National Fire Heritage Center

Chris Baker (left) with National Fire Heritage Center Founding President, Chief Ronny J. Coleman (right). (author photo) Chris Baker (left) with National Fire Heritage Center Founding President, Chief Ronny J. Coleman (right). (author photo)

 “The ultimate role of a firefighter is to leave a mark on the system, not just a memory.” - Chief Ronny J. Coleman

 

On Monday, October 8th, 2018, I had the privilege of walking the aisles of the National Fire Heritage Center archives with Archivist Frank Schmersal and, I captured a glimpse of the rich history contained in this American fire service archive. From aisle to aisle, I listened to the oral history through the various stories from Archivist Schmersal. The National Fire Heritage Center archives contain more than 15,000 items of media, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, photographs, and what I consider treasures of the American fire service.

My journey through these archives was a journey through the history of the American fire service, and I thoroughly appreciate the rich history of our beloved fire service. After a few minutes with Archivist Schmersal, I realized that someone had to preserve these relics of the American fire service. After further reflection, I began to understand that it was a whole team of curators from the National Fire Heritage Center that contributed an immense amount of time and labor to this incredible archive.

During the Annual Meeting, I was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Fire Heritage Center. The appointment to the Board of Directors comes with the responsibility to carry on and preserve the rich history of the American fire service. Chief Ronny J. Coleman, the founding President of the National Fire Heritage Center, remarked that the creation of the National Fire Heritage Center is what he considers a highlight from his sixty-year career in the fire service. As I was listening to Chief Coleman eloquently describe this highlight of his career, the appointment to the Board of Directors for me is a highlight of my career.

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The Carr Fire Event

The Carr Fire Event

  (Photo Credits: Craig Clements)

 

Before the Carr Fire event occurred in Shasta County on July 26, 2018, another significant event occurred on the Eiler Fire on August 2, 2014. Both of these events happened late in the afternoon-evening hours approximately (1700 - 2000). Both of these significant events in Shasta County had similar extreme fire behavior and rapid-fire growth. The year of 2017 was California's most destructive fire season on record, according to CAL FIRE. Now 2018 appears to be no different with a total acreage burned at an estimated 460,000 acres. California has endured an unprecedented and catastrophic few years during what some consider our new normal. Historically, our fire season is during the summer months, however with this extreme fire behavior so early, maybe we should recognize that California no longer has a fire season.

As of today, August 4, 2018, the Carr Fire is the sixth most destructive wildland fire in California history based on acres burned and structures destroyed.  Update: As of November 25, 2018, the Carr Fire is the eighth most destructive wildland fire in California history according to the CAL FIRE website.  A cataclysmic firestorm is also occurring in Northern California off Highway 20 near Potter Valley, northeast of Ukiah started on July 27, 2018. The Ranch Fire and River Fire, both part of the Mendocino Complex, has engulfed over 229,006 acres and destroyed over 55 residences with 3,529 fire personnel assigned. Update: As of November 7, 2018, the Mendocino Complex has engulfed 410,203 acres and destroyed 246 structures per the CAL FIRE website.  The Ferguson Fire started on July 13, 2018, on the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park, which has consumed over 81,699 acres with 2,792 fire personnel assigned. An unfathomable 460,000 acres have burned in California between these campaign fires, and fire season has just started.

Due to the multiple wildland fires burning across the entire State of California, resources are stretched extremely thin, and now our master mutual aid system has requested additional resources from Australia and New Zealand. On Monday, August 6, 150 international firefighters will arrive to assist the State of California with the firestorm of 2018. The California National Guard has mobilized over 800 soldiers and the 146th Airlift Wing to help with the firefight. At least 17 States have answered the call and have deployed resources to California, including as far as New Jersey. Over 14,000 firefighters currently deployed across California on 17 massive wildfires.

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Deputy Chief Steve Prziborowski

Deputy Chief Steve Prziborowski
Host Chris Baker discusses the entry-level firefighter interview process with guest and mentor Deputy Chief (Retired) Steve Prziborowski. Steve Prziborowski is a 29-year fire service veteran currently recently serving as a Deputy Chief for the Santa Clara County (CA) Fire Department. He received the 2020 Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership Lega...
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Service Beyond Self

Service Beyond Self

(Photo Credits: Top - Noah Berger,Lower Left: Matthew Henderson, Lower Right: Parra Photography).

