Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Eve

With New Years Eve upon us, thoughts turn to previous ones. They can be action packed nights filled with wrecks, EMS calls, and fires. There is also the "contest" to see which unit catches the first call after the ball drops, and who the "winner" will be.

I remember running nasty wrecks with entrapment, fires, and loads of drunks. It's a night which brings out the best and worst in people. Many years ago, we pulled a teenage girl out of a tiny bathroom. She was face down, and so intoxicated she had stopped breathing. We got her going again, and she survived to see the sunrise, and hopefully many more.

I now hope for a calm and boring night in which as much time as possible passes before someone is injured or property is damaged or destroyed. A night without roaring diesel engines and in which the only flashing lights are on the remaining Christmas decorations.

So here's a toast to a quiet night of reasoned revelry and a safe New Year.......

Friday, December 23, 2011

1st Responder News review of "Fire Men"

1st Responder News
December 23, 2011

Fire Men: Three Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family
by John Malecky


By John M. Malecky February, 2012

Fire Men
Stories from three generations of a
firefighting family
By Gary R. Ryman

Available from:

Price: $10.95

This is a soft cover book measuring 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches and has 279 pages. It is the stories of three generations of firefighters spanning a 30 year period of service. The author is the second generation. He served in three states, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Currently he is a fire protection engineer. These stories, which take up 20 chapters take place in the volunteer ranks, although for a time, while attending the University of Maryland, he rode with career firefighters in a “live-In” program. The stories begin with the author being young and tagging along with his father who was a volunteer fire chief in New York State. I must say he is a man of my own heart because it was at the ago of 10 that I had decided I wanted to be a fireman. It came from reading a merit badge book on the Firemanship merit badge and successful testing to achieve it. The author had the advantage of being able to respond with his father. My father was not a firefighter although my uncle was but we both lived in cities with career firefighters and riding with my uncle to fires was not possible. Anyway I identify with the author and throughout his 20 chapters he writes with a professional technique that even though they were volunteers, you would think that he was reminiscing on fires and emergency calls in big cities with career departments (although as mentioned earlier he did ride with career firefighters in Maryland.) The imagery of his writing puts you there with him especially if you are in emergency services. While many of the incidents are fires, many others are vehicle accidents including where life is lost. Having been a battalion chief and knowing what has to be assessed on the fireground, he leaves no question in my mind that he’s “on the money” when it comes to incident command. Of course, not every call goes well. Mistakes are made and things happen when we have no control over them. But the author write in a honest way and points these things out when stuff goes bad, making this book realistic, not portraying the players as heroes that always win! It has been said that volunteers do not always enter burning buildings, some say because they are not being paid to do it, but in this book they do and the details of their operating under adverse conditions leaves little to the imagination! From structure fires to rural tanker shuttles to operating the Jaws at a car accident, there isn’t a moment of “ho hum” when reading this book! The chapters are generally 10 to 15 pages long and the rapidity in which you go through this book is strictly based on how much time you have to spend reading. In some incidents you have what the news media would describe as “graphic” but as emergency workers we know that these things are always a possibility when we answer a call. When we wear the uniform of helping others we must condition ourselves to keep calm so we can plan strategy and tactics. This is what is expected of us!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Memories Part 2....Doing Santa's Work

Christmas was always special when I was growing up. We were always up before dawn to see what Santa had brought us. I truly believed in him. Once, I even thought I heard the hooves of reindeer tapping on the roof of our house while Santa was making his delivery.

One year, one of the presents I received was a multiple level gas station/ parking garage in which you could drive and park and pretend to work on your matchbox cars. My sister was receiving something called the “Imagination Dollhouse”. Both had “some assembly required,” somewhere in excess of a gazillion pieces.

My sister and I were sound asleep in bed, which we knew was important, because Santa wouldn’t come if we were awake. Mom and Dad were getting out the hidden presents and the toys that needed assembly when the Grinch decided to pay a visit in the form of a house fire. The Plectron went off and so did my father, leaving Mom to finish putting the presents under the tree, and more importantly, begin the toy assembly.

Dad barely made it back before we woke up that Christmas morning. As usual, we were wide-eyed and thrilled with everything Santa had brought.

Years later, in the post-Santa period, Mom would regularly retell the story of that Christmas Eve, complete with uproarious laughter as she described the “millions of pieces necessary” to assemble the toys that year. She stayed up all night, the elf completing Santa’s work.

An excerpt from Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Might be a Firefighter if....Christmas Memories Part 1

A memory of Christmas might be a firefighter if you wear the needles off the Christmas tree making sure the lights haven't overheated and dried out the branches....

I smile this time of year recalling Dad's compulsion with regards to our Christmas tree. The tree stand was topped off with water more frequently than a cup of coffee in a diner. The amount of time the lights were on was carefully managed during the evening; and he regularly bounced from his chair to check the temperature of the branches exposed by the colorful bulbs.

With the amount of time he spent feeling the tree, it was a wonder it retained any needles at all by Christmas Day. No one was happier about the acquisition of an artificial tree than Mom as she could finally leave the lights on for more than fifteen minutes at a time....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Food on the Stove: Not Always "Routine"

A visit to the high-rise was not unusual, but the 3:00 AM hour was. Such nocturnal visits were usually for a serious fire, so we were actually a bit relieved as we made our way onto the reported fire floor and the unmistakable odor of food on the stove assaulted our noses.

Reaching the doorway of the offending apartment, we prepared to force it when it opened on its own accord. Actually it was an occupant that opened it and the confusion began.

The female resident greeted us, clad only in panties and a bra. She seemed entirely comfortable greeting two companies of firefighters in such dress. Behind her, a poker game was underway; a group of four or five men around a kitchen table. All were oblivious to the smoke, banked three foot down from the ceiling, now pouring from the apartment into the hallway.

The engine officer, not normally known for his tact, performed a Kissingeresque negotiation to allow a couple of us to enter, turn off the stove, douse the offending pan in the sink, and open a couple of windows to achieve some semblance of ventilation. The poker players studiously ignored us and the woman professed complete ignorance as to the need for our presence. We completed the necessary actions as quickly and unobtrusively as possible and then left, still unacknowledged by the poker players.

We wondered on the ride back to the station if our panty clad hostess was aware of the presence of the poker players and vice versa, based on the volume of empty beer cans observed. Obviously no one in the apartment would be getting their late night snack. It was an interesting evening.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shared Terms From Our Military Heritage And Words of Today

Any writer will acknowledge a fondness for words, and I am no exception. Recently, I started reading a great book on military education, America’s School For War, by Peter Schifferle, and was struck by an obvious point on how firefighters use military terminology. We regularly use words such as offensive, defensive, strategy, tactics, attack, commander; the list seems endless.

Change just a couple words from a quote in this book from 1919, and it sounds like something from any fire officer training class today.

“A commander on the battlefield (fire ground) confronted with an emergency or special situation, or an officer given a tactical problem to solve in the classroom, in order to arrive at a sound tactical decision and to initiate the necessary steps to carry that decision into effect, must go through a certain well defined mental process, which includes a consideration of his task, the obstacles to be overcome, and the means at his disposal for overcoming these obstacles.”

This history geek in me enjoys things like this, and closing in on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is a good time to reflect on the phraseology used in our para-military structure.

