‘Dis One’s Gonna Be Quick

Things I’ve learned so far at firefighter camp;

1)  I really have no business writing a blog because I’m dumb.

2)  I have so much more to learn.

3)  Some of the people who would have every right in the world to be arrogant, pretentious jerks aren’t because they’re firefighters who love the job and love passing on their knowledge just like you and me.

4)  Whudder means water when spoken by someone from Philly, or Camden.

5)  With newer, more energy efficient construction a first-arriving company can pull up on a fire that is either heavily involved or has darkened down on the inside and left very little signs of active fire on the outside (which leads to a “light smoke” or “nothing showing” radio report) and as soon as you force the front door or a window fails that space will reach flashover in 60 – 90 seconds. Go to Underwriter’s Laboratories and check out the research for yourself if you don’t believe me.

6)  Our tactics have to change folks. They have to. And in order for our tactics to change our thinking has to change. That’s where the hard part is. 100 years of tradition…

7)  Aggressive tactics can also be safe tactics. But in order for them to be so you need to be trained and educated.

8)  Operating safely on the fire or emergency scene is NOT synonymous with doing nothing, going defensive or being unaggressive. It simply means you are taking every precaution humanly possibly to minimize the risk to yourself and your crew while carrying out the tasks that need to be completed for the job you are working on. Sometimes that means saying the job simply can’t be completed.

9)  Walking back and forth from the hotel to the convention center with all my gear 6 times sucks. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world for the experiences of the HOT classes.

10) Being in the room to hear Bobby Halton’s opening remarks, seeing Firefighter Larry McCormack from Chicago’s Squad 5 receive the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award and hearing Chief Steve Kraft’s keynote address was a moving experience. I encourage every firefighter who cares about this job to do it at least once in person.

People I’ve met while at firefighter camp (and some of whom have known me too!);

1)  Jason Jefferies ( Working the Job )and I finally got to meet in person. It was touching and kinda uncomfortable all at the same time.

2)  Jonah Smith ( The Hose Jockey )

3)  John Mitchell ( Fire Daily ) Ok, truth be told, John doesn’t really count. We used to work together but he’s way more famous-er than me.

4)  Gabriel Angemi ( CMD FD )

5)  Ray McCormack  ( Urban Firefighter Magazine )

6)  Pete Van Dorpe, Chief of Training, Chicago Fire Department

7)  Robert Hoff, Commissioner (Ret.), Chicago Fire Department, Deputy Chief, Carol Stream Fire Department

8)  Rhett Fleitz ( Fire Critic )

9)  Willie Wines, Jr. ( Iron Firemen )

10) Paul Hasenmeier ( Paul Hasenmeier )

11) Christopher Naum ( Buildings on Fire )

These are guys that I think are some of the brightest and most talented firefighters, officers and writers of our time. And to actually get to meet them and have conversations with them, and on top of that to actually have a couple of them know who I am, was surreal and an honor. I’m really looking forward to meeting some more tomorrow and to be in some classes and learn more to lessen my dumbness, but for now I’m going to take some Prilosec to calm down the bar-b-que I had for dinner and get some rest.

Be safe!

Chris

Disillusionment or Looking Behind the Scenes at the Fire Department of Oz

I realize that the last post may have come off a little, shall we say, venomous? I still stand by it. I still think that there are a large percentage of Chief officers out there not running their departments in the right way for the right reasons. But I feel obligated, after a day or so of reflection, to explain a little bit of where that venom comes from.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not Dave Statter or Jason Jefferies. I am not Bill Carey or Bill Schumm. I am not Willie Wines or Rhett Fleitz. I am not a news reporter or journalistic-type who presents a very informative reporting site. I am a blue-shirt firefighter who is opinionated about what the fire service should be, needs to be and deserves to be. What you read here is in large part my opinion, which we all know are like anal sphincters. Everyone has one. Doesn’t mean mine is correct, and I acknowledge that and respect others opinions, for the most-part. Sometimes people are just dead wrong. So that’s where the blog itself is coming from.

