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.
Drinking from a hydrant was the best way to explain the opening of the 2012 Baltimore Firehouse Expo in Baltimore. You try to get just a sip and instead you have 500 GPM of water flowing full force. Within the first 5 minutes of the show, we had over 30 people in our booth. What was even more impressive was that most people were being told to see our booth from firefighters that bought our illuminating products over the last year.
The Fire Critic (Rhett Fleitz) and The Iron Fireman (Willie Wines) wore their signature matching kilts and leather helmets as they were mobbed by their fans asking for autographs and getting personal demonstrations of how MN8 Foxfire helps firefighters by reducing disorientation, increasing accountability and illuminating search activities.
I was absolutely humbled not only our large crowds and strong sales, but also by hearing the numerous stories about how many firefighters are currently using our products and how much Foxfire has helped them be better and safer firefighters.
We had several very special visitors that first day such as the winner of the MN8 Foxfire FDIC T-Shirt contest, Donnie Wedding and the girls from the greatest bar in the world, PBR Baltimore. They want us to illuminate their shirts and hot pants !!!!
As the first day wrapped up, I changed out of my stuffy jeans and button down shirt and got to break out my new bunker kilt. I could not let Willie and Rhett be the only one to “let it all hang out”. We walked from the convention center to the FOOLS Bash and at Baltimore’s Powerplant Live. We had several people ask to get their picture taken with us. I guess Baltimore is not used to seeing men in kilts and firefighter helmets walking down the street....
The event was awesome complete with cornhole games, a dunk booth with very hot scantly clad women, pipes and drums and a torrential rainstorm. Never the less the firefighters were not about to let it rain on our parade !
The men and women of the Baltimore Fools chapter did a great job and fun was had by all. Especially watching the PBR girls dance on the tables!
The evening would have not been complete without having one of the PBR girls ride the mechanical bull complete with a MN8-Foxfire illuminating helmet !
The next day of the show was the same as the first day with big crowds, brisk sales and an energy unmatched by any other booth. We had several VIP's stop in such as Chief Bashoor of Prince George County FD, Capt. Morris of FDNY's Rescue 1 and even the media mogel himself, Mr. Dave Statter.
I finally had the chance to walk the floor for a few minutes and I had heard that FDNY’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn had a booth. Visiting their booth was an honor. While there I checked on how all the Foxfire gear was holding up. I was both excited and honored to see FF Rob Weidman shaking hands with everyone.
As I’m sure most of you remember, FF Weidman was critically burned several months ago while battling a very bad fire at a Brooklyn brownstone.
MN8-Foxfire along with the Iron fireman and Fire Critic not only raised money for him, we also presented the check to his captain, Liam Flaherty at their Brooklyn quarters. Meeting with FF Weidman and hearing his heartfelt appreciation was one of the most memorable moments I have had since starting MN8. Our highest calling in the fire service is to help our brothers. These men of FDNY’s Rescue 2 have shown all of us the importance of brotherhood and professionalism that all of us in the fire service should strive to emulate.
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:
It’s tough sometimes being on the road so much but one of the fringe benefits of travel is that every now and then you get the opportunity to visit interesting and beautiful destinations. I’m a huge fun of the outdoors and always like to take some time to soak in the beauty of Mother Nature.
We had a few hours before the show opened and before I started another day of showing firefighters how MN8-Foxfire's products help firefighters reduce disorientation, increase accountability and help illuminate search areas, I awoke very early and borrowed Troy’s car so I could drive north. I was headed to Vancounver's famous Sea to Sky highway. The highway takes you along the Pacific ocean and incredible mountain peaks and waterfalls as you pass through the Squamish region and Whistler Ski Resort.
I was absolutely in awe of the views of Vancouver bay with the lush evergreens that grow right to the edge of the ocean and the snow capped mountains in the distance. There were waterfalls all over and incredible rock formations. I even had the chance to walk the trail to the famous Shannon Falls were I forged in to the water and drank from the freshly melted glacier stream.
As I continued to head north, I saw several signs warning of bears. I’ve never seen a bear in the wild and in my wildest imagination I would never expect to see one during a leisurely morning drive. Within 5 minutes of seeing the sign, I saw a black object cross the road and before my mind could register what my eyes just witnessed, I realized it was a small black bear. Fifteen minutes later, I saw a very cute baby brown bear. A few minutes after that I saw a very good sized black bear foraging off the side of the shoulder. Putting aside logic and common sense I pulled the car of the side of the road and snuck up within 50 feet of him was able to get him to pose for the camera. Probably not the smartest idea but I have never been the one to let logic get in the way of a good story....
