If you’ve listened to many of my stories, you know that there is always a surprise right around the corner. If you’re a firefighter, you know how surprising some of the calls we all respond to can be. You NEVER really know what you’re likely to find once you arrive on scene. No two calls are ever the same. And today’s story is about a fire that certainly wasn’t the same as most.
Thanks to all of you listeners. Through your listening, the website gets more and more traffic. Some of my stories will be included in an audiobook expected to come out this spring. This isn’t my book but a netflix channel and blog are including a story or two of mine. TheMeatEaters.com has a TV show on netflix as well as podcasts. Now they’re coming out with an audiobook that will feature stories about the dangers of the great outdoors. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
A few months ago, I was included in a podcast series called, How to Save a Planet. The particlar podcast I was on was all about the wildfires this past summer and how we got into the predicament we’er in now. For this topic, please listen to episode #53 about the california fires.
Until my own book comes out, which will be more my life than just fire stories, I hope you’ll keep listening to these stories giving you a glimpse into the life of a firefighter. Thanks to everyone.
I believe there have been 240 trillion books written about leadership. (that’s an exaggeration) I’ve read a lot of them and thought half of them might have actually been useful. But after working in the fire service for over 40 years, I think I have a reasonable perspective of what good leadership might look like. I’m not representing myself as a leadership expert. But I am an expert on what I experienced over those 40 plus years. Listen to this story and let me know what you think. As always, thanks for listening.
This week’s title could fill volumes of books about how “erratic human behavior” costs society in so many ways. You might think fighting fire is a pretty straight forward operation. I think it used to be simpler. Or maybe it seemed that way because when I held positions lower down in the organization I didn’t have to deal with the politics. That might be a part of it. But as fires have gotten bigger, they involve more and more communities and infrastructure. Imagine a fire where you might be dealing with a County government administrator and possibly a mayor of a small town. Now muliply that by 5 and you get an idea of the politics that fire chiefs/managers are dealing with. And don’t forget all the utility companies, highway departments, railroads, etc etc. Every one of those entities has some involvement during a large wildfire. This story is about one tiny landowner and how that landowner impacted the work and the success of many firefighters during a large wildland fire.
Romanticing the past is pretty normal for all of us. I hear myself doing it when I’m complaining about changes to the neighborhood where I grew up. Sport Complaining (Episode #28) done in moderation can be cathartic if it isn’t taken to extremes. But in the fire service (both wildland and structural) talking about the “Good Old Days” can drive me crazy. Those days weren’t all that great. They were just the days we knew and became comfortable with. It is important to recognize that nothing stays the same. Not our neighborhood, not our children, not our jobs.. and that’s ok. It really is. What is important is to know that changes are always happening and maybe we should engage to help guide that change. Not to drag our heals to keep everything the same, but to use our influence and leadership to positively move foward in the most effective way possible. Remember the old saying, “The Fire Service, 200 Years of Tradition Unimpeded by Progress”. Let’s do better. I hope this week’s story gives you pause to think and also makes you chuckle. As always, thanks for listening.
The experienced Division Supervisor was extremely distraught over what had just happened…
If you listen to many of my stories you probably already know that this week’s title might be a bit tongue in cheek… and of course it is. What you’ll hear is a story of how firefighters had to deal with an angry landowner at a large brush fire. The farmer had his own idea about how the firefighters should be fighting the fire. He didn’t really care about what the firefighters thought. He was worried about his wheat crop that was in the path of the brush fire. It was a large fire and to be honest, his crop really was at risk of being burned by the oncoming fire. But the firefighters were experienced and their priority after life safety was protection of property and that standing crop was very valuable. The firefighters would do their best to protect it. The farmer wasn’t listening. I hope you’ll listen to the story and understand one more of the complexities that firefighters are dealing with in the rural west.
Today feels weird and disorienting to me. Well, It’s been feeling weird and disorienting for a few weeks. The images above probably give you the topics that are making me feel odd. Tomorrow is the 19 year anniversary of the attacks on New Your City. You may have listened to some of my stories from the weeks I spent working there at the pile. We’re also into the 6th or 7th month of isolation due to covid-19. Now to top it off, wildland fires are ravaging and destroying communities throughout California, Oregon and Washington. It can wear on you even if you’re not being evacuated from your home due to a wildfire. It can wear on you even if you weren’t in NYC on September 11, 2001. It can wear on you even if you haven’t lost anyone to covid-19. Today’s story is just about that general unease you may be sharing with me today.
A few of the stories on this website related to today’s topic are…
#53, California Fires – Raking the Forest, August 21 2020
#46, YOU Can and Should Protect Your Home from Wildfire, June 29 2020
#13, Memories from the World Trade Center after 9-11, September 12 2019
My hope is that after listening to this week’s story you’ll want to listen to some of the related stories and develop an interest in learning what we can do to support each other and our communities. We really do have the ability to help make our lives better and our communities safer. Most importantly, I hope we can be tolerant and understanding while everyone is feeling stressed, anxious and maybe a bit overwhelmed.
