Archive | November 2011

Product Review: Westsider Front Holder

I know it’s been a while, and I hate to disappoint you, but this is not a revolutionary, inflammatory rant on the slackers of the fire service. This is a simple, benign, and unbiased product review. Before I delve into this new territory for ELAFF, I’d like to post a quick disclaimer on our reviews. The products we review are sent to us, free of charge, by the manufacturer. We may, or may not, be allowed to keep these products after the review is published. We will be as open as possible about the circumstances of each review, but rest assured that we will receive NO compensation for anything written about a product…other than possibly keeping the sample. We will be open and honest about our opinions of the product, be they positive or negative. That’s the short-hand version of it, so on with the review.

Westsider Front Holder

Retail Price – $29.99

Info from the owner – “Homemade Diamond plate shield\front holder. I made these holders to fit Cairns New Yorker, Sam Houston. 1000, 1010 and 1044. I have not drilled the holes in the side to attach to the helmet so they will fit all helmets listed. These holders have been Laser Cut and bent professionally . They are cut from .063 plate of aluminum diamond plate.”


The Westsider Front Holder is a replacement for the eagle/beaver/solid piece of easily bent metal which holds the leather front/shield on a traditional helmet. They are made by Jonathan Nixon, a firefighter with the Charlotte, NC Fire Department. As stated above, the front is made of aluminum diamond plate. There seems to be a huge number of “diamond plate fans” in the fire service, just as there are leather-freaks. I, for one, am not one of those fans. I simply don’t like flashy “bling” on my helmet, however this review isn’t about my cosmetic preferences, so I showed the front around ELAFF HQ. There were plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs”, and “how do I get one” was asked multiple times. I took this as a sign that firefighters would want one of these on their helmet and began the mounting process. The front comes without pre-drilled holes, so it can be easily mounted on most traditional helmets. It is DESIGNED to be mounted on a Cairns N5A, N6A, 1000, 1010, or 1044. I was planning on being rough with my sample, so I mounted it on an old Ben Franklin I (that’s the good model, not the new Ben II Plus thermo-plastic one). This helmet was a little shorter than the front holder was designed for, and the leather front was a bit tall, but I managed to get the Westsider secured.

I wore it through on all runs, including a few fires. It also had plenty of drill time, along with a few training fires. It held up just fine, as I would hope.

For the final test, I used the remains of a sprinkler demonstration rig. I decided to punch a few holes in some drywall and bang on the wall studs a few times. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to punch through a wall using their helmet unless they ABSOLUTELY had to…we carry tools for those tasks. However, I hadn’t yet inflicted any real damage to the Westsider, so I thought I’d give this a try.

The drywall didn’t faze it, but pounding on the studs caused the front flap to lift up. I attribute this to the aforementioned under-sized helmet/over-sized shield issue. If I had been using a smaller shield, or a Cairns helmet, I do NOT believe this would have happened. As for the rest of the Westsider, it didn’t have a dent on it. If you DO manage to dent or deform one of these, you’ll probably want to look at replacing the entire helmet…not just the Westsider. This definitely held up better than the stock front holder, which was bent beyond recognition when I removed it.

With the trial phase complete, I was left with one last idea. Getting rid of that shine. It was easily covered with a liberal coating of “NFPA compliant”, black “rattle-can” paint. You could just as easily use any other color.

There you have it. Whether you are a fan of shiny things, or not, the Westsider Front Holder is a viable option for replacing the worn-out, factory holder on your helmet. The diamond plate is strong and looks great, and can be customized easily to match your style. Maybe Jonathan will even start putting out his own colored versions.

You can find out more, and purchase the Westsider Helmet Front, on their Facebook page.

