A few weeks ago, I had the the privilege to visit two fire departments in the same week. On the outside they looked very different but the reality is they were both almost identical. I had the chance to spend a 24 hour shift with the men and women of the Detroit Fire Department.
Just a few days later, I had the opportunity to visit the incredible men and women of the Hilton Head Island Fire Department. Although their communities, budgets, apparatus, and gear could not be more different there were a few things that were identical; pride, brotherhood, respect for others, professionalism, and the firefighter tradition of always helping others.
This trip was a little different than most of my other trips, this trip's primary purpose was not to share Foxfire’s advanced photoluminescent technology that helps reduce disorientation and increases accountability but it was rather our annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
I always like to visit local fire departments no matter were I go and this trip was no exception. My 8 year old son Bryce and I were invited to have breakfast, though Facebook, with the great guys of Truck 6 and Firefighter Jeremy Yerkes. Jeremy, in my opinion, has one of the best jobs in the fire-service; Tillerman.
It was more than just breakfast, it was a meal that was so immense I could not eat until that evening. Southern hospitality was on full display with homemade biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, hash browns, eggs, etc. I not only felt like I was part of their family but my son Bryce was in heaven, having a warrior’s breakfast and being able to watch Spongebob in a recliner !
I was told by my good friends and brothers Capt. Willie Wines of Iron Firemen Blog and Lt. Rhett Fleitz of The Fire Critic Blog that I needed to visit Battalion Chief Mick Mayers of the Hilton Head Fire Department. Chief Mayer's has a great blog Firefighter Zen and I was particularly impressed with his recent series on "Leadership That Matters." His series talks about several different themes that separate mediocrity from greatness in almost all areas of the fire service.
A few days later, Chief Mayers picked me up from our hotel in his staff car and took me on a tour visiting each of the seven stations on the island. Chief Mayers has been with the Hilton Head Island FD for several decades, he has seen a department and community grow from a small town department to a model department that virtually all of us could learn from. Of all the departments I have visited throughout the US and abroad, Hilton Head Island FD should be the model for the fire service. I learned a lot from Chief Mayers on not just being a better fire leader but also on being a great father, husband and person. Hilton Head Island Fire Department has highly motivated and trained members, state of the art fire apparatus, and top of the line facilities. What is even more impressive is that each apparatus is identically set up. When you see any engine or ladder on the island you know that every compartment has the same tools/equipment in the same place.
Each station is also the same so if you are covering another station you know the flow of the building. The outstanding service of the Hilton Head Island Fire Department has not gone unnoticed, as they recently received a very special honor of becoming one of 148 global fire departments to be internationaly accredited.
One of the greatest prides I have in the fire service is getting to meet such incredible brother firefighters that go so far out of their way to help a stranger. In this particular case, I got to witness a rescue, not the type of rescue we typically see but in this situation the grab was a few baby birds that could not have been more than a few days old. When Chief Moore and I went to the station to see the new visitors, the firefighters had set up a mobile “baby bird intensive care unit” equipped with syringes, catheters full of warm milk, a hot pad, several towels, and even some fresh worms cut up in bite sized pieces.
These rough and tumble firefighters could have just left them in the bucket that they found them in and let mother nature take it’s course but they went above and beyond. They saw something in need and they did what firefighters are supposed to do, they helped.
We have received several inquiries recently for the use of our advanced illuminating products for wildland firefighting. Some of the same risks that interior firefighting face are also shared by wildland firefighters. Accountability of your tools and each other are just as important on the fire line as inside a structure. Additionally, there are many times where tools are misplaced or pre-staged and can be very difficult to find in the dark. Foxfire's illuminating products such as our bottle bands, grip wrap and illuminating epoxy can help if place on tools, PPE or equipment.
There are many times that tools are pre-placed at certain areas and marked with GPS so crew can find them. For those of you that have used GPS you know that it can get you close but not necessarily right on the mark. GPS can get you close but Foxfire can help you exactly locate the tools.
Another issue is keeping line integrity. Yes many wildland helmets have helmet lights but we all know that batteries wear out and anything that relies on electricity usually fails when you need it most. Foxfire does not have this problem. As long as you can get a few minutes of light exposure it will give you hours of illumination.
We encourge you to give MN8 Foxfire a try for wildland firefighting applications and share with us other ideas you may have for our illumnating technology.
Meet Kelly of MN8 Foxfire.
Kelly is an illumination expert, give her a call at (513)761-7614 if you have any questions, comments or if you need help purchasing any of our advanced photoluminescent products.