So where am I coming from in what I choose to write? Well, most of the time it comes from emotion, if you can’t tell. It’s gotten me in trouble more than once if you can believe that (try to hold back your scoffs). Most the time when I sit down to write something has recently gotten my Irish-German mixed heritage up and it’s better than drinking and going out and beating someone up. I don’t sit down and write rough drafts, move things around, change things etc. etc. With the exception of one or maybe two proof-reads what you see is what you get. So that’s where I am coming from with what I write. So now you know what the blog is about, where what I write about comes from so what’s the history behind me and what led to this blog? I guess that’s the big question and what played into a lot of the emotions that led to the last post.

From the time I decided I wanted to become a firefighter as a junior-higher I had a picture of firefighters and of the fire department as a whole that was pretty glorified. Unrealistic, even. I pictured firefighters as a group of honorable men who were out to serve others above themselves. Who were self-motivated to become the best they could possibly be. Who relished training and job-knowledge and constantly looked to improve themselves. I looked at firefighters as masters of every aspect of their jobs and as it being completely unacceptable to be less than so. I looked at firefighters as men who were bursting with pride at the calling they fulfilled and who would never dishonor their departments or profession. I looked at the fire department as a whole, and I guess by default the leadership, as an organization who’s purpose was too important to be influenced by politics or personal agendas. Everyone involved in the organization realized that and was able to put those things aside to serve the greater good and protect his neighbor. The fire department had no room for error or to be unprepared so equipment was maintained to the highest standards. Even the smallest deficiencies were corrected immediately so as not to affect performance readiness. The organization, and again by default the leadership, sought out and promoted the best qualified and most knowledgable applicants regardless of political favoritism or other influences, because that’s how important good leadership is. Over the last 18 years I have watched that entire picture be destroyed. It really is like when Dorothy looked behind the Wizard’s throne and saw the wee  little man and all the apparatus that made the image that he wanted everyone to see.

Over the last almost two-decades I’ve learned what firefighters and the fire department is really all about. Here is a list of just some of them.

  • I’ve learned that people become firefighters because of the schedule, pay and benefits.
  • I’ve learned that they put more emphasis on their part-time jobs than their primary job.
  • I’ve learned that they put little emphasis at all on learning their job because we just don’t do it that often and it’s easy to hide.
  • I’ve learned that he who finds just the right niche, or does just the right extra job, or says just the right things or fits just the right mold are the ones who get promoted regardless of whether or not they will make good tactical decisions where they count.
  • I’ve learned that there is very little team or Brotherhood and it is more about “me” and what I’m going to get, how I’m going to get promoted or what I can get out of the job.
  • I’ve learned that decisions are not made on what is best for the citizens, the members or even what makes sense but more-so for financial reasons or simply because “I say so.”
  • I’ve learned that switching into rigs three or four times in a single shift, into whatever is least broken, is somehow acceptable.
  • I’ve learned that nothing is important until someone gets hurt or something else bad happens and then it will somehow probably wind up coming back on the people who least deserve it.
  • I’ve learned that very little thought needs to go into the actual mission of the fire department (and EMS delivery), we don’t need to re-evaluate things on an on-going basis because everything is fine.
  • I’ve learned that we don’t need to clean our tools because it doesn’t matter, an ax will still cut with rust on it.
  • I’ve learned that pride in our job and training is for “fisties” or for those that care too much.
  • I’ve learned that there is almost no leadership left in the fire service, there are only managers and administrators.
  • I’ve learned that no one in any position of authority cares about the level of readiness, level of training or effectiveness of their charges.
  • I’ve learned that higher-ups have everything better to do than run their shifts or departments.
  • I’ve learned that it’s more about the appearance of a fire department than the function of a fire department.
  • I’ve learned that there are those who do despicable things as management techniques i.e. dangling carrots, making promises, manipulating lists, releasing new rules and regs at key times to stir things up etc.
  • I’ve learned that, as much as I absolutely do not understand it, there are those that thrive on power, or the perception of it.
  • I’ve also learned that those that speak out get punished.

