Back from FDIC 2013. A mental recharge and a motivational springboard. A short, visual review.
On September 11th, 2012, my wife and I participated in the Colorado 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. I had been planning on writing a longer post about the event, but it would still ultimately fall short of sufficiently describing the experience. I’ll leave you with a handful of words and images instead…
I climbed in memory of FF Lincoln Quappe of Rescue 2. The participants gathered in the parking lot below the amphitheatre, beside retired FDNY Rescue 4. As the pipes and drums played at the foot of the towering rocks which frame the amphitheatre, and we prepared to climb before a beautiful mountain backdrop, the morning stood as the antithesis of the day which we were remembering. The only commonality…110 stories. Beyond that, we can never truly understand the unfathomable circumstances that met the Brothers that day.
There were 72 fire departments represented from 11 different states, along with law enforcement, members of the armed forces, relatives of 9/11 victims, and supportive civilians.
In all, 1,700 gathered to climb the stairs in remembrance. A staggering number for an event like this.
Yet, only a fraction of the number of lives lost on that day, eleven years ago.
Thank you to the Brother who took the time to make us feel welcome on what was surely a busy morning, and thank you to the family who allowed us the honor and privilege of joining them that evening.
Back to the Updates this week. It has been a busy one…
1.) Lt. Lemon gets “Combat Ready”
I hit the road with ELAFF HQ Training Captain “Stumpy” Doerr on Monday morning for a little learning session. Thanks to the Salisbury (NC) Fire Department and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Ricky Riley and Nick Martin of Traditions Training, LLC brought the “Combat Ready Firefighting” class to NC for the first time…and it was FREE for ALL North Carolina firefighters. How great is that? The room was full of Brothers and Sisters who made the trip (hours long for some) to gather ideas to take back to their departments. The 8 hour class was excellent and I walked out feeling incredibly motivated. I had the opportunity to meet Jonah Smith of The Hose Jockey, as well as West McBride of HPFirefighter.com, in person for the first time. They are both great guys. Jonah was so popular that Chief Riley even mentioned him mid-lecture, while looking for “the Charlotte guy, that radio geek”. Don’t worry, that’s a self-professed name.
All in all, it was a great class. Very motivational and straight-forward (despite the constant murmur of Charlotte firemen who were all jacked up on Sun Drop and Chick-fil-a sweet tea).
To cap it all off, Salisbury FD ran three reported structure fires through the duration of the class. Only one turned out to be a worker…the one with NOTHING SHOWING. There’s no better way to drive home the need to be “combat ready” and to “expect fire”.
I can’t wait for the premiere of the newest Traditions Training class, “Nick Martin presents: The Art of the Combat Ready 2.5″ leader line”.
“Salka: Wear your radio – don’t carry it. No other better way to wear a radio.”
“Removing gasses and steam with a hose line isn’t ventilation. It’s smoke removal. It comes AFTER the fire is knocked down and out. We shouldn’t be buying nozzles for their ability to perform this task because it’s secondary.”
“Did you know the asphalt machine is 12′ wide? If you see the seam in the road you got 24′ across – How wide is your truck? Jacks in; jacks out. Using the clues in your surroundings to be a great truck operator.”
“You don’t have to take an 8 hour class on reading smoke to know that when you arrive and there is grey smoke at the ceiling and then a few moments later there is dark brown smoke down to the floor you’re in deep doggy do-do!”
“Talking to guys in the crowd from DCFD about number of runs Gustin asks: ‘By the way what is the name of your fire department today? Well that must be GREAT for morale.’ ”
“It’s not just enough to bleed the line; you gotta open that bale all the way and make sure your gun is loaded.”
“Bill Gustin ‘You will never make it in todays fire service my friend, you have too much common sense.’ “
I am definitely planning on trying to make at least one day of AFTD next year. You should, too.
