he simply wanted to stop by to say hello and thanks us once again for our efforts following his injury.
He also wanted to assure his gratitude was passed along to all of you who gave support (including thoughts, prayers etc).
Rob is a GREAT guy who for me, defines the meaning of HEART. I have a saying I use often … “You can’t teach heart” and Rob is a prime example.
His training and instinct played a huge role in getting him out of that building BUT … it was also “HEART”. Heart has kept him going throughout his healing process (28 months now with more surgeries scheduled). Heart drives him to continue to get out and promote the Fire Service and our Brotherhood. I’ll have more on “Heart” in an upcoming post ….
Rob was there with a few Brothers from Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation , Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, Zane, and Nathan.
You’re going to start hearing a lot about these guys and their efforts here on Ironfiremen.com in the future. We asked Ryan (the group’s founder) to say a few words at the Meet-Up and then we passed my boot around for their cause. We raised $730.00 in about 10 minutes! Be sure to check out the links below to learn more about these guys …
Again I’ll add that what really “made” the meet-up was everyone who attended. We got (and continue to get) so many comments about how much we (Rhett and I) are doing for the Brotherhood. I explained to several of the folks there that night …. we didn’t do anything. We rented a room and bought some beer. YOU GUYS … you Brothers and Sisters are the ones who showed up. You’re the ones who sacrificed your time and made the decision to attend. YOU are the the ones who “made” the event …. THAT Brothers and Sisters was the display of Brotherhood that night! Thanks again for attending!
Rhett did a little “name dropping” and shared his views on our Meet-Up and FDIC in general over on the Fire Critic. He also has links to some great pictures … read that post in the link below
There is so much more I want to share about our Meet-Up but I think I’m going to work it into one of my next posts. All in all, FDIC was a huge success for us and we can’t wait until our next event.
Thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to come up and speak to us. Be sure to follow us on Face Book to find more pictures and info on FDIC and more! Be sure to keep check back and THANKS for following …