Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We've MOVED!

From today forward, all of the Model City Firefighter posts can be viewed at I hope that you click the link and check out the site. It is a work in progress and more information will be added in the future.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Making a Difference for FDNY Brothers

I was recently contacted by Tom Stanton from Charlotte, NC about a trip that he is organizing to New York City. Tom and I have been in contact over the last couple of months talking about the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run that he organized the morning of the Stair Climb in October. While in Charlotte, we were able to meet a few of the guys from FDNY Engine Co. 217. During the Hurricane Sandy destruction in New York/ New Jersey, the guys that we met at the stair climb sustained damage to their houses and are in need of help. (Read my post about the run/climb here and here)

Brothers in the fire service help others that are in need. The guys from E-217 are in need and we are answering the call. A convoy will be leaving the Charlotte area on Thursday, November 15th, headed to New York. So far, we have about 13 volunteers that will be traveling up with us. We will mainly be there to work on the FDNY firefighter's houses, but will also be helping anyone in need. The guys from Charlotte are coordinating a few donation drives this week and the collection points for the two days will be at Lowes Stores in Charlotte (South Blvd and Northlake Mall). 10275 Perimeter Parkway Charlotte, NC 28216. I will be joining them shortly after they reach Virginia, and traveling the rest of the way with them.

If you would like to join us, see the press release below for additional information.

Volunteers Needed – Hurricane Sandy Recovery

A volunteer effort is underway to help those suffering the long lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy. Firefighters from the NC/SC area will be heading to NY on Thursday, November 14th to help our brothers and sisters that have been impacted by the storm. The team will leave Thursday at Noon, and head to NY. We will return Sunday, leaving the NY area early in the morning. Transportation, lodging, and meals will be provided.

We will be hosting collection of donated goods in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov 14th and 15th to bring with us. If you have something to donate, please let us know. If you are in the NY/NJ area and have a specific need, we would like to know and try to help.
For more information, please contact Tom at

Updates will follow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

BURN: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit

Last night, I made the drive down to Greenville, SC to watch a screening of Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit. I have been following the film online for the last couple of years, and I have kept a close eye on it as funding for the film has continued to be a battle. The documentary follows the men and women of Detroit Fire and highlights the political battles, budget limitations, and personal lives of the firefighters. The film is about so much more than just the hard economic times that DFD is facing. It is a film that the general public, city councilmen, and firefighters across the country can all relate to and learn from. I am not a film critic, and do not claim to be...but below is a brief summary of what you will see in the film.

BURN highlights the deteriorating population of the "Motor City." At one time the population in Detroit was 1.8 million people, and to date the population has dropped to just 700,000. While it used to be a booming city full of jobs in the auto industry, it now has nearly 80,000 vacant structures. The city has plans to demolish nearly 3,000 of those structures each year, but on a daily basis it pushes the DFD to its full capacity. The city of Detroit averages 30 structure fires a day, and their staffing has dropped from 1,800 firefighters to just  around 900 firefighters today. They are fighting a losing battle with their apparatus, gear, and equipment being tested to the limit. The film does a great job of showcasing these issues.

Dave Parnell, retired-DFD FEO, was in Greenville last night. Short in stature, FEO Parnell is full of life and dedication to the brotherhood. He recently retired after being on the job for 33 years. In the film, you get to know Dave personally. He takes you inside of his life as you meet his family, his love for western movies, and most importantly, his love for the job. I briefly spoke with Parnell in the lobby before the film started. His face lightened up as I told him I had driven down from Tennessee. Later in the film, I learned why. He referenced a life long dream to move to Tennessee w/ his wife after retirement. As the film covers, Parnell recently lost his wife and he stated he has no plans to live anywhere except the house that they resided in. It was an honor to meet Parnell, and I even gave him one of our KFD Station 1 challenge coins (Check out my post here about NM Coin). Parnell also assured me he would deliver two coins to the Producers of the film who were unable to attend. He also did a Q&A session after the film. He stressed to all the firefighters in attendance that we need to come together to make a difference. He told us about a quote that he often refers to, "Together...we can make a difference."

Brandon Milewski's story is one that will leave you fighting to hold back your tears. Milewski hired in the DFD at a young age of 20 years old, just as I did. After being on the job for 11 years, he was injured during a building collapse on August 13th, 2010. He sustained severe injuries that left him paralyzed from his chest down. The film covers his determination through the major changes in his life, strenuous therapy, and his road to recovery. Since viewing the film, I found a video from Detroit news that covers the story as well. In the follow-up story, he used a device that allowed him to walk again. The film draws you in with his story as he recalls the incident.

