“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

These words caught my eye in a recent blog post, one of a few which struck me deeply in the past 24 hours, stirring a period of serious reflection. Reflection on myself, my ideas, my actions, and my writing. Reflection on this site and ELAFF as a whole. It has been nearly one year since I moved the ELAFF movement to this standalone site. I used to hesitate to call it a “blog”, as I tried to steer away from the personal posts commonly associated with that term. This was due in part to the anonymous nature of the posts, but it was also an attempt to maintain the universal, ambiguous nature of the topics which any agency or individual could relate to. As you well know, the anonymity is no more. So, the occasional “personal” post can be expected…and this is the first. Stay with me, though. I might stumble on something of use to you.

The removal of the “anonymous” barrier brought a question to my mind. If he isn’t the mythical “Fire God”, who hand-carves door chocks out of oak trees using his Leatherman multi-tool, then who IS Lt. Lemon? Who AM I? I found that it was much easier to answer the inverse question. Who am I NOT?

I am not anyone special. I am not an expert. I am not an instructor, trainer, teacher, nor professor. I am not a philosopher. I am not the definitive voice of reason on all or any topics.

Who am I? I am a guy with a keyboard and an interest in stringing words together into sentences. That’s all any of us(bloggers/writers) are. I am simply sharing opinions and ideas, not undebatable facts. So, how does this relate to you?

This serves as a simple reminder to take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t automatically believe anything you read online or see on t.v. This is not a training site, but a forum for discussion. Read critically and question the material presented. If you disagree, feel free to rebut with your own opinion. If you agree, add your own thoughts to the discussion. I never fully cover any subject which I write on and there is always room to elaborate. I’m sure most other fire service writers would ask that you do the same and I am striving to become more involved in the posts which influence me.

My status as a member of this forum, rather than a teacher, affects me even more. This site isn’t really about spreading my ideas, but more about gathering the ideas of others. ELAFF has allowed me to network with firemen from beyond the county, state, and regional boundaries which usually inhibit growth in the fire service. It exposes me to varying ideas, tactics, theories, and equipment which I might have missed if I remained isolated within the comfort of my home department.

Some don’t realize the potential of these differing ideas and tactics. They immediately jump to bash and scrutinize others for their differences, falsely perceived to be mistakes. They react with the same fear as the townspeople to Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein’s “turtleshell” wearing, fireground sprinting, roof cutting monster. However, they are not fearful of the literal differences which they see, but of the theoretical change which those ideas could bring to their department. Oh, “change”. That double-edged sword that we’re all SO scared of..even positive change(a.k.a IMPROVEMENT). Perhaps what scares us most about improvement is that , in order to improve, we must expose our weaknesses. Admitting the need for improvement is admitting that you are doing something wrong or, at the least, not as well as you potentially could.

I try to take a different approach to these “differences”. I’m intrigued by them. I see them as a chance to learn, grow, and improve…and that’s a good thing. Obviously, new tactics must be evaluated, just like online articles. Will it be useful in OUR first due? If not, can we modify it until it IS useful? In this same manner, we should also evaluate our CURRENT tactics, ideas, and equipment to see if there’s a need for improvement.

This is the benefit of the site, and the network it provides, for me. A chance to discover new ideas and re-evaluate my current ones. I get more out of this experience than any of the readers will…and that’s the point. This is an experiment in self-improvement. The cycle of discovery, evaluation, and improvement is both humbling and enlightening. Expanding my knowledge, while shrinking my personal pride.

As much as I enjoy the satire of ELAFF’s roots, I require more accountability in my material. I long wrote as “Lt. Lemon”. Since the “Big Reveal” I’ve simply added my first name, in parentheses, clinging to that alter-ego. However, it’s time to separate that persona from myself and set it on the back-burner. I’m Pete Sulzer…this is my “blog”…and these are my words. Thanks for reading them.

