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!
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.
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.
This purpose of this trip was two-fold. First, I wanted to visit our largest Canadian distributor and secondly I wanted to live out a childhood dream of seeing the Edomonton Oilers play a home hockey game. As a little kid, I dreamed of Wayne Gretzkey, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier and one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports; the 1983-1990 Edmonton Oilers.
I was greeted at the airport by national sales manager Troy Mutch of Commercial Solutions. Troy does not only run one of the most successful firefighting products distributions organizations in Canada he is also a very active member of both his local fire department and national Canadian firefighting causes.
He was recently awarded a very prestigious Diamond Jubilee medal from the Queen of England in honor of his service to Canadian volunteer firefighting.
He drove me back to their offices for a grand tour. I could not have been more humbled to walk in the front door and be greeted front and center with a very prominent Foxfire display.
They gave me a tour of their warehouse and their two story indoor training tower. We were then met by Luke Brisson, another Commercial Solutions Sales rep and full-time firefighter with the city of Calgary. If I could come back in another life, I would want to be Luke. He’s a full-time firefighter, former semi-professional hockey player and chick magnet. He just got back from a one month trip to Thailand. Let’s just say this man had us all very jealous of his stories, except of course Commercial Solutions assistant manager Scott (the Rico Suave of Canada) who did not seem too impressed.....As we were walking around the building, Luke asked what any good self-respecting firefighter would ask someone on a tour “wanna go to the roof?”
Even though I just recently met these guys, I felt like I had known them for years. It never ceases to amaze me that a firefighter is a firefighter no matter were you run. These guys are more than just new friends, they are my brothers. I look forward to many more trips with them in the future (we are thinking about a July trip to Vancouver next)
Later that night we all met up again starting at a great bar/restaurant called CHOP. Wow, I would have thought I was in Las Vegas. Let’s just say Edmonton is at no loss for beautiful women.....
We then all met up with some more firefighters from Thorsby Fire Department and headed to a Brazilian Style restaurant called Pampa. According to Luke, we were going to eat so much steak that we would have “meat sweats.” I’m not sure what that meant but I ate so much that I could barely sleep that night...
I’m always on the lookout for creative and innovative products. After excusing myself to go to the bathroom, I found a product that had me rolling. Take a look at these pics and make sure to visit : www.theweee.com If any of you own a restaurant, bar or pub this is a MUST !
I woke up the next morning to something I have not seen in over a year. SNOW. Not just a few flakes but Canadian style snow; 30-40c centimeters 15+inches (I had to look that up)
We first had a duck sandwich (YUM....) and then headed to the Edmonton Fire Department for a few more meetings. It was then off to the hotel to get ready for the main event of the trip, Edmonton Oilers hockey.
In typical Troy fashion, we did not just attend the game, we watched the game from VIP seats just a few rows up from the goal. It was a great game that ended in overtime. It was a awesome time with a great group of guys. I'm looking forward to my next trip back to Western Canada and illuminating Canada with my new found brothers.
Another day another trip on an airplane.... I’ve been home for about 2 days out of the last 14 but at least I have had the chance to visit some warmer climates. My current travels take me back out to the West Coast. About nine months ago, some of you may remember me talking about my visits with Los Angeles Fire Department. Part of the reason for this trip was to follow up on how their evaluation has been progressing in addition to attending Firehouse World in San Diego. I will not only be exhibiting at the show but I will also be participating in some live fire evolutions (I’ll try and post that blog on the airplane when I return Friday)
I pulled into the station and the guys of Engine/Rescue 7 greeted me with open arms. They all immediately retrieved their illuminating helmet bands and also showed me how they had been used over the last several months.
As creative firefighters are, they also showed some new uses for our grip wrap. These were the same guys that showed me how they reconfigured a BBQ rotisserie to spin their tools as they applied the Foxfire Illuminating epoxy so it would not drip. These innovative dragon slayers took our grip wrap and sewed it on to the roof kits straps so if someone would happen to fall through the roof they could throw this in after them and the interior crew could use our advanced photoluminescence to locate the man down.
They invited me for lunch and we had a great discussion about the current state of the fire service. One comment really stuck with me as we were discussing brown-outs and layoffs. One of the firefighters talked about how easy it is for politicians to attack firefighters because no matter how much they take away from us we always find a way to accomplish our mission. I remembered seeing a great cartoon from Paul Combs about this exact issue.
After a great meal with these guys and a ride-a-long, I bid my adieus and headed north to Santa Barbara. I was off to visit my best friends from college and wanted to stop by a nearby winery to pick up a bottle of Santa Barabara’s finest fruit of the vine. Across the street from the winery was a small fire station. I decided to stop in and drop off a few tetrahedrons and a few brochures. The men of Carpinteria FD could not be more welcoming and friendly. It turns out that one of the guys was born in Cincinnati and the other was a big Cincinnati Reds fan. It never ceases to amaze me how connected we are to one another in the fire service.