These are by far, not the only words we use as our own colloquialisms have been developed. Slang terminology, some well known and others more regional, such as job, bus, stick, nob, probie, johnny, Loo, Cap, and wagon; this list goes on and on as well. These are fun and special, and give tradition and soul to a department. One component of the wonderful world of NIMS was designed to standardize terminology, a worthwhile goal in some respects, but I hope it never steals the soul from the business.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Opening Day Blues

The opening day of deer season being upon us reminded me of some experiences with out-of-town hunters. At the far end of our district, near the interstate, we had would could be generously called a “gentleman’s club.” Strip joint was the common parlance. It was a well known establishment to most of our members. Jack, the guy who owned it, typically took good care of us.

We didn’t run too many calls there. Jack ran a pretty tight ship, and trouble didn’t get real far out of hand. The worst time of year, surprisingly, was hunting season.

Jersey hunters as we called them would come into town, hunting primarily state game lands; staying in nearby motels. They could be from anywhere, not necessarily New Jersey, but any non local hunter was tagged with the sobriquet. At night, they needed entertainment, hence their visits to our well known establishment.

Once they had a few beers in them, opinions would start to fly which would occasionally offend their Pennsylvania brethren. Attitude adjustment would ensue.

Following this, our ambulance would be needed for a ride to a local emergency room. On arrival, we would typically find the offending hunter lying in the parking lot in front of the building. They would intone on how they had been assaulted or had other criminal acts committed upon their person. We would enlighten them.

“You fell down the front steps,” we would explain to them. They would disagree, and we would repeat the explanation.

“If you had kept your mouth shut, you wouldn’t have fallen down the front steps,” we would explain. Eventually they would give up, or at least decide it wasn’t worth the argument.

It was always fun to see the grins on the Pennsylvania hunters as we explained the malady that caused the injury to the out-of-town boys.

Monday, November 21, 2011

If We Bought Our Personal Cars Like We Buy Fire Apparatus...

I have mentioned previously the excessive interlocks and safeties increasing the now astronomical cost of fire apparatus. This, however, is only part of the problem. In the other portion, we are our own worst enemy.

A military term for it is gold plating. Disingenuously, we call it meeting our needs. Custom hose bed arrangements, specialized compartments, light packages rivaling the Radio City Christmas tree, and that is before we get to pumps and tanks. “Custom” engines costing in the $400,000 range are unsustainable for all but a very few departments.

This picture makes me think about what it would be like if we purchased our personal cars using the same methods we use for fire apparatus. The typical sedan, SUV, or pick-up has three levels; a basic, intermediate, and luxury level. Each step up seems to add a half dozen options, but it’s not an ala carte menu. As bad as new car costs are, I can see what would happen…..

Chief B enters the local Ford dealership.
“I’d like to spec out one of those new Taurus’s you have,” the Chief says.

“Great Chief, step right over to my desk.”

“I like your base model, but I need a special trunk, as I only load my suitcases one way.”

“Can do, Chief.”

“Also, I need four head lights instead of two, and these special brake lights. The hazard flashers will have to be moved because of the special trunk.”

“No problem, Chief.”

“The sun roof needs to double in size. I like lots of upward visibility.”

“That will entail special reinforcement and a re-design of the roof, but I’m sure our engineers are up to the challenge.”

“Great, then I’m sure the fifty gallon windshield washer reservoir won’t be a problem for them.”

“We’ll make it work, Chief.”

“Okay, then, how much do you think my new Taurus will run?”

“We should be able to do that for around $350K and have it to you in 18 months...”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Keeping Township Officials Aware of FD Operations: An Alternative Approach

The Chairman of the Board of the township supervisors lived down the street from me. While I always suspected, I never asked him if he was happy when I took my white helmet off. His sleep likely improved.

I suspect this because of a little habit I developed following his election as supervisor. While he was always supportive of the fire department, he didn’t really understand a lot of what was involved, particularly the time commitment. I therefore developed a method by which to increase his understanding in this area; perhaps one which was a bit unorthodox.

There is typically not much traffic out here in the country, particularly in the middle of the night. Directly in front of his house, however, it was the Capital Belt way at rush hour. If I had to get out of bed, I thought he should know, and be aware that we were up protecting the fine citizens of the township. As I approached his house, regardless of the time and actual traffic, the siren would be switched on to yelp, and as I passed, back off, clearing that magical traffic that always seemed to be present in front of his home.

Yes, I suspect he noticed a difference in his sleep habits when I got out a year or so before he did. Maybe someday I’ll ask him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Life Shield Security & Fire Safety
November 10, 2011

Fire Safety Tips from a Lifelong Firefighter: Infographic

October kicked off National Fire Prevention Week. The week long observance was started in 1920 to commemorate the devastation of the Great Chicago Fire and educate families about fire safety. Although National Fire Prevention Week is always held during the week of October 9th, fire safety is a year-round concern.

One of our home security writers had the opportunity to chat with Gary Ryman, a lifelong firefighter and author of Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family. Ryman began his career as an EMS at 16-years-old. After two years, he transitioned into the fire department and has been fighting fires ever since. As part of October’s fire safety initiative we asked Ryman to share his best fire safety tips with us.
LifeShield Home Security burglar fire alarm safety

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Heidi Ruby Miller reviews "Fire Men"

November 7, 2011

Fire Men review
by Heidi Ruby Miller

5 of 5 stars

This fast-paced memoir reads like a novel. Gary Ryman draws in his readers with storytelling that is as captivating as a five-alarm blaze. His attention to historical facts and details makes you feel like a member of his family and his company. There were moments of fist-clenching tension countered by misty-eyed sadness and heart-warming anecdotes. I not only learned something from Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family, I felt something, too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brush Fire Surprise

One of the first brush fires Mike went on when he was a fourteen year old cadet held an interesting surprise. The fire was just over the line in Greenfield, but both companies were working it. I was not—following my personal rule against Indian tanks based on “Ryman’s Law,” my contribution to the world of physics, which states that water weight in an Indian tank increases one pound per gallon for ever year over forty. Observing and functioning as a quasi safety officer—mainly for my son, was perfectly fine by me.

Mike had donned his Indian tank and was working the perimeter, mindful of my admonitions to stay in the black as he knocked down flames at the head of the fire. Concentrating on the fire, he didn’t see an unusual visitor until feeling something unusual at boot level. He looked down to see a copperhead crawl over the toe and ankle of one of his rubber bunker boots and continue slithering away. A few squirts from the Indian tank encouraged the snake to continue and perhaps expedite its journey elsewhere, location unknown, as Mike certainly didn’t go looking for him. It was certainly an interesting way for him to learn that fires are always full or surprises.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Connections Magazine feature

Connections Magazine
November 2011

Local Author Book Debut
Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family

The debut book by a local author has recently been published. Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family by Gary Ryman, a Connections Magazine contributing writer, was recently released by Tribute Books.

This book tells the stories and experiences of three generations of firefighters of which Gary is the second. It relates the good, bad, ugly and funny aspects of firefighting and how those experiences affect firefighters. Being both the son and father of firefighters gives Ryman an unusual perspective. From the suburban areas of upstate New York to the fast paced suburbs of Washington, D.C. to the rural hills of northeastern Pennsylvania, the stories range from the tragic to the comic. Many of the stories involve incidents in northeastern Pennsylvania where the second generation ended up holding ranks from firefighter to Chief of Department, and the third generation began as a firefighter. The book is available in both paperback and ebook versions from and For more information, visit

"Follow 'Fire Men' as they crawl down a hot, smoke filled hallway, rescue the trapped and injured, and carry you through a legacy of three generations of hometown heroes. It's filled with stories of courage, compassion, community, and the camaraderie that is forged only between those who have fought fire - and lived to tell about it."

