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Pride, Ownership and the New Generation “All is Not Lost” By: Larry Schultz

I’ll start off as always with my shout-outs for this blog. This one goes to 1st Lieutenant Sarah Read, of the Chili Fire Department Explorer program. You will see why as you read through the blog.

In the past couple years, two reoccurring themes have been proposed in the various classes we have taught throughout the states. First is the demise of the fire service because of “The New Kids” and second is their lack of understanding of pride, tradition and honor. Typically in classes, I will push back on that assumption and ask for the possible causes. The passing on of information, history, tactics/techniques, traditions and other critical fundamentals of the service occur in one of two ways; you either observed it first hand or someone took the time to challenge you to learn it.

As I have shared before, my introduction to the fire service occurred in 1966, when my father joined the community fire department. My Brothers and I consumed ourselves with the service, and spent any, and all discretionary time hanging out at the firehouse in preparation for when our turn came. Over time, we watched and witnessed the various components of pride, tradition, honor in serving, teamwork, comradery, discipline and hierarchy of command played out in front of us. We came to understand these behaviors (expectations) by watching and listening as well as relishing in story time. Not read a book story time, but listening to the stories of the “good ole days”. One by one, each of us joined the department as we reached the age of 16, knowing what to expect and what would be expected of us. We were blessed beyond words at having the opportunity to grow-up like this.

During our lectures, I ask the attendees by show of hand, who was raised in the service or was connected to the service by a relative, and who is a generational first timer. While not a sophisticated analytical approach, 90% of the people in those classes are first generation. When you look at the drastic reduction in the number of volunteers across the country this make perfect sense. As I finish out the discussion on the new generation, I proclaim that if pride, ownership, honor and tradition is important to us, then it needs to be a willful, intentional act, carried out daily, by each one of us. Sorry, I’m not talking about kicking your feet-up at the kitchen table or laid back in the recliner and tweeting about it. It needs to be demonstrated, not talked about. I encourage each of us (myself included) to seek out every opportunity to share the greatest traits and characteristics of our service, in an effort to teach the newer folks, who didn’t benefit from growing up in a firehouse or haven’t been on the job like many of us did. The key is to demonstrate by doing, not talking about it.

12671643_1673038079627414_3021159384020039463_oRecently, while teaching a class outside of Rochester N.Y., sitting in the first few rows of the auditorium was a large group of young teens, representing a Fire Explores Post from the Chili Fire Department. I was blown away, to see a group of 13-16 year olds, in full uniform, vigorously taking pages of notes and eyes fixed forward during the entire class. Looked like they “got it” to me. We identified an opportunity and capitalized on it. We offered a Traditions Training care box (tee-shirts, challenge coins, stickers, books etc.) to the Explorer who submitted the best report on the LODD of Firefighter Anne Sullivan of the HFD. Having a group of young potential fire service professionals fully understand the complexities of the precarious environment in which we operate, and the ultimate sacrifices that so many have made doing it, this must be understood and respected by our youthful fire service.

FullSizeRender 4Over the years, we have forged a strong relationship with the Stafford, Texas FD just outside of Houston. This is the same Department, where Anne started as a volunteer when she was a young lady. During our first trip to Texas, Stafford Fire Chief and Houston Firefighter Larry DiCamillio, presented Ricky Riley and I with an Anne Sullivan memorial challenge coin and Tee shirt, which we hold in the greatest of honor. During each of our trips to Stafford, we have taken time to stop by what’s left of the Southwest Inn Hotel and reflect on what occurred there on May 31, 2013. We walk the property not casting blame, but as a reminder of the consequences of the decisions we are forced to make as Chief and Company Officers each and every day.




TX-Houston-final-report-2On the anniversary of the tragic death of four heroic and noble servants; Firefighter’s Anne Sullivan and Robert Garner, Engineer Operator Robert Bebee and Senior Captain Matthew Renaud; below is the report (sources cited) submitted by Chili Fire Explorer 1st Lieutenant Sarah Read; one of the new generation prospects that “get it”.

December 4, 1988 – May 31, 2013 “The heroism and selflessness of fire professionals must always be honored and remembered.” The definition of a hero is Anne McCormick Sullivan. Anne, unselfishly, put her life on the line every day to save another’s. She was a daughter, a sister, a friend, a role model, and most importantly a hero that was lost all too soon.

