Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Go Time!

In a little less then 10 days, I will start my third 9/11 Stair Climb. I have walked away from each stair climb with a mix of emotions, and trust me...each one has been very emotional for me. The first climb, I donned by turnout gear and helmet and climbed in Richmond, VA, with around 200 other firefighters. I had been in Richmond with some friends at the NASCAR race, and I did not know one other firefighter there. It didn't matter though, because I made some friends and we were all there for the same reason: to honor those who passed on 9/11. At that climb, I carried the names of Firefighter Michael J. Clarke, FDNY Ladder 2; Firefighter Peter J. Carroll, FDNY Squad 1; and Captain Earl Morphew, CFD. As I have talked about in my previous posts, Capt. Morphew was a great instructor and friend who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2009. I did not have the pleasure to meet Firefighter Clarke or Firefighter Carroll, but after returning from the climb, I researched and learned about each of them.

At FDIC, I decided to take a different approach and climb in my gym clothes and fire helmet. These climbs are not races, and I didn't have to prove anything by having to put all my gear on to climb. This was a climb I did along side one of my brothers from KFD, Jared Lindholm, Rhett Fleitz, The Fire Critic, and Cpt. Willie Wines, of The Iron Firemen. I also did this climb with about 200 other firefighters from departments all across the United States. It was also a very emotional climb for me. I wore the names/photos of the firemen listed above from my Richmond climb, and I added the names/photos of Firefighter Thomas J. Kuveikis, FDNY Squad 252; Lieutenant Edward A. D'Atri, FDNY Squad 1; and Firefighter Joseph Angelini, Jr., FDNY Ladder 4. I once again researched and learned about each of the guys and their families they left behind.

The upcoming climb in Nashville is going to be different in many ways. This climb filled all 343 spots in just a few hours, and will be the first climb I have participated in that has filled up. It amazes me that the climbs across the US are having problems filling up. I can't grasp why a fundraiser like this can't get 343 firefighters in the area that are wanting to remember those who passed and promote firefighter fitness. I hope to see the day that each and every climb put on by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation will fill up. The cost is only $25, which all goes to the foundation for the families of the fallen. Another thing that is going to be different about this climb is that I will be climbing in full turnout gear w/ SCBA. This will add an additional 20lbs to my gear; however, I feel that I have done everything possible to be ready for it physically. I have been on the stepper in the gym 7 days a week since the first of August. I am nervous, but not afraid. I know that this is what the responders when through, and they didn't have a choice.

It's Go Time! During the next 8 days, I will be pushing myself harder then ever to be prepared. I will be climbing with two other firefighters from KFD, and we will be in a team of 7. I look forward to meeting the other team members and experiencing this with them. I believe we are also going to be riding along with NFD Engine 12 while we are visiting. I will keep everyone posted on that as well.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Racin' and RIT

This past week was race week here in the Tri-Cities. Hundreds of thousands of race fans flock toward Bristol Motor Speedway to watch the NASCAR race. I, however, was one of those fans. I camped at the track and relaxed most of the weekend in the scorching heat.

There was one thing this week that I was glad to see incorporated into the race festivities, and that was Rescue 5 from F.D.N.Y. This unit is now operated by the Rescue Remembrance Project, and it tours the country honoring those who were lost on 9/11 and the rescue units of F.D.N.Y. The Fire Critic gives his two cents about the project and some recent criticism they have received in this article here. Rescue 5 was on display at Family Race Night in downtown Bristol on State Street on Thursday night. I unfortunately was unable to attend due to being on-shift, but I did watch the transporter parade on a live web cast on-line. I thought it was neat that the rescue unit lead the NASCAR haulers in to the track on Thursday night. I was able to meet Chris Gantz, the project leader for the RRP, and passed along on of our Local 2270 challenge coins to him after purchasing a few items from him. Chris seems like a great guy and I am glad we have people like him carrying on the tradition. Check out their website and donate or purchase some clothing from them to help support the cause.

Today, I am back on shift in the "Model City," and what better way to get back in to the swing of things then by having an ISO drill. Our department is required to have so many each year as part of our accreditation process, and today it was on our RIT pack. The RIT bag consists of an air cylinder, an extra regulator/mask, a quick fill hose, and a low pressure hose. This RIT bag is used when we have a downed firefighter, and the Rapid Intervention Team will take it in to the structure to provide additional air and/or equipment as needed. We currently have 3 RIT packs in our department and they are carried on our ladder truck, our deputy chief's vehicle, and Fire-Rescue 12. At any working fire in the city, at least two of these apparatus will be on-scene. The drill was an eye-opener to a lot of the guys about how we don't get our hands on this equipment as often as we should. It's no ones fault but our own, but never the less, it was a great drill. We had two downed firefighter in a small storage room under a stairwell. It was very close quarters for our two rescuers to either fill the air pack of the downed firefighter or provide additional air to them by hooking up their buddy breathing connection. The rescuers had to locate the downed firefighters and provide additional air to them so everyone could exit the structure. Here are a few photos from the drill.