That night on the news I saw the following story: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Bear+shot+killed+after+attacking+Whistler/6732351/story.htmlabout a black bear that attacked a man in his hot tub just a few miles from where I saw this guy....
As I was heading back to the Vancouver, I took a detour to the world eagle capital of Brackendale. During the annual salmon runs the Bald Eagles swarm the town in the thousands. Even though the bald eagles aren't around at this time on the year, I couldn't resist the opportunity to try an see one of these majestic creatures.
I walked along the scenic trail that over looks the eagle area and after 20 minutes of looking I returned to my car seeing nothing other than some very scenic vistas. Driving back to the highway my thoughts drifted to home and the incredible history of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle.
These raptors are physical manifestations of our symbols of freedom, leadership, resilience, and the strength of our United States. Just then, something large a fast appeared from high in the sky. I was absolutely awestruck when from the top of a large tree swooped down a huge bald eagle right over the top of my car. My trip was now complete and I am forever grateful for our good friends from the north that gave me the opportunity to see my first Bald Eagle in the wild.
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.
In honor of Memorial Day, Foxfire Illuminating Helmet Bands are discounted to $19.95 each through Monday, May 28th.
To purchase visit: http://store.mn8foxfire.com/default.asp no promo code required, discount will be applied at checkout.
Track firefighters and increase safety in smoky or dark environments with illuminating/glow-in-the-dark helmet bands.
-Increases visibility and positional orientation
-Can be charged by any light source (sun, artificial light, low light)
-Will illuminate for hours
-May be recharged repeatedly
-Glow/illumination serves as a “light emitter”
-Energy efficient, eco-friendly and no batteries required
-Made of industrial grade high temperature resistant silicone
-Can withstand high temperatures
Three of the biggest risks faced by firefighters are disorientation, visibility and accountability (to both individuals and tools). Foxfire® illuminating helmet bands assist firefighters in facing these risks by improving positional orientation, making personnel easy to locate and illuminating search areas.
Made of industrial grade high temperature resistant silicone, Foxfire illuminating helmet bands were designed specifically to handle the heat and rigors of firefighting. Each helmet band will illuminate for hours. The helmet bands may be charged repeatedly by any type of light condition, however the brighter the light the brighter and longer the bands will illuminate and glow.
ORDER YOURS TODAY
Phenix Technology Teams with MN8-Foxfire In Offering Foxfire Illuminating Fire Safety Products as Upgrades on all Phenix Fire Helmets
Phenix Technology, the manufacturer of Phenix Fire Helmets, is pleased to announce its partnership with MN8-Foxfire, the developer of Foxfire illuminating fire safety products for firefighters, in offering Foxfire products as an upgrade on all of its helmets.
Foxfire illuminating helmet bands and tetrahedrons will be available as upgrades on all Phenix Fire Helmets, effective immediately. Foxfire products utilize an advanced photoluminescent technology that possess the unique capacity to absorb and store light and then release it as a bright luminance in the dark. The bright glow emitted from Foxfire’s helmet bands, tetrahedrons and other products illuminates surroundings and serves as a light emitter, enabling firefighters to keep track of their crews in dark environments. When fully charged (by any light source), Foxfire products can glow for up to 17 hours.
“At Phenix, our mission is to provide firefighters with top quality, safe and comfortable head protection,” said Ray Russell, president at Phenix Technology. “Foxfire products enhance the safety of firefighters. Once we saw the glow from the products in the dark, we knew that they were a perfect compliment to our mission of providing products that keep firefighters safe.”
Phenix offers three different types of helmets and a variety of helmet accessories. Phenix Helmets include:
- TL-2 Traditional Leather Firefighting Helmet, which weighs about 55 ounces and is the lightest NFPA leather helmet made. Foxfire illuminating helmet tetrahedrons available as an upgrade to standard tetrahedrons; Foxfire illuminating helmet bands also an available accessory.
- TC-1 Traditional Composite, which offers a low profile and ideal center of gravity, providing an ergonomic design. Foxfire illuminating helmet tetrahedrons available as an upgrade to standard tetrahedrons; Foxfire illuminating helmet bands also an available accessory.