The second part of the West coast trip had me spending time in the beautiful city of San Diego. My dad and step-mom recently moved from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego and I was fortunate to by able stay in their beautiful new home and not another hotel.
I woke early Monday morning and made my way to the former naval barracks next to the San Diego airport. It was a day I had been training for over the last several weeks; Firehouse World’s live firefighting evolutions. I met up with several dozen firefighters for the walk through of our burn buildings. I knew we we in for some wild training when the cement building’s walls were still radiating heat from the previous day burns. We were divided in to groups of four and started on our first of eight stations.
The training was intense and the fires were hot. You need to train the way you fight and this was as realistic as I have ever encountered. The local news station even stopped by and asked the instructors about the best new products they have seen. The chief instructor mentioned Foxfire and how our illuminating products help with accountability, reducing disorientation and improving accountability.
San Diego's Fox News Feature
As we participated in the first few evolutions, I kept looking at how exhausted everyone was coming from station 4. Station 4 was a basement fire with advancement of a 2-1/2” line not only down three stair landings but also several corners. I was the lucky guy who was the “control”. We all want to be the nozzle but in this case I was the hose monkey in the back feeding and humping hose. As my team finally found the basement stairs and stated to go in to the bowels of the basement, I was at the top of the stairs helping advance the 2 1/2 line. As I started to re-adjust my position, I was literally blown back by the heat. I was at the top of the chimney taking the full brunt of the intense conductive heat. I could see my gear starting to “off-gas” and I was at the point were I almost backed out but I knew that was not an option. My brothers needed my help or they would not be able to advance the line deep enough to make the attack. At that point, it hit me. A team is only as strong as it’s weakest link and brotherhood is what keeps those links together. Even though I just met these guys a few hours ago I knew there was no way I would let them down by backing out. They made the knock and on the debrief they mentioned how important the “control” is to the successful completion of the mission. It's no fun being away from the nozzle, advancing hose around corners and pinch points, but it is an important position that is essential to the team.
The next day was the tradeshow and I could barely get out of bed that next day due to the exhaustion. I guess I’m not 18 any more.....
Even though the show was not as big as several of the other national shows we attend, we still had steady traffic. We had the opportunity to help our vendor Fire-Etc. of San Diego and we sold almost their entire stock of Foxfire products. We had great feedback from Chiefs to the firefighters about how our advanced photoluminescent technology has helped them in various limited light situations. Another highlight of the show was getting to have a afterhours party on the deck of the USS Midway and a great get together at the San Diego Fire Museum complete with bagpippers, a fire truck converted to a mobile pizza kitchen and the best handmade tacos I have ever tasted.
To read the first part of this post click here
We sometimes get tunnel vision in this job and think that you and your crew are so unique. We get wrapped up in the petty house politics and forget about the big picture. It’s so great to know that even for the largest fire department in the world, they have not forget the true meaning of brotherhood. They are just like all of us. Every station has the same guys, just different faces. It really doesn't get much better than hanging out with your fellow firefighters, your brothers, and sharing a good story or laugh. The guys at FDNY's Rescue 2 are no different, take a look at the picture below as they pretended our advanced photo-luminescent products set off the alarm on the portable gas meter....
When Capt. Flaherty invited me for visit at the burn center a few days later, I was humbled to meet FF Joe Vicarro of Rescue 2 waiting in the waiting room. He was standing his shift at the hospital making sure FF Weidman still had a fellow Rescue 2 firefighter with him. Capt. Flaherty came out to join us in the waiting room. We had a very deep and emotional discussion about brotherhood and how most people outside of the fire service just don’t get it sometimes. He let me know that they will have a member of Rescue 2 24/7 at the hospital until FF Wiedman comes home.
Capt. Flaherty and myself said goodbye to FF Viccaro at the burn unit and took a walk to a nearby Irish pub. We had more great discussions over a to a pint or two or three, my memory is a little lacking...Capt. Flaherty is very active with the FDNY's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and has the opportunity to travel all over the country as an ambassador of FDNY. He let me know that his travels would be placed on hold and he would not be joining me again in San Diego in a few weeks because he will not be leaving his post at the hospital until all his firefighters come home.