What People Are Saying:

“This guy caught a lot of fire. Fire Men is a must-read around the firehouse. Gary Ryman is a master storyteller."
-Tiger Schmittendorf, Chief Storyteller,

“I think the book shows the true meaning of learning, sharing, devotion and motivation. I really think it should be on every probies list, as it shows the good, the bad and the ugly of what emergency responders go through, and like anything, we remember the good times and the good friendships more than the bad...Congrats on a winner....A great book....What I liked best was remembering a lot of those incidents, by either the war stories shortly afterward or seeing it on the news. A lot of those were back in the Good Days, when men were men and probies understood they didn't know everything. All in all, it tops my lists of the many fire books I have read over the years."
-Dave CHICO Richards, Pa. State Fire Inst. Emeritus,

“As someone who also comes from a multi-generation fire service family, I appreciate how well Gary Ryman captures his family’s dedication and commitment to their fire department and community. Fire service families everywhere will relate to Gary’s stories.”
-Gary Keith, Vice President of Field Operations, National Fire Protection Association

“From the first page, Ryman hits the nail on the head. He provides a riveting look at the fire service as a whole, and the evolution of the business over the last three decades. Every fire fighter should read this. Old ones to reminisce, young ones to appreciate where we came from.”
-Fred Bales, CFPS, CFI, Pennsylvania Senior Fire and Public Safety Instructor & Past Chief, Greenfield Fire Company, Greenfield, PA

Friday, October 28, 2011

AFG: Where Do We Go From Here?

The NFPA recently released a fire service needs assessment; the third iteration following previous assessments conducted in 2001 and 2005. The goal was to look for gaps in fire service needs and to evaluate how the AFG program is helping to fill the needs of departments. There were some interesting results.

• 46% of fire departments have not formally trained all their personnel in structural firefighting. This is down from 55% in 2001 and 53 % in 2005.

• 70% of departments have no program to maintain firefighter health and fitness, down from 80% in 2001 and 76% in 2005.

• 46% of fire department engines were 15 or more years old, down from 51% in 2001 and 50% in 2005.

Some of the conclusions included:
• Needs have declined considerably in areas such as personal protective and firefighting equipment, two types of resources that received the largest shares of funding from the AFG programs.

• Declines in needs have been more modest in some other important areas, such as training, which have received much smaller shares of AFG funds.

• Fire prevention and code enforcement needs have shown no clear improvement over the past decade.

• There has been little change in the ability of departments, using only local resources, to handle certain types of unusually challenging incidents, including two types of homeland security scenarios (structural collapse and chem/bio agent attack) and two types of large-scale emergency responses (a wildland/urban interface fire and a developing major flood).

The AFG program has attempted to supplement local resources and fill gaps across a wide spectrum of needs. While there is no argument that there has been positive movement, even a generous assessment of these results and conclusions would be that the successes have been modest. Based on this, I’m wondering if it might be time to try something different.

It is no secret that federal resources are under a microscope, and if anyone thinks the amount dedicated to the fire service will increase, please let me know as I have a large bridge for sale. The obvious conclusion is that the broad brush approach used over the past decade will not work across the entire spectrum of issues. Note that where a large percentage of the resources went; namely personal protective and firefighting equipment, is where there has been more success.

Instead of continuing down this path and seeing marginal improvement over the next ten years with the limited resources available, why not take a hard look and establish one or two priorities and for the next five years, focus all the available funding there in order to produce a major impact. Whether it should be training, fire prevention, health & safety, or another area, is a topic for another day. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to look at these numbers; consider the billions of dollars spent to obtain modest improvements overall, and not think that there has to be a better way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fire Service Leadership

I recently was copied on an e-mail from a dear friend and a great fire service instructor and leader. We have spent more years than we care to admit fighting fire together. He had recently completed teaching a Fire Instructor I class. His thoughts are well worth reading:

"I am offering this message to the Fire Service Instructor I Candidates and have copied a few select like-minded professionals, because I feel your hard work should not go un-noted.

You have just completed 40 hours in the class and 40 to 60 hours in study. There were 12 terminal objectives in the program, and as you have come to know each terminal objective typically has 3 or more enabling objectives to aide you in reaching the final goal.

You may have learned things about computers that you never knew, like how to do headers and footers, make power point do ticks, or overcome “404 file” not found. You were forced to read a very difficult text, which did not talk about Snap tite, KME, and Akron, rather presented Blum, Hawthorn, and Maslow. You learned the difference between affirmative action and Title VII. Your learned what ADA really means, and who Buckley was. I AM CERTAIN YOU LEARNED, PREPARATION, PRESENTATION, APPLICATION, AND EVALUATION. In addition, with some trepidation, you discovered the difference between a difficulty index and a discrimination index.

While I have a high degree of confidence in your ability to pass both the written and skills exam, that is of little importance to me. What I know is that each of your traveled a road from some place in your life to a new place as a fire service leader. I watched you drop the issues of the past that may have existed with your sister departments, and take up a mantle for fire service professionalism. I saw the petty differences of generations of grandfathered animosity; flake off as if dead skin, to reveal a new fire service, focused on teamwork; and pride not in self, but each other.

I watched you stand guard over your fellow class mates, like a herd of elephants protecting a hurt (of heart not body), member of the herd. You bore your classmates during their weak times and likewise they bore you.
I have had the pleasure and honor to stand before more than 14,000 students, including this class. So let me offer how I feel about you as a group.

You came to the program with your own thoughts about your own strengths and weaknesses. Some of you thought that you knew everything. I suspect that all of you leave feeling as if you know very little.

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand” Frank Herbert US science fiction novelist (1920 - 1986).

So let’s cut to the chase, several of you offered that you did not do as well as you wanted to, one person apologized for letting me down. Know this; you did not let me down. There was an objective 13. You may not have realized it was an objective, but it was. It dealt with the affective domain of leaning. “Fire and emergency service instructors can positively affect learner self-esteem and create a desire to learn and a determination to succeed. An instructor’s influence – that good or bad impression that affects learner’s attitudes and actions – is lasting.”

I saw a change in you. I saw the change from a fire service position of “I” to a fire service position of “WE”. That is the single thing that you needed to get from this program. That the success of the fire service lies in a focus on serving the public, learning, and professionalism. It lies in TEAM WORK. That is a what being a leader is about; and that is what a FIRE DEPARTMENT is. I am proud to have been a part of it. Good Luck on your testing!"

“Nothing happens by accident”

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Books played a large part in my life from the time I learned to read. Mom was a big reader, which is obviously where I got my love for books. Obvious, because Dad was not a reader. This was a dichotomy in our house as Mom always had a book or two underway and Dad read the newspaper, the fire magazines, and occasionally, Field & Stream. A short article at a time was his limit. At his job, he read large amounts of material, digesting reports, studies, and memos. Because of that, I always thought reading was work for him, not something to be enjoyed.

My favorite days in school were when the Scholastic Book order came in. This was second only to the day in which I pored over the newsprint catalog with that periods selections in it; trying to decide what to order. Mom enjoyed this as well, and her job was to establish the limitations and the budget, as I would have ordered practically everything in the flyer. Dad mainly gritted his teeth; avoiding offering his opinion on the whole process. He knew there was little sense in voicing his thoughts as Mom insisted we should have books and read, and deep down, he knew this was the right thing to do from an educational standpoint.

I still remember the thrill of watching the teacher unpack the cardboard box and separate each student's order. Carrying them home, it was a major decision which one to start with. It really didn't matter, as I usually read two or three books at a time anyway.

Writing my own book took it to the next level, and holding the first printed copy in my hand was like Scholastic day multiplied exponentially. The only thing missing was Mom seeing the book. Oh, there would have been a short lecture on the profanity in some of the stories, but she understood that's how it really was. Any thoughts she might have had on that would have been overwhelmed with reading the stories about her husband, son, and grandson.