 

Serving beyond their physical, mental and even emotional limits. Sleeping in the dirt or wherever they can find a spot untouched by the devastation of the unprecedented firestorm. These servants are dirty, hungry and beyond their normal limits. The call of duty for a public servant to perform beyond their preparation for a firestorm that is beyond the laws of physics. With a shroud placed over their badges, they press on for the civilians they have sworn an oath to protect. Truly these humble public safety servants have placed the basic needs of others before their own. They have demonstrated the highest level of service for the citizens that have lost everything. When you gaze upon their dirty faces and see their exhausted eyes, remember to reach out your hand and express your sincere gratitude for their service.

 

"At a recent briefing by CAL FIRE the issue of morale came up.  When asked, the CAL FIRE representative said that the best thing that could be done was to post a sign thanking firefighters, that means more to the firefighters than donations of food or water. To all the citizens of Shasta County, let's show our support and thank them for their efforts.  We would like to challenge the community to line Highway 273 with signs thanking the firefighters for their efforts." (Shasta County Sheriff's Office).

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The Power of The Word - WHY

The Power of The Word - WHY

(Photo Credits: Author)

“The best tool for fire attack is your brain. The only limits to maximizing its effectiveness are the barriers you put in place. Be as aggressive in obtaining knowledge as you are in advancing an attack line.” – Chief John Tippett

This quote sparked my interest recently on twitter.  I wholeheartedly agree with Chief Tippett regarding the importance of utilizing your mind to increase your maximum effectiveness on the fire ground.  As an educator, I share with my students, “the most important Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you have is between your ears."  With some humor, I also emphasize the importance of wearing your fire helmet is to protect this important tool as well.

Aggressively Thinking Firefighters (ATF), another acronym for the fire service, we can add this to the list of approximately hundreds if not thousands of already fire service related acronyms in existence.  After all, we utilize acronyms just to remember all the other acronyms.  I am patiently waiting for the Field Operations Guide (FOG) manual on just fire service related acronyms, however, I have digressed. 

I recently watched an online webinar regarding hiring firefighter applicants and the main Subject Matter Expert (SME) remarked that overall the fire service is not the place for candidates that have higher levels of intelligence during the testing process.  I was immediately taken back and stunned by this professional and his statement.  I continued watching the video and I listened with an open mind to why this psychologist asserted his opinion on why hiring panels should not hire for intelligence. 

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What is your WHY

What is your WHY

(Photo Credits: Author) 

If you truly know your why, you will also without a doubt unequivocally comprehend your what, where, when and how for your life.  In order to be a leader at home in your personal life or at work in your professional life; you must clearly establish your own strategic mission and vision statements.  Your core values will support your mission statement based upon your own unique morals, ethics, and beliefs.  Everything starts and ends with your why.  Your own personal leadership qualities are rooted in these very specific core values and they are established on the firm foundation of your personal mission statement.  I encourage you to consider these words and make the commitment to apply these principles to your own personal and professional pursuits.

I was previously challenged by my valued mentors with this same exact question.  Based on those challenging discussions with these integral mentors, it was critically important for me to clearly identify my priorities.  Ultimately, the reason why I exist is rooted in having a clearly established mission statement for my life.  Allow your passion to lead you to your purpose.

I am extremely thankful to each of these mentors for encouraging me to layout my own specific strategic blueprint for my life both personally and professionally. My mentors have made all the difference in my life.  I would not be where I am at today without their continued support and words of encouragement.  Truly mentors make all the difference in our lives.  

 

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Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac

Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac

"All that I am I owe, I live eternally in the red." – Dr. Carl Holmes

THE FUTURE FEMALE FIREFIGHTER

"I can’t help but tell you that it’s all about the mentorship.  Without the direction and guidance of those who have come before us, there is no way that either one of us would be here.  The main message I want to relay to everyone is this, we can’t do this job alone.  Whether you are a woman or a man, you are going to need the advice and the guidance that we all need in every profession to succeed and thrive." – Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac

"The thing about mentors is they believe in you more than you believe in yourself."  - NPJ

MENTORS:

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The Attributes of Leading

Chief Alan V. Brunacini Chief Alan V. Brunacini

I recently attended a train-the-trainer class for a new Everyone Goes Home® program course titled Attributes of Leading’ created by Dr. Brian Crandell of the Crandell Research Group, Battalion Chief Kevin Conant (Retired) of Command Coaching, and videographer/editor Captain Jake Pelk, of FD Training Solutions. This course was an integral part of the 2018 National Everyone Goes Home® Advocate / Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors workshop. 

