BURN - Official Theatrical Trailer (2012) from BURN on Vimeo.
Last night, members of our Foxfire team and a group of local firefighters headed to downtown Cincinnati for a special showing of the “BURN, One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit” movie. If you aren’t yet familiar with the film, it is a feature documentary about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead. (http://detroitfirefilm.org/)
When we arrived at the theater, we were happy to see a full house. We already knew a lot of the firefighters who were in attendance. The film is depressing at times as it explores the dangers of unilateral cuts to public safety that causes lack of funding for much needed firefighting tools, equipment and personnel. However, the film really speaks to the challenges of firefighting. No matter how challenging the situation, it’s our responsibility as firefighters to rise to the occasion.
Several firefighters from Detroit were at the screening and afterwords, a great Q&A session was held. One of the people in the audience was a firefighter from an Appalachian area of Kentucky who pointed out that many of the challenges faced by the firefighters in the film are the same challenges many of us face, especially in the current economy. It’s true, even though there may be challenges and dysfunctions in our communities, firefighters everywhere share a common bond of believing in our communities by attempting to make a difference every day.
Detroit is a representation of all of the United States of America. We know it's not how hard we get hit, it's how quick we get up. The recent Super Bowl commercial starring Clint Eastwood says it best:
I had a fun moment when one of the Detroit firefighters on stage for the Q & A , recognized me from my Detroit visits and ride-a-longs. He pointed me out to the crowd as an example of how we are all part of the same family and how I was able to join his crew as we fought fire and spent 24 hours together. That station in Detroit has the exact same firefighters as any department across the United Sates, only different names and faces.
To find out if Burn is playing in a city near you or to request a screening in a city near you, visit: http://detroitfirefilm.org/events/
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.
A few months ago, I received a Facebook post from a ARFF firefighter named Paul Dykema inviting me to visit New Mexico. I never miss the opportunity to meet a brother firefighter, especially one in such a scenic city. I have always wanted to visit this part of the country and I knew this would be a great opportunity to not only promote the benefits of MN8-Foxfire but also to soak up the area’s culture and views.
Paul picked me up from the Albuquerque airport and did what any self-respecting firefighter would do with a guest from out of town, show them firetrucks and eat some great food. Paul is not your normal firefighter he is a member of the US Air Force’s elite ARFF and works with not only the US Air Force Special Operations group, but he also has responsibility for keeping the main US military's nuclear weapon cache safe and sound.
They don’t see as many structure fires as Detroit and FDNY but you can bet if something does go wrong these highly trained firefighters are trained to deal with the worst of the worst. After a quick tour of his station and seeing the most impressive ARFF apparatus I have ever seen, we were off to try some of New Mexico’s famous food, especially the green chili.
I love spicy food and having the green chili sauce for breakfast, lunch and dinner was a great treat! These guys put this wonderful ingredient on everything, the New Mexico area McDonald’s even put green chili sauce on their cheeseburgers!
I’m a firm believer in mixing fun with business and this trip was no different. I have always heard about the incredible sunrises/sunsets in this beautiful state and I was able to convince Paul to pick me up at 5:00 AM so we could take a sunrise hike up one of the nearby extinct volcanos. As we hiked up the trail, Paul seemed to be quite amused at my lack of acclimation to the high altitude as I had a hard time keeping up with him, Paul being 6’5” was also not helping....
Even though the sun had not broken the horizon, the moon lit our way up the trail. As we got to the top of the summit, the moonlight started to be replaced by breathtaking purples, oranges, and reds of the sunrise. I was in absolute awe of the intensity of the colors in the sunrise and the majesty of the view of Albuquerque with the mountain ranges in the distance. As we sat in silence, absorbing the view, my thoughts drifted to how fortunate I am to visit such incredible places.
My mission is to bring the illumination of MN8-Foxfire’s man-made advanced photoluminescent products to my brothers in the fire service so we can reduce disorientation and increase accountability. I could not miss the symbolism of this moment as I was in awe of God’s illumination and how man could never make anything so splendid. I now know why they call this area the land of enchantment.