As soon as I walked into my friends new home, their kids told me about the fire station around the corner. We visited some of the men of the Santa Barabara Fire Department. We happened to drop in as they were having dinner so we were brief but we did get a few minutes to talk about how our products improve accountability, reduce disorientation and help illuminate search sectors.
The next day I awoke very early and took the scenic drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. I watched the beautiful sunrise appear over the mountains and shine it’s beautiful colors over the ocean. I had to pull my car off the side of the road and take a moment to soak in this beauty.
As I sat on the rocks and took in this vista, I began to reflect on how blessed I am to have this incredible opportunity to travel this country and share with my fellow firefighters the benefits of this innovative technology. Just two weeks ago I was in New York City looking at Lady Liberty in the Atlantic Ocean, last week I was in Tampa, FL looking at the Gulf of Mexico and today I was sitting, feeling the mist of the waves of the Pacific. I thought of my time over the last year spent with firefighters from all over this great country. I reflected over the brotherhood I encounter as my travels take me from coast to coast and I thought of the sacred words of last two lines of “America the Beautiful”
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
This is one of my favorite holidays. How can you not like a holiday in which a turkey-stuffing-corn-potato-gravy-string bean casserole-pie gluttony is followed by watching football on the couch as you drift away in a tryptophan induced coma....
In all seriousness, this is a time for all of to give thanks. I am so thankful for so many things but one thing I am especially thankful for is the opportunity to serve the heroes of the fire industry. One of my friends and colleagues recently sent me the following video.
This video perfectly captures what I believe is our highest calling for this business; WHY.
Why, because we are firefighters helping other firefighters be better and SAFER firefighters. This is MN8-Foxfire’s way of giving back to an industry that has given us so much. If you think about what is at the heart of firefighting, it is giving. We give up time away from our friends and family. We give our blood, sweat, tears and sometimes we even give our life. Outside of the military, there are few professions that give as much as fire-firefighters.
I’m always looking for an opportunity to teach my son about the importance of giving back. This last weekend my seven year old son Bryce and I had the privilege to assemble and give out meals for less fortunate people in our community. My son asked me a simple question while we were handing out the Thanksgiving meals, Why ? Why, because we live in a country of incredible opportunities. When the plentiful bounty many of us receive overflows, it is only right to share it with others.
I recently shared the aformentioned video with the members of the MN8-Foxfire staff to remind all of us why we do what we do. We are here to serve our fellow firefighting brothers. When you learn of a new tool, a new training technique, and new wiz-bang that can make our job easier/safer/better you share it with others. Why, becuase thats what we do. We help others, especially our brothers. Through MN8-Foxfire's innovative technology we have the opportunity to reduce disorientation, increase accountability of tools and personnel and we have an obligation and priviliage to share this with our brother firefighters throughout the US and abroad.
As I look back on this time of thanks, I am so thankful for this special opportunity to serve others. I am thankful every time I get to realize my childhood dream of being a firefighter. Don’t ever think that being a firefighter is just a job, it is so much more. It is a calling, a brotherhood, a way of life. I have to always hide my smile every time I don my gear and ride on that firetruck. It never gets old. I have met so many great firefighters from all over the world. Every week we receive stories and testimonials about how our illuminating line of products have helped our brother firefighters. There is nothing that fills us with more pride. On behalf of all of us at MN8-Foxfire we wish you and your families both at the station and at home a deep and heartfelt thank you for all you do.
In the next few days MN8-Foxfire will be celebrating our one year anniversary. In our brief first year of operations, our products are now being used by over 10,000 firefighters across the globe. We all knew that this concept was going to be big but none of us expected us to be in this position after only a year.
This concept started with a simple silicone helmet band that was made with a rare advanced photoluniescent technology. The first prototype of this unique helmet band sat on my helmet for over a month collecting dust before I really had the chance to see what it could do. The first fire I made with this band, I was on the ladder and was assigned to pull ceiling. It was like any other typical fire, dark and smoky and we could barely see each other . As I was opening up the ceiling, I felt something tugging on my helmet. Turning around to see what was grabbing my helmet, I saw the engine crew looking at me in amazement as they tried to figure out what was causing this bright green glow to emanate from my helmet. I “encouraged” them to stop grabbing my helmet and start putting the wet stuff on the red stuff. Once at rehab, I started to notice a crowd forming around me and guys asking me if I was the “glowing green guy”. Once I explained what it was and how it could help with accountability and reduce disorientation, guys started grabbing for their wallets to purchase. As we rode back to the fire station, I started to think about what this incredible technology could do to help our fellow firefighters if it could be properly developed, marketed and distributed. I knew I owed it to my fellow firefighters to bring this idea to fruition. This could not be a part time job or hobby, it needed focus, attention and my undivided attention. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes that is promiately displayed in a metal sign above my desk: “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat”; fortune favors the bold. It was time to be bold and not tip toe into this opportunity. I needed to jump in with both feet and thats exactly what our team and I did. In the middle of a horrible recession with reduced budgets and everybody saying that this was too risky, we launched a concept, a concept that not even I expected to blossom this quickly or robustly.