The second best part is Dad actually reading it. The process took a few months, but he did it; kind of neat as it is the first entire book he's read in probably more than thirty years. He now is more than pleased to quote from it on a regular basis--especially the stories involving him.

I'm glad he was still here to read it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fire Prevention Week Memories

Bill Cosby probably loves Fire Prevention Week. The priceless comments of the pre-school groups make taking the precious vacation days in order to make the presentations all worth while.

One little girl worried over her dog and wondered about teaching the critter Stop, Drop, and Roll in case his fur caught fire. My favorite, though was the boy who, after carefully considering the information presented on home evacuation plans and the importance of everyone immediately exiting the burning house, raised his hand to offer his comment.

"It's not gonna work," he opined while shaking his small head.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Cause my Daddy sleeps in his underwear."

There was just no adequate response to that, particularly while watching the pre-school teachers turning purple while biting their tongues in their attempt not to laugh. They did, however, enjoy the moment when Dad picked junior up from class....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beautiful Fall Leaves

The changing of the season and the leaves falling from the trees reminded me of an experience I had years ago. Initially it came in as a small brush fire. The middle of the night dispatch was accurate as far as it went. I rode the left well of the wagon as we made our way down New Hampshire Avenue, the siren needed only infrequently at this hour with little traffic to impede us.

As we made the left hand turn onto the side street, I could see the column of flames in the air. Not typically what you see from a brush fire, but it was obviously coming from the wooded section near the edge of the neighborhood, so I didn’t think much of it. Another left onto the dead end roadway, and we were there.

There was definitely a brush fire. Unfortunately, the center of the burning brush and leaves included a van, fully involved. At least the column of fire in the night sky was now explained.

I dismounted and grabbed the nozzle of the inch and a half trash line from the running board, and started making the stretch toward the fire. Paulie, one of the career guys, flaked the line out behind me. The driver put the pump in gear and charged the line. I opened the nozzle and moved in toward the burning van, killing the burning brush in front of us as I went.

Reaching the van, I directed the nozzle into the interior, sweeping the stream across the ceiling then whipping the nob around. The fire darkened and seemingly went out inside the vehicle, but looking down, it was now shooting out from under the van onto my boots and lower legs. It got my attention.

Backing up a couple of feet, I swept the underside of the van with the stream. Now the fire flared back up inside the vehicle. Paulie left to go back to the Engine and pull another line, while I continued playing ping pong with the fire.

He returned with the second hose and we worked the brush and van together. Moving toward the engine compartment, the stream hit one of the vans front wheels. Bright beautiful colored flames came off of it.

“Shit,” Paulie and I said simultaneously. It was magnesium, which was a bitch to put out with water. You typically used sand or a special extinguisher. We didn’t have either this night.

I looked behind me and saw that the engine officer, Lieutenant F, had seen the same thing. He had a length of three inch on his shoulder and the Humat valve in his hand as he humped toward the nearest hydrant. He knew the tank water alone on the Engine wasn’t going to cut it.

Paulie and I kept working the lines. We were trying to keep the fire underneath the van knocked down and away from the gas tank. The hydrant supply established, the lieutenant supervised and moved from line to line behind us. He was an old fashioned officer. No way was he calling for help for a small brush fire.

We attacked from two directions, hoping to end the table tennis match with the fire. I kept pushing it away from the gas tank while Paulie knocked it down in the van again. He could tell the gas tank made me nervous. I knew they seldom caused problems, but they also weren’t typically exposed to fire for this long.

“Don’t worry kid. If that tank goes we’ll be frigging heroes, and we won’t feel a thing,” Paulie laughed.

It lightened the mood, which was his purpose. Slowly we got control, and with the coarse straight stream, were even able to put out the mag wheels.

Then came the drudgery; draining and re-racking the hose. The sun began to rise by the time we were done. Back at the station, I collapsed into my bunk for a half hour or so until the day shift crew came in. Just the routine noise they made ruled out further sleep. Good thing I was only twenty and didn’t require much rest.

Yeah, the colorful fall leaves are a wonderful thing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Signed copies of "Fire Men" NOW AVAILABlE for the Kindle

Signatures for your Kindle version of Fire Men now available on kindlegraph

Click here:

Common Sense

I read a great article recently by Jerry Knapp in Size Up (Issue 2, 2011) He is emphatic in his interest in firefighter safety, but argues quite persuasively--at least to me--that perhaps we have moved away from common sense, personal responsibility, and managing our people instead of expecting technology to do it.

He begins with a discussion of a New York state law requiring fire departments to purchase bail out bags for their firefighters if they handle buildings over one story (and who doesn't) high. This gets to the root of a politically incorrect opinion I have held for years; namely that many of the firefighter survivial classes are incorrectly focused primarily on techniques instead of something more important--situational awareness and size-up. Let's teach how to avoid getting into trouble in the first place rather than simply how to get out of it. As one who has done the head first ladder slide for real, I can tell you that if you have to do it to stay alive, it comes real natural.

Knapp's seat belt discussion is a good one as well. I full agree that seat belts make things safer. However, instead of coming up with workable user friendly designs, the apparatus instead now has bells, buzzers, and interlocks to make us use them. This raises a few issues. Not forcing the manufacturers to come up with something practical, they add costs (and profit) to pieces by the addition of bells and whistles. It also challenges some of our bright young firefighters to come up with ways to by-pass said safeguards; a lose-lose situation. Lastly it shows our difficulties in managing our own people and culture. As Jerry points out, if the Lieutenant in the seat turned around and made sure everyone was buckled in before the wheels turned, would we need a computer to tell us the rig shouldn't move? Will this change? Definitely, but it will take some time. An analogy would be the path taken to mandatory SCBA usage and the equipment we have today versus thirty years ago. I suspect some of our more "seasoned folks will nod their head at their memories of this.

While there is nothing more important than safety, common sense needs to come along for the ride.

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Firefighters

If you were once a little boy (or maybe even a little girl), there’s a good chance you wanted to be a firefighter at some point. And who could blame you? Firefighters get to run stoplights in their shiny red trucks, carry axes, and save people from burning buildings. Those of you who didn’t quite reach your firefighting dreams are probably missing out on information about the men and women who risk their lives each day to keep us safe and fire-free. Some facts make firefighters sound even more awesome than we already know they are, and some highlight the sacrifices they make for their communities. Here are 9 things, both good and bad, you didn’t know about our heroic firefighters.

  1. They used to use buckets

    Before fire hydrants and huge tanker trucks were available to help firefighters extinguish flames, men had to rely on buckets of water passed down an assembly line. These units were called bucket brigades. In the 1680s, people in New York were required to have a certain number of buckets on hand depending on their building’s risk of fire. For example, bakers needed three and brewers had to keep six handy. When there was a fire, people would throw out their buckets and form two lines between the town’s well and the fire. One line would pass buckets full of water to the fire, and the other would pass empty ones back to the well to be refilled. Luckily, the equipment we use today is much more sophisticated and effective so we don’t have to put out fires one bucket at a time.

  2. Benjamin Franklin contributed to firefighting

    What didn’t Benjamin Franklin do? The man who invented the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove is also responsible for the first fire company in Philadelphia. The firefighters were known as the Union Fire Company or sometimes Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade. The men would meet every month to discuss firefighting techniques, and each was required to bring buckets and bags to fires in the city to tote water and protect valuables from theft. Though it was the first in Philadelphia, the Union Fire Company wasn’t the only fire club after long. Others sprang up later that year and the years that followed, and soon all of Philadelphia was protected pretty well from spreading fires — a major concern in a time of thatched roofs, wooden structures, and open hearths.