You may also email Jonathan directly at:

– Lt. Lemon

Ya Can’t Teach Heart

As you may have already read, the Lt. And I took a road trip down the road to a little place called Roanoke VA. to visit the King of Blogs: Willie Wines Jr. and …. uh,…. wait a minute, I’ll remember in a second…. anyways, must not have been important…. oh well…. where was I? Oh yes, Willie. Anyways, we were greeted with open arms and treated like family. We were given an awesome tour of the city, Highlighted with a visit to the Fallen Firefighters memorial, and Historic Roanoke fire Station 1. I’ve gotta tell ya, if you are ever presented with an opportunity to see either of these spots, you will be a FOOL not to jump on it. This place is a wealth of tradition, history, and a vision of past fire life long gone. There is a huge difference between a fire station, and a fire HOUSE and places like old #1 take the differences even further than the imagination can go. After the tour, we took a walk down to a local watering hole, and talked some shop. I have to admit, Willie and… jeez its gonna come to me I promise….. well THEY know what they are talking about when it comes to Blogs and the fire service, and they have given Lemon and I some things to think about. There is obviously no substitute for real world experience, and that statement goes for blogging AND being a firefighter.


Day two brought us to 13 house to do a ride along with Captain Wines and his crew. I personally know how important Sundays are at the house. Unless the call volume is just unusually high, Sundays are reserved as “easy” days. This is a fire house tradition dating back to when chaos was just a twinkle in great great great Gammy chaos’ eye. They are typically days when we can sit back and, even though we stay vigilant as our job requires, enjoy a day with our crews. Having a deaf-mute hanging around with his all too wordy compadre might could be an un-welcome addition to the day, But these guys never once showed it if it was. We were already running late due to Lemons hour and a half, epic saga of a shower, yet we were greeted with a fire house feast fit for a king. We were taken to some more places in the city, met some more Brothers, and learned a few more things about RFD. Everyone we met never once made us feel as though we were a bother at all. Brotherhood isnt somethings these guys talk about, its something they live. You walk into the room with these guys, and can feel it. RHETT FLEITZ!!!! JEEZ THAT’S THE GUYS NAME! Talks about critics, deals, and All the time! I KNEW I would remember eventually. So we get back to the house and hang out all day with the King and his crew. Rhett dropped by some BBQ for supper, Bless his heart were gonna have to teach that man something about smoke, meat and sauce! J/k Buddy! The Q was excellent! I don’t know how good of a time these guys had with us, what with not being able to get a word in with Lemon running his mouth the whole time, But we had an outstanding time. True Brothers All of them, and it was an absolute HONOR to get to do what we did this weekend.

Among the many conversations we had, one statement Willie said stuck with me. It stuck, because I’ve heard it before, something I hadn’t heard in several years. My dad said it, My former Captain said it. Two men that I look up to as someone I want to emulate. Someone that if I could be half the firefighter they are, im gonna be alright. And now, here’s Willie Wines Jr. saying it too : “Ya can’t teach heart”. Four words that really don’t look right in a sentence, but have more meaning behind them than an english dictionary. I’ve wondered many times, is “heart” something I have? Because obviously, according to many people in my life that I look up to, If I don’t, It’s not something that can be learned. I like to think I do, Because to me having “heart” is the difference between being a firefighter, and a fire service employee. Having “Heart” means your going to go the extra mile, and not even think it was the extra mile. You went the extra mile because its your natural instinct to do more than what is required, not because you were asked, or told to go the extra mile, or did it to get a pat on the back at the end. It’s just something someone with “heart” does. Do the people around me say, “he has heart?” or “you can tell his heart is in it”. I learned a lesson on heart this weekend with Captain Wines and Lt. Fleitz taking us on a tour of a fire house when there could have been other places for them to be. I learned a lesson in “heart” tonight in training doing bail-out drills, when I see who went out the window once to satisfy the requirement and those that did it again, and again, and again just to reinforce that they were getting this drill right.