A few weeks later we started MN8-Foxfire in the back of a friends garage. In a few months we moved to a low-rent strip mall and last month we opened our new headquaters in a beautiful new office.
The first day of MN8-Foxfire’s official operations was at the 2010 Ohio Fire & EMS Expo. An expo created by a couple of fellow firefighting entrapeneurers, Mark Zambito and Chis Craig from the Columbus, Ohio area. It was so special finishing up this same show last week and reminescing on what we have learned since exhibiting at this same show a year ago.
I knew our bold decision was going to pay off. From that first show in Columbus, Ohio, it was time to take the show on the road. Over the first few months I personally visited over 50 fire departments from coast to coast, Hawaii and even Russia. I shared how our products can improve visiability, increase accountability of tools and personell and reduce disorientation by increasing positional orientation. A few months later we exhibited at FDIC in Indianapolis. We were interviewed by two news channels and had one of the busiest booths at the show of 42,000+ attendees. After FDIC we were hit by a tidal wave of new sales and new distributors. Several national and local shows followed over the next several months and every month since then our sales and new distributors continue to grow at a break-neck pace. None of this would be possible without the help from my fellow firefighteing brothers and friends.
The greatest pride over this last year has not been the sales, accolades or partnerships, it is opening my inbox or recieving phone calls and hearing stories from my fellow firefighters about how this product has made their job both more effective and safer. Take some time to read an example of one of these stories about how our helmet bands helped a crew in a flashover.
Accountability Case Study
I am filled with both awe and pride how what started as a novel idea has grown into a movement that is literally changing the way in which we fight fire. As I look back on this year, I am humbled by the distributors, business partners, departments and firefighters that have put their faith and confidence in us. Most of all I am proud that what I learned in the marines and the fire service holds true whether it be taking the fight to the enemy, battling a stubborn structure fire or running a business, FORTES FORTUNA ADIUVAT !
We just returned from another fantastic firefighter trade show and we could not have been more pleased. The original plan was to travel down the day before the show to get set up and visit with some of our friends and colleagues. I say original plan because we were thrown a exciting curve ball the week before the show. The week before the show, Foxfire was notified that we won an innovation award from the Cincinnati Innovates Contest Cincinnati Innovates (I plan on writing more about this wonderful honor if our next blog). The only problem was that the award was being presented on Thursday evening in Cincinnati-N/Kentucky and our booth needed to be set up by Thursday afternoon in Atlanta. We were deeply honored to be recognized for this award, however we had to get the booth set up....
After sharing my predicament at the firehouse a few of our younger firefighters (Taylor Wood and Conner Brunck) offered both their pick-up truck and time to drive all the way from Cincinnati to Atlanta and set up the booth. This is brotherhood, this is what gives me such pride to be a firefighter. As I’ve said in previous posts, we are brothers helping brothers and these guys are the epitome of helping out their fellow brothers. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.
Taylor & Conner did a great job driving the booth down to Atlanta in record time (except for the little delay thanks to one of Georgia’s men in blue..) and set the booth up perfectly. They did a stand-up job at the show and shared their personal experiences of how they have used Foxfire’s illuminating products over the last year. Taylor and Conner joined my fire department several years ago as high school cadets and are both now full firefighters in my department. It is so great to watch these former pimple-faced teenagers grow in to not just great firefighters but also young men.
Speaking of brothers I was also helped by a few other brothers at the show. Two individual titians of the fire industry. The first is none other than the Iron Fireman himself, Capt. Willie Wines http://ironfiremen.com/ . Capt. Wines helped us in our booth at the Baltimore Fire Rescue International show last month and I could not be more privileged to have him in our booth again. I watched and listened to Capt. Wines talk and demonstrate Foxfire’s benefits of improving positional orientation, increasing the accountability of tools and personnel, and illuminating search areas. My initial thought was how exciting it is to have such a well known firefighter help sell this product. As I reflected on this, I realized the selling was not what mattered, what mattered was a brother firefighter helping other brother firefighters. My driving force and number one priority for Foxfire is that we need to educate the firefighting community on how advanced photoluminescent technology will positively transform the fire industry and save the lives of our brothers by reducing the second cause of LODD’s, disorientation. Capt. Wines, like myself, is passionate about how these products can help our brothers and I could not be more proud to have him join me in the crusade to help make our brothers be better and SAFER heroes.