920x920-1Early Life: Anne, the daughter of Jack and Mary Moore Sullivan, was born on December 4th, 1988 in Houston, Texas.  She graduated Dulles High School, where as a senior, she honored as Female Athlete of the Year. Anne loved playing soccer and running cross country. However, what thrived Anne was that she loved the camaraderie of being a part of the team. Her coach quoted “You won the award because you worked harder and pushed yourself more than any other athlete, never missing a practice or game and always helping and encouraging your teammates.” She was described as loyal, trustworthy, spiritual, and a true friend by her peers around her. At the age 17, Anne was determined to become a firefighter and her mother could not have been more proud. Her dedication and commitment to fulfilling her dreams let nothing stop in her way. She overcame obstacles that most would buckle under the pressure for. On January 7th, 2013 began her career as a Cadet and a member of Class 2013A at HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility. She stood out to her instructors because she had the “I want to be the best” attitude. Once she earned her certifications, she joined two volunteer fire departments as a probationary firefighter. Like most firefighters, she earned her nicknames very quickly. “Punky” and “Mighty Mouse” is what they called her. The name “Punky” came from the fact that she wore her famous ponytail around the station. “Mighty Mouse” was a name given because she was 5’ 2” and she could carry a 180lb man around the station. Anne put herself through the Houston Fire Academy. Never once did she quit or admit it was too hard. Anne had the exceptional perseverance and due to that she graduated from the academy in 2013.

TX-Houston-4-alarm-fire-SW-InnDeath: Anne answered her last call on May 31, 2013 at 12:07. Houston units were dispatched to a reported Southwest Inn fire. The first crew on scene found heavy smoke with a working fire. Firefighters then quickly advanced into 5 alarm working fire with a 2 ½” attack line and started venting the roof. Although, when they entered they found the fire had spread to another floor. Firefighters were forced to retreat due to the engine running out of water. Once a steady water supply was secured, firefighters advanced into the building for a second time. The second engine, holding Anne and her fellow crew, had already arrived on scene and were quick to act. They rapidly entered the building, backing up the first crew. However, as the advanced the Inn collapsed on top of them causing many firefighters to be trapped and injured. Anne answered her call to heaven with 3 of her fellow crew members that day. The autopsy report showed that she had suffered from thermal injuries, smoke inhalation, and compressional asphyxia. Throughout the call there had been many technical faults with the new radio system. In addition, there were abandoned radio procedures and strong winds that rapidly spread the fire throughout the Inn.

sullivan_anneDedication: Anne will never be forgotten as she was a hero to many and lives through the spirit of her family and the fire department. Her family created the Anne McCormick Sullivan Memorial Scholarship, in her honor, to encourage young women to join the fire service. A drink called the “Punky”, was also dedicated to her by a local Houston Bar. The Anne McCormick Sullivan Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raised 2.8k in Anne’s honor. Anne and her love for education will be remembered as the Anne McCormick Sullivan Elementary School is expected to open in 2016, in Sugar Land, Texas. Lastly, Anne was honored in the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Anne is an inspiration to many. She will be remembered to the Houston Fire Department, family, friends, and her peers by her life loving personality, punky character, and contagious smile. She is the definition of a hero and her story will live on and inspire others to become a member of the fire service around the nation.

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 03-06-2016

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Crosslay Configurations as published in Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Magazine

For Departments that run with crosslays (or Mattydales, which ever term you prefer), this is usually a simple request to the apparatus manufacturer that can be added to your new rig. It’s as simple as asking to “Please put two crosslays on along with all the associated piping and dividers” and boom we are done, let’s move on to the next component or option.

More and more I find that Departments are taking a closer look at all their choices when building their new apparatus and using those choices to operationally enhance their rig. As part of this, we’re seeing a new array of options and special orders being added to the crosslay part of the fire truck build. If you do run with crosslays, this is normally the primary attack line you’re going to deploy off your apparatus for the majority of your structure fires. Rather than settle for the standard crosslay, use your power as the purchaser to enhance this option for your response area.

IMG_0031One of the trends we’ve seen recently is the lowering of the crosslays.  Doing so makes it easier for firefighters to reach and deploy the crosslay, without having to climb up on a side step or worse having to pull out a step to reach them. This enhancement reduces the chance of injury and allows a more rapid deployment, something all Departments strive for nowadays. One warning — lowering the crosslay may make things really tight in the pump-house area and could cause the mechanics to not like you, but sometime we have to do these kinds of things to enhance operations.