Weaving together a tapestry of different perspectives, the content of this course showcases fire department members across the country sharing in a discussion of the key attributes of leading, from the foggy San Francisco Bay to the frozen lakes of Minnesota. Volunteer, career, and combination departments participated in this training course from the Boone County Fire District in Columbia, Missouri, to the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Loveland, Ohio. Attributes of Leading focuses on several key attributes of leading including, Developing Competence, Building Grit, Being Well, Exercising Self-Regulation, Demonstrating Humility, and Developing Trust. Notice they are all verbs, action words because leading is an action, not a subject.

From the opening introductions in the ‘Being Well’ segment, I was reminded of the impact and legacy of Chief Alan V. Brunacini as his voice echoes over the audio speakers from the projector.

“We laugh about it, but we say somedays you are a peacock and somedays you are a feather duster.  And when you are a peacock, man you are riding high, and when you are a feather duster, you are laying low. And when you are laying low, you will figure out who your friends are.” - Chief Alan V. Brunacini

I was instantly drawn in by a poignant video of the late Chief Alan V. Brunacini discussing the importance of being well.  For those in the fire service, the term “Mrs. Smith” is synonymous with “customer” and Chief Bruno reminded us that we need to take care of Mrs. Smith. First, Fire Captain Smith has to take care of their firefighters in order for them to be able to take care of Mrs. Smith. Being Well is an appropriate introduction to this course on the attributes of leading. There is a sense of responsibility for those who lead, to assess their personnel, and to ensure that they are both physically and emotionally well; it’s a holistic responsibility.  How can department members, in turn, take care of someone else if their own well is empty and they are truly drained? 

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Firefighter Functional Fitness

Firefighter Functional Fitness

“Fitness is 90% mental, 10% execution. The body cannot go where the mind does not believe.” – Captain Jim Moss

“Attitude comes first.  We must accept the fact that our fitness is a requirement of the profession.” – Chief Dan Kerrigan

“The future firefighter must have the mindset and attitude that physical fitness is a requirement of their job.  It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer, paid-on-call or career firefighter, you must believe 100% that physical fitness is a fundamental aspect of your job.” – Captain Jim Moss

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Dr. Harry R. Carter

Dr. Harry R. Carter
Live From FDIC 2018 Day Five Watch this live from FDIC 2018 episode of Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast with host Chris Baker and guest Dr. Harry R. Carter as they discuss the value of education in the fire service. Dr. Harry R. Carter, FIFireE, CFO, is a veteran chief fire officer, an internationally-known municipal fire prot...
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The Future Firefighter Podcast: Building the Unbreakable Future Firefighter

The Future Firefighter Podcast: Building the Unbreakable Future Firefighter

 “If you quit you will regret it for the rest of your life. Quitting never makes things easier.” – Admiral William H. McRaven

 

ENTRY LEVEL FIREFIGHTER HIRING PROCESS

 

“The hiring process is like running a marathon, it is not a sprint.  It is more like sprinting a marathon.” – Christopher Baker

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Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast

Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast

I am excited to announce Fire Engineering Radio: The Future Firefighter Podcast will premier on January 18th, 2018. Please tune in at 4:30 PM PST. Thank you, Chief Bobby Halton and the Fire Engineering family for this opportunity.

 

Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 6

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 6

The stage is set. Family members, friends and mentors are in the audience, patiently watching you on stage for your pinning ceremony. Few milestones in life are held in such high regard. The moment when you find the one you want to spend the rest of your life with and marry to become your significant other. The birth of a child is also a moment that you will truly treasure and never ever forget. And this day, when your dream career profession came true, and you were pinned with the badge of a public servant.