The BURN film still needs funding! The film was created after FF Walter Harris, a 17-year old veteran of Detroit Fire, was killed while fighting fire in a vacant structure. This is how the story inside of the DFD was discovered. The film is currently running a 20-city tour nationwide sponsored by MSA among other sponsors. They are hoping for a nationwide theater release prior to releasing the film on DVD. If you have a chance, go see it. If you have an extra dollar or two, donate. The proceeds from the film will go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation and will go back to Detroit Fire. I would like to thank Greenville Fire Chief Stephen Kovalcik, a Detroit native, for his time to get the screening in Greenville.

Monday, November 5, 2012

TX Eastman, Working Fire, and BURN!

Things have been a little busy lately, so I am trying to play catch up as far as the blog goes. I spent most of last week in Texas at the Eastman Chemical Corporate Fire School, and I'm still trying to get back in to the swing of things. We had a working fire on shift today, and am still working on finalizing plans to drive to Greenville, SC on Thursday to watch the BURN: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit screening. This post may be a little scattered, but I'm going to try my best.

Every year around October, Eastman Chemical company hosts a Corporate Fire School for their firefighters, ERT members, and a few municipal firefighters from the neighboring departments. This year, I was one of two firefighters from here in the "Model City" that was lucky enough to travel to Longview, Texas for three full days of classroom/hands-on training. Since we have an Eastman Chemical plant here, they typically send two of us with their crew down for the training. We respond to the plant to back up their department if they have to go out on a response. Typically, it only consists of us standing by at their fire station until they clear up, but occasionally we have to respond to emergencies within the plant.

The Texas Eastman is the host of the Corporate Fire School. We flew into Dallas-Fort Worth Airport last Sunday, and made the drive towards Louisiana to Longview, Texas. Longview has a slightly larger population than Kingsport, and staff a few more pieces of apparatus than us. Some of Texas A&M's fire classes are hosted at the TX Eastman where the large fire training props are. Throughout the week, we got to fight many types of liquid and gas fires. A few of the props they have on-site are a rail car project, a tank farm project, and a couple multi-story chemical complex projects. The staff on-site made us feel very welcome and were very knowledgeable. I definitely learned a lot while I was there, and I am pretty sure everyone in attendance would say the same. I also developed an appreciation for the types of emergencies they respond to. I have never been one that enjoys all the "glow worm haz-mat responses," but I definitely enjoyed learning new techniques that they use to fight the chemical fires. Several of the props even had pressure vessels that would even vent off until they were cooled down. The majority of the drills would consist of multiple fire crews working in a coordinated fashion to gain access to the exposed valves, so that the valves could be closed. A few photos below have been attached to give you a better idea of what I am attempting to explain.


Three firefighters from Longview Fire attended the class with us. Talk about BROTHERHOOD...these guys definitely know the term by heart. Lynn Smyers, Jimmy Lawrence, and Jon-Eric Johnson treated us as one of their own. We all shared stories and experiences with each other throughout the week, and compared similarities/differences between our departments. It seems that they have a great department that they are very proud of. They took us around to a few of their stations and let us meet some of their crews. Longview Fire runs out of 8 stations, and operate 3 trucks, 4 Medic units, and I believe 7 Engines. Several years ago, they started making all of their probies go to Paramedic school. Today, almost the entire department is trained to the medical certification level of Paramedic. I gave the three guys some of our challenge coins that were made by NM-Coin, and they returned the favor by hooking us up with a few of their own coins. (Check out my review of NM-COIN LLC here) Smyers, Lawrence, and Johnson treated us as one of their own, and it definitely made the trip! I look forward to keeping in touch with these guys, and if you are ever out their way...I'm sure they would gladly show you around. I wish we would have had more time to spend with them, but with class starting every morning at 7AM, we didn't have much free time. They even gave us a few of their shirts and I am going to be sending some of our IAFF Local 2270 shirts and coins in the mail.

Today is my middle shift of our series at work, and was also our first shift in our long sleeved badge shirts. Around 4PM today, we caught a working fire to break our newly pressed button-up uniforms in. It had been a fairly slow day, until the fire came in and it seemed to break loose afterwards. The fire was in Station 5's area, and they were busy responding on a medical call. This made the station I'm working at first in on the fire. The first arriving engine arrived on-scene w/ smoke showing. The attack crew went to work with an aggressive interior attack. The important thing is that everyone worked their tails off, and no one was injured. We wrapped the scene up within a few hours.