FDNY is the leader of the fire industry, not just with training and tactics but also in modeling brotherhood. As we bid our farewell, I decided to walk the many blocks to ferry terminal to catch the boat back to my hotel in Hoboken, NJ. I used this private time to reflect as I walked dozens of blocks in this incredible city. I passed the UN headquarters and majestic views of this incredible city at night. My thoughts took me to my fellow firefighters on my department. I gave several of them a call. I shared with them my experiences over the past few days. I just wanted to talk to my guys. Although I didn’t say it, I wanted to hear their voices. I wanted them to know that if they were were iin the same condition as FF Weidman, I would be there for them. A few of them shared a story as we talked of when two of members of our department were critically injured in a training incident a few years before I joined. They told me that they too made sure someone was with them in the hospital at all times until they came home.
As I looked south, I saw the green glow of a beautiful woman in the distance. It was Lady Liberty standing so proudly. I was overwhelemed with so many thoughts. Thoughts of what my ancestors that immigrated from Germany, Hungary, Ireland, and England must have thought as they left their homelands to start anew in a young country a world away. I thought about how privilaged I have been to have had the opportunity to serve this great country as a US Marine. I thought about how how fortunate I am to serve my community as a firefighter. I thought of what is it that makes both of these organizations so elite, so special, and so great? It's not only just the individual men and women that serve but their ability to come together as a team. Their whole is truly greater than the sum of their parts. I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt that put everything in perspective. "The spirit of brotherhood recognizes of necessity both the need of self-help and also the need of helping others in the only way which every ultimately does great god, that is, of helping them to help themselves.”
I have the honor to visit fire department from all over the US and I can honestly say that it is such a privilege to meet brothers from all over our nation. No matter where I go and who I meet, I still get excited every time I walk in to a new station.
This recent trip brought me back to New York city. I was joined by my dear friends and brothers Willie Wines of http://ironfiremen.com/ and Rhet Fleitz of http://firecritic.com/. On our last visit we had the chance to visit with many of the rescue companies and spent quite a bit of time with the warriors of Rescue 2, led by Capt. Liam Flaherty.
Capt. Flaherty is the youngest rescue captain in the history of the FDNY and one of my personal heroes. We met almost a year ago at Firehouse World in San Diego. He offered to have his elite men of Rescue 2 in Brooklyn evaluate our advanced photo-luminescent products. We all were horrified to see the video of the flash-over a few weeks ago in Brooklyn in which FF’s Gersbeck and Weidman (pictured below)were injured in a flashover at a brownstone fire in Brooklyn.
At MN8-Foxfire our highest calling and most important goal is for us to help our firefighting brothers all over the world. Why? Because we are all brothers. Volunteer, paid on call, full time, union, etc. it doesn’t matter. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us fall we all stumble. Fire does not differentiate between black or white, volley or full time, big city or small.
We are honored to donate to various firefighter causes throughout the year not because we are asked but because it is the right thing to do. After all, we are our brothers keeper. We could not visit our friends and brothers of Rescue 2 on this trip and not do something for the brave warriors who weree injured. Willie, Rhett, and I, along with many other leaders in the firefighter community like Statter 911, and Firefighter Nation helped promote this opportunity to help both the injured firefighters and their families. We received donations from all over the country, MN8-Foxfire donated 50% of all of our sales that week.
On Tuesday, we had the privilage to join the brave men of Rescue 2 at the their house and present them with a check for over $2,300. Capt. Flaherty and his men could not have been more gracious and appreciative. They wanted us to pass on their heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of you that supported their crew with thoughts, prayers and donations. They brewed a fresh pot of coffee for us and even took us on a very special tour of the 6 day old brand new Ferra Rescue truck.
To be continued....
As a young kid, I dreamed about one day becoming a firefighter. I still get excited everytime I respond to the station and ride the engine or ladder to help our local citizens. As much as I feel like I'm living my childhood dream on every run, the greatest pride I have is knowing that I'm helping my fellow firefighters.
The mission of MN8-Foxfire is for firefighters to help our brother firefighters be better and safer firefighters. Everything we do, every products we develop and every dollar we spend has 100% alignment with our mission.
One of the top recommendations we have received from our fellow firefighters is that they would like to see reflectivity to be combined with our advanced photoluminescent technology. Specifically, firefighters want to see helmet tetrahedrons that utilize the Foxfire’s Advanced Photoluminescent Technology. This is something that has intrigued us because we have always felt that we offer a great compliment to retro-reflectivity but not a replacement. Retro-reflective works great with light, we work great in the dark.
It is with great pride that we can now announce the combination of these two technologies; Foxfire’s Illuminating Tetrahedrons. This patented design utilizes some of the best materials from some of the industry leaders in their respective fields. These helmet tets utilize state of the art micro-prismatic technology from Reflexite® that reflects back up to 250% of light. We use 3M’s industrial grade adhesive to ensure that they stay strongly bonded to your helmet. They are built off of a high tempreature resistant fire retardant cloth to hold up to high heat conditions. Combine all of this with the advance photoluminescent technology that you have come to expect from MN8-Foxfire and you have the most advanced product in the history of our company.
