Archive For March 30, 2014

“A Great Fireman”

“A Great Fireman”

FrontSeatIn these days of text, email and Face Book the phone call has surprisingly become less common and therefore has seemingly been elevated to a more personal level of communication.

I just spent about an hour on the phone with a good friend.  The conversation began with talk of a recent trip he took with his wife, my trip to Texas, and various “catching up” chatter. While important, as it had been some time since we last talked, it really just served as the warm up and foundation for the real reason for the call.

I can’t say my friend and I go way back, but over the relatively short time we have known each other  a deep respect and good conversation has led to a dependable and honest  point of reference for both of us. We are at very different places; geographically, professionally and personally however these differences are much the reason why our perspectives are so appreciated by one another. 

As the conversation continued we began to get into the heart of the matter, the how we are really doing beyond our superficial day to day routines. I shared my struggles, and he his frustrations. Those in our community understand how this goes. Our intense and passionate personalities can beat ourselves unrelentingly for our short comings or twist the complete lack of effort and interest of our coworkers into despise, introspection and projection at a high degree.

As expected, and now depended, our two different places brought each other back to balance. The lamenting and venting subsided and we approached a close with the seemingly natural path of progression; a sort of “where I want to be” this only reopened the discussion.

My friend told me that at one point he really wanted to “be somebody”. He said that he was glad had out grown that, because now he has realized he would just be happy to be considered a “great fireman” someday.

I know what he means; as appropriately humble individuals all we really want is the respect of our peers, but because I trust him, believe in him and I am comfortable being honest with him I challenged this definition a bit, and he did too.

IPhone 564We began to consider what some of our coworkers consider to be a great fireman, knowing full well what they see is not what we see. Also knowing how much of what is “seen” is how they see it.

  • He was a “great fireman”, he put in 30 years, always did what was asked, kept his mouth shut and never needed to promote.
  • He was a “great fireman”, not a fire cracker in the station but he worked like a mule on the fire scene. “One time he took out every window on the second floor of this fire with a ladder right before it lit off, it was awesome”
  • He was a “great fireman”, kept the rig and the station in pristine condition and was an excellent cook.
  • He was a “great fireman” he could fix anything, dishwasher, lawn mower, snow plow, in fact he even came over to my house one day and got my truck running in 5 minutes after I had been working on it for hours.

The funny thing about these makings of a great fireman; from complete conformist, to completely dangerous and possibly even completely unrelated is what the other side of the spectrum is for our coworkers?

  • prideThat guy is such a tool, he even has his own halligan
  • That guy is such a nerd he sits at the computer and watches YouTube videos of some laboratory fire experiments. “Have you never been called to a fire in a laboratory?”
  • That guy is a pain in the ass! He needs to give it a rest already, it isn’t that complicated. “I have never been to a fire that didn’t go out.”
  • That guy keeps wanting to change everything. “He has no respect for the way we have always done it”

While all this is all cliche, the point is that what makes a “great fireman” is subjective. What I consider being a “great fireman”, may just ensure that I am remembered as the “pain in the ass nerd with his own tool that wants to change everything.”

We cannot know what others consider to be a great fireman and we should not work to be a great fireman for others. If we want to be remembered as a “great fireman” we need to know what that means to us and those we respect, then we must live. Only then can we look back at the end of a career or that point where the life flashes before our eyes and take in that one second of pride we will allow ourselves to believe that we were a great fireman.

By the time we had hashed out the various perceptions of greatness, the mood was once again light and we realized it was late. The conversation came to a somewhat quick close with a “be good brother, I will talk to you soon”

What was missing from that closing is the respect for our duty and the understanding of the modern world. I might shoot him a text, email or like a Face Book post but I may not actually speak with him a soon as I should. As I sit here on duty tonight and him heading into shift tomorrow there is always the chance that our service calls upon us to give all and we never have the opportunity to talk again as was the case in Boston last week.

While it may be strange, as we have never actually worked a rig together and only known each other for a couple years I will call him tomorrow morning and tell him I think he is a great fireman. He will more than likely be very confused by this and harass me appropriately as any great fireman should, but that is not the point. What I believe is a great fireman may not match his view, but I know what he meant with his first statement and I want him to know before his last day on the job or on this earth that he has my respect today and he can rest assured that he will not have to wait “to be considered a great fireman someday”. 

Kilgore Spring Training

Kilgore Spring Training

Last year following a class atSpring Training 2014 Kilgore-page-0 FDIC Kilgore Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Simmons approached me about bringing some training to East Texas but at the time he wasn’t too sure on where or how to host a conference. A few months later Chief Simmons got exactly what he was looking for but it may not have come quite how he had wanted it to. This winter the Kilgore Fire Department took over operations and control at the Meadow Brook Golf Course, you can read about it, the reason and process here (fire department to take over golf course) When the Chief called me and explained the situation I recall asking him why would you ever want to take over a golf course as the fire department? His answer was simple and upstanding “It is what we do, we help people and our city needed help” In less than 6 months the fire department had returned the golf course to a positive piece of the city. Business is up for the course, firefighter renovations to the event hosting areas has both increased usage and provided the fire department with a venue to host larger classes and trainings including this first regional conference which I was proud to be a part of.


IMG_6242The most unique part of the fire department involvement at the golf course is the complete overhaul of the onsite restaurant. On March 1st the Kilgore Fire Department opened the Firehouse Bar and Grill at the Golf Course, the link to the article about that is here (Firehouse Bar and Grill opens in Kilgore) At this time both on and off duty firefighters are helping out in the restaurant which has been incredibly successful. The response has helped  them to hire more restaurant specific staff and take the load of of career firefighters. Because the firefighters are on duty they are not allowed to collect tips but the appreciation for their service is not going to waste and all tips collected are put towards charitable funds. I can’t say that this would work in every city, or even any other city but I can say is that the Kilgore Fire Department took some lemons and turned it into lemonade and right now they are arguably the most popular group in the city.