The oath of a public servant is an oath of dedication to a lifetime of customer service. Remember this moment when you committed to serving your community. The work of a public servant is never-ending in the pursuit of service. At the end of every call is an opportunity to engage members of our community positively. There is no greater reward than a lifetime of service.

My challenge is for you to find an inspiring mentor in this profession. Allow yourself the opportunity to become his or her mentee. Develop into the Firefighter and leader that you desire to become. Accept constructive criticism in stride and strive to become a better person daily. Respect their wisdom with grace and listen to their feedback with enthusiasm. Leaders lead by effectively developing future leaders from within their ranks.

The role of every Firefighter should be to help the future Firefighter receive their dream career position. Pay it forward and give back daily to the future of the fire service. Find those golden opportunities to inspire the members of your community also to become future public servants. The future of our profession requires all of us to actively engage these future members in a positive and meaningful way.

Your experiences throughout your career are yours and yours alone to mold. Be sure to make the most out of each experience to elevate your future success. As a public servant, it is up to you to continue this lifetime commitment of service beyond self. The future of the fire service rests firmly on your shoulders.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 5

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 5

As previously mentioned in this article, we covered two fundamental character traits: maintaining a strong work ethic and taking the proper initiative. Now we are going to cover two more equally essential character traits that will help you achieve success throughout your fire service career:

  • You must maintain a positive attitude, and
  • Have the mindset of sharing this with others while on duty.

The academy and the probationary period can be compared to a pressure cooker. You will be pushed beyond your physical and mental limits. However, having a positive attitude with the correct mindset will enable you to overcome this pressure.

There will be bad days. There will be days where you will be completely broken down. You will find out what you are made of and what your limits are during this process. It is essential to know what your pain threshold is and what you can achieve under pressure. This is a profession where you will be under pressure your entire public safety career. Therefore, learning how to improvise, adapt and overcome in this stressful environment is essential. Remember, this is the best job in the world. Every day we are on duty is an opportunity to help someone that needs us to mitigate his or her emergency.

Passion is contagious and so is negativity. One is motivating and the other is a disease. Stay out of "Negative Town" city limits. Don't allow yourself to be consumed with negative energy. Instead, focus all of your energy on building positive, meaningful relationships with your fellow academy classmates. Lead your mindset and don't allow yourself to be a victim of the mental trap of negativity. You are in control of your thoughts and you have the ability to overcome any mental obstacle. Rise above the negative environment and be aggressively positive.

It takes leadership to be a follower. First, you have to lead yourself. Everyone can be a leader by first leading themselves. Followership is leadership. Remember this concept while in the academy and beyond in the probationary period. Be the best follower that you are capable of being for your fire officers and senior firefighters. When you are at your best, your leadership can be at their best. It takes a team effort to be effective on the fire-ground. Remember, it is our citizen's worst day in their lives when they place the call to 911. We have to be at our best for them.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 4

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 4

There are two-character traits that will help you stand out from the rest throughout the probationary period; those traits are maintaining a strong work ethic and taking the proper initiative. When it is time to go to work, you have to roll up your sleeves because work is always the answer. Take the initiative when something needs attention around the firehouse. Don't walk past any job that you can handle, especially the empty toilet paper rolls or the overflowing kitchen garbage can. The moment that you identify something that needs to be taken care of around the firehouse nominate yourself to accomplish these simple tasks.

While in the probationary period, you must maintain a sense of urgency when performing work around the firehouse. When your officer or senior Firefighter requests your presence, take the initiative and move with a sense of purpose. There is a term called fire-ground pace in the fire service. A fire-ground pace is defined by moving with a sense of urgency. Start probation by maintaining this sense of purpose and urgency in your movement. It is up to you to keep this fire-ground pace throughout the completion of the probationary period and beyond in your fire service career.

During an emergency call, move to the rig with a sense of purpose and wear your appropriate turnout gear. Take the initiative by locating the address on the map board and mapping out the call to help your fire apparatus engineer. Make sure and wear your ANSI-approved traffic safety vest when working near or on the roadway. Always bunker up and buckle in for every call – Period. You are in charge of your own safety. Make sure and mask up if you are in an IDLH environment. Wear your appropriate personal protective equipment for the emergency. You have to lead yourself when selecting what to wear for each specific emergency. Purchase a pair of safety glasses for EMS-related calls to protect your eyes from harmful exposures. Have these safety glasses with you at all times during EMS calls. Keep an extra pair of EMS gloves in your duty pants just in case you need an extra pair.

