A little over a year ago, I had a short talk with a colleague about how we track our progress in fireground skills. When I was just a volunteer/part-timer, I realized that I simply couldn’t equal the skill acquisition of a career firefighter by training just one night a week. Even a mediocre full-timer would perform certain tasks more often through the course of 10 shifts per month. So, I started a log to record every time that I performed critical skills (stretch a line, throw a ladder, force a door, gloved mask-ups) during training or on the fireground. This helped me hold myself accountable, so that I could supplement those instances with additional repetitions on my own. The goal was to perform each skill a certain number of times every month, even if it wasn’t required during drills or calls. I continued logging reps after getting a career position. Although the need to supplement decreased, it still keeps me honest about how frequently I perform certain skills.
My colleague said that he did something similar and asked if I ever worked fireground skills into or around my workout program. For instance, practicing gloved mask-ups after completing some tough conditioning to simulate stress or cleaning ladders instead of a barbell. I told him that I occasionally worked out in gear, but that I didn’t really follow a “program”. I ran once or twice a month if I felt like it. I occasionally did push-up/pull-up circuits. Sometimes I’d do barbell work. However, there was no rhyme or reason behind it.
Later on, the hypocrisy of that statement weighed on me. “I don’t follow a workout program.” I was willing to spend so much time gathering knowledge of the trade and developing the skill necessary to apply it on the fireground. I had a binder of articles and notes from conferences. I had a notebook tallying every time I threw a ladder in the past year. Yet, I wasn’t willing to commit to a standardized program aimed at improving my physical fitness, the very attribute that would allow me to perform various physically demanding skills in quick succession and under stress.
I’ve always been a good distance runner. Endurance work is my safe space. If I decided to workout, I would almost always go for a run. I was good at running. It was easy. It was comfortable. Meanwhile, my strength was terrible and my anaerobic conditioning was only average, as I rarely pushed myself. I let the fact that I was skinny and could run far convince me that I was fit enough. I settled. Worse yet, I had a poor view of coworkers who were “out of shape”. How could I feel disdain toward others for not working to improve themselves if I wasn’t working to improve myself, as well? Rather than focusing on their shortcomings, I should have been pointing out mine. Working to be better than I was yesterday, in all aspects, and nothing more.
Last December, I changed that. I started following a standard, progressive program. I committed to three strength workouts per week and three conditioning workouts per week, regardless of my work schedule or other events. I try to get up early to fit my workout in before life’s distractions can get in the way. Sometimes I have to squeeze it in at night. Other days, I have to double-up on workouts. Either way, I get it done. I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m continually getting stronger and faster. Plus, I feel better on the job and in general.
As individual attributes; knowledge, skill, or fitness alone will only get us so far. In order to truly excel in this trade, we have to take a holistic approach. We must work to improve in all aspects of the craft, even the areas that aren’t comfortable for us. A fact that I’m still working on myself. Drive on and do good work.
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.
“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:
Go read them now…
February 11th, 2012
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the creation of the ELAFF Facebook page.
Two years ago, an inside joke at the firehouse led to the creation of Excessive Leather Accessories for Firefighters. What started out as a place to post funny videos for ELAFF locals soon became a tool to spread USEFUL posts, articles, and ideas. Somehow, random firefighters from across the nation began to stumble upon this little “gag page”, and our following began growing rapidly. My posts on Facebook began to get lengthier and last year, after much prodding, ELAFFHQ.com became a reality. Captain Chaos joined in the venture and we’ve been tweaking things ever since. We now have over 800 Facebook “likes”, along with a small amount of Twitter followers and email subscribers. Through this endeavor, we’ve had the opportunity to network with some great names in the fire service, of whom I have a tremendous amount of respect and would never have expected to come in contact with otherwise.
Lt. Lemon and Capt. Chaos at a recent mutual training event.
Alas, as the movement grows, we must grow with it.
We have a big overhaul to make here on the site, but this is ELAFF and Lt. Lemon and Capt. Chaos don’t do anything subtly.
We don’t want this big change to be simply about ELAFF. We want community involvement in our posts and ELAFF in general, so MN8 Products has stepped up and offered some awesome, glowing, Foxfire accessories to give away as part of a “blog overhaul” contest. We’ll also be offering up a few, special ELAFF prizes.
Here’s the catch…
As part of getting these freebies to give away, we have to reach a large enough audience. We’ve never begged for followers before, and we really aren’t begging now, but before we can start the contest and “overhaul” we have to reach 1,500 Facebook “likes”. This will be the one and only instance where we grovel for “likes”. I promise.
We gained nearly 200 “likes” in a 48 hour period this past week…getting less than 700 more should be no problem.
Thus begins ELAFF’s one and only “pledge drive”. We’ll have more details on the prizes, contest, and overhaul once we reach 1,500.
Share, comment, and complain away…
Thanks for reading,