Many of you have followed the challenges currently faced by the Detroit Fire Department. For a first hand look about the how the city of Detroit is seen by it’s firefighters, take a few minutes and watch the preview of the documentary BURN.
BURN Trailer (2009, Original) from BURN on Vimeo.
It’s one thing to watch these videos, it’s another thing to actually walk a day in their boots. I had this incredible opportunity last week when I was given the second opportunity in four months to ride with the Detroit Fire Department. The more firefighters I meet, the more I realize how similar we all are. It seems like every station has the same guys, just different faces. This was no different in Detroit except for one thing; attitude. Life is not about what happens to us, it’s how you react to it. It seems like no matter how many lemons these men are faced with they always manage to turn them in to lemonade. My personal department and I’m sure many others around this country, could learn quite a bit from the DFD about the power of positive attitude.
In between runs, on my visit a few months ago, one of the men showed me a very cool t-shirt they had designed. I could not resist seeing if they would let us make a Foxfire illuminating version of the shirt. Last week on my 24 hour ride-a-long I had the opportunity to present the shirts to the men of the “Big House.” They could not have been more excited. Next time you are in the Detroit area and see glowing green eyes looking at you through the dark you can relax knowing that it is not a possessed pit bull but rather one of the guys from the DFD !
Detroit was once was once one of the crown jewels of our country and the epitome of the second industrial revolution. Looking out of the back of the fire truck, the sights reminded me more of Beruit than a major US city. I can understand the poverty, the amount of vacant buildings and crime in these neighborhoods but what I can’t understand how the city's politicians could possibly neglect our brother Detroit firefighters. We have all seen politicians turn their backs on firefighters all over the country but what is happening in Detroit is unconscionable. Their gear, tools and trucks are in such a state of disrepair that I couldn’t believe my eyes.
This treatment from the politicians was best summarized by a cartoon hanging on a bulletin board in their quarters. I couldn't resist take a picture.
To add insult to injury, they recently laid off and demoted several firefighters that I have met over the last few months. Regardless of these hardships, the DFD has one thing that the city can’t take away from them; attitude. The gear, trucks, and tools didn’t seem to bother these men as they charged into burning buildings and put wet stuff on the red stuff faster and more efficiently than few other departments around. I had a first hand view of them in action as they let me join their crew over 24 hours. I saw more fire and action in those 24 hours than most department typically sees in a few months. These men didn't seem to let ANY of their hardships get in the way of them providing outstanding service to their community.
I shared some pictures of my 24 hours with these valiant warriors on Facebook and was impressed by how quickly the posts racked up. Mike McCarthy of the Black Hat Radio show saw some my posts and wanted to share the story of how incredible these role models are to all of us in the fire service. Mike was so moved to hear about my experiences that he actually did a live interview with both me and my sponsor Sgt. John Edwards.
Black Hat Radio Podomatic
Black Hat Radio -Facebook
Another reply was from Troy Mutch, one of Foxfire’s most trusted and best distributors. Troy works for Commercial Solution-First Responders in Edmonton, Canada. Edmonton’s economy has been booming over the years thanks to the Alberta oil sands and their firefighters have the best of the best when it comes to equipment. Commercial Solutions has certainly reaped the benefits of the generous budgets of the Canadian fire service. Troy is a firefighter above all else and he wanted to help his brothers in need, even if they were thousands of miles away and in another country. Troy could not believe that firefighters actually fought fire in this condition of gear.
Commercial Solutions-First Responders
Commercial Solutions- First Responders Facebook
When Troy saw a few of my posts about my ride along, he did what a true brother should do. He not only helped, he did something that left all of us both speechless and awestruck. Troy spoke with the men of Squad 5 and is donating 15+ pairs of brand new Black Diamond boots and personal bail out kits. Even though he lives in another country, the bonds of brotherhood inspired him so much that he could not turn his back on his firefighters in need. After hearing about this generous donation, one of the firefighters pulled me aside and with tears in his eyes and talked about how much they appreciated this very generous gesture. He stated that he dreads putting his old rubber boots on because they are always wet due to cracks and excessive wear. His boots have caused him continual foot problems as a result. I can’t wait to hear how he feels after trying out his new Black Diamonds. Troy is definitely his brother's keeper.
As I drove home to Cincinnati the next morning, I thought about how much I learned from this trip. I learned that brotherhood is blind when it comes to race, distance and nationality. I learned that it doesn’t matter how hard you get hit, it’s how fast you get back up. Detroit has taken a few body blows but the shoulders of the Detroit Fire Department are more than strong enough to keep their beloved city from falling down.