-Pete Sulzer (Lt. Lemon) 

I was driven to write this after reading a number of articles, namely the following:

Working the Job – “Awakening”

Fully Involved – “Stay Hungry”

Engine Co. 22 – “Culture of Self-Improvement”

Go read them now…

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10 responses to “Reflection”

  1. Jason Jefferies says :

    I swear I wrote this. Or you simply cracked my skull and dug my thoughts out. Absolutely spot on Pete. I have the feeling I’ve rounded the corner. Sure, pissing and moaning got me some readers. Now I’m more accountable for my words than ever. Why can’t they be a tribute to the good that still exists in our profession instead of a cry for that lowest demoninator in our ranks to shape up or ship out? They don’t read fire blogs anyway. This is the 2nd thing I’ve read today that has firmly entrenched me into a different style of writing. Thank you.


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      “They don’t read fire blogs anyway.” One of the exact things that hit me last night. I’m pretty sure I’ve written a statement similar to that, yet I continued to call for their heads. It’s a futile waste of thought and space which could be put to better use promoting what’s RIGHT in the fire service.

      Maybe this is the maturity acquired through a year of writing, maybe I finally got out all of my anger issues, or maybe I just realized that I can’t improve myself if I spend any time complaining about others. If there’s anyone for me to complain about…it’s me…


  2. Chris Huston (@engineco22) says :

    This is how I see it. We (the fire service, wll before my time) was these little bubbles. Most only saw the 3 feet in front of them. If life was good, it was good. When major events happened, large enough to be seen on the news, then the fire service reflected. Today we hear about every little band aid run and are quick to scrutinize how we would have ran it better. It comes down to being responsible. Lets strike up the debate on some topics, mostly when it comes to being the best we can be and keeping our brothers and sisters alive. Sometimes though it is ok to vent. Maybe you cannot vent to those on the job, maybe it needs to be a firefighter across the country who has 5 minutes to read a few “strung together words.” ENGINECO22 was started in 2006 doing exactly that. Throwing out ideas and frustration that could not be shared with those around me, but hoping someone from somwhere could lend an attentive ear. After time you realize those who want gossip, dont really care. THose who want to improve, won’t read it.

    The Fire Service Blog community has increased 10 fold over the past year or so. Which is great, we dont have to wait to discuss topics at the major events. To quote a line from some movie, “With great power comes great responsibilty.”

    Keep writing, we do enjoy the fun side of what you do. We need to laugh at oursleves, thats one reason I started coming to this site. Try to remember that younger folks coming up in the service may take of it as gospel andnot see the satire. Todays post was great, but keep doing what you do. It scares me though that some guy out there wearing a “We bust our asses to you save yours” or “We work hard to save your ass, not kiss it” reads commentary and lives his life by it, or empties his pockets of tools to wear them on his helmet.

    Keep it up brother, and KEEP THE FAITH!
    Chris Huston – engineco22


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      Thanks for the input, Chris. Don’t worry, the satire is not gone forever. Anybody who knows me can tell you that. My off-kilter mind will not allow me to suppress the sarcasm for too long. I just needed to take some time to clearly separate myself from it. As I said, this was a “personal” post. Not only because it was about me, but also because it was for me.


  3. Bill Carey says :

    Perhaps what scares us most about improvement is that , in order to improve, we must expose our weaknesses.

    Greatest statement in the whole article.

    Bill Carey


  4. Mark vonAppen says :


    I like the message of your site. Thank you for reading my blog. Like you, I try to stand behind – better yet, right beside – the words I use. I try to think about what it would be like to be on the other end of the monitor as some anonymous blogger attacks from the relative safety of mom and dad’s basement.

    The truth has no anger.

    You have to stand up for what you say, not by unleashing venom, but by spreading knowledge and understanding. If you don’t, all the words ring hollow. There are many talented and driven individuals in the fire service. Given the proper format – by keeping the message positive and not sharp-shooting – we can move everyone along together.

    It’s a family, right?

    Leadership and learning go hand in hand.

    Mark S. vonAppen
    Palo Alto Fire Department


  5. Dennis Chaney says :

    All I can say is PLEASE keep up the good work. I have learned from this site and have shared ideas from this site. Been in the fire service for over 20 years and I never stop learning. As a matter a fact I just finished a truck company academy taught by 2 FDNY LT’s yesterday. Learned more about truck ops from a 3 day class than I ever knew before. So keep writing and throw in your opinion when ever you want. We do!


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