On Thursday, a few coworkers and myself are planning on making a short commute down to Greenville, SC for a screening of the documentary about Detroit Fire. If you haven't heard about the battles these guys have, I encourage you to do some research. The population in Detroit has been cut in half over the last several years, and they have a very high number of arson fires on a daily basis. I believe this year on the three days around Halloween, they responded to about 93 house fires. The film is called BURN: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit. Click the link and view the information on the film. I have also submitted for a screening here in the Tri-Cities, so hopefully we will see a local screening in the future. One of the things I am looking forward to most is a Q&A afterwards with the Producers and Detroit firefighters who are featured in the film. I have been following the progress of the film for the last couple years, and they are still working on funding to be able to release it nationwide.

That's all for now,
Stay safe!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

National Firefighters Endowment Needs You!

Sometimes we feel like we can never do enough. This week was one of those times for me. I was in Texas at an industrial firefighting school (A post on that will follow.), and I tried to stay informed of the weather. Back here in Tennessee, we were predicted to receive a significant amount of snow, that has yet to arrive. We had great weather in Texas, so I kept up to date on the weather and conditions via Facebook and The Weather Channel.

I have not written much on the blog about the National Firefighters Endowment. I want to inform everyone of what exactly the NFE is (view their About Us link here), and how I came involved with them. Back in 2011, I made a donation to a fundraiser for fire departments in North Carolina called Brotherhood Cuts. The concept was similar to the St. Baldrick's fundraiser in that firefighters raise money to shave their heads to support a great cause. The cause in this fundraiser was to raise money to purchase "bail-out" kits for multiple fire departments across the state of North Carolina. The fundraiser was organized by The Fire Critic and the NFE. Our donations were used to purchase quite a few "bail-out" kits for different departments, and it was money well spent. It felt good knowing that my money went to purchase equipment that could save firefighters lives!

After keeping up to date with the NFE following the fundraiser, I was the first Chief donor of the NFE Officer's Club. Essentially, the NFE launched the Officer's Club to assist with a steady income of donations. There are three different donor levels, Lieutenant, Captain, and Chief. The donation amounts are $10, $20, and $30 per month, and the donations are used to fund grants for departments that need equipment and gear. Each donor also receives a numbered limited edition challenge coin for the level, and it is based on a 1 year term. Also, another benefit is that they have monthly give-aways that members can win a variety of fire-service items. I won a pair of Black Diamond X2 turnout boots several months ago. I have climbed with them at two different 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs now, and you can read about the Nashville Climb here and the Charlotte Climb here. Since joining the Officer's Club, I have grown to meet other members and have become friends with our fearless leader and President of the NFE, Shane Parkins. I speak with Shane on a weekly basis, but look forward to actually meeting him in the near future. After listing all the benefits of being a member of the Officer's Club, the one that supersedes them all is just getting to help brothers and sisters across the nation. I have seen first hand my donation being put to work. I have seen first hand "bail-out" kits delivered to departments across North Carolina that had their needs met by the NFE. Click some of the links throughout the article and consider joining the Officer's Club. You don't have to be a firefighter, just someone willing to help. Help us make an even bigger difference.

Why do I mention all of this? The reason I felt the need to inform everyone about the NFE is that as I am sure most of you are aware, Hurricane Sandy caused so much devastation across the North East. Multiple first responder agencies were greatly effected by damage to emergency vehicles, equipment, and supplies used to respond to the emergency calls that continue to come in. Just because the weather has calmed, the every day calls for help still must get answered. Within the last few days, I am proud to say that the NFE has received a fire pumper to donate to a department effected by the storm, and has also received $125,000 of radio equipment to place in service in the area. This is a HUGE impact that the NFE is able to make, but it is only the beginning. The NFE has established a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund for the First Responders that need the assistance. Our President, Shane, and a few co-workers landed in New York this morning and are currently working to make a difference as I type this article. There is more to be done! Broad Channel VFD has an immediate need of airpacks, a loaner ambulance (stocked), and saws/hydraulic tools. Visit the link here and help out if you can. It is tax deductible and the NFE is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. If you are unable to give, maybe you can organize a Boot drive for your local fire department to assist, or maybe your department has some equipment or apparatus to donate. Visit for additional information. Thanks for taking the time to read this article about a cause that means so much to me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dinner With The Fire Critic and Cpt. Wines

Those of you who read my blog have read about The Fire Critic (Rhett Fleitz) and Iron Firemen (Willie Wines). I have been friends with these guys for quite a while now, and I would never miss an opportunity to catch up. This week, I traveled up to their neck of the woods in Virginia for a concert. I found out Rhett was on shift at Station 3, and he invited me to stop by for dinner. Anyone that is ever offered a firehouse cooked meal better not refuse. You can read about how The Fire Critic takes care of visitors in his recent post HERE.