During my recent visit to Vancouver for the Fire Chiefs of British Columbia conference, I had the honor to meet and speak with Wayne Jasper. Wayne is the Director & LODD Chairman of the CFFF (Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation). Wayne is one of those people you meet that from the second you meet him, you know there is something unique about him. You could look in his eyes and see both the intensity and compassion he has for serving his fellow firefighters and especially the families of the fallen.
I was very moved by our conversations on how we are all connected by our service to the fire industry. Wayne and I had several great discussions both at the show and later at dinner on how innovative new technology like MN8-Foxfire helps firefighters. We also talked about how the growth of synthetic combustibles have increased the hazards to firefighters. It seems as advanced as our gear, education, and training is, we are still losing too many of our brothers to unnecessary injuries. Even though we all accept the risks that go in to this job, it seems like the most dangerous thing we encounter is not fire or cheap construction but rather a very silent and invisible hazard; cancer.
Unlike smoke, fire, and collapsing building, cancer does not kill you quickly. Rather it sometimes raises its ugly head later in life and in some cases long after we put away our turnout gear for the last time. What is even more frustrating is that almost all types of cancers created from exposures on the fire ground are preventable. Early in my career, I wanted to look tough by fighting auto fires without my mask and taking my mask off during overhaul. After learning more about how dangerous this is and meeting firefighting cancer survivors like Scott Estrada of Cal Fire, I no longer make those types of poor decisions.
WEARING YOUR MASK is one of the best ways to ensure that cancer will not cut your life short as you enjoy retirement or during your later years in the fire service.
To learn more about programs for cancer education, awareness, and prevention please take some time to visit the:
Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation
One thing that Wayne shared with me is how the CFFF treats cancer deaths, even during retirement, as a LODD. When a firefighter goes down as the result of their service even during retirement, Wayne explained that the CFFF will be there for their family.
Our conversation shifted to the importance of brotherhood and how Wayne said how impressed the Canadian fire service was when during a multiple LODD several years ago a contingent of the FDNY helped cover a shift for a rural Canadian fire department. He also talked about how Canadian firefighters have attended multiple 9/11 events (several even voulteered at the WTC rubble pile) and US LODDs.
I was both embarrassed and frustrated to hear that there was virtually no representation from US firefighters (the last event had only two firefighters from the US in attendance) during the last several national Canadian Fallen Firefighter ceremonies. Wayne told me about their national memorial service in the Canadian capitol of Ottawa. We have over 10 times more firefighters in the US than they have in Canada. They make the trip to the US for LODD funerals, they buy our products and they support our causes. In a few months from now on Sept. 9th they will dedicate the national Canadian firefighter’s memorial in Ottawa. I will be making the trip in my class A’s. The badge on my chest will represent my department but the flag on my shoulder will represent my beloved country. I would be honored if we could field a big presence from the US. It would be great to spend some time with you and introduce you to our brothers up north.
With that in mind MN8-Foxfire along with the help of Capt. Willie Wines of the IronFiremen Blog will be arranging a bus trip to Ottawa for this special event. If you can make it, please do. Click here to buy a seat on the bus that leaves from Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday 9/7 travels up I-75 to Detroit, MI to Ottawa comes back early Monday 9/10. The ticket will include lodging, breakfast and travel. You will need a valid passport and not have a criminal record. There will even be a few extras from MN8-Foxfire and a few other surprises in store.
Again, click the link below to purchase your tickets for this very exciting trip:
MN8 Foxfire had another opportunity to visit our firefighting brothers up north. I was hosted again by my fellow firefighter and good friend Troy Munch of our largest Canadian distributor, Commercial Solutions at the Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia. It was hosted in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. The show was held at the incredible facility built for the speed skating portion of the 2010 Winter Olympics. This place was not only a architectural masterpiece but it also has a indoor climbing wall, several ice rinks, basketball courts, weight room, gymnastics, volleyball, and even a ping pong facility.
Even though the show was somewhat small, sales were outstanding. Every chief that saw our products in the blackout tent were very impressed with our advanced photoluminescent technology and it's ability to reduce disorientation, increase accountability of tools and personnel, and illuminate search sectors. What was even more impressive then our positive comments and strong sales were how many people had not only heard of our products but have already been using Foxfire. It really hit me on what an impact we are making in every corner of the fire service when several Foxfire users from some of the most remote locations of northern Canada told us what a positive additional our products were to their tools and personnel.
