Monday, July 7, 2014

BEING THE CAUSE OF "BAD FIREFIGHTERS"


The fire service is a unique place to say the least. Right or wrong, from the moment you walk in the doors of the firehouse or training academy you are being judged. Not just because it’s the fire service, but because it’s human nature. Now, don’t get me wrong, as a new person in the fire service it is fully your responsibility to be an upstanding, motivated, dedicated and knowledge hungry individual. You certainly should be the first person to initiate things and the last person to stop doing everything. It is your job to learn as much as possible and prove that you have what it takes to be a productive part of the fire service. It should never be expected that people will give you anything. However, it is certainly expected that you must earn everything. Being the new person in a firehouse means you go through the same rite of passage as those before you. By no means should this be a surprise to anyone. Nor should you think that you are special and don’t have to go through the same process as everyone else. Not only would that be unacceptable, it would be disrespectful.


So, if new people are expected to earn their way and/or “do the right thing”, how do they figure out how to do it? Do you or your department(s) have anything officially (unofficially) explaining this? It seems to have become commonplace that some senior/experienced members of the fire service expect that each new person miraculously know exactly what to do and how to do it. When they fail at an assumption, the new firefighters are immediately placed into “this person is horrible” category. It is actually mindboggling how fast some “good firefighters” will “write-off” a new firefighter because of their mistake(s), etc. What this is in-fact doing is making future generations of mediocre, ill-prepared firefighters. Think about it; if each generation of firefighters writes-off the next we will certainly lose our way. A few years down the road our firefighters will be less effective, less efficient and our good traditions will become nearly extinct. So, why have we become this way? Why would we discount someone rather than mentor them? The answers are certainly out there and surely each individual case has a different answer. One thing is certain, we need to find a solution and dedicate ourselves to assuring that the firefighters to come are afforded all of our knowledge, etc.

A good example of this scenario was brought up to me the other day. It involves an engine company that will remain name and numberless. The OIC, whom is a senior member (well over 20-years on the job) of his department, has taken the time to work with his “rookie” over the past three-months. Each day, advancing lines, setting-up master streams, pumping/drafting, performing water supply procedures, learning the immediate and outlining response areas, etc. His rookie firefighter came to him with ZERO experience. After this three-month period, said rookie firefighter is beginning to “get it”. It has certainly been no easy feat. Yet, something started to become noticeable while the OIC was passing on his knowledge and experience. Other members from the rookie’s recruit school started to attend the drills on their DAY OFF, from other companies! Not only was the OIC surprised by this, but what they stated to him was shocking. Each of them stated that they were coming to attend drills on their days off because they weren’t being taught at their respective firehouses. It obviously took him back, as it did me as well.

In the aforementioned case, WE are certainly the reason that “bad firefighters” are being produced and accepted. This means that it’s our responsibility to right our wrongs and assure that others are aware when they are condoning this. We will never get to the fire service we all strive for if we don’t take action against this culture now. It will ruin what those that come before us fought hard to obtain. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A DAY "OFF" FROM THE FIRE SERVICE...

As most people do, in the modern fire service (if you will), you likely have the opportunity each day to go on the internet, check out fire service news sites, visit your favorite "blogs" (such as www.workingfirechief.com), watch a helmet cam video from a recent fire or maybe even check out something "new". Such as a friend or fellow firefighters work, outside of the immediate fire service.

Today, this look outside of our hectic fire related lives brings us to a friend by the name of Rych Pullen.  I have know Rych, or as he is known around Kentland 33 and the D.C. Fire Department as "Bart" for a number of years. He taught me a ton about being a good/productive member of the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department and certainly gave me words to live by when I was hired by the D.C. Fire Department. The entire time I have known Rych, a few distinct characteristics of his have always stood out. First and foremost, he is passionate about everything he does. Whether its been a fire department responsibility or a family responsibility, he always takes it head-on and finishes the task(s) at hand. He is a mentor to everyone that he comes to know and last but certainly not least, he possess an uncanny ability to be successful at everything he seeks out to accomplish.