Click Here for the MN8-Foxfire Illuminating Helmet Tetrahedrons Product Sheet
The new tetrahedrons will be available in set’s of 8 for $24.95 or individually for $4.95. They can be purchased directly from the MN8-Foxfire store http://store.mn8foxfire.com/
These innovative products are another step in keeping our brother firefighter’s safe by increasing accountability and reducing disorientation. Let us know what you think, this product is because of the feedback you gave us. As always, please post pictures of you and your crew using Foxfire products on Facebook. It’s always great to see firefighters from all around the world illuminating the fire service.
I’m posting this blog while traveling 400MPH+ finding myself again on an airplane.
This year I traveled almost 50,000 air miles, criss crossing the entire globe, sharing the benefits of our advanced photluminescent technology with firefighters all over the world as we build and grow MN8-Foxfire. Each fire department fights fire a little different but they all still face the same risks of disorientation, accountability of tools and personnel and the challenges of illuminating search sectors. On this specific trip I’ve have the privilege to head back to Hawaii for more meetings with the US Navy and to attend the Hawaiian Fire Chiefs annual meeting.
I desperately miss being away from my family but I know that I can always rely on my firefighting family to keep me company when I’m away from my wife and son. I’m very excited to spend time with Chief Billy Goldfetter on this trip. He is such a firefighting icon and I always gain something from him when our paths cross.
One of the few benefits of spending so much time on airplanes is that it is one of those rare times my phone is silent and that allows me to catch up on reading. I’m currently re-reading a book from my favorite business author, John C. Maxwell. The current selection I'm reading is about teamwork. Teamwork is essential to the fire industry. We live together, we eat together, we fight together, and sometimes we even die together. Teamwork and brotherhood is part of our core. In one of the beginning chapters John Maxwell highlighted a quote from Lyndon Johnson; “There are no problems that we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” Think about all the runs you have made as a firefighter, how many could you have successfully accomplished by yourself ? From the dispatch to driving to the scene, from the search to operating the apparatus, we are all part of a team.
The more I dove into this great book the more I thought about MN8-Foxfire. We are a team and you are part of this team. This weekend we accomplished a very significant milestone by hitting 10,000 likes on our Facebook page. In the last few hours before we hit that milestone we had over 100 new likes and over 600 visits to our webpage. This is an accomplishment that we don’t take lightly. We are who we are because of you. We are firefighters helping firefighters be better and safer firefighters. The MN8 Products Facebook page is more than just a website to us, it is part our community. It is a community that allows you to share with us what works, what doesn’t work and what you would like to see next from MN8 Foxfire.
Many of you have asked to join our team and some of you have even been representing our products. We are in the processing of developing Team Foxfire. This will be a groundbreaking new way of helping us reach more firefighters. Even though we are still several weeks away from launch, I can share that this will be an incredible opportunity. We want you to be part of this team. We need you to be part of this team. If you have already signed up, thank you. If you have yet to sign up please visit our Website and register to be part of our team. We will keep you updated as we get closer to launch. Team Foxfire will be like nothing the firefighting industry has ever seen. It will be more than just sales, it will be a community that will ultimately be a new way for firefighters to help other firefighters be better firefighters.
We’ve all been there before. The words flick on a switch that sets forth a series of thoughts and actions; smoke showing, unknown occupants, structure fire. The adrenalin is pumping, your heart rate is racing. You jump off the truck do a quick size up. Is it a two story, are there basement windows, is it a multi-family, has there been an addition.... You grab your tools reach behind you, turn on the air on your SCBA, don your mask and hood, tighten up your helmet and make entry. Then it hits you. Darkness. Black as black can be and you have a job to do. You get on your knees start crawling around looking for something, anything to orient yourself. You swing your tool back and forth like a blind person using their cane so you can find your way and locate hazards. With all the technological advancements over the past decades, we still search like a baby crawling on all fours, a blind baby. We lose our tools, we get separated from our crews, we get disoriented. There has to be a better way.
Recent improvements in advanced photluminescent technology have made substantial improvements in reducing disorientation, increasing accountability of tools and personnel and illuminating search areas. I remember back in my days as an infantryman with the US Marine Corps that we were taught anything with batteries and electricity fail when you need them most. The same holds true for firefighting. How many times have you turned on your flashlight only to find it dead. Again, there has to be a better way. This is the reason MN8-Foxfire was founded. It was the result of a firefighters doing what firefighters do best, fix things and make stuff better.