As with this trip and all other trips, I wanted to make sure it was not all about work so I had to take in some sight seeing. Troy was very gracious host and offered to show me around downtown Vancouver during a lull in the show. We had a great meal of Vancouver's famous fish and chips overlooking the bay.
He took me to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. This massive park overlooks the bay of Vancouver and has some incredible views and sights. I had the chance to see actual totem poles and some of the largest cedar trees I have ever seen. I even had the chance to watch a game of Cricket being played in the park.
When I was in the US Marine Corps I had the chance to work in artillery and I have always been fascinated with cannons. I was in for a real treat when I got to see the famous Nine O'clock Gun. The Nine O'clock Gun is an antique cannon that is still fired every day at 9:00 PM. The cannon used to be out in the open so people could actually touch it and climb on it. Several years ago, a few vandals put some metal springs and items in the cannon shortly prior to it being fired. When it was fired, the shrapnel sailed across the bay and slammed in to the hotel on the other side of the bay. Ever since then, the cannon is now safely secured behind a steel cage....
That night Troy invited all of us to a team dinner at his favorite lesbian Mexican restaurant. The night was filled with mojitos, incredible Mexican cuisine, and quite a few good natured comments to the very attractive female partner/owners about how much us obnoxious firefighters were all in love with them. As the night wound down, we even got to visit with some friendly Vancouver Police officers on our stumble back to the car.....
This purpose of this trip was two-fold. First, I wanted to visit our largest Canadian distributor and secondly I wanted to live out a childhood dream of seeing the Edomonton Oilers play a home hockey game. As a little kid, I dreamed of Wayne Gretzkey, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier and one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports; the 1983-1990 Edmonton Oilers.
I was greeted at the airport by national sales manager Troy Mutch of Commercial Solutions. Troy does not only run one of the most successful firefighting products distributions organizations in Canada he is also a very active member of both his local fire department and national Canadian firefighting causes.
He was recently awarded a very prestigious Diamond Jubilee medal from the Queen of England in honor of his service to Canadian volunteer firefighting.
He drove me back to their offices for a grand tour. I could not have been more humbled to walk in the front door and be greeted front and center with a very prominent Foxfire display.
They gave me a tour of their warehouse and their two story indoor training tower. We were then met by Luke Brisson, another Commercial Solutions Sales rep and full-time firefighter with the city of Calgary. If I could come back in another life, I would want to be Luke. He’s a full-time firefighter, former semi-professional hockey player and chick magnet. He just got back from a one month trip to Thailand. Let’s just say this man had us all very jealous of his stories, except of course Commercial Solutions assistant manager Scott (the Rico Suave of Canada) who did not seem too impressed.....As we were walking around the building, Luke asked what any good self-respecting firefighter would ask someone on a tour “wanna go to the roof?”
Even though I just recently met these guys, I felt like I had known them for years. It never ceases to amaze me that a firefighter is a firefighter no matter were you run. These guys are more than just new friends, they are my brothers. I look forward to many more trips with them in the future (we are thinking about a July trip to Vancouver next)
Later that night we all met up again starting at a great bar/restaurant called CHOP. Wow, I would have thought I was in Las Vegas. Let’s just say Edmonton is at no loss for beautiful women.....
We then all met up with some more firefighters from Thorsby Fire Department and headed to a Brazilian Style restaurant called Pampa. According to Luke, we were going to eat so much steak that we would have “meat sweats.” I’m not sure what that meant but I ate so much that I could barely sleep that night...
I’m always on the lookout for creative and innovative products. After excusing myself to go to the bathroom, I found a product that had me rolling. Take a look at these pics and make sure to visit : www.theweee.com If any of you own a restaurant, bar or pub this is a MUST !
I woke up the next morning to something I have not seen in over a year. SNOW. Not just a few flakes but Canadian style snow; 30-40c centimeters 15+inches (I had to look that up)
We first had a duck sandwich (YUM....) and then headed to the Edmonton Fire Department for a few more meetings. It was then off to the hotel to get ready for the main event of the trip, Edmonton Oilers hockey.
In typical Troy fashion, we did not just attend the game, we watched the game from VIP seats just a few rows up from the goal. It was a great game that ended in overtime. It was a awesome time with a great group of guys. I'm looking forward to my next trip back to Western Canada and illuminating Canada with my new found brothers.