Rych Pullen (Photo by Rych Pullen)
A few years ago, he became very interested in photography. I'm unsure if it was a life long interest or just a new "hobby". Whatever it was, he certainly turned a hobby into a second profession.  Or at least another passion. I started to follow his work as he'd make occasional Facebook posts. After a while I started to see his photographs progress with professionalism. In-fact, they became very impressive. As I scrolled through my personal Facebook page today, I noticed a link to his photography blog. This wasn't the first time I had viewed it, but it gave me the idea to write this blog post. Throughout his blog he has several great themed galleries. I couldn't help but notice that each and every picture told a story. Not just of "1000 words", but of individual lives. The pictures all screamed of heartache, pain, happiness, loneliness, history, selflessness, growing-up, etc, etc, etc. This was when the idea hit me... Rych's photography blog has little to do with the fire service, but after taking a look at it today, it has everything to do with the fire service. Each of us continue to grow, we continue to have good days and bad. Just like each picture, we all have a story to tell. Sometimes we're misunderstood, but most times helpful to someone in their quest to gain knowledge. This all may seem a little "deep", but check out Rych's work for yourself. He hasn't been hired (yet) by a major magazine that is circulated around the globe, but he certainly is on his way.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW RYCH PULLEN'S PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG

Thursday, May 29, 2014

video
HISTORY- As I often have said, "If you don't know the history of your firehouse and fire department, you won't be able to see the future". This is a video that was made about the 1940's Washington, DC Fire Department and Engine Company No. 4, now known as "The Hornets Nest". The video was produced in 2007 and can be found with an assortment of other videos about Engine Company No. 4 from our Nations Capitol.

Pay close attention to the still photos taken by the late Gordon Pa
rks, a photographer, musician, writer and director (of the film "Shaft" from the 1970's). He showcased Engine Company No. 4 during the early 1940's (1943 approx.). They were an all African-American regiment that took great pride in being the best. A fact that the assigned members frequently spoke about was the ability for the apparatus to "turn-out" so quickly that they could leave the rookie fireman standing at the watch desk that sat in close proximity to the rigs. You can see some of Mr. Parks' work and a little history behind the engine house at 931 R Street, NW DC by clicking on this link:

http://househistoryman.blogspot.com/2013/06/dcs-first-african-american-fire-station.html

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TAKING A MOMENT TO NEVER FORGET... L.O.D.D. PULL BOXES IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Clockwise from top left- Box 822 (Carter, Jr. E4), Box 6178 (Phillips/Matthews E10/E26), Box 872 (Carter Sgt.-1st Batt.)


Yesterday was Monday May 26th, 2014, but more importantly it was Memorial Day. A day that the entire United States of America comes together to honor those men and women that have served our great Nation, defended it against evil and sadly, often times didn't come home to their loved ones. I felt it only right to visit the only three "memorial" pull box locations in the District of Columbia to honor the sacrifices of four fallen District of Columbia Firemen as well. Placing red, white and blue flowers on each as well as three US Flags.
Private Joseph A. Carter, Jr. of Engine Co. No. 4

The first box that was visited is #822 at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and W Street, NW. This box memorializes the line of duty death of Private Joseph A. Carter, Jr. of Engine Company No. 4. Subsequently, this is the company in which I am assigned as a "Wagon Driver". The crew from "4 Engine" met my fiancee and I at the location and paid tribute as well. Private Carter, Jr. died from injuries sustained while fighting a fire at 2214 Georgia Avenue, NW in 1943. He actually succumb to the injuries on July the 4th, 1944. Oddly enough, I had the pleasure of meeting his granddaughter a few years back. I met her at Engine House No. 4 one mid-day and took her around the area that her grandfather once (proudly) served. Including the site where the memorial box stands today.

Sergeant John Carter of the 1st Batt.
The second location visited was box #872 at the intersection of 5th Street and Kennedy Street, NW. This box memorializes the line of duty death of Sergeant John M. Carter of the 1st Battalion. On October 24th, 1997, Sergeant Carter died while operating at a multiple alarm corner store fire at 4th Street and Kennedy Street, NW. A documentary was filmed in the late 1990's outlining the life and sacrifice of Sergeant Carter. I had the honor of assisting the film makers with file footage at Fort Belvoir, Virginia as a young fireman (with the Seat Pleasant VFD, PG Co., MD). You can find the video by clicking here. You can also view the LODD report by clicking here.




Privates Anthony Phillips (E10) and Louis Matthews (E26)
My final stop of the morning brought me to the 3100 block of Cherry Road, NE. This is the location of box #6178. Where on May 30th, 1999, Private Anthony "Sauce" Phillips of Engine Company No. 10 and Private Louis Matthews of Engine Company No. 26 died while fighting a basement fire in a townhouse. This fire changed a lot of the tactics that are currently in-place when fighting basement fires in the District of Columbia. You can read the full NIOSH Recommendations report by clicking here.