  3. Most are volunteers

    Of the more than 1 million firefighters in the nation, 73% are volunteers. Many fire stations use both volunteer and career firefighters to serve the community, and there are only about 2,000 career-only stations of the 30,500 stations in the country. This means that most of the firefighters that serve your community probably have other jobs on top of keeping their towns safe. Many of them have full-time jobs just like you do and volunteer their free time when someone’s in trouble. And don’t think that volunteer firefighters don’t face the same danger as career firemen. They have to undergo the same rigorous training and die in the line of duty just as frequently as those who fight fire full time.

  4. They started using Dalmatians for a reason

    If you thought firefighters chose the Dalmatian as their mascot because their white coats with black spots totally go with the red fire trucks, think again. While color coordinating may be a great way to choose your personal pets, firefighters used to have a specific use for the Dalmatian. Dalmatians were often referred to as "carriage dogs" in the days when horse-drawn carriages were the best way to transport goods and highway robberies were a common occurrence. The dogs got along extremely well with horses, protected the goods when the coach driver was away, and could run alongside the carriage for long distances. This made the dog perfect for firehouses, because the Dalmatian could guard the horses and equipment at the firehouse and on location at fires. Many fire stations still have Dalmatians, though their role has changed from guard dog to companion.

  5. Women firefighters have been around since the 1800s

    Even though firefighters are still often called "firemen," this term disregards all the ladies out there who put their lives in danger for their community. Men still dominate the field (just under 4% of firefighters are women), but the number of women firefighters is expected to increase. The first known female firefighter in the U.S. was Molly Williams, a slave from New York, who fought fires side by side with the men in the early 19th century. Another woman, Marina Betts, volunteered with the fire department in Pittsburgh in the 1820s. Since the early 1900s, there have even been several all-woman fire companies in Maryland, California, Texas, and other states. Women today still face many hurdles to becoming full-time firefighters, such as equipment that doesn’t fit feminine curves correctly and a lack of facilities for women to shower without having to endure male locker-room talk.

  6. They carry an extra 60 pounds

    Firefighters have to keep in tip-top shape to perform their jobs well. Not only do they have to run, climb stairs, and carry people, they have to do it all while wearing up to 60 pounds of equipment. That’s like lugging around a 9-year-old. The exact weight of the equipment varies depending on the materials used by the producers, but when you think of all the gear a firefighter has, it’s not surprising that it adds up. When responding to a fire, firefighters don thick pants, steel-toed boots, and a heavy jacket, which weigh at least 30 pounds on their own. Many wear a protective flame-proof hood and then put the helmet on top of it. Depending on the situation, a firefighter might use an air pack, comparable to the breathing apparatus used when scuba diving, or water tank, which allows those fighting wild fires to go where a hose can’t reach.

  7. They plan for fires in some buildings

    OK, so they don’t actually predict that certain buildings will catch fire (though that would be pretty awesome), but they do make plans for some buildings before a fire occurs. Places like schools and hospitals, as well as locations with highly flammable or hazardous materials, are normally at the top of the list for planning. These pre-incident plans contain information that helps the commander make important decisions when a fire or some other kind of disaster occurs. Knowing things like the floor plan, access points, hydrant location, and contents of the building has actually lowered the number of firefighter deaths.

  8. Heart attacks are their No. 1 killer

    You would probably think that the most frequent cause of death for firefighters would be, well, fire. At the very least, you would expect it to be buildings falling on top of them. But the top killer of on-duty firefighters is heart attacks. In fact, more than 45% of firefighters who die while on duty die from heart disease. A lot of Americans have heart problems, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, but most Americans don’t have the sudden stress in their everyday jobs of dealing with life-threatening situations. When a firefighter has heart disease, they are putting themselves at risk of a heart attack every time they respond to an emergency. They are at least 12 times more likely to have a heart attack when they are putting out a fire than when they are doing non-emergency duties.

  9. They are twice as likely to get cancer

    If the increased risk of heart attack wasn’t bad enough, firefighters are also twice as likely to get cancer than the average person. When a building and the stuff inside go up in flames, the materials that are burning often emit dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde or sulfur dioxide. These can be absorbed into the firefighters’ lungs and through their skin if they’re not protected well enough or if they don’t clean their gear thoroughly after a fire. Combine this with the increased risk of asbestos exposure as firefighters deal with older structures, and you’ve got a profession that’s even more dangerous than you would’ve thought.

Courtesy of

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Justice? I don't think so.....

As a teenager, riding the ambulanced educated me first hand to the ugly side of human nature. The baby's name was Bucky; one that I remember even though the call was thirty plus years ago. His little body was bruised, battered, and covered with cigarette burns. He stopped breathing on us a couple of times, but we got him going again, at least in the short term.

Bear, the guy driving that night, had all he could do not to punch the mother right in the face as she sat along side him for the run to the hospital. We knew what had happened to this kid and who had done it.

Bucky died the next die. We were told the parents got eighteen months; one for each of his. Didn't then and doesn't now seem like justice to me...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fire Fighter Wife review

Fire Fighter Wife
September 15, 2011

Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family review
by Val Selby

Fire Men starts right off grabbing your attention in the introduction. I like that about a book, but especially an autobiography. Gary gave us a little drama, lots of action and a peak into the relationships we were going to hear more about. And believe me, I wanted to hear more.

I love the way he is passing background information about his or a family members career while not boring me with too much descriptive details. There are fun stories interjected along with tidbits of history.

I’m pretty sure I was annoying my hubby because I had to read a paragraph here and there to him. Yes, I know he’s going to read the book as well, but I don’t like giggling by myself out loud. So many of these stories are vaguely familiar and I’m sure you will start giggling out loud while you read read them.

But just a word of warning to you spouses, this isn’t a total feel good book. There are stories recounted in this book that you may want to skip over parts as they do get a little graphic. Those of us that have been the debriefing for our husbands won’t have a problem, it’s not anything we haven’t heard when they come home. But, I know there are many that have been more “sheltered” for lack of a better word and I’m not sure you’ll want to read the details. It’s worth skipping over those parts. There is also strong language used. I just want you to know it going in so it doesn’t surprise you and ruin the book for you if language bothers you.

This book kept my attention completely which is not the easiest at the moment. I loved hearing the stories. Especially those that involved two generations together. Ironically our son is the same age (13) that Gary says his son started showing interest. Even more ironically, hubby has been talking recently about having him come to hang out at the station. Our son was the victim on a drill. He was crammed in small spaces because he could fit, lowered from high places while tied down in a basket and asks constantly when they need a victim again. Haven’t seen the “switch” get clicked over with him saying he wants to do it himself, but he’s still young ;)

I really enjoyed this memoir and highly recommend it. It was quick on the stories, not taking three chapters to get one incident described. This is a great book to pick up for your husband for Christmas. I know you don’t want to think of the holidays coming up already, but start your stash of presents right now and make it easy on yourself.

Just so you know, I did receive a digital copy of the book in order to do this review. However, you guys all know my opinions are my own and a free copy of a book won’t change that. lol

I recommend being the first of your fire family to grab a copy of Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family. If you are looking for more stories you can go to the books website Gary is also on twitter and facebook.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Country Mom's

The boy sat on the ground next to the barn, holding his injured arm. He had been directing his father, who was backing up a horse trailer, and somehow his arm had gotten caught between the trailer and the building. His dad quickly realized and pulled the vehicle forward, freeing him. They called for the ambulance, and being only a short distance away, I took a ride over.