3.) Kentland Expectations
The guys of First Due Questions had the chance to stop in at Kentland 33 this week. They snapped a shot of a board displaying the “Expectations” of Kentland officers and firemen. They are universally applicable:
That’s all for this week. I’m slowly working out of my existential crisis and getting back into the swing of sarcasm. I may still throw up a personal post or two…bear with me. Thanks for reading.
Pete (Lt. Lemon)
Well, Leather-freaks…it’s time. We currently have over 1,100 Facebook followers. Adding in Twitter followers of both ELAFF-associated accounts and direct email subscribers on the blog, we reach closer to 1,400 people…maybe 1,500. No matter the exact number, we have far more followers than I ever imagined we would and the ELAFF community is growing daily. We aren’t going to beg you for “likes” and grovel for followers anymore. That isn’t what ELAFF is about, and it was beginning to get on my own nerves.
So, let’s give some stuff away, so that we can get back to the serious content of the ELAFF movement.
We are actually going to be running two contests. You all should know about the MN8 Products giveaway, so we’ll discuss the other contest first.
The “Guess the Location of ELAFF HQ” Contest
Over the past two years, ELAFF has been distributing “sound fire service ideas with a satirical twist” to an ever-growing audience. Facebook fans range from Alaska to Alabama, along with some international fans. Through all of this, we have maintained strict secrecy over the location of ELAFF HQ and our true identities. It has worked, and the blacked-out photos are fun, but we have reached the limits of what we can accomplish “undercover”. As some formerly anonymous bloggers have said, “Anonymity is overrated.” It is time to give it up. We are going public.
Of course, we can’t simply show our faces and post our names. This is ELAFF. We are still Lt. Lemon and Capt. Chaos. We’re going to have some fun with this unveiling.
This contest will be for the followers who haven’t been clued into the whereabouts of our hide-out. We are interested to see how well we’ve hidden our identities, but this means we have to set some limitations.
If you meet any of the following criteria, you will not be eligible for this contest (don’t worry, you can still win some Foxfire gear):
- If you have met either Lt. Lemon or Capt. Chaos in person. (Our memories are photographic…we remember EVERYONE.)
- If you are our friend on either of our personal FB pages.
- If you have received a Lemon Wedge in the mail. (Sorry, you’ve seen my return address…but you have a Lemon Wedge!)
- If you are relatively familiar with anyone who meets the above criteria, or we think you had an unfair advantage.
How To Enter:
Enter your name, email address, and guess of where ELAFF HQ is. You can give a vague guess, like the West Coast or the Northeast, or you can give a more detailed guess, like a state or city.
The winners will be the entrants with the three closest, and most specific, guesses.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nearest guesses will win a Limited Edition Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lemon Wedge, respectively.
Capt. Chaos and I also plan on throwing in other random goodies from ELAFF HQ. There is no telling what those will consist of, but they will be worth it.
This contest will run until 9pm PST on March 2, 2012.
**If you know who we are and you let the secret out, I’ll give you a high-five to the face.**
The MN8 Products Giveaway
The only requirement for this contest is that you must “like” the ELAFF FB page and the MN8 Products FB page. The contest entry form should allow you to do this when you enter. Everyone is eligible except for Capt. Chaos and myself.
How To Enter:
You may enter once per day, until the contest ends.
This contest will end at 9pm PST on March 2, 2012.
There you have it…you may begin entering now.
When you think about brotherhood, what comes to mind? Do you think about firefighting, and the brotherhood built on living together, laughing, crying and fighting fire together? Do you think about those in the armed forces, fighting, bleeding and dying together? Do you think of police officers, upholding the laws of the land together, and keeping society from falling into a caveman state of lawlessness? Do you think of team sports, striving to be the best and winning the title or big ring together? There are many forms of Brotherhood. All of which are bonds forged in different fires, struggles, and triumphs. Bonds are strengthened, and bonds are broken. Brothers and sisters come and go, for one reason or another. I’ve been contemplating something over the past few weeks as I have hit a bit of a writer’s block in my postings. I was not sure how I wanted to approach what I want to talk about, and to be frank, I’m writing this now still a little un-sure. So I will begin, with this: How can we make Brotherhood better?