-Until next time: ABC

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Filling the Boot in the "Model City"

This past weekend, the Kingsport Firefighters Association Local 2270 set up at two of the grocery store locations in our area. What were we raising money for? The Muscular Dystrophy Association. The MDA has been raising money for years to help find a cure and fund research for muscular dystrophy and other neurological/muscular diseases. They have been most known for running a telethon during Labor Day weekend each year with Jerry Lewis being the spokesperson. Lewis had to step down after last year as being the spoke person, but they have a list of celebrities that help each year. The IAFF has been helping fund research for the MDA since 1954. Nationwide, firefighters volunteer their time each year to help "Fill the Boot" to fund the MDA. We will also be out this Friday and Saturday once again. Help support those in need and remember that every penny counts.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's Your Motivation?

In the fire service, we should be expected to be in the best of shape possible. If you think of the things that our job entails, a lot of it can be summed up as extreme physical exertion in high stress situations. In my department alone, I would pretty confident to say that less then 50% are in the physical shape that they need to be in. Of course, everyone is unique in their body type, but there are many that could make simple changes in their daily routine to make a positive impact on them self and others.
Cpt. Morphew and I during a training class.

When I entered the fire service as a career firefighter, I was NOT in the physical condition I needed to be in for my job. I was able to complete the physical agility test required as part of the hiring process, but that was the extent of it. Over the years at my volunteer department, I had a very close friend that attempted to motivate me on a daily basis. His name was Earl Morphew. He was my Captain for several years after I joined as a junior firefighter. My bond with Earl started several years before as I suffered from exercise induced asthma for the majority of my early teens. Earl often responded on medical calls to the middle school when I would have asthma attacks, and over time, I knew that everything would be fine when Earl showed up. He was in good shape, exercised on a regular basis, and shared his knowledge with others quite often. Once I joined the department, Earl would always try to motivate me to go running with him or to eat healthier meals rather then the fast food I was eating. At that time, I let it go in one ear and out the other. I think I often played it off as him being too hard to me. I later became a career firefighter in 2008, and things hadn't changed much for me as far as my eating/exercise (lack there of) habits.

On January 28th, 2009, my one year anniversary on the job, I was awaken early in the morning to the news that Earl had been killed in a tragic vehicle accident while on his way to work. At that moment, my life changed. I found myself looking back on the smallest of conversations I had had with Earl. I had taken for granted all those times that he tried to motivate me to get in shape, and given him a deaf ear. I came to realize that I would never have to chance to listen to his sharp tone of voice telling me to get off my butt and get in shape. I did not, however, let that stop me. Instead, I used his words to motivate me to do the best I could at getting in shape. This wasn't a change that happened over night, but instead, one that I had to keep reminding myself I needed to do. It was something I had to work very hard at and do not only for me, but also for the citizens I was sworn to protect, for my family, for my friends, and for my brother that I could no longer call up on to hear those words of motivation.

A photo of me during Rookie School during 2008.
Over the next several years, my weight fluctuated quite frequently. At one time, I had lost around 50 lbs, but then ended up gaining nearly 65 lbs back in the future. On May 18th, 2011, I decided that I was going to make a lifestyle change and do this. I devoted hours of my time to the gym and drastically changed my eating habits. For a better perspective, I am 6' 3" tall and was weighing in at 313lbs. I do not say that because it is something I am proud of at all, but instead because it is something I am very ashamed of. It was a slow process that took a lot of tweaking to make it work for me. Since I work part-time on the ambulance, I often found myself resorting to fast food restaurants for my meals. I had to make a conscious effort to pack my lunch and plan my meals out every day.

To date, I have lost around 90 lbs and still battle with myself every day. I still have to make myself get up and work out. I still have to make myself eat healthier. The one thing that is different these days is that I know Earl is right beside me telling me to push myself a little harder. I am sure that I will continue to have my ups and downs as far as on the scales, but there isn't a day that passes that Earl doesn't cross my mind. I wish he could see me now. I wish he could tell me "Job well done!" I wish I could hear him tell me how proud he is of me and to keep pushing. I have been able to accomplish my goals all because of my family and friends who compliment me on my progress, but there will always be that one person that I will never be able to hear it from again. He motivates me on a daily basis.
If I have any advise to everyone reading this, it would be to discover what motivates you. I know everyone has something deep inside that can push them to achieve their goals. It may come easier to some then to others, but we all have the fire deep down inside to be in better shape and to be able to accomplish our goals. I know, without question, that I am in the best shape of my life. I also know that you can be as well. Discover what fuels your fire and pushes you to get in shape, and pour it on!