With the acquisition of the golf course, event center, the restaurant and support of his Chief and the City, Chief Simmons had all he needed to host a conference. On March 14th we kicked off the 1st Annual Kilgore Spring Training aimed at bringing training to East Texas career and volunteer departments in a convenient location at a low cost. Over the 3 days I presented 4 classes and 1 hands on training session with the help of Kilgore Firefighters. Each session saw over 40 firefighters and 10 departments were represented in attendance over the course of the weekend. The feedback on the training, venue and the Kilgore Fire Department was very positive and I had a great time. The atmosphere in East Texas was very welcoming and the firefighters were a proud bunch eager to challenge themselves.

If you attended the event Chief Simmons now has all the presentations on file and you can contact him for that material. If you did not attend this year but would like to know about upcoming events in Kilgore or want to contact Chief Mike Simmons about bringing classes to Kilgore you can reach him by email at

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Pinning the Line

Pinning the Line

ANDY21996 was the year I entered the fire service as a volunteer, this was also the first year I read an article by Andy Fredericks. In his 1996 2 ½” Handline article for Fire Engineering Andy laid a foundation of support for an incredibly efficient weapon which at the time and in years following was largely falling out of favor in the American fire service. I would encourage you to revisit his piece as it bears repeating and expands on those topics which he explains much better than I could.

 Within that article Andy presented not only reasons but also techniques for making the 2 ½” handline a more readily available weapon for your engine company and one of those techniques was “pinning the line”. As I am sure anyone who has had to have the 2 ½” handline debate, staffing is one of the first hurdles to overcome.

When you move up from an 1 ¾” attack line with the 15/16tip and a flow of 185 GPM at 50 PSI (nozzle reaction of 66lbs) to the 2 ½” attack line with a 1 1/8” tip and a flow of 266 GPM at 50 Psi your nozzle reaction is also increased to around 96lbs. This jump in nozzle reaction force of about 30 pounds theoretically requires 3 firefighters on the line to manage those forces. This theory is based on the works of Paul Grimmwood on the abilities of firefighters to manage nozzle reaction. Since most handlines in the American fire service are being operated by two firefighters this becomes a quick ticket out on the big line……”we don’t have the staffing”

pining the linePhoto by Matt Daly

The first time I saw the technique of “pinning the line” was in that 1996 article in this photo by Matt Daly. Andy explains the method as the backup man pinning the hose to the ground using his hands and knees which allows the nozzle man to “freely operate and move the nozzle without the undue stress of the nozzle reaction.”

“Pinning the line” is a method to direct the nozzle reaction forces into the ground or walls instead of the muscles and frame of the firefighters. By applying this method we can counter reaction forces with technique instead of man power.


328 GPM from the 1 1/4″ Tip managed by a single firefighter

Over the years I have learned various forms of this technique. In 2005 while in Boise Idaho, Jay Commella and Daryl Liggins of the Oakland Fire Department presented a technique of pinning the line as a single firefighter by using your knee in place of the backup man. The key is ensuring that you maintain plenty of hose in front of you so small movements at the base (you) will keep the now common foundation and operator  solid while getting maximum stream movement and use. After sharing this technique with several crews and groups I began to hear chatter that the knee on the hose method was “fine for the outside but not for the interior firefight”.

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To counter that argument I present the fact that my overall profile in using a knee on the hose or traditional stance with the line is relatively the same, however if you insist on traditional stream positioning you can still utilize methods of pinning the line to absorb reaction forces.

Here the stream is maintained upward and the line directly behind so that energy is transmitted down the line and into the ground.

backThis is a look at a method specifically for the interior where the line is brought through the legs and pinned to an interior wall to take the reaction forces off the nozzle man.

photo15Finally we are back to the most traditional of attacks, two on the line pushing in. The backup man supporting directly behind the nozzle position by taking the nozzle reaction to the friction and collection point of the ground. All the while 250 to 325GPM is being thrown as far as 60’ ahead of this two person crew.

pinning the lineEffective – Efficient –  High Caliber – Safe

1st Annual Terry Fund Colorado Training Symposium

1st Annual Terry Fund Colorado Training Symposium

Terry Fund CO MarchI have been fortunate to have worked with the Colorado Chapter of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund for the last 3 years and their work continues to impress. The fund exists to provide immediate no red tape funding to firefighters and departments in Colorado for emergencies, hardships, training or equipment. In just 3 years the fund has donated over $80,000 to Colorado Firefighters which has been raised through events which span from their annual firefighters ball to 9/11 and St. Patrick’s day fundraisers and frequent trainings through the educational series.

This weekend the fund took the educational series one step further and held the first Colorado Training Symposium and it was outstanding. The focus of the event was on recent UL information and current discussion on the topic of ventilation.

Top level instructors like Van Dorpe, Ceriello, Norwood and Gray provided different views on a similar topic from their varying department size and operation, geographic location and individual experience. Even the hands on forcible entry classes from Irons and Ladders stressed the importance of how solid conventional forcible entry techniques preserve the door and allow for improved vent point control. In total over 250 firefighter representing 46 departments from 4 states attended events this weekend and I believe they all left with not only a better understanding of the new information but with options and tools to take it back to their organizations specific operations and cultures.

I was lucky enough to lead off the conference on Friday with my 4 hour Ventilation Principles ans Practices class which allowed me to spend the rest of the weekend taking in the other great classes and even forcing some doors. Thanks again to all who attended and especially to the Brothers at the Terry Fund who put together a top notch event from classes to camaraderie.

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