A few years ago we decided to lower the crosslays on the engines at the City of Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department. After this change, one of the next things we did was move the swivel valve or chicksaw valve closer to the edge of the apparatus. This allowed for the whole pre-connect to be easily disconnected and used to extend a line or replace a line at the full length. The change eliminated the need to put pony sleeves (short sections) on the discharges when the swivel valves were placed in the center of the crosslays. This was another great idea we happened to see on a factory trip and quickly added as an option to our rigs.



Picture 1Clearwater currently uses the crosslay as a double stack of hose, one side is 100’ of shoulder load and the one beside it is a 100’ drag load. This side by side configuration is pretty normal with crosslays as a whole on fire apparatus but with the modification of a lower crosslay and valve moved to the edge. (Picture 1 & 6) How you rack your hose is entirely up to the local jurisdictions; the Clearwater configuration is a minuteman load. We have two – 200’ foot lines with a nozzle off each side.


Back in the early 2000’s I helped to develop specifications for an engine with the Bailey’s Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department in Fairfax County Virginia. Instead of the standard double stack of hose in each crosslay, we decided to go with single stacks for what we felt was an easier deployment. This eliminated the chance of the drag load falling over once the shoulder load was pulled off. It proved to be a great design for the Firefighters who pulled the lines off and made for a quick, neat and controlled deployment. This option has been used by other cities, as evidenced by this picture from the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Squad 8 crosslay configuration. (Picture 2)

Picture 2 Harrisburg runs three of each length of hose off each side of the rig (150’, 200’ and 250’) all in the single stack deployment. This works extremely well for their tight urban streets and allows them to run lines to the seat of the fire, to rear porches and down the block if needed, all using the minuteman load. One of the added features they spec’d on their crosslays was for the discharge to be completely out of the crosslay and on the pump panel under each hose stack. (Picture 2 and Picture 3) This discharge placement allows to more quickly disconnect the line for deployment to extend a line or replace a burst section. These single stack crosslays and the placement of the discharge on the panel can limit your ability to pull the crosslay from each side, but I think both Bailey’s and Harrisburg weighed the decision and chose a configuration best suited for their response area and operations.

Running the big attack line is not left out of the crosslay talk, as Departments have chosen a wider crosslay and piping to accommodate the 2.5” lines and even 3” crosslays. This allows to not have to deploy this line off the rear and saves room for more supply line or a host of other options that could be placed off the rear.  (Picture 4 & 5)



Picture 7There has been a lot of focus and conversation around the options associated with the crosslay, associated piping and racking of the lines. Ultimately though, these construction features will not help you pull lines any better.  This only comes from having your Firefighters practice deploying lines any chance that they can get. Don’t let a fire call go by without making use of the incident to make us better at pulling, stretching and positioning our crosslays for an attack. New fire studies tell us the art form of hoseline stretching and operations is crucial to fire extinguishment. Make use of all your apparatus option choices to make the crosslay ergonomic and firefighter friendly. But remember, we still have people that pull these lines and the more practice we give them, the better the outcome on the fire.

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, firefighting-operations, Training Resources | Posted on 22-03-2016

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I am Sorry What Did You Just Say??? By: Larry Schultz

By: Larry Schultz


I am taking a break from my typical anarchist message and, pleading with you to read this very personal story as a personal assessment tool. I am a fire service traditionalist to the core and my style of writing is always intended to offer an opposing (or alternative) view of what I term the “overzealous safety culture”. My issue(s) are not, nor have they ever been about safety itself, but our approach to assessing and managing risk, without using emotional coercion.

I am going to attempt to address a true risk / health and safety concern, and do so without violating my, no emotional coercion rule. It’s my personal experience and I share to give people something to consider. Before you start jumping to the conclusion that this will be an on-line conversion where I join the “I hate old-school” fan club, simmer down a minute.

My plan is to share a very personal story of cancer and how it has the potential to affect more than ourselves. I always give a shout-out at the beginning of my sermons to the person(s) who get me so twisted up about something that I have to write about it. This one goes out to two people. First is my son, who is my hero of heroes and that’s all that needs to be said about this guy. The next is one of coolest dudes I know Donnie Wedding (DLW) and a brother Traditions Training instructor. Over the past month, DLW and I have been walking through this issue (cancer) together, bouncing thoughts, ideas and frustrations off of one another. The irony of these two recipients is that in spite of never meeting one, DLW and my son Joe were cut from the same exact mold.

