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.
As we embark on this Independence Day weekend it is important to honor what this special holiday is all about. We all have a great time cleaning and detailing our apparatus for the neighborhood parade. Nothing is better than grilling something over the BBQ, either at the firehouse our at a neighborhood picnic. I’m sure all of us will enjoy watching fireworks either as the on duty crew or with our friends and family at home. This is a day of celebration, it is a day to honor the UNITED States of America. 235 years ago a bunch of individual colonists decided that they were going to put their life on the the line for the pursuit of FREEDOM. They wanted true freedom. Freedom from the tyrannical rulers an ocean away that limited their speech, religion, and the ability to freely pursue happiness. These brave colonists were able to defeat one of the strongest and most powerful army of the time because they realized that individually as colonists we may not be strong but by standing together as a united states, nothing could stand in our way.
One of our firefighter brothers Benjamin Franklin said "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" Those words could not be more true in the 1700’s as they are today. We are more than just firefighters, we are brothers. We must never forget that no one firefighter can do it all, it is a team effort. The nozzle-man can’t put the wet stuff on the red stuff with out the engineer pumping his water. The captain inside can't adequately monitor the full incident without the chief out front letting him know that conditions are changing. We search in teams to stay positionally oriented and to ensure accountability. Firefighting is the ultimate team activity, it is about looking out for your brothers both during operations and back at the firehouse.The concept of mutual aid goes deeper than just asking our neighboring department for assistance with the second alarm, mutual aid is about brothers helping brothers. Mutual aid is about visiting our retired firefighters, mutual aid is about giving a hand to our brothers in need.
With reduced budgets, politicians taking away our rights and sometimes even our jobs, it is important that we think of many different ways that we can help each other. From combined purchasing to joint training, there are so many things we can do as a group that could never be accomplished as individual firefighters or individual departments.
Over this Independence Day weekend, let’s look to the past and the lessons our founding fathers taught us when we stopped acting as individual colonies and united to change the world. We are all in this together no matter what station, city or unit day. We may have been an individual prior to joining the fire service but once you don the mask and put on that helmet you will be forever connected as brothers.