This week we will be conducting a series of tests in Riverside, CA with leaders from the firefighting industry. The test is the direct result of feedback from firefighters who have asked for additional information on the performance and functionality of our products. Capt. Dave Hudson of the Riverside Fire Department and his crews will be conducting simulated rescues, drills and time trials all observed and documented by an independent board of safety professionals. Author of the landmark Firefighter Disorientation paper Capt. William Mora will also be in attendance. It is the goal of this test to provide fire professionals scientific quantifiable visual and analytical data. There are few callings more noble than one that risks your life in the help of others. We owe it to both the heroes of the fire industry and the citizens we protect to find a better way. This may not be the magic bullet but this firefighter developed advanced photoluminecent technology is another step in the right direction of the future of protecting our communities and keeping our firefighting brothers safer.
I have the privilege to visit firefighters and firehouses from all over the world to discuss the benefits of advanced photluminescent technology and how it can help illuminate search areas, increase accountability of tools and personnel and also reduce disorientation. I start every trip the same way, I stop by the nearest fire department introduce myself and share with my firefighting brothers stories, meals, and the benefits of Foxfire. I knew, however, this trip would be different. This was a pilgrimage, this was a chance to meet legends. FDNY is more than the largest combined fire department in the world, FDNY is an institution. The men in the FDNY are the heroes of the heroes, they are the best of the best.
American Novelist Sherwood Anderson said it best ”I think when an American stays away from New York too long something happens to him. Perhaps he becomes a little provincial, a little dead and afraid.” I visited NYC a few years ago and I remembered how empty lower Manhattan looked on approach to the airport. Missing were the majestic twin towers silhouetting Lady Liberty. This arrival was different, this time I passed the 75% completed Freedom Tower. The sight of this Phoenix rising from the ashes filled me with pride, patriotism, courage, and hope.
I could think of no one better to join me on this pilgrimage than the Iron-Fireman, Capt. Willie Wines and the Fire-Critic, Lt. Rhett Fleitz. The trip started by the two Virginians picking me up at JFK. The FDNY has 221 stations, there would be no way to visit all of them so we figured it would best if we focused on the Rescue units. Now for those of you who are not entirely familiar with large fire departments, Rescue units are different than than other Ladder and Engine companies. FDNY’s Rescue Units are the elite of the elite. They are all hand picked and are similar to a police department’s SWAT team or a military commando units like the Navy's SEALs or the Army's Green Berets. Each of the 5 NYC burroughs has their own Rescue unit and our goal was to visit as many as we could.
Our first stop was Rescue 4 in Queen’s. We didn't have a scheduled appointment and to be perfectly honest we didn’t know how we were going to be received. We introduced ourselves to the watch officer and were welcomed with open arms. We were given a tour and had the chance to visit with practically the entire crew. They could not have been more hospitable and gracious.
Next, we were off to Times Square for some sightseeing and a well deserved steak dinner. We stopped by one of my favorite bars in Manhattan located at the W hotel on Times Square. I guess we were quite a sight because Rhett and I weren’t wearing a designer suits and Willie had his big cowboy hat, championship belt buckle and fire-boots. While were waiting for our drinks in this ultra swanky lounge one of those metro-sexual Manhattanites asked Willie and Rhett were they from, when Rhett replied Virginia the guy trying to be as kind as possible possible asked how long we had been visiting this country...
After an incredible steak dinner and the famous Ben Benson’s Steak House we decided to pay homage to the World Trade Center site. We took the R train to the Financial District and as we exited the stairwell of the subway we emerged directly between the St. Paul’s churchyard and the crater of the twin towers. Words failed all of us and we each took a seat on the small wall of the cemetery and reflected in our own private silence. I was honored to share this special time with these fellow firefighter brothers. We walked the entire multi-block perimeter numb with emotion and feelings. The contrast of the construction lighting with black sky added to the reverence.
Before we knew it we were in front of the legendary “Ten House” This station is located in the World Trade Center and after that fateful day has become a quite a destination for people from all over the world visiting the WTC site. We wanted to pay our respects to this house and visit but we also were concerned that we may be bothering the brave FDNY firefighters that have to answer the door to every one of the thousands of daily tourists. Just like Rescue 4 these fellow brothers could not have been more welcoming and friendly. They even went so far as to invite us back the next day and meet the captain of the 10 truck.
To be contined....