I haven’t learned these lessons in a theoretical way in which you might learn a lesson about trigonometry. I’ve learned them by seeing them, hearing them, experiencing them and living them. Those lessons I’ve learned over the last 18 years is my fire service experience. Those lessons are made up of the firefighters I’ve served with and the company and chief officers I’ve served under. Obviously not all of them were horrible. But if I’m summarizing my career in this way which way do you think the scales are leaning? The sad part is that to a certain extent, I still believe in Oz. Despite having seen the wee little man and all his gadgets and gizmos and the front he’s put up to make it appear as something it is not I still want to believe. Maybe that’s why I write. Maybe I hope I’ll affect something or someone somewhere.

Many of you out there can pick out one or more people in your careers who you view as a mentor. A roll-model that you would like to end-up like someday. Some firefighter or officer who is a wealth of knowledge and experience, a great teacher and all those other things I used to think made up a great fire service employee. I can’t. Not a single one. Every time in my career I’ve thought I’ve had one they’ve sold-out to something or other. Or they’ve betrayed the fire service, the department or  worst of all, themselves. Sure I’ve got guys that I still want to take bits and pieces of, but I have no one singular person who I can hold up and say, “I want to be like this guy.” Terry Hatton. Paddy Brown. Bob Hoff. Ed Enright. Ray Hoff. Andy Fredericks. Benny Crane. No one like that. But I have a wonderful list of examples of whom I do not want to be like. Maybe that’s just as good. I dunno.

So ‘dats it. When my venom comes spewing forth they got the best of me. If you don’t like it, sorry. Leave me a nasty comment. I probably won’t hold it against you. I hope maybe this explains a little bit of where I come from with this blog and in particular where the Calendar post came from. I don’t hate all Chiefs, if that’s what you think. I don’t hate all officers. I’m an equal opportunity hater no matter what color shirt you wear and it pretty much comes down to this; If you’re in this job for the wrong reasons, if you’re taking more from this job than you’re giving, if you don’t know or are not proficient at your job, then you suck. Get out.

Until next time,

Stay safe!

Chris

Blog Of The Year Contest

Hey all, once again Rhett Fleitz from The Fire Critic.com along with EMS1 and FireRescue1 and sponsored by American Military University are hosting a blog of the year contest. Please visit the Fire Critic’s page here to view the rules, judges and parameters for the contest and to nominate your favorite fire and EMS blog for consideration. There are categories for both the fire and EMS sides and sub-categories for each which include both judge’s choice and reader’s choice awards. There are many deserving blogs out there and, in truth, this one probably doesn’t qualify or deserve it, so go over there and nominate someone who does.

Quick Note of Surprise and Thanks

Sorry for the lack of content lately, folks. Trust me, there is a very good reason for it. This is just a quick note to make you aware of something that took me completely by surprise and which I found out quite by accident.

Rhett Fleitz from the FireCritic.com in conjunction with Black Diamond manufacturers is running a “Blog of the Year” contest and BAS has been nominated. I had no idea until I stumbled on it accidentally last night. I greatly appreciate this as the blogs that are being considered in this contest are filled with bloggers that I look up to and have read for years before I attempted my own effort. It also means a lot to me because the blogs that are nominated had to be put in by YOU, the readers. Evidently I’m doing something right and may be saying some things that are resonating with some of you out there. I appreciate that greatly.

So, if you’d like to vote head here, look at the list of nominees, check out the ones you haven’t read before and then put in a vote for whoever you think is deserving of this honor. As both the FireGeezer and Rhett have said before me, this gives a great chance for some of you to be introduced to and read blogs you may not have been aware of before. Voting opened on January 24th and is open until February 1st so get a move-on. Have fun checking them all out!

Stay Safe!

Hallway Sledge