Living and sleeping at large wildfires can be challenging. This year with the Covid virus it’s even more challenging. But this week’s story is about sleeping in a busy fire camp. I’ve also included a few pictures from a fire camp for those of you who might not have ever had the pleasure of living in the dirt and dust for weeks on end. The pictures will illustrate just how amazing the folks who work in the Logistics Section are. The firefighters get all the kudos but to all the folks working back in camp in Logistics, Finance and Planning, my hat is off to you.
The following photos show firefighters during their morning briefing, the kitchen units, showers, sleeping trailers and tents, the office area, etc. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this peek into the life of firefighters at a large wildfire.
In 1988 many firefighters from around the United States and Canada ended up in Yellowstone National Park assigned to the many fires in and near the park. Some firefighters made multiple trips to the area. I only made it for one trip to the fires there but that assignment lasted 30 days. It was an interesting time to be sure. I had never been on a fire so far from home (Arizona) and had never been on a fire for so long (30 days). After a few weeks I thought I might never get home. I missed my son’s first day of kindergarten. When I called home, the kids would cry, I would cry… It was a tough time. But there were adventures to be had. The firefighting was intense, the scenery was amazing and the inter-personal interactions were often quite entertaining.
This week I’ve included 4 short stories that you should find interesting and entertaining. It’s definitely a behind the scenes kind of view of what happens at a large, long term fire incident. There were many other short stories that could be included this week but I don’t think you want to spend 2 hours of your day listening to me reminiscing and laughing with my friends. These are good examples of hard working, professional and committed firefighters… who also qualify as knuckleheads. Hope you enjoy this weeks story. Thanks for listening everyone.
Today’s story is about different communications styles in our work environment. I can’t tell this story without using the actual colorful language that you might hear around the fire ground. So I apologize if my language offends anyone. If you have tender ears, you might want to bypass this week’s story. For those of you still brave enough to listen, you’re sure to get a chuckle if not more. Even though the stories this week are humorous, as usual there is a bigger point to be made. And as often the case, the message has to do with communications on the fire ground. I will not be suggesting that the F Bomb is my preferred communications tool. But you’ll hear when I used it and got the desired outcome. Besides the instances in this week’s story, I have many more that I could use to illustrate the point.
Although this story takes place in New York City following the 9-11 attacks, it is not about the incident itself. If you want to hear about my experiences following the attack, I posted a story about 9-11 on September 12th 2019. Episode 13. That story is quite serious. This is not. And I do not want to disrespect anyone since the setting for today’s story is NYC following that horrible day. It just so happens to be my first exposure to New York City Cops and Firefighters. We were all tired, stressed and over worked. Sometimes you just get some funny results from that combination.
Huge thanks to those of you who are out on the firelines this summer. Your work keeps us, our loved ones and our property safe from wildfires. And also thanks for those of you non-firefighter listeners. You all make this effort worthwhile for me. Hope you enjoy this week’s story and as always, please share my website with your friends.
Folks everywhere are stressed right now with the threat of Covid virus and everything else going on, so I thought I’d tell a couple of stories that should make you laugh and distract you from the news. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier stories, the public doesn’t really know what goes on at the scene of an emergency. Our intent is to provide excellent patient care and customer service. I think we always did when I was still working. But there is some funny stuff that happens too. Or in my case, my immature brain takes over and I have some funny thoughts that I don’t say out loud.
In this week’s story I’ll relate a few incidents that occurred at the same resort that was in my “first due” response area many years ago. We responded to the same place regularly and these short stories were pretty indicative of what we might see when we arrived on scene. I hope you enjoy this story and please share it with your friends and family. Stay safe everyone and mask up and wash up. Thanks.
I would never want listeners to think I’m man bashing. I loved working with the guys during my long fire career. But some men have been a bit more fun to work with than others. Today I’m going to tell you two stories. In the first story, the guy was clearly just mansplaining. And in the end, I hope he learned something about how to communicate with people. I learned something too. I learned that when the time is right, you have to stand up for yourself, even if it’s in a subtle non confrontational manner.
I think the guy in the second story was just testing me. He was also clearly messing with me. A form of hazing or pranking maybe. He was having some fun at my expense. It’s something I was quite used to and knew how to deal with. How we deal with these episodes in life can determine how we’re perceived, how well we’re accepted or not and how successful we are. This particular knucklehead and I became great friends. We went on to work well together and we continued to prank each other. I was just as guilty as he was. The score was tied by the time we both retired.
I hope you’re continuing to find my stories entertaining. But more importantly, I hope you find them useful, especially if you’re working in the fire service. Thanks for listening everyone and don’t forget to share this site with your friends.
Every year before the 4th of July, fireworks stands open up around the country. Depending on where you live, your access to certain types of fireworks may be restricted or maybe not. Some jurisdictions restrict aerial type fireworks, but some don’t. Even if fireworks are illegal in one city or county, they can easily be purchased elsