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.