After a quick change, we were off to visit over 15 fire departments in the next 48 hours. It was very exciting meeting these new brothers and seeing their positive feedback as we “turned off the lights.” We even had the opportunity to meet a few of our Facebook friends during our visits.Our travels took us over 500 miles throughout this beautiful state. We visited all types of stations from very small volunteer departments to very large and luxurious stations from Albuquerque to Sante Fe. We saw many very cool fire trucks but one of the most interesting was the one pictured below from Bernalillo FD. If it looks familiar, it's because it was made in to a Matchbox car !
We saw ancient Pueblo villages and incredible original adobe architecture. We drove some of the exact roads that Billy the Kid traveled. Nothing beats having a cold Margarita in a vintage New Mexican bar as we took a break from the desert sun.
I’m looking forward to my next trip to this magnificent part of our country! I’m sure that on my next visit the green glow from all the tools and helmets will be matching the color of their famous chili!
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:
There is no city in the US that has been hit harder over the last decade than Detroit, just don’t let the brave men and women of the Detroit Fire Department find that out. Why ? Because for them it’s just business as usual fighting fires, saving lives and serving the residents of this iconic city. The decline of the domestic auto-manufacturing industry and it’s crippling effect on their local economy was very apparent as I drove past the blocks of vacant homes and commercial structures on my way to Detroit Fire Department Station 40 on Dexter Ave.
They have not let the reduced budgets, declining economy, and politics get in the way of them providing a level of professionalism that all fire departments could learn from. They know it’s not about how hard you get hit, it’s about your ability to take the punch and how fast you can bounce back. The exceptional men and women of the Detroit Fire Department are warriors, they have a job to do and no challenge will stand between them and their mission to serve their residents.
Over the 24 hours, I had the chance to not just visit the brave warriors of DFD but they also let me break bread, fight fire, and spend the night with all of them at their station. Brotherhood, compassion, focus, and love of their job were on full display.
Like many of you, I first learned about the challenges of the Detroit FD from both the news and the soon to be released movie BURN. Please take time to watch the trailer below and donate to the www.detroitfirefilm.org.
I was hosted by Sgt. John Edwards of Squad 5 on this recent trip. I first met Sgt. Edwards at FDIC a few weeks ago. He invited me to spend a day with his crew and that was an offer I could not refuse.
At morning line up, I was introduced to the men of the station and the OIC, Lt. Ziggler (Ziggy, as his guys call him). He started the roll call off with his own unique motivating words about the importance of doing their job and having fun.
We all learned at a young age to never judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, I find myself not following this rule. I was issued my gear and got my side of the truck ready. The men of Detroit have battle-worn gear, old trucks with virtually no “bells and whistles” but they have something much more important; brotherhood, professionalism, and pride. This was on full display when we caught our first structure fire of the day. Within a few minutes of dispatch we traveled several miles in traffic, stretched lines, vented a wall and made a knock on the fire. What was even more impressive was that in less then 15 minutes all four units were back in service. I have never seen a faster, more perfect aggressive attack, overhaul, and return to service . What was even more special to me personally was seeing the excitement of the men as their Foxfire tools and helmet bands illuminated the interior of the house helping them with accountability of each other and their tools.
As we were getting back on our rig, I was introduced to a senior Captain who pulled me aside and said “Don’t let our old gear and trucks fool you, our boys know how to work!” He could not be more spot on. On our ride back to quarters, I thought of our regional departments and how we have state of the art technology, glitzy trucks, and top of the line gear. Regardless, many firefighters I know and even myself sometimes, complain when our gear is not in like-new condition or our trucks don’t function perfectly. We get too wrapped up with our gear and apparatus and forget about the most important item in the fire-service; the firefighter.
I learn something new every time I visit a fire station or other firefighters but this visit was different. This visit taught me one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned as both a firefighter a human. Greatness cannot be measured by tangibles like money, gear, or status. Greatness should be measured by doing your best with what you have.