The injuries didn't look serious. There was no laceration and no obvious deformity, and otherwise, the boy was in good shape. Naturally his mother was frantic.

"Is it broken?" She asked me.

"I don't know, Diane, I didn't bring my x-ray glasses with me," I joked trying to calm her and lighten the mood. "He needs to go down and get a few pictures taken. He's going to be fine."

"He's okay?" She looked for further reassurance.

"He's going to be fine," I answered.

She looked at him sitting there.

"Get up," she told him. The boy, his father, and I all looked at her quizically. She grabbed a nearby hose.

"Strip," she told him.

His dad and I tried to dissuade her, without success.

"He's been working with the pigs all day," she explained to all of us. "No son of mine is going to the hospital smelling like that. Strip," she told him again.

He did, right down to his boxers, and she hosed him down right there. His father and I could only grin at each other. Just a country mom.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Firefighter Rescues Child from Burning House

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 12, 2011

Rockville - - Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service rescued a 10-year-old boy from a burning house in the 200 block of Elizabeth Avenue in Rockville this morning. Firefighters were dispatched at 0727 for the report of a house fire. First-arriving units encountered heavy smoke and fire from the structure. Firefighters rushed in and pulled an unconscious child from the burning house to safety. A waiting medic unit transported the 10-year-old to a local specialty center with critical, life-threatening injuries.

More than 45 firefighters responded to the fire at the height of operations. Fire Investigators are on the scene and are conducting an origin and cause investigation.

Montgomery County Firefighters will be conducting an “After the Fire” door-to-door outreach effort in the neighborhood to check smoke alarms and talk to residents about fire safety.

# # #

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Firefighter recalls witnessing 9/11 attacks at Pentagon

That evening, he was told that he would be managing firefighters at the Pentagon during the night shift for the next week

By Kirk Brown
The Anderson Independent-Mail

IVA, S.C. — Firefighter Bob Witherow was attending a staff meeting in Fairfax County, Va., when a secretary announced that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.

The supervisor leading the meeting shrugged, assuming that a small aircraft had probably clipped the building.

Minutes later the secretary told the firefighters that the plane was a commercial airliner.

"We decided that it was time for a coffee break," recalled Witherow, who is now retired and lives in Iva.

As the firefighters huddled around a TV, a second jet slammed into one of the Twin Towers.

Bob Witherow shows the Flag of Heroes that he places on his flag pole every September 11. Witherow was a Fairfax County fire fighter and was at the Pentagon the day after the attack.

"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that wasn't an accident," Witherow said.

The firefighters quickly turned their attention to possible terrorist targets in their county outside of Washington, D.C. The Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was at the top of the list.

Their discussion was interrupted again by the news that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon in neighboring Arlington County.

Witherow, who was a battalion chief, spent the rest of Sept. 11 at a command center. That evening, he was told that he would be managing firefighters at the Pentagon during the night shift for the next week.

It was an assignment he won't ever forget.

Upon arriving at the Pentagon on the afternoon of Sept. 12, Witherow said, "I was just in total awe of the amount of destruction."

"The charred remains near the impact site left an everlasting impression," he added.

Witherow coordinated efforts to brace damaged parts of the building and battle "spot" fires. He said one of the most difficult fires to put out was in the Pentagon's attic, where decades before construction workers had placed straw and horse hair to serve as insulation.

Fairfax County, VA fire fighter Bob Witherow shows photos of the Pentagon that he took the day after the attack.

As the week wore on, Witherow visited parts of the Pentagon where 125 people perished after hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 hit the building. Sixty four people aboard the plane also died.

"I can't tell you how bad and how gory it was," he said.

One of the sights that Witherow still remembers is a wall far inside the building that bore the unmistakable impression of the airplane's nose.

After retiring in 2007, Witherow, 58, moved to Iva, which is where his mother and uncle live.

Recently he returned to Virginia to help his daughter buy a new car. The area was hit by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene while he was there.

"For over 30 years, 9-1-1 has always been a very important number to me working with emergencies of all kinds in the fire department," Witherow said. "However, 9-11 changed all of our lives and that day makes me proud to be a firefighter."

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Get in the boat!

The recent flooding in the northeast reminds us of a regular problem in such incidents; the refusal of some people to heed evacuation warnings. They wait until it is too late and then call 911, forcing emergency responders to risk their lives unnecessarily.

One story I've heard, and I'm sure the same or similar conversations were conducted hundreds of times this past week, went like this. A rescue boat pulls up to an isolated residence with a couple of occupants who ignored earlier evacuation orders.

Responder 1: You need to leave now. We're not sure we'll be able to get back in to get you if you don't.

Occupant 1: We'll be fine and you can't make us leave. (This is just one of the myriad responses, most dependent upon the blood alcohol content of the occupant.)

Responder 2 then hands Occupant 1 a pen.

Responder 2: Okay, then write your name and age on your arms.

Occupant 1 and 2 together: Why?

Responder 2. So we'll know who you are when we pull your bodies out after this is over.

The occupants got in the boat.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Roof Venting Tactics from Average Jake Firefighter's Blog

Roof Venting Tactics
from Average Jake Firefighter's Blog

Before the Hurriquake hit here in Va I was on a series of Roof venting posts, if you have not read them yet take a look at them here: , , You all caught up now? Good lets continue.

Like I have said in the posts depending on a ton of factors (some we can control, and some we can not) roof venting may or may not be a tactic that we can do in our individual departments. However if you do choose to do it you still have to contend with the dangers of fire loading, and building construction.

Look lets face it even after all of the reading, about self assessment for your department I know there are still people out there who are not buying it. It’s human nature to rebel and to succeed were others see a failable situation, so instead of continuing to drone on and on with that it is time to give you the reader a tangible skill that you can employ in your department. So without further a due I give you the “Aerial Ladder Vent”

There are some fires out there that do need to have the roof vented, it is still the most effective way to ensure that the smoke and super heated gases leave a structure by utilizing the natural characteristics of fire, however by the time we arrive the roof itself may be in no position for us to operate on. This leads us to a dilemma so how can we accomplish the task of venting the roof, and maintaining relative safety.

In the situation described above, we can still accomplish venting the roof with relative safety from the stability of the aerial ladder. This allows us to minimize our exposure to the possibly unstable roofing material, and still accomplish the goal to provide the relief of smoke, gases, and fire from the structure.

Here is another view, there are several variations to this technique that can increase your safety. One thing is that you can clip into the ladder with a ladder belt, this will keep you tethered to the ladder in case of a sudden movement, or accidental fall.

Another tip is to place the tip of the ladder at your target and to lay down on the ladder, the point being that you can not fall if you are laying down. Utilizing the tip of the ladder you can still cut a decent sized hole, or cu the hole in sections. Starting with the cuts you can reach, then signaling to the aerial operator to move the ladder over so that you can finish the cut.

Lastly if you have an aerial device that has a basket (platform, bucket, whatever you call it) you can still utilize the lay down in the basket technique (just like the lay down on the ladder technique) but place another fireman in the basket with you and have them utilize the basket aerial controls to allow you to seamlessly cut the hole with only having to change saw position.

Now I will say that these techniques may sacrifice some speed for increased safety, and they do take actually getting out on the drill ground especially utilizing the basket cut technique. However they do allow you to accomplish the goal, and remain safer in the dynamic fire development terrain the fire service finds itself in.

I am still tirelessly searching for basket cut photos to demonstrate that technique, but I literally have thousands of pictures to look through and it takes time. If anyone has some pictures, or other thoughts on this or any other topic on the blog send them on via email, and I will feature them on the blog (be sure to send all of your info so I can give the proper credit). You can always leave comments in the comments section, and also contact us via twitter @averagejakeff.