During the overhaul process of any incident, it is an opportunity for you to roll up your sleeves and go to work. This isn't the time to go and hide. However, this is the time to maintain the important character trait of a strong work ethic. Be the first one to step forward and raise your hand when something needs to be done. When you return to the firehouse after the call, several tasks need to be completed to return to service. This is an opportunity for you to hustle and get ready for the next call. The community and the citizens you took an oath to protect are waiting for you to put the apparatus back in service. Move with a sense of purpose.

Take the initiative in maintaining a parade finish on your duty boots and take pride in your appearance. You have the best job in the world. Allow your duty boots to reflect just how proud you are of this opportunity to serve your community.  You can learn a lot from someone just by looking at the finish on his or her duty boots. Make sure your gig line is always straight and wear your Class B Uniform shirt when necessary. The public is always watching. Finally, be professional at all times, both on duty and off duty. You can't simply take the badge off when you are off duty because you are always on duty.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 3

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 3

This is a profession where you have to make the commitment to becoming a lifelong learner. The fire academy is over and now you have found yourself in the Jumpseat. Congratulations, you have arrived; however, the learning doesn't stop at the completion of the recruit academy! The learning has just begun with the start of the probationary period. The main difference between the academy and the job is that you now have to distance yourself from the textbooks. The classroom is extremely important and now you have to take what you learned within those four walls and apply it to the street.

You will be issued a stack of textbooks, a task book sign-off binder and a punch list of everything that you have to complete by the end of the probationary period. This is the time to lead throughout probation and learn time management, among many other things. In this profession, it is impossible to learn too much. Therefore, always keep the mindset of being a student of the fire service. The moment that you think you have learned everything about this profession, you will be humbled with an important lesson on humility.

Becoming a seasoned firefighter takes a perfect balance of education, certifications, time-in-grade and experience. The task book is the initial phase of the learning process from a recruit firefighter to an entry-level firefighter and beyond. It takes many years to receive the experience needed to be successful in this profession. Learning never ends if you want to be the best of the best. Be humble; keep your nose in the textbooks and your physical presence on the training grounds. The only way to successfully pass the probationary period is to learn about the job. This is the opportunity to ask questions from the instructor cadre. Take the initiative and train like your life depends on it because in this profession, it does.

Take charge of your own learning. No one will learn for you or teach you what he or she knows or has experienced. Hold yourself accountable and follow the course of the recruit task book. There will be deadlines that must be completed on a timely basis. Learn to prioritize and execute accordingly. You are in control of your own destiny. Don't expect to have a senior member or an officer sign you off or "pencil whip" the task book process. Don't settle for the easy or mediocre way of completing the task book. Be a professional and strive to do the best in every aspect of this profession!

You're a shell of the books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the fire service-related magazines you thumb through and the experiences you hear from the senior members of the profession. Take the time to absorb it all in and keep the positive attitude of a student. There are a lot of training seminars and conferences that one can attend in this profession. The main priority right now is the recruit task book. There will be plenty of time to attend additional training at the completion of probation. The training doesn't stop when you get the badge. The learning continues throughout every fire and incident you mitigate in this profession. The training seminars will be there to attend throughout the rest of your career. In my own opinion, it is essential to attend these training conferences on a consistent basis throughout your entire career.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 2

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 2

You have survived the first week as a probationary firefighter in the best career in the world. However, you might need to pinch yourself because you possibly feel like you just won the lottery. The first week undoubtedly went by so fast that it feels like a blur and you are still in the process of trying to find out how you will "fit in" to the firehouse culture. Previously in this article, we covered the roles, responsibilities and duties of being a probationary firefighter. We will now focus on the character traits necessary to pass the probationary period, which will also contribute to building meaningful relationships in the firehouse.

It is imperative to have your own unique morals, values and ethics before entering the fire service. These traits are the reference point for anyone seeking a career in this field. It is those same traits that you will need to harness and rely upon while leading throughout probation. Always do the right thing. Do not participate in any illegal, immoral, or unethical activity on or off duty in your fire service career - period. The impact of violating these values will be catastrophic for your fire service career.