As soon as we arrived at Station 3, they were returning off of a run. We were welcomed by all of the guys, and they made us feel right at home. After a quick station tour, Cpt. Wines showed up. He was coming in to work for Rhett the rest of the shift, so he showed up early enough to eat with us. The food was amazing! Since the fire guys had been busy, they had the Medic unit throw the ham in the oven, the mashed potatoes on the stove, and had the green beans cooking up as well. It was a great meal, and most importantly, in great company!

Brotherhood is what is it about. I know most people who aren't in the fire service may not understand, but it never ceases to amaze me how other "brothers" in the fire service take care of one another. How many professions can say that they will go above and beyond for others who work in the same profession? Do you think if I was an accountant, I could drop by the office of another accountant in a city miles away and be treated like that? I think not! Lt. Fleitz and Cpt. Wines talk the talk AND they walk the walk. I appreciate everything they have done for the fire service in general. They help keep the brotherhood alive. I even received one of their brand new t-shirts they had made up by Crosstitched. You can sport one for only $15. Click here to order one. I dropped off a few of our Local's shirts and our station challenge coins we recently started having made by NM Coin. (You can read my product review by clicking HERE)
I am going to be in Texas this week with Eastman Chemical at their plant in Longview doing some fire training. I am really looking forward to this opportunity to meet other guys, share experiences, and hopefully learn a thing or two. I will post an update after I return later this week.

Next time you have another firefighter call you up from out of town or just simply stop by for a tour, be sure that you take the time to give them A+ treatment. Be sure that you treat them the way you would expect to be treated. They are guests, and a little courtesy goes a long way.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Product Review: NM-Coin

This is my first product review, and I have decided to feature NM-Coin for to their dedication to the fire service by providing a number of great products at a great price. I was first told about the NM-Coin by the infamous Fire Critic. Thousands of Fire and EMS personnel across the country follow The Fire Critic and Iron Firemen on a daily basis. Their never-ending contribution to the fire service is shown by the dedication they show in sharing the latest news, the most popular events, and the best of various products that are sold. You can guarantee that if they back a product, it is worth checking out. The Fire Critic and the Iron Firemen had their coins, patches, and even badges made by NM-Coin. Pictured below and available by clicking HERE.

Check out The Fire Critic on Facebook HERE.
Check out the Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen blog on Facebook HERE.

Unaware of what a "challenge coin" was, I first saw them when a neighboring IAFF Local had purchased them. Since I work with a lot of these guys at my part-time gig, I noticed that they would always keep their coins handy and wait for just the right moment to "challenge" their co-worker. I couldn't help but to be curious about why on earth such item would cause them to toss the coin over the shower curtain just to "challenge" one another. After checking in to it a little more, I came to realize that the concept was started in the military. After years of being in the military, the concept had finally progressed to the fire service. In the military, individuals or different units would have their own coins which would either be traded or given to an individual. The "challenge" part of the coin is that you are supposed to keep your coin on you at all times. If a coin is presented and a "challenge" is made, then all the other individuals have a short amount of time to produce their coin. If you are unable to produce your coin, then you must buy a round for the challenger or sometimes even forfeit your coin. When I entered the fire service, we often traded t-shirts with other departments while on vacation or out of town. Today, it has turned in to a more common practice to trade coins.

After dealing with several companies, I took The Fire Critic's recommendation, as I have before, and contacted Mike at NM-Coin. We discussed ideas and prices over the phone, and I then passed along the information to my Department. The first coin that we purchased from NM-Coin was a Chief's Award that was to be presented to the line personnel for a "life-saving event." In the past, several different items had been presented for awards, but the Department wanted to update the procedures with recognizing such event. Within 3-4 weeks of ordering, we had 100 of the nicest coins sitting in a box on the Chief's desk. I knew that this would be a business relationship we would continue building over time. All of the coins arrive packaged in a nice PVC plastic sleeve that protects the coin. There are also many options available like the coin pictured above in the plastic capsules.

The next order of business was to start designing a coin for each station. I talked to Mike about wanting to design a coin for each of our 8 fire stations, and even offering them in a set. We decided to go with a nice shiny silver front on all of the 8 coins, and the back will feature a different design depending on the station design. The Station 2 design shown below is the "antiqued" silver backing with the 3D design. I think the coins have turned out great so far, and I look forward to continuing to using NM-Coin in the future.



Maybe you're telling yourself that you aren't interested in challenge coins? That doesn't even scratch the surface to all of the products that they have available. The list seems to be never-ending of all of the products they offer for fire, police and EMS service agencies. They also offer badges, name plates, lapel pins, decals, apparatus models, etc. Check out the flyer below for a better idea of what their products look like. I would recommend NM-Coin to ANY and EVERY person looking to purchase any of the items they offer.

Give Mike a shout at or 800-COIN-123.

Don't forget to tell him that Andrew or The Fire Critic/Iron Firemen sent you!