Although there are only three dedicated pull boxes memorializing the LODD's of Washington, DC Firefighters, there have been a total of 100 firemen killed in the line of duty within the 68.3 square miles known as the District of Columbia. All of them are remembered each and everyday of the year.





"BOX ALARM"- GOING "3RD DUE" IN PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND



Every department in the United States, or even the world for that matter, operates in its own unique fashion. In Prince George's County, Maryland a box alarm is dispatched for any reported structural fire. This assignment is comprised of four engine companies, two truck companies, a third special service (third closest truck or squad company), two Battalion Chiefs and a BLS transport unit. Through departmental Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), each respective unit has a specific responsibility. This ensures all areas of the structure are covered.
The third due engine company on the alarm is responsible to secure a secondary water supply/source (yes, every time, without fail, even with NOTHING evident), position to cover the rear ("Charlie" side), advance a handline, report (size-up) conditions found, check the lowest level (ie; the basement) and position the attack line (normally) above the fire area.
Although each unit has very specific map books of the areas responded to, it is a must that Wagon Drivers (Technicians/Chauffeurs/Driver Operators) are familiar with their immediate and surrounding response area(s). This photograph shows Engine Company No. 33 of the Kentland VFD, Inc. in the rear alley of a reported "vacant house on fire" (this past week) that ended-up being an outside rubbish fire with slight extension. The Driver and Officer In-Charge had intimate knowledge of the area to include hydrants, accessibility into the alley with the rig, etc. When dispatched as the third due engine company on this alarm, they put their knowledge to the test. Executing a rear position that enabled the crew to be within reach of a 150-foot pre-connected attack line.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CHANGING THE FIRE SERVICE... OR IN THIS CASE, THE WORLD



This is the University of Texas at Austin, Class of 2014 Commencement Speech given by United States Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, Ninth Commander of United States Special Operations Command. It is a motivating speech to say the least. It speaks of life's journeys, tough times and the ability to be a great person in a (sometimes) not so great society.


Since this speech is being given to a graduating college class, you might be wondering what, if anything it could have to do with the fire service. As I watched the entire video for the second time, I found all of his speech to be applicable to not only ALL of the fire service, but each individual person and their respective lives. Often times we have to be reminded of what good each of us can actually do in our own circle of responsibility. We need to also focus on the fact that we can do just as much (negative) harm to our firehouse or fire department as anyone else. Watching this speech should motivate you to be a better person in life, focus on the little things in the fire service, improve all that we can and realize that our small part will affect our departments and the fire service for generations to come.


In writing this blog post, I also couldn't help but be reminded of all the newer (ten years or less) Firefighters/Officers that constantly ask me "how do I get the naysayers or the negative opinion setters to buy into being positive, innovative and better at our craft?" With that question I also see a lot of the newer generation of Firefighters/Officers discouraged by the fact that it is often hard to see positive, forward progress. They seem to be on the verge of "giving-up". To everyone that feels like they just want to "give-up" sometimes, watch this video and realize that "giving-up" is just not an option in life. The only thing you should be "giving-up" on is the thought of "giving-up". Never let someone or something crush your spirit in the fire service. If anything, allow that negativity to make you stronger, capitalize on it and push forward. Learn how to be quick and efficient at extinguishing fires, know the basics of stretching lines, placing ladders and being a positive influence in your firehouse. Change the fire service for the positive and keep good traditions alive.



Friday, February 14, 2014

REMEMBERING THE BRICELYN STREET FIRE, FEBRUARY 14TH, 1995

February 14th, 1995- Three members of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) made the supreme sacrifice when they succumb to injuries sustained while operating at 8361 Bricelyn Street.

Take a moment today to remember them by reading the after action report from the incident. The structure at 8361 Bricelyn Street was unique in that it was a "house on a hill". Essentially presenting a two-story house in the front and a four-story house in the rear. This is common place in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

Traditions Training, LLC Instructors Danny Doyle and Jimmy Ellis will be presenting "The House on the Hill" at this years FDIC in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their presentation covers several key points about operating in homes such as the one on Bricelyn Street.


CLICK HERE FOR THE REPORT