The probationary period allows you the opportunity to display your own personal character traits. It is during this time that you will want to listen more than you speak. Let your actions speak for themselves around the firehouse.  Everything you touch is an opportunity for you to leave your own unique set of fingerprints. Actions speak louder than words. Keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone while you earn this position. Be effective and efficient with your time while on duty. Every action is an opportunity for you to make an investment into the department and your fire service career. Always remember you were hired as a public servant. Accept this title with enthusiasm and humility.

On your first day, you probably learned where to park your vehicle and your officer gave you instructions on how to access the firehouse. That first day, you probably learned where all the cleaning supplies were located and you started the process of learning the layout of the firehouse. At times it can be overwhelming as you learn your place in the firehouse. At these times, you need to pace yourself and absorb all the information like a sponge. Carry a notebook with you at all times and keep detailed notes of important information regarding where everything is located.

Over the last week and while on probation, you probably haven't had the opportunity to sit down. As a probationary firefighter, you need to learn what is acceptable during this time while you are gaining entry into this prized profession.  Most departments don't allow their probationary members to have a seat in the firehouse, with the exception of mealtime and/or classroom training time. Again, this brings up the notion of earning your seat in the firehouse. In my humble opinion, you earn your seat every day in this profession. I would ask your senior Firefighter and/or officer if there is an acceptable place for you to sit while not performing the tasks related to your probation. Ask for direction and accept the humility that this seat is something that is earned throughout your career. Every member has an assigned seat in the day room and also at the kitchen table.  Learn where all the members prefer to sit on your shift. Make sure and wait until all members are seated in their assigned seating arrangements. Probationary firefighters always are the last ones to sit down. You have to know your place in the firehouse culture; that place is always first to do work and last to sit down. When the meal is finished, don't be in such a rush to jump up and start cleaning the table. Try to find the right time to be the first up, without disrupting the nightly traditions, as many crews enjoy sitting around the table for a while before cleaning up, and you are in a rush to get the kitchen cleaned may actually annoy them and work against you.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service

From our first day in the fire service, we have the opportunity to be a leader and lead throughout probation and well beyond, until long after our retirement. This article is not the perfect recipe or golden ticket to pass probation. It takes more than a list of rules to be successful in passing probation. Ultimately, the responsibility of passing the probationary period rests firmly on the probationary Firefighter's shoulders.

On our first day, as we embark upon this prized career in the fire service, it is necessary to show up and arrive early at the fire station. Early is comprised of at least 60 minutes before the start of our shift. Several tasks are essential and required to be completed before officially starting the day on "Big Red" in the Jumpseat. Don't be late in this profession! You will be left behind at the station if you are late and more importantly, you don't get a 2nd chance for a 1st impression!

Someone has to raise the American flag. This is an opportunity for the probationary Firefighter to take responsibility for raising Old Glory for the community we have the honor to serve. It takes leadership from the probationary Firefighter to raise the flag. No one is going to issue this order because this is our responsibility. It is also our responsibility to lower the flag and properly fold the flag in the evening. Learn proper flag etiquette and take leadership in learning how to honor the American flag.

The probationary Firefighter must perform the next task of thoroughly checking their department-issued personal protective equipment (PPE). No one is going to check our gear for us in this profession. This is our responsibility to make sure our gear is in order and that we have all the required important pieces of our safety gear ensemble. Preparation is just one of the key ingredients to the recipe required for successfully passing probation. Thoroughly check all the components of our SCBA, including an air cylinder, mask and the batteries needed for operation. Also, check the flashlights and make sure the batteries are in proper working order. Make sure to have at least two working flashlights at all times. Thoroughly checking our safety gear and equipment on "Big Red" demonstrates leadership from the probationary firefighter level. As probationary Firefighters, it is our responsibility to ensure all Firefighter-related tools are accounted for and in working order on the apparatus.