That's my motivation! What is yours?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My First Stair Climb

I'm on shift today and just finished my workout for the evening. I have been hitting the stair stepper hard for the last 10 days to try to get myself ready for the upcoming stair climbs. I am climbing 110 stories for those who lost their lives on 9/11 in Nashville on September 9th, and also climbing again in Charlotte, NC, on October 13th. I like to consider myself in decent cardiovascular shape as I have tried to make physical fitness a priority, but over the passed several months I had let it slid down the list. With this career, we all need to be in tip-top shape. I do not ever want to be put in the situation where someone has to suffer from the consequences of me not being able to perform due to me being too lazy to hit the gym.

I'm not much of a writer, so for my first post I am going to insert a write-up I did following my first climb last year on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11/01. I also participated in a climb at FDIC in Indianapolis this year.

Here is my personal account of the event:
"As I walked in the SunTrust building, I found a very long line of firefighters waiting to register and sign-in for the climb. The line wrapped throughout the lobby of the building with personnel waiting to give emergency contact information, obtain the required wrist bands, and to be given the ID badge with the fallen firefighters photo, name, and apparatus the fallen firefighter was assigned to that morning 10 years ago. I couldn’t help but to envision the lobby of the World Trade Center that morning, just before the ones who lost their lives would start the climb. The radio traffic, the different firefighters arriving for their assignments, and the ones who started their ascent up the towers all came to mind.

I was handed the ID badge of Firefighter Peter J. Carroll. He was riding Squad 1 the morning of September 11th, 2001. I also had an ID badge made a few weeks prior with Earl Morphew’s name and photo on it. This climb was not only to remember those 343 firefighters who were killed on 9/11/01, but also to encourage firefighter fitness throughout the profession. The memories are countless, but anyone who knew Earl was well aware of how devoted he was to being physically fit. I know that Earl would have made that trip to Richmond to climb with me, and there’s no doubt he was there with me.

We all attended a mandatory safety meeting at 0830hrs. During this meeting, we were told to leave our egos at the door and reminded this was not a race. One thing that was repeated numerous times throughout the day was “Remember why we are here.” As I listened to the briefing on where bathrooms and water stations were located throughout the building, I looked around the room at all the firefighters that were there. There were firefighters that were young and old, male and female, physically fit, and not so physically fit. Some stood there in tank tops, gym shorts, and running shoes; however, others stood ready wearing full turnout gear with air packs/tools. No matter what, they all knew why we were there. During the safety briefing, they told us that they still had ID badges that had not been taken due to there not being the full 343 climbing. To ensure that all fallen firefighters made it to the top, several firefighters were handed another ID badge to carry. This is when I was handed the ID badge of Michael J. Clarke, Ladder 2. I stood there just looking at the photographs for a few minutes, and wanted to know more about these guys. Were they married? Did they have kids? What were they like? What hobbies do they have? I knew that these guys would never be forgotten.
They started the climb by letting 8 firefighters started the ascent every minute. By the time I was up to the front to start the climb, several groups were already starting their second ascent. The part of the building that we climbed was 22 stories.  I climbed the 22 stories five times to equal 110 stories. All of us would climb up, and take an elevator down to the lobby. We would all walk passed friends and family that had gathered in the lobby cheering us on before starting another ascent. In the stairwells of the building, there weren’t a lot of conversations going on.  Everyone climbing provided words of encouragement for those who had their doubts about being able to complete it. Every time someone would be resting, all the firefighters climbing up would provide positive words to boost their confidence. I climbed in full turnout gear, and my shirt was soaked in sweat prior to reaching the top floor during the first ascent. Each trip up became harder, but I knew that I was just getting closer to the finishing.

As I finished my fifth trip up the steps, I was very proud to have completed my goal. They had a bell at the top, where family and friends stood watching for their firefighter to complete the 110 stories. The bell was rung by firefighters once they completed the 110 stories. It was an emotional moment as I rang the bell and announced each of their names. I completed the climb in a little over an hour’s time. I was able to make the climb without the fear that these guys had. I was able to make the climb without worrying if I would ever see my family again. I was able to make the climb without the air pack and all of the tools that they carried with them. I was able to make the climb because I was able to stop and rest to regain my breath. On 9/11/01, these guys were not able to make it to the top and they lost their lives saving others.  Ten years later, I helped these guys make it all 110 stories, but I think they helped me as well. I was not in the fire service 10 years ago, I was sitting in 9th grade English class at Chilhowie High School when the towers fell.  It was an honor to climb for each and every one of those men and women who lost their lives that day."

I'm going to end with a video of Brian Brush talking about the 9/11 stair climbs and the partnership with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. I had the pleasure to climb with Brian at FDIC and I think this video sums up about anything I could say about why.


Welcome to the "Model City" Firefighter. This blog is run by firefighters here in "The Model City." This page is not an official site connected with any municipality and expresses personal views of those that run the blog.