While the information and focus on firefighter cancer is a reasonably new topic, over the past 10 years, various studies have concluded the relationship between increasing cancer rates and firefighters. Each day, we are exposed to multiple cancer causing agents, through both inhalation and absorption of carcinogens. The exposures come from structure fires, auto fires, dumpster fires etc. This occurs not only during the incipient and free-burning stages, but well in to the overhaul stage and after. These issues far exceed exposure to carbon monoxide and smoke my friends.

The list of cancers include Testicular, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Skin cancer, Brain cancer, Breast cancer and a whole host of others. In fact, studies are showing more aggressive types of cancer at a younger age then the civilian population. If this isn’t depressing enough, the fact that we are regularly being exposed to multiple agents through multiple routes – multiple times a shift, we are prone to get multiple types of cancer. The hotter the environment and the dirtier we get, the greater the exposure; the lungs and dermis becoming the greatest routes of entry in to our bodies/organs.


On December 31st 2013, I was driving home from Pennsylvania to celebrate the New Years in anticipation of what promised to be “a new – new start”.  About 10 minutes in to my drive, I got a phone call from my son. My boy is and has always been as steady and stoic as a man could be and never gets flustered with anything in life. In typical fashion as part of a normal conversation, he told me he was just diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unless you have experienced this, you have no idea what that feeling is like. I couldn’t even comprehend it, let alone figure out how I would tell his mother and sisters.

Like most fathers, I tend to be a ‘fixer” of things, only this time, I hadn’t a clue how to fix this. For me that means digging deep and educating myself about it, and started to read everything I could about testicular cancer. When I entered the keyword for the search, the very first link that appeared was a study on firefighters and the exponentially elevated risk they faced for testicular (and other) cancers.  The more I read, the more I read. The more I kept reading, the bigger the pit in my stomach. Remember, the nexus between cancer and firefighting studies are relatively new. The fact is, that common sense always told me that the things we breathe in are pretty gnarly, but I rarely considered things like dermal absorption, post incident exposure contamination (through dirty gear, uniforms and soot) and cross contamination.

So here is my confession. Like most, I loved every part of being a “big city” fireman, most importantly the heavy workload. When I say every part, I include the persona of dirty gear and the sooty look and smell that comes along with it. It wasn’t uncommon to go to a few fires a shift, so why shower… in fact, my goal at the end of each tour-of- duty was to look like Pig-Pen (a character from Peanuts for you youngins).  I honestly loved every bit of that.

My gear was always in the back of my vehicle when I left work; I would go home after being up for 24 straight and fall asleep wherever I could find a spot, still in my raunchy clothes and covered in soot. It wouldn’t be long before my little dude would wake up, come down stairs and hang out with me while he watched TV, and I snored. My uniforms, t-shirts, washed with his cloths and my shoes/boots trampled plenty of crap into the carpet that he crawled around on. I can’t tell you the number of times; I put him in to my gear. If you know me, you know I am a “good hair kind of guy” lol. Many of you can relate that for days after a good fire, you couldn’t get the stench of smoke out of your hair. You would smell like that for days at a time. My friends, this went on for years and years and I am certain, that I exposed my family selfishly and unnecessarily.

There is no history of testicular cancer in my family and my son had zero medical history as well. While there is no definitive proof that his diagnosis was caused by secondary exposure to carcinogens that I exposed him to, I know this to be true: cross contamination exposure to carcinogens is very real and those exposed are at greater risk; I exposed him and my wife (and daughters later on) to that crap for years and lastly, I will have to continue to think about this every day and wonder if I caused or contributed to his cancer.

This is where hypocrisy enters the picture. I never wore a nomex-hood in my career (stupid), in fact my crew would call it (my hood) my personal department issued handkerchief. I worked towards being the last one to have to mask-up and the first to take it off; all part of the identity. How stupid do I feel now?

You can be “salty” (yes that’s still a good thing), without “looking” the role, by simply letting your actions speak louder than your appearance or attitude. You know the right things to do (wear your mask, take a shower when you get back, wash your gear regularly, no gear in the living space and wash your uniforms separate for other items), so do the right thing for you and your family.