Again, I am going to be frank. If you don’t like a little rough language, stop reading right here. As always, I don’t hold back what I say, because it’s how I feel. It’s what I am passionate about. And I’ve been considering what I’m about to talk about, and whether or not I’m going to be able to stick with it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, something I hate. But its something I want to try my absolute best at, and I want you the reader, to try with me. Every morning, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and some type of breakfast in the other, I sit and listen. I talk too, but I like to sit and listen. And it’s not just around the kitchen table, its in the bay, it’s during training, it’s here and there. At some point in the day, SOMEONE is the topic of conversation. And you know what topic im talking about. Who is saying what, who’s done this, who’s a shit head. Lets be honest with ourselves, its like a damn sewing circle sometimes. Sometimes, that one person drives us absolutely crazy. Their personality clashes with yours like a freaking meteor crashing to earth, and were talking wrath of God crash too. Maybe you think their lazy, maybe you think they love the taste of the chief’s sweet ass on their lips. The reasons are as long as the reasons people get out of the service. I did a little research on the topic of “talking shit” about other people, and finally found what I was looking for. A Brotherhood that don’t talk shit.
I don’t know much about freemasons. I know it’s a pretty old secretive society. But you don’t hear much about what goes on there, and what their rules are. But I did find some stuff on the Internet that was very helpful in what I wanted to get across. I completely lost my reference, though, I remember what I read of it. The passage in one of their many books had to do with not talking about another Mason in a manner that you wouldn’t speak to that mason directly to his face. Furthermore, if you cannot speak to a mason in a way that isnt in a reasonably courteous manner, then do not speak to that mason at all. In a way, it’s the ol’ Golden rule on treating people like you would have them treat you, but its taken to another level. If you can’t speak of someone well, then keep your mouth shut. This is a rule of Masonry that is taken very seriously, and punished harshly if broken. It continued on to explain how the state of society today is due to everyone speaking in a manner unfit for creatures of God. Now you may already be thinking of people you don’t like, people you talk about on a regular basis, and think to yourself “I’m not going to quit talking about this guy, because the fire service would be better without them”. I’m not asking you to stop talking about people, at least not at this second, I’m asking you to think about this: How much better would our brotherhood be if we could be better human beings toward each other.
But what about the people you’ve spoken about in the past Capt. Chaos? What about the Bung holes who take up seats on trucks with sorry asses?!? I’m not saying this rule is going to change that. More like, make a better approach to how you speak to, or of, someone. In a brotherhood where a rule like this is the norm…. Silence is Damning. Now think of that person you think is a waste of your precious air. Another firefighter walks up and says, what do you think about that guy over there, the one that’s always sleeping? Instead of your normal, F*$U THAT F&*I#KER IN THE F(*#$ F(@#*$ F(@*#(*@#$(*@#$ F!……F!, you politely look at the person speaking to you, and say nothing. In fact, after they are sure you have heard the question they asked you, politely change the subject. See? Silence is Damning. When everyone around you can find nothing good of you to say…. perhaps, just perhaps it’s not them….. its you. Remember part of the rule, if you can’t speak to them in a manner befitting the brotherhood, you shouldnt talk to someone at all? If this person approaches you and wishes to have a conversation and you can not find a way to speak to them politely…. then don’t. Turn and walk away. Hows that for a shot in the arm on how the guys think of you? They can’t even find a way to speak to you? Again: is it you?
After thinking about this for a long while, I decided not to be hypocritical and post this, without giving it a try. Luckily, thus far, I’ve not had to outright ignore anymore….. yet. But I do have someone in mind, I wont talk about him. But that has not stopped everyone else, and when the topic has come up, I’ve remained silent. No one has really noticed….. you know what…. .I just thought of someone else…. HA! Anyways, no ones noticed me abstaining from keeping the conversation going, but I honestly think they may eventually catch on. It takes…. Jeez it takes A LOT…. to get ME to not look at things positively. Even if I remain silent on your abilities, knowledge and commitment to the fire service, I’ll find something good about you. I WILL find something good in you, even if it kills me. But I’m digressing here….