Every fire station in the fire service needs fuel and that fuel is coffee. The task of making coffee falls on the probationary Firefighter. The probationary Firefighter is the barista of the fire station and this is an opportunity to take pride in making the best coffee for your co-workers. Learn where all the coffee-making supplies are located in the fire station. It is our responsibility to make sure these items are accounted for and never run out of stock. As a probationary firefighter, it is necessary to know the difference between coffee and tea. Learn the recipe for coffee; make sure it is always hot and in constant supply. Also, realize that not everyone may drink coffee; don't insult someone who doesn't drink coffee by asking him or her if they would like a cup. More importantly, if you want to really get to know your co-workers, learn their preferences, so you can be the best teammate you can be.

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Maintaining the Work and Life Balance

Maintaining-the-Work-and-Life-Balance Cover Photo Courtesy: California Fire Foundation

In my fire service career, I have worked many different shift schedules. When I started as a volunteer, I signed up for 24-hour shifts on a Kelly Schedule as a paid reserve. About a year later, I received the opportunity to be a wildland firefighter and transitioned to the 72-hour shift schedule. As a wildland firefighter, I soon discovered what strike team deployments were, which involved chasing campaign fires all over the State of California. The next shift assignment I worked on was a little different, and it was a rotating 12-hour schedule between day-night shifts. My body never knew what time it was, and I learned that I could sleep just about anytime during the day.

My last shift assignment was more common, called the 48/96 schedule, working two straight days in a row. This assignment is known as the “commuter schedule,” and I was indeed a commuter for three years. My residence was three hours one way from my duty station, and this commute made it extremely difficult working in a very busy system. On this schedule, I drove my personal vehicle three hours to work, and I was driving the fire engine for a total of 24-48 hours at work. There were some nights where you were known as the “Sleepless Knights,” and you didn’t get any rest while on duty. I would drive home after my shift and sleep a full day once I got back home.

I am sharing all of these different shift assignments to paint a picture of all the various work schedules one could have in their Fire Service career. In my earlier years as a seasonal wildland firefighter, I would work a whole 28 days in a pay period. This was known as “Blocking out,” a pay period. If you were fortunate, one could block out two pay periods in a row if you were on a lightning siege or a significant campaign fire in Southern California. I met my soon-to-be bride during this schedule and discovered more to life than just being a firefighter.

Over the last seven years I have been married to my bride, I have struggled with maintaining the work-life balance for various reasons. The demands of a public servant are extreme with overtime, shift trades, mandatory training, off-duty community events, union meetings, and of course, vacation - sick coverage. It is extremely easy to pour yourself into the demanding role of a public servant in the fire service. Unfortunately, it is also very easy to let the fire life consume you!

Then life happens with starting a family, and you begin settling down with children. This is when life and its responsibilities sink in. Then you start struggling with this whole work-life balance concept. You want to be at home with your family, and you also want to be a dedicated public servant at the same time. I almost felt like I was living two different lives. One of those lives was at my home residence with my family, and the other life was at the firehouse with my work family.

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Faith, Family, Friends and the Fire Service

Faith, Family, Friends and the Fire Service

 

It has been a little over a year since my last blog article.   I have faced some challenges this past year and I welcome this opportunity to share how I overcame those hurdles.  It is in my own personal opinion; that it is from those trials that is when we truly learn who we are.  The motto of the fire service is to improvise, adapt and overcome.  However, this last year has taught me a new motto: faith, family, friends and the fire service.

When I think about faith, a bible verse comes to mind. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  (Hebrews 11:1 New International Version).  In my life, I have experienced some near death incidents and for me, it has always been my faith that has pulled me through those experiences.  Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and this past year has been a giant leap of faith for my family.  It has strengthened my understanding of faith, that I which now know God is in control and He has an ultimate plan.

Family means everything to me.  This past year, I had to put my career in the fire service on hold in order to take care of an immediate family member.  I have sacrificed a great deal in the last ten years to pursue my public safety career.  The fire service families reading this blog article can appreciate and understand some of those sacrifices.  However, I was not going to sacrifice my family for my dream career position in the fire service.

I received a dream opportunity to work for a department that I first applied for in 2009.  It took seven long years for my number to be called and for my dream position in the fire service to come true.  Unfortunately, my dream was unable to come true due to some events out of my control.  My family is my utmost first priority.  I made a vow through my faith to take care of my family first.

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