My son is in full remission (continues to undergo regular follow-ups) and has blessed us with our first grandchild (which was not supposed to happen as a result of his illness), a true miracle.



Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, news, Testimonials | Posted on 08-01-2016

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What’s your standard? The firehouse just got a new puppy…

In my Department’s “Rookie Book” process, probationary firefighters have a 6-month series of monthly tests.  These tests consist of written questions & knowledge and skill-based material.  The goal of course is to insure and guide their growth after the fire academy, so that when they come off probation they are well versed in “fire department life” and well capable on the fireground.

The 1st month evaluation is conducted by the rookie’s battalion chief. There are 18 questions and 8 skill categories, with several skills per category. The rookie must be able to answer any questions and demonstrate any skills that the battalion selects.  The BNC selects a minimum of 5 questions and 3 skills, but has the discretion to select as many more as he likes.

Yesterday I watched 4 of our rookies be evaluated, but I got to watch one rookie’s eval from start to end. This battalion chief decided he would ask every question and cover every skill. He challenged his probie and made him work for it. And when the rookie did well, he had earned it.

The Chief did not do this because the rookie had been doing poorly, quite the opposite. Though it might not have been directly said, I could tell that the Chief did this because that was his standard.

When a firehouse receives a new rookie, probie, whatever you call it – it is as if that firehouse has just adopted a new puppy.  As those of you who have raised a puppy know, the puppy is not just the responsibility of dad (captain), mom (engineer), or big brother (senior man).  The entire crew must chip in to watch the puppy, raise the puppy, and train the puppy to the house’s standard.

So let me ask you this – if 6 months after you get him, your new puppy (rookie) walks in and craps on the carpet, who’s fault is that?

It’s not the puppy’s.

In watching the growth of a rookie, and their evaluation, the standard of that company, battalion and shift is clear and evident. Is mediocrity accepted? Is meeting the “minimum” the goal? The training and performance of a company’s rookie is just another clear indicator of what can be expected on the fireground.  I can tell you that yesterday I watched the faces of this rookie’s crew just as much as I watched the rookie.  And what I saw was pride, investment, and family.  These guys were pulling for their new man, proud of him, but unwavering in their expectation to uphold the family (company) name. When I saw that, I thought “bingo”. So I can’t pinpoint which part I’m more proud to see.

So for those of you raising a new puppy, remember – that puppy’s performance is a direct reflection of your family, and your family’s standards.  Raise the puppy right.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 16-09-2015

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New Deal, Raw Deal…Part 1 of 3 by Larry Schultz

10464183_10155472730675571_8837790702933811477_n Recently, while teaching a hands-on-engine class in Delaware, my younger and wittier teaching companion Roger Steger found it was time for our traditional protein bar and Monster (drink) run. As he headed out the gate, he stopped and asked me if I needed some Metamucil to go with my Ensure. This was his not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I am old. It was day two of running long-lines, pushing in with large lines and box-alarm drills, and on top of that it was 97 degrees. I needed no reminders. As I get ready to cross the threshold into my 38th year in the fire service I can honestly say that I have seen the ebbs and flows of change; some good, some bad and some outright failures.

For those of you who will be quick to judge me as a Neanderthal, opposed to any form of change, do your homework. One of the most fundamental beliefs I have is that we should always challenge ourselves to find better ways to do our jobs; we owe that to the communities we serve and our membership. The key word here is BETTER.

11063793_10155472730480571_4130737989905644070_nDuring my weekly perusing of youtube fire videos, I came upon what I will say is one of the most tragic and disturbing videos I have ever seen. I will spare the details, not because I am against calling this department out, but because I believe this incident will likely end up in a court of law with the charge of malfeasance. This was just one in a series of several hundred (no exaggeration) horrible fireground operations that I have viewed in the past year; each one leaving me more and more at a loss for words. I have been spending a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out how we got so far of track.

This is the first of a three part blog where I will share my personal opinions on the possibilities. It’s fair to assess that this deterioration is a result of many issues; however, I have chosen to focus on what I perceive as the top three: New Deal, Raw Deal or the Wizard of Oz, The 9-11 Infatuation, and It’s All About Me.

As I watched that video I quickly digressed to an article that I had recently read where the author wrote “too much change can result in confusion, disorganization, and lack of competence.”