What do you think? Do you think you can accept Capt. Chaos’ challenge to you? Hell, make it a new years resolution. Tell everyone you know, at the house, at work, what ever where ever, to read this blog. Make an honest to goodness attempt to STOP talking badly of others. If you can’t speak well of someone, change the conversation all together. People will catch on…. it might take some time, but they will catch on. As for me, I’ve actually enjoyed to experiment. I’ve been Frank to people, but I’ve been frank with a little bit of conservatism. Im not going to tell someone out right that I think you’re a lazy stain on the mattress, but I may Frankly bring up the subject that I think we need to do something about the stain on the mattress you have become. Ive not had to worry about speaking to someone I don’t want to…. I just don’t. They pass me by, get the grumpy coffee, and leave. I don’t have to say good morning, because I don’t care if they have a good morning, because people like you just bring MY morning down. Well…. It’s an Idea anyways. Please, be my guest and give it a try. Tell me what you think about it…. better yet, give it a try to tell me how it’s worked for you!
Stay tuned in guys, we’ve been cooking up some ideas here at the HQ, and trust me…. TRUST me, you’re not going to want to miss out!
As always, Ride Hard, and keep your front to the fire!
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 Statter911.com 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.
That’s right. The title is referring to the Fire Service Brotherhood. Before you amass a posse and begin an assault on ELAFF HQ, I ask that you read this post to the last word. After that, please share your opinions…positive or negative.
I’ve been working on this post for a few months now. Until recently, it was merely a set of scattered ideas, floating around in my mind without a central focus to tether them all together. This week, I found my focus. A group of firefighters in Georgia uploaded a video to Youtube, showing an outrageous “rookie prank” which they carried out.
Here is the video:
My immediate thought after viewing this video was,”Wow…these guys are crazy!”
I planned on leaving it at that, with no further comment. As usual, I continued to follow the chatter on Statter911. I enjoy observing the varying opinions of Statter’s readers, and their reactions towards one another. The comments began to follow two, distinct paths.
The overwhelming majority of comments voiced disgust and disapproval. Those are the comments I agree with. The small number of opposing comments accosted the dissenters with accusations of overreaction and over-sensitivity.
I fail to see the supposed “innocence” of this “prank”. Ask any ELAFF Local and they will tell you that I am a supporter of firehouse fun and harmless tom-foolery. This prank, however, crossed the line. It may have caused mental trauma to the recipient, and even more likely, it could have resulted in serious injury or death. Don’t believe it? I’ll explain…
What if an off-duty member, carrying a legal and permitted concealed weapon, stopped by the station for a visit? How about a local law enforcement officer seeking a cup of coffee and some small talk. The city that this department protects has seen an increase in violent crime in recent years. If an armed firefighter or law officer entered the station to find his comrades being forced to the floor by a masked gunman, they would most likely react quickly. If they had entered the room as the firecrackers exploded, sounding like gunfire and adding to the realism of the mock execution, I’m sure they would have reacted aggressively. The ironic tragedy of a mock gunman being shot by an uninformed hero would have changed the tone of those supportive comments, and silenced any laughter.
Now, back to the Brotherhood and the focus of this post. There was one comment that veered to the extreme end of the supportive spectrum. It immediately struck a nerve and spurred me to tie those scattered ideas into a solid post. Here it is verbatim:
“You guys are such negative nancy’s. What happened to the brotherhood in the fire department? You are all too busy trying to throw them under the bus. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? As far as the prank being dangerous? I hate to tell you but F.D. Doesn’t mean fire department, but rather freaking dangerous.”