The other guest in the Foxfire booth was none other than my own Fire Chief, Robert Rielage. Prior to joining our department he was the State Fire Marshal for the entire State of Ohio. Chief Rielage is a frequent contributing editor to Fire Chief magazine and travels all over the world speaking and consulting on various fire-industry related topics. He is great leader, a deeply respected mentor and a fantastic chief. He one of those people that makes you a better person by having him in your life. A few months ago, he asked to help me in our booth at the Fire Rescue International show I literally got goose-bumps. He was willing to put both his personal and professional credibility on the line by wearing our shirt and representing our company in front of his peers. Again, I thought to myself what a great thing to do for a fellow brother but like Capt. Wines, it hit me. He was not just doing this for me, he was doing it for all firefighters. He to feels passionate about what this product can do for our fellow firefighters and he wants to teach and show as many firefights, officers, and chiefs as possible that these products can and do save lives.
The show was tremendous, there were several times that we had more people in our booth than all the booths in our aisle combined. We sold every single illuminating helmet band we brought and were busy from the start to the finish.
We met some new friends and many old friends. One new friend in particular we met was Mariah Leavitt of Fire Rescue TV Fire Rescue TV. It was great sitting next to her and Rhett Fleitz (Fire Critic & Daily 911 Deals) at dinner and listen to them spend all night comparing who had the bigger social media footprint. We also got to briefly visit with the guys from Fat Ivan Fat Ivan who also had a great show.
As I drove home, I was overcome with the realization that we are not even a year old and yet our impact is transforming the fire-industry. In this short time we have sold over 10,000 products to firefighters in over 8 countries. Every week I get e-mails, phone calls, and messages about how our products help firefighters find their tools, keep track of their crews and reduce disorientation. I’m living a dream, a dream that started as a little kid playing on the fire truck at Cincinnati FD Station 34. The only thing that makes me more excited than living the dream of being a firefighter is the privilege to help other firefighters around the world by introducing them to this innovative new technology that will and has made their jobs safer.
I just returned from paradise.
Every year my family and I make it a point to visit Hawaii, the land of aloha. The word aloha has many meanings, most of us are familiar with the common usage of hello/goodbye but the literal translation is alo=presence, ha=breath. In the ancient days native Hawaiins would great each other by actually standing face to face and exchanging literal breaths. It is from this intimate expression of compassion, welcome, and love that the word aloha is derived.
The more I thought about the warmth and compassion we were shown as guests of these beautiful islands, the more I thought about how lucky I am to be a firefighter. Every firefighter has a special and unique connection to every other firefighter no matter where they are stationed. We commit the ultimate act of compassion by putting our life on the line to protect our fellow neighbors. We are the breath of life when we rescue or fellow citizens or sometimes our fellow firefighters from the dangers of heat and smoke. Firefighting embraces both the literal and figurative spirit of Aloha.
On this trip, as all trips, I made it a point to visit the local fire stations to show them the Foxfire line of illuminating products. I always make it a point to talk about Foxfire’s illumination technology that increase visibility, help with accountability of tools and personnel and reduce disorientation. This trip was no different. I spent part of one day visiting with the fine men of the Honolulu Fire Department discussing how these products can help with interior operations. I had a great discussion with one of the crews about the latest developments in firefighter safety and how our illuminating technology was on the cutting edge.
I also had a opportunity to visit with some of our nations bravest and courageous sailors in the US Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor. We discussed ways in which our product can help them better operate in the absence of light. Even though their job is different than that of a firefighter we all face the same challenges when we work in the dark.
The next part of my Hawaiian trip was off to the beautiful island of Kauai. This island is nothing short of paradise. I visited with one of the engine companies near our hotel and they were also very interested in our products, especially our illuminating t-shirts.
They directed me back to one of the the main stations 25 miles away. I’m used to traveling from station to station to meet with the key decision makers at various departments but this trip was quite special. Never before have I looked out my car window and seen such majestic waterfalls, vistas, and tropical mountains on my typical goose chase from station to station.
As I was walking in to the station, the assistant chief was virtually walking out. He gave me a few minutes to share why our products are so valuable to helping firefighters overcome the three biggest risks we encounter, visibility, accountability (of tools and personnel) and orientation. He sated that he was heading off to see the chief and I was welcome to “tag along”
The next thing I know, I’m standing in front of the chief and it turns out that he grew up a few short miles from my house and went to one of my rival high schools. Here I am in the middle of the Pacific ocean and I run in to someone that lived in my neck of the woods. It just goes to show you that we are all part of one large firefighting brotherhood no matter if you are in a major city, rural america, or a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, we are all connected !
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.