My friends I am telling you, as a whole, we have lost our way (mission confusion) and as a direct result have seen a growing decay in job performance and competency at every level.

In the early 1980’s, many great thinkers in the fire service hypothesized that if the fire service didn’t create a new mission and completely overhaul the fire service we would quickly lose our relevancy in the community and become extinct. They deduced that fires were quickly becoming a thing of the past and so would the fire service as a whole if we didn’t become more agents of change. This led to formation of fire service think-tanks filled with progressive change agents.

These think tanks began proposing a host of schemes and ideas intended to transform us from a vanishing, outdated government service straight to the top of the Forbes 500 list. Higher education emerged as one of the cornerstones of the future. Transforming ourselves from a blue collar workforce to a white collar establishment was key. Higher education was proposed as the way forward and mastery of skill and experience was staged on side Charlie.

Promotion exams and executive job descriptions were rewritten, placing emphasis on educational accomplishments over past achievements, hard work, competency and job knowledge. In fact, those who lacked a formal degree were often viewed as outdated; stuck in the past and an obstacle to creativity and change.

10750442_10154849900330571_5884217611650917067_oThe list of progressive leaders began to grow and so did the number of think-tanks. There was a rush to see who would have the honor of sitting at the right hand of Ben Franklin as they rewrote fire service history. Some executives showed just how progressive they were by trading in their work uniform for a three piece suit. The demolition of the traditional service had begun.

Taking a page from President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 New Deal, Fire Chiefs everywhere began reengineering the fire service through countless experimental projects and programs, most (not all) of which had little to nothing to do with delivery of basic services.

I suppose this could have all worked out great except for one minor issue; the demands for our basic services (the preservation of life and property and helping those who are sick or injured) never went away and in fact have continued to increase exponentially. Many departments around the country are seeing record increases in service demand. It wasn’t the New Deal, it was the Raw Deal.

Today, we are the lynch pin holding the EMS system together, we regularly respond to fires, we are involved in technical rescues and have taken a lead role in issues of homeland security and emergency management. What do all of these services have in common? They each require a workforce, that is highly skilled at operating in the most stressful and dangerous environments with the greatest degree of competency, professionalism and compassion. Any of that sound familiar to you? It’s like the scene from the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy clicks her heel three times and discovers “there’s no place like home”.

Today, we look at the rising level of incompetency and point the finger at things I call “modern excuses”. This list includes things such as; modern fire behavior, wind-driven fires, new construction, workforce generational differences, safety first etc. While each of these are worthy of greater discussion, none of them are acceptable excuses. Quite honestly, the public doesn’t care about any of these issues. They expect a timely, professional and compassionate response to a 911 call and quite frankly, that’s what we should expect of ourselves.

The fact is we (the fire service) allowed ourselves to be bamboozled into redefining our mission, purpose, and focus. We took a noble mission and viable service (which for more than 200 years our communities overwhelmingly valued) and attempted to redefine it; based on what we thought was best for us (fire service). In doing so we broke the cardinal rule of public service which is – doing what’s best for the community ahead of doing what’s best for us.

The service we have been delivering for more than 200 years and continue to deliver today will likely never go away. If the fire service fails or becomes irrelevant it will do so from the inside out, not the other way around. That means we created the demise, not the public. So here is my warning: Continuing down the path of attempting to redefine our mission and purpose is the greatest risk to our service. The “safety first”, “your safety is the most important” mentality not only misses the mark of achieving maximum safety, it places greater emphasis on us and less emphasis on those we are sworn to protect (just go to the video tape). Continuing to hire or recruit (career or volunteer) a workforce, that lacks a desire to help people (compassion), lacks integrity and lacks capability will assure complete mission failure. Continuing to promote officers who lack experience and skill-set or who can’t or won’t lead will result in more confusion, disorganization, and loss of competency.

Please don’t get me wrong, the “traditional” fire service was in no way perfect. In fact something’s were outright inappropriate on every level. The foundation however, provides a blueprint for what success should look like. Failing to lead and losing focus on mission and purpose has created unintended consequences. Attempting to justify those consequences by applying modern excuses is disingenuous and distracting to finding our way home.     






Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 20-08-2015

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Getting The Job Done

Getting the Job Done

By Ricky Riley

On more than one occasion, I have heard firefighters complain about SOP’s, specifically how they can’t be written for every situation and or you are putting us in a box. This could not be further from the truth. What we are doing, is establishing a game plan for specific incidents and the operational concerns that they pose. In recent years, dedication to getting the job done correctly and doing so while operating within the SOP has shown me the great ingenuity and decision making skill that our company officers possess. This is directly opposes the notion, that SOP’s in anyway, takes away the Officer’s ability to make decisions.

IMG_8302An example that I want to share was a recent house fire in Washington DC. The District has some of the most comprehensive SOP’s that I know of and on a daily basis, the unit officers ensure they are followed with great consistency. Regardless of the type or size of the structure, DC sends a standard compliment of suppression apparatus to the scene. Each unit, based on dispatch order, has an assigned geographic area that they are expected to cover, ensuring at least two independent water supplies are established and supplied as well as ladder coverage on all sides of the building. Assigned tactical expectations confirm, attack lines are properly positioned to contain the fire and control extension and primary and secondary searches are completed in a timely manner.

My goal here is to show officers that by having strong knowledge of your response area, and a willing and motivated company officer. Your decision-making capability is expanded by developing and utilizing SOP’s as long as you take the time to train on them, and understand that the basis of these procedures is to set the fireground, and your company up for success. In Washington DC the 2nd due engine on the box is assigned to cover the rear of the structure. This unit is responsible for positioning the rig in the rear, or as close as possible to the rear. Providing a rear report and advancing a line into the structure at the direction of the Incident Commander.


IMG_8300This house fire is a two-story dwelling with the first engine and truck operating on, and through the alpha side of the structure, a standard execution of the SOP and a very simple operation to accomplish. Now the rear companies had a little more of a challenge, completing their assignment. The company took the path of ensuring that they were in the correct position and delivering on their tasks as dictated by the SOP. Rather than come up with an excuse as to why they could not complete their task, which would have been the easy route. The officer and crew had an excellent knowledge of their response area and executed their assignment without fail. They positioned on the Charlie side of the house then threw a ladder to access the rear yard due to topography ,and advanced their line to their assigned tactical position. Their task involved a number of fireground skills to be completed before they reached their objective. The success of their assignment, without fail came from training, more training, repetition and commitment to Getting The Job Done! Now ask yourself if you and your company are ready to follow the procedures by using all your practiced skills without allowing laziness or complacency creep in….



Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 13-08-2015

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What To Do With The Ground Ladders on Your Engine


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company | Posted on 10-07-2015