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Going Forward in the Fire Service by Tiger Schmittendorf

Going Forward in the Fire Service
by Tiger Schmittendorf

I am often reluctant to write about commercial business ventures in my blogs and other platforms as I am sensitive to the trusted relationship between a writer and their readers, and leary about self-promotion. Thus I have delayed writing this post for quite some time.

It wasn’t until I came to the realization that this is not about me or what I’m involved in as much as it is about you – my readers, followers and the fire service at large – that I felt the timing was right for sharing this exciting news.

Earlier this year I was invited by my long time and good friends Dave Iannone and Chris Hebert to share in their vision for tipping the traditional training program on its head. Dave and Chris have a knack for surrounding themselves with inspired people and a solid reputation for bringing innovative and successful solutions to the fire service community, so it wasn’t much of a tough sell for me to join them and the other members of their team at the table.

The conversations were very indepth and engaging, even sparring at points, but all with a common goal in mind: to bring a new and exciting approach to providing training for firefighters and first responders. As I looked around the room, I saw a tremendous amount of passion and caring for getting this right.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked and signed on as chief of training, charged with driving the direction of the educational content of their new conference concept.

So what’s this new idea, this next best thing? It’s called Go>Forward Fire and I will introduce it from three different perspectives. For everyone involved, it’s an exciting new venture in firefighter and leadership training from the same industry leaders who created FirefighterNation, FireEMS Blogs, and the original

From a fire service perspective, Go>Forward Fire offers “a conference in a box” solution to fire departments, training associations and related organizations looking for the opportunity to bring a national level conference to their neighborhood. Partnering with local fire service organizations, we work with you to tailor the content and agenda to your local needs and then bring top notch presenters and instructors to your region. Oh yeah, and we handle the logistics and marketing too.

All we ask is that you help spread the word and provide your honest input before, during and after the conference. What you get in return is the caliber of training you would normally pay big bucks and have to travel significant distances for and we bring it all to you in an affordable way so as to maximize the return on your training investment.

For conference participants, Go>Forward Fire is not your typical instructor-student interaction. These are not one-time events – but the start of an ongoing conversation and a life-long series of knowledge and experience exchanges. By engaging both the student and the instructor before, during and after each training event, Go>Forward Fire expands the relationship between the student and the instructor like never before with meaningful social and professional connections in a truly immersive learning environment.

While that may sound like a marketing pitch (It is. I wrote it.), as a Go>Forward Fire student, I assure you that you’ll enjoy an unprecedented level of access to some of the most experienced and emerging talent in the fire service. Once a G>FF participant – always a G>FF participant as far as we’re concerned.

This isn’t about how many PowerPoint slides we can glaze your cornea with or how many pounds of handouts we send you home with – it’s about the conversation. As I say in the disclaimers shared at the beginning of each of my presentations, I don’t care if we never leave the first slide as long as you’re satisfied with the direction your training goes in. It’s all about you.

As an instructor, joining our teaching team means that you’ll benefit from the opportunity to link to your students and other instructors in not only an integrated and intimate classroom setting, but also on the training ground, during meet-ups, through blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, commentary, webcasts, online learning and a growing list of social media connections all under one training network.

I’ve spoken and participated at more than a few conferences in my career. This is not your typical fly-in, do your stand-up routine and fly-out kind of gig. Not only do we offer more interaction, we insist on it. Teaching with us is not for everyone – only the most engaged and engaging.

This is the sharing opportunity you’ve been waiting for. The opening to truly coach and mentor the future of the fire service. The chance to have a deep and lasting impact on our emergency services community. This is an innovative 360° approach to training our replacements and future leaders.

While the term may have already become cliché in the fire service, our overall goal is to be the kitchen table of conferences – not the kitchen sink. Our teaching team is comprised of many of the familiar names you know and plenty of names you’re going to want to get to know.

Accomplished fire service leaders like Chiefs Alan Brunacini, Tim Sendelbach, Chris Naum, Ed Hadfield, Dennis Rubin and Rich Gasaway; and up and coming instructors like Lt. Matthew McDowell from Bluffton Twp. South Carolina, Lt. Chris Sterricker from Suburban Chicago, Lt. Paul Hasenmeier from Huron Twp. Ohio and Training Officer John Shafer from Greencastle, Indiana will provide their keen insight to every firefighter, officer and chief participating. Their national presence will be balanced with local talent like St. Louis Fire Department Captain Nick Morgan and Chiefs Tony Correia and Ed Kensler from New Jersey and Chief Greg Jakubowski from Bucks County PA.

We’re very excited that several familiar bloggers will step away from their keyboards long enough to share their experiences in person, including Dave Statter from, John Mitchell – editor of, Mike Ward, co-editor of, Jason Hoevelmann of and Mick Mayers, author of You know that their conversational style of writing will translate well into the classroom conversation.

Something I’m most proud of is our following through on my vision of strengthening the connection between the fire service and the military. Marine Corps Sergeant and Volunteer Firefighter Jason Ferris will provide a keynote address titled: “It’s not a mission statement – it’s a calling” drawing on the common values our two institutions share. Furthermore, we’ll be donating $5 from each conference package purchased to the support the important work of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Making the team rock-solid are Brotherhood Instructors providing the intense hands-on components of each conference. Curt and Nate DeMarse, Andrew Brassard, Kevin Legacy, Chris Collier and their team of seasoned veterans from volunteer, career and combination departments across the United States and Canada will relate their vast and relevant experiences in a way that every firefighter can understand, regardless of the type of system or community they work in.

And, if you’ve ever been part of a good training experience, you know that some of the greatest value you take away from it is in the informal networking that takes place between classes. With Go>Forward Fire, those connections start inside and extend well beyond the classroom and on the training ground, not just during the breaks.

As our tag line says, Go>Forward Fire is the evolution of firefighter and leadership training, breaking down the barriers of the traditional classroom environment, creating long-lasting conversations and relationships that will undoubtedly make a difference in how we go forward in the future fire service. And here’s the best part: we’re going to have fun doing it – a lot of fun!

I’m so excited about this new training venture that I’m not sure I can adequately put it in words. I guess you’ll have to experience it for yourself to truly understand its impact.

While I am proud to be invited to be a part of this team, I’d be even more flattered if you’d consider joining us at one of our inaugural events planned this fall; or to attend or host one of the several new events we have in the works for 2012 and beyond.

Check out our conference details at and tell them I sent you when you register. Use the promo code “SCHMITTENDORF” to take advantage of an added 10% discount on your conference costs.

Don’t worry, I’m not trading off any of my other ventures such as my feature writing here at, my story-telling at Run-to-the-Curb and FirefighterStorytellers; or my coaching at And for those of you keeping score at home, I have no intention of giving up my full time gig serving as deputy fire coordinator in Erie County.

This is just another dot to be connected in my life-long quest to Go>Forward in the fire service. Thanks for riding along.

Stay safe. Train often.

Tiger Schmittendorf
Chief of Training
Go>Forward Fire

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Country vs. City

Roger R was a part time cop for the township, but a full time fire fighter, and later officer, in the City of Scranton. About 3:00 AM one weeknight early in his tenure as a cop, he called us out for a dumpster fire down from the Country Club.

I got up and muttered my way to the car, not particularly happy to be woken up for this. He was waiting when I arrived on scene.

“What’s going on, Roger?” I asked him when I got out of the car, ignoring the dumpster blazing away.

“The dumpster's on fire, Chief” he answered apparently dumbfounded I apparently hadn’t noticed the dumpster on fire in front of us. I could almost see his thoughts through his eyes. “Damn, these guys in the country aren’t too bright.”