Do you have “heart”? It’s a question I really think every firefighter needs ask the person in the mirror. I think “heart” is something that, although not taught, is something that a particular thing gives you. Everyone has it, but what pulls it out of you? I know a firefighter personally that has made the statement “firefighting is my job, photography is my passion”. Did that sit well with you when you read it? It didn’t sit well with me when I heard it. Yes, this is a Job, and yes you can be passionate about more than one thing in your life. But if you wake up in the morning, and head to the house dreading another day at work, should firefighting be something you do anymore? I shutter to think I hated my job. If I did, I can tell you this: I wouldn’t do it. Id find another, one that I WAS passionate about. A job that when I did it, I put my “heart” into. Is there a job out there that has your heart, and passion? If there is, please, for your own sake and the sake of others that are working their butts off to get their foot into the door of a good firehouse, go do it. Dont waste a position on the truck to someone who dreads coming in to it. I’m not saying this in an angry or spiteful way. I’m saying it because the fire service can ill afford a group of guys whose heart isn’t in it. Your not going to go the extra mile. The reason that’s so important, is because the extra mile is where the golden stuff happens. The extra mile is where a fire apparatus goes from being a work truck to a show piece, no matter if it saw fire that day or not. The extra mile is where a fire station becomes a fire house. The extra mile is where the un-savable has a chance. It’s where the danger lies, and where safety dears not tread. It’s the difference between training untill you can’t get it wrong, not training untill you get it right. The extra mile: where those with “heart” go, and where those without it stop just short.

Maybe chaos has it wrong. Maybe I don’t have a clue what it is, and I just don’t recognize it? I don’t know, I wont pretend to have all the answers. I just think its something everyone should think about. Untill I CAN figure it all out, and have all the answers, I’ll just have to leave it at that. It’s almost bed time, and I’ll be at work tomorrow…. I can’t wait. I’ll be there an hour early before shift change, the coffee will be ready, and so will I.

To Rhett, Willie and all the guys we met: Thanks so much guys for the awesome time! I hope I didn’t talk your ears off too bad. Everyone was more welcoming that I ever imagined, and the hospitality you guys showed was second to none! The river of Brotherhood truly runs deep in Roanoke! We hope to see you guys again sometime, but until then, Ride hard and stay safe Brothers!

                                                 -Captain Chaos

A Trip to See the King

This weekend, Captain Chaos joined me on an expedition. We were invited down to Roanoke, Virginia to visit the King of Blogs himself, Captain Willie Wines Jr. We loaded up the ELAFF-mobile and hit the road to Roanoke. Captain Wines was kind enough to set us up with a place to stay at a local family’s home. I never met his parents, but the kid who lived there was a huge fan of Willie’s…I think his name was Rhett-something. Apparently, he likes to ride his bike down to Willie’s station to hang out with the firemen, plus he’s a follower of our blog, as well. When he heard that Lt. Lemon and Cpt. Chaos would be in town, he begged his folks to let us spend the night. Rhett tagged along with us as we stopped by the Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial and were given an exclusive tour of Roanoke’s Historic Firehouse #1.


As Chaos and I marveled at the rich history in that house, Rhett spent the time constantly following Willie around and talking about something called the “Fire Critic” and telling us about “deals”. Frankly, I had no idea what he was referring to.

Meanwhile, as the kid kept talking, I remained silent, soaking in the wealth of knowledge shared by Captain Wines about everything from Roanoke Fire history, to general firefighting, to blogging and web design. I may be anonymous, but I will say that Captain Wines has much more experience than me, and I was taught early on to stay quiet and listen when good advice is offered from the senior men. After supper, we returned to Rhett’s house,  where Rhett rambled on about “Va Fire News” and how much he loves Dave Statter. I think the only person Rhett admires more than Captain Wines is Statter. He could name every recent post on and he had an enormous Statter911 logo on his bedroom wall. It was sort of strange…

The following day, Chaos and I headed to Station 13 for a ride-along with Captain Wines and his crew. They greeted us with a feast of a breakfast, followed by a tour of the beautiful scenery in the surrounding area. We brought the ride-along curse with us, only catching one run…a medical. Still, we enjoyed the day, as the firefighters of Roanoke are extremely friendly and hospitable. Even as Chaos and I barged in on a Sunday, we never felt un-welcome. Rhett rode his bike down to the firehouse, bringing some BBQ for supper. I’m not sure where his Mom bought it, but it wasn’t too bad. After supper, Chaos and I decided to finally get out of their hair and head back to HQ. We handed off a couple of Lemon Wedges, snapped some photos, and rode off…better for making the trip.

Thanks again to Willie and Rhett.

Next time I’ll bring my voice with me…and maybe my face, too.

-Lt. Lemon

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