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Check the Resume

Years ago the fire service shared its opinions, lessons learned, and post fire academy knowledge primarily in magazine articles. There was no Facebook, Twitter, or blogging. Articles were submitted and reviewed by an editorial panel.  The members of these panels were seasoned fire experts who had “done their time” not only in the firehouse, but in the world of fire service literature.  Many readers often judged the quality of magazines based on their editorial panels. An article would be reviewed by technical editors whose job was to make sure that the points in the article had value and were accurate. If you didn’t pass – you got rejected. Often if you did pass, you still had discussions with the technical editor to clean things up. It also took months, if not years, to get your article actually published once it was approved.  That delay caused a mental pause, reflection, and often revision of the content.  It also tended to filter out the fake content and fake authors. This is roughly still the process to get an article published today.
Some may say this is a form of censorship, or that it’s close minded. I think it was and still is a form of quality control. What the internet has done to the fire service scares me. The fire service pulpit is now wide open for anyone who wants to preach. Anyone with a keyboard, an opinion, and a free afternoon can broadcast their views.  There is no experienced technical editorial panel for the internet. If you are charismatic, write well, or can make your blog/page look pretty, you tend to get attention – people look at what you say and may listen to you. What is not really a prerequisite here is to have any actual firefighting experience or any clue what you are talking about.
Some of the best firemen I know are computer illiterate.  They type with one finger, one letter at a time.  They don’t know how to make a pretty blog or Instagram photo – but they know how to fight fire. Sadly, their voices are often lost in the shuffle to someone who has more technical skills than firefighting skills.
Today, access to the firefighting world is instant.  Through the smartphone that almost all of us have in our pocket, we have we can shoot HD video and photos, snazzy them up, edit some text, and post it all to a variety of social networks within minutes. If it’s catchy and goes “viral” – thousands and thousands will see it by this afternoon.  It’s a sad fact that more young firefighters read the internet than read the magazines. Ironically – the shorter your message, the more will read it (think Twitter)!
When reading and considering things, my friend Joe Brown used to always say “check the resume”. An illustration of this point – even in magazine days, the first thing I would do before reading an article was flip to the end and read about the author.  That would highly influence if I would read the article or not, or how much weight I would give to the content.
  • Who is the author?
  • What department are they from?
  • What is that department’s reputation?
  • What kind of / how much work do they do?
  • What is their position in the Department?
  • How does that position relate to what they’re talking about?
  • How much time on do they have?
Those are some of the things I would evaluate in a “resume check”.  You may notice that “time on” is pretty low on the list.  That’s intentional. For some, their “number of years” is their biggest claim – but what kind of years were those? A wise old saying goes, “it’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years”.  I’m more interested in where you’ve been and what you’ve done than how long you’ve been there.
With all of the uncensored opinions out there across all the platforms, I hope you are all “checking the resume” before you embrace the content. There are a lot of people out there who believe that the number of years they have, or their title, or their degrees, give them “experience” from which to preach.  This is a dangerous thing.  Even scarier, some firefighters and departments are actually revising how they do business based on this content! If you look into it, you may find that the author has more time on the keyboard than they do on the fireground.  You may find their department has not provided them with the volume of incidents to back them up. You may find that have little to no real world experience with what they are talking about. You may find they are simply self-proclaimed.
You may find their resume is hidden; that it is very difficult to find specifics.  Where did they work?  When did they come on?  Where was that guy an officer?  Which firehouse were they in? To me, these vague, hidden resumes are indicative of a questionable background, or perhaps an attempt to conceal a career that the author wishes was more than it really was. I couldn’t be prouder of the places I’ve been associated with and the path of my career – what does it say about yours if you hide it?
You know what they say opinions are like, and everyone does have a right to theirs.  They have a right to share it too, I suppose.  I am sharing my opinion right now and I participate in all of the platforms that I talked about above.  I do believe that I have integrity – that I write honestly about only the things I know about, the things that I have done, and that I have the background to back up my thoughts. I try to be responsible, knowing that what I say may actually cause a change in how someone else responds to a life-threatining incident. That doesn’t make my opinions right, or gospel – but if you consider my background and experiences, you’ll see they match up and make sense compared to my opinions.
The internet is a scary, instant place with no barrier to entry. It is causing good and bad changes to our job. Before signing up for a viral movement, I’d highly advise that you check the resume of the author.
I certainly invite you to look at mine.
Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready | Posted on 06-07-2015

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Fire Engineering Quick Drill by Donald Wedding

FE Halligan Spike Quick Drill

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 02-07-2015

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People Trapped? Don’t Panic – Do Your JOB!

In general, a report of “victims trapped” should not cause any major changes in your initial operations. They may cause slight alterations – like where you take your line, which window you VES, etc.  However your plans/SOGs should already be setup assuming there are persons trapped. When added information increases the likelihood of entrapment, we should be doing what we always do – just harder and faster!

Remember, all tasks work in support of each other on a fire. Abandoning one will reak havoc on the others. The results do not improve the victims chances, and put us at greater risk. I have seen many incidents quickly go south when everyone “loses their cool” after a report of entrapment. Things later water supply, ventilation, and fire attack are abandoned because we all think we’re just going to dash in and “save the baby”. When this happens we are often unsuccessful in our firefighting efforts, the victim usually perishes, and we frequently hurt firefighters due to our scatter-brained actions. By cutting corners we LOSE, and often then find out there wasn’t anyone trapped! 

As was the case last night, reports of a victim do not mean there IS one. And no reported victims (or reports of “everyone’s out”) do not mean there ISN’T one. Deploy in response to conditions and always give any known OR unknown victim their best chance. Don’t guess on “survivability” from the front yard – you don’t know what you don’t know.  Our job is to react to conditions, not guesses, and give them a chance. As I was once taught by a veteran truck officer, they are not out until our searches SAY they are out.

Posted by Nick Martin on Monday, June 29, 2015

Great job by Columbia Fire Department 2nd shift crews last night. They demonstrated the effectiveness of these thoughts and made a rapid knockdown alongside rapid searches.


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Truck Company | Posted on 29-06-2015