- First Due Series Contemporary, which brings together style, durability and comfort and can be customized to meet a department’s needs. Foxfire illuminating helmet bars will soon be available as an upgrade to standard helmet strips; Foxfire illuminating helmet bands also an available accessory.
“Phenix helmets have an outstanding reputation in the firefighting industry,” said Zachary Green, president of MN8-Foxfire. “We are honored that Foxfire products will be offered as accessories on all new Phenix helmets. We look forward to working with Phenix in keeping more firefighters safe by utilizing our technology to reduce disorientation and increase personnel accountability in low light environments.”
Phenix Helmets are available through the Phenix distributor network. Visit www.phenixhelmets.com to locate a distributor near you.
About Phenix Technology
Phenix Technology was founded in 1972 by two firefighters who had the desire to make safe helmets that incorporated balance, longevity, lightweight and ergonomics; and were usable for all types of emergencies. Now operating for more than four decades, Phenix Technology has accumulated a wealth of design knowledge and is a recognized manufacturer and seller of high quality professional fire helmets built to NFPA industry standards. Phenix Technology’s fire helmets are used by thousands of firefighters in the United States and worldwide. Proud to offer only products that are American made, Phenix Technology operates out of its headquarters located in Riverside, California. For more information, visit www.phenixfirehelmets.com
MN8-Foxfire is a firefighter owned company offering energy efficient and eco-friendly products utilizing breakthrough advanced illumination technology. MN8’s product offerings for the fire safety industry, marketed under the name Foxfire®, have earned a reputation for safety, high quality and performance-proven. This is readily apparent in Foxfire’s photoluminescent helmet bands, coating kits, grip wrap, equipment bands, T-shirts, helmet tetrahedrons and other products. Both the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Cincinnati Innovates have recognized MN8-Foxfire for its efforts in developing technology that keeps firefighters safe. The company is headquartered in Wyoming, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb. For more information, visit www.mn8products.com.
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.
Hero. It’s a word that is thrown around too much to many people that don’t deserve the honor of that title. A professional athlete is NOT a hero, a movie star is NOT a hero (even if they play one on film). A hero is someone that is willing to put their life on the line for someone they may have never met. A hero is not someone who is never scared, but rather someone that looks at danger and pushes through their fear to accomplish their mission. Author Brodi Ashton put it best, “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”
We are all privileged to work with heroes every time we report for duty at the fire station, but yesterday I had the chance to work with another group of heroes; police.
I had the honor to ride-a-long with the great men and women of the Cincinnati Police Department. Officer Matt Latzy was generous enough to let me ride shotgun with him during his shift. The day started out with the morning line-up. The duty sergeant covered information on some of the latest intelligence on some recent burglaries and incidents, and then the entire shift lined up for weapon and gear inspection. It reminded me of my days back in the US Marine Corps hearing the commands dress right dress, inspection arms, etc. We loaded up in the patrol car and were immediately dispatched to a robbery in progress.
As we were looking for the suspect, several irate females decided to start yelling at each other in the middle of the street. Here we are actively patrolling for a suspect and these two women are standing in the middle of the street blocking us from passing as they yelled back and forth about the one lady needing her shoes and cd back form the other’s apartment. I was very impressed with the ability of Officer Latzy to both control the situation and diffuse the tempers. As we continued our patrol, I asked him how was he able to keep his personal emotions in check while he engaged these two disrespectful and highly incensed people during such a high stress environment.
He told me that he loves his wife and kids and that he would never let some idiot(s) get in the way for providing for his family. He said that when he puts on his uniform he transforms. His job is to keep the peace. He becomes all about the job and puts his personal comfort and emotions aside. This is professionalism, this is what makes first responders such incredible people. This is what it means to put the greater good of society above the personal comfort of the individual.
As firefighters we do everything together. We eat together, we sleep together, we battle the dragon together. It’s a little different with police in that they spend the vast majority of their day riding solo. This all changes when a run comes out. As Officer Latzy was patrolling the radio lit up with the report of a man brandishing a gun. Instantly the radio traffic was filled with various officers responding to the scene.
We pulled up to the area and saw a suspect matching the description. Officer Latzy relayed the information to the other officers and almost instantly four patrol cars converged on the suspect from different angles. He was surrounded with nowhere to go and instantly surrendered.
What I saw was an amazing display of teamwork, communication and brotherhood. Even though they may spend the majority their time as individuals, when someone needs help they all come together. Just like the fire service they are brothers and a brother never lets a brother down.