“Let me explain a few facts of life to you, Roger” I proceeded calmly, still ignoring the dumpster. “You’re not in Scranton tonight. This is the country. This is how people get rid of their garbage out here. Don’t bother us with this shit again!” I raised my voice at the end.

He looked sorrowful. “We’ll put it out for you this time.“ I smiled so he wouldn’t think I was pissed, and a bit chagrined, he got back in his patrol car and went on his way.

He learned. We never got another call for a burning dumpster from Roger again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heidi's Pick Six with Gary Ryman

Heidi Ruby Miller: Just a Girl
September 6, 2011

Heidi's Pick Six: Gary Ryman

by Heidi Ruby Miller


Gary Ryman

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write? I can go into burning buildings. It’s a skill most people don’t have—or want to have—but they do seem to be glad there are people around who can do it, particularly when their house is on fire. That and fish; I like to fish.

5. Who are you reading right now?
I read a lot of history as I’m about three quarters of the way through the course work for a Masters Degree in American History. Right now I’m reading Brothers, Rivals, Victors by Jonathan W. Jordan. It is one of the best books of narrative history I’ve read in a long time. While scrupulously sourced, the book reads like a novel; the best of both worlds. Another good writer in this vein is Rick Atkinson. I’m looking forward to the final book of his World War II trilogy which will hopefully be out in the next year or two.

6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The most difficult one was a story in my book about the death of a father and his step-son. The step-son drowned after rescuing a young girl who had fallen into an icy pond, succumbing to the cold water. The father had a heart attack and died on the ice while attempting to reach his step-son. Just about all of us on the call knew them both so writing about the rescue attempts by the divers and the emotions the incident brought out in the emergency responders was hard but cathartic at the same time. The opposite of that was the story in which I had the opportunity to take my son Michael inside on his first real fire. He had the nozzle and there was fire in portions of two rooms. It was a fairly-tale experience and flowed onto the paper.

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I find inspiration all around me. The stories in my book represent only a percentage of the total experiences of the three generations. I hear about both hysterical and tragic incidents from other firefighters on a regular basis. Generation three, Michael, is now a live-in firefighter in Montgomery County, MD where he attends the University of Maryland (as I did) and I love hearing his stories, only some of which we share with Mom.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Pizza, definitely pizza.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?
12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I’m a Bugs Bunny fan.

Gary Ryman is the second of three generations of firefighters, or the middle of the Oreo. He has a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from the University of Maryland and has been employed as a fire protection engineer for over twenty-five years, and is married with a son and daughter. His son comprises the third generation of firefighters in the family making him feel both old and young and the same time.

You can visit Gary online at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @GaryRyman.

His book Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and is also available in Kindle, Nook, Ibook, and Google E-book versions.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Flag in Fire House a Consistent Reminder of 9/11

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, we're going to start bringing you coverage of Mt. Airy connections to 9/11. Here, we take a look at a very special commemorative object that Mt. Airy firefighters hold near and dear to their hearts.

This flag (shown left) hangs inside the Engine 9, Ladder 21 fire house on Germantown Avenue.

Firefighter Tracy Peterson was part of the ladder company on Sept. 11, 2001. The company didn't do any fire department work directly related to the terrorist attacks that day, but soon afterward, he said, residents of Germantown Home, a nursing home next door to the fire house, helped stitch various quotes on to an American flag, which they then presented to the firefighters.

The quotes, which were taken from members of the community (like the students at nearby Eleanor C. Emlen School), say things like "God Bless Them," "I Love My Homeland" and "We Shall Overcome This Tragedy."

"The amount of time and work they put into it," Peterson said. "It kind of tugs at your heartstrings."

Peterson also said members of the ladder company took a trip to New York after 9/11 to meet with members of Ladder 21 in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood and to present them with a painting. A photo of that meeting is shown left.

Courtesy of

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Latest AMAZON reviews

great book!
by David A. Moss (PUYALLUP, WA, US)

Gary's description of a 3-generation firefighting family was fun reading, entertaining, and educational as well. Having known Gary and his dad through the fire service made the book even more fun to read!

I would recommend this book to any family who has an aspiring sibling wanting to join the fire service. The book tells it like it really is. It is sometimes fun, sometimes very emotional, but always a learning experience.


by Richard A. Ide (Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania United States)

Gary Ryman's FIREMEN is a collection of exciting true stories from a volunteer fireman who rose from the position of youthful apprentice to that of Chief. A master at detailing and explaining the myriad complexities that attend the fighting of a fire, Ryman takes you right into the flames--be they teasing or vicious--which he became expert at battling. Gary pulls no punches: his mistakes are displayed alongside the victories; sadness and desperation at the scene of nightmarish vehicular accidents are not soft-pedaled. Nor does he stint on using the lingo, rough language, and raw emotions elicited from the men (and sometimes women) summoned to a fire or EMS scene. What makes this book so altogether absorbing is Ryman's sense of honesty, empathy, and humanity. He relays it to the reader with a natural literate sense and writing style that you might hardly expect from those rough-hewn types who are drawn to the world of fighting fires. The book covers Ryman's work in the Southern Tier of New York State, the D.C. area of Maryland, and rural Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as training with his fire Chief father and bringing his own son into the field. Not just a a primer for the wanna-be, this is a work that might easily serve as a manual for any seasoned fireman. It will enlighten the unhosed; before finishing the third chapter, I locked my apartment door and trotted to the hardware store for a couple of smoke alarms.


A Must Read

by fred

From the first page, Ryman hits the nail on the head. He provides a riveting look at the fire service as a whole, and the evolution of the business over the last two decades. Every fire fighter should read this. Old ones to reminisce, young ones to appreciate where we came from.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Putting Words Down on Paper review

Putting Words Down on Paper
August 31, 2011

A Review of Fire Men

by Susanne Drazic

When I heard about the book, Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family, I wanted to review it because I have family and friends who either have been firefighters or still are. I know it takes a very special type of person to be a firefighter, because they face danger every time they answer a call. They truly are heroes.

In Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family the author shares stories of going to the fire station as a young boy and learning early on what it means to be a firefighter. There are stories of intense blazes, holiday calls, sirens blaring, car accidents, and rescues happening just in time that span throughout the three generations of this firefighting family. Ryman doesn’t sugarcoat any of the stories. He tells it like it is, sharing the mistakes as well as the triumphs.

I think that anyone who is already a firefighter, anyone interested in becoming a firefighter, or anyone who enjoys reading memoirs will want to read Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family.

Broken Teepee review excerpt

Broken Teepee [excerpt]
August 31, 2011

Blog Tour and Book Review: Fire Men by Gary R. Ryman
(read full review at this link)

by Patty Woodland

My hubby has been a volunteer firefighter or volunteer EMT for over 40 years. He is currently fire chief in our town so I chose this book for both of us - I figured he would enjoy it. My brother is also a volunteer firemen. In fact the hubby responded to a fire on the day of our wedding. Later in the day the whistle blew in the middle of our reception which was being held at the fire hall. Afterward we invited the returning firefighters back to the party. I'm a fireman's wife....

The book is a memoir of the exploits of three generations of fire fighters. We should all be very grateful for the men and woman that volunteer their time for such dangerous but necessary jobs. The training they undertake to respond to a fire or emergency call is quite extensive.

Some of them are very interesting and heart pounding. The writing style is easy to read and very familiar.

It will certainly open the eyes of people not aware of what a firefighter or EMT encounters in the course of doing their jobs.

You can find Fire Men on Facebook

You can purchase Fire Men HERE