What happened to brotherhood? It doesn’t exist…it is a lie. At least, the “brotherhood” of which this comment speaks is a lie. It seems to be increasingly common for newer members of the fire service to EXPECT the brotherhood. They believe that as soon as they get some bunker gear, they are a solid link in the chain of fire service brethren…and that this link can never be severed. Nope. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The TRUE brotherhood between firefighters must be earned, and to keep it, you must stay true to the profession. You can get your issued t-shirt, or pager, or union decal for your truck…but that doesn’t make you a Brother. Don’t get me wrong. Senior firefighters should be there for the rookies. They should answer their questions, mentor them, even give them a little razzing when they get too cocky. Don’t shun the new guys, but make sure they know that they still have something to prove before they fully become a Brother.
Earning a place in the Brotherhood doesn’t require a working fire and an act of heroism, either. I recall a firehouse visit by a German fireman(feuerwehrmann). He spoke little English and had never stepped foot in our house before. We began to tour the station and apparatus; through broken English, hand signals, and my very basic understanding of German (thanks to my German roots) we began to communicate. His “detailed” questions about hose lays, pump rate, equipment, and tactics shone brightly through the language barrier. This was a Brother. He knew firefighting. He lived it. He didn’t leave it behind like a businessman on vacation. He didn’t ask lame questions about flashing lights and sirens. With less than 50 actual, spoken words…he EARNED my trust…and proved his status as a Brother. I assume that by gladly sharing our house and rigs, and by answering his questions with enthusiasm, pride, and knowledge…we earned HIS trust, as well.
Being a member of the Brotherhood goes beyond joining the department and wearing a t-shirt. It is more complex than simply wearing a pager and has no correlation to the amount of lights on your P.O.V. Being a member of the Brotherhood is about looking out for your Brothers. Putting them, and the civilians you protect, before yourself…and not just on the fireground. Being a Brother requires constant training. Brothers drop the remote and pick up the weights, so that they’ll be prepared for the next call. They take a break from talking about football at the kitchen table, so that they can run through a scenario or critique a previous call. Brothers take part in as much training as possible, even the courses that AREN’T required by the department. They spend spare time going over the rigs, looking for subtle changes which could make the next run flow a bit smoother. To Brothers, the fire service is more than a way to earn a paycheck, or a way to pick up chicks. It takes dedication and commitment to be a Brother. For that reason, not EVERY fire department member is a TRUE Brother Firefighter.
Too often these days, when news of a misbehaving firefighter hits the internet, some whacker-troll jumps out of the shadows screaming about the “brotherhood”. The idiots in Georgia may have been Brothers last week. Then, they pulled this “prank” and posted it on Youtube. They endangered themselves and made their department (and therefore the ENTIRE American fire service) a joke. They disgraced the Brotherhood, and thereby forfeited their privilege as a member. Yes, “privilege”. Not “right”. IF they are allowed to remain in this profession, they will have to EARN that privilege again.
To simply defend their actions because of the “brotherhood” is ridiculous. If a rogue firefighter decides to light a random house on fire for kicks, would you stand behind his actions because he’s a “brother”? What if he inadvertently killed somebody; would you support his act of arson under the veil of “brotherhood”? What if the victim was ALSO a “brother” firefighter?
I’ll stand by my Brothers through a lot, but when they start breaking laws and endangering lives, they go against the very morals that hold the Brotherhood together. I can’t consider someone like that a Brother, and I doubt they were ever one to begin with. If they had time to plan an elaborate stunt like the one above, then they also had time to train or hit the gym. They chose not to, and therefore chose to avoid the Brotherhood.
I have no problem with somebody supporting the “gunman pranksters” above. If you think it was a harmless prank, fair enough. If you think that no harm was done, fine.
Just don’t use the Brotherhood as your default defense. To some of us, it has a meaning which runs deeper than your superficial understanding.
(Credit to the following blogs for extra motivation and inspiration on this post: Jason Jefferies’ Working the Job, Chris Brennan’s Fire Service Warrior, and Taj Meyers’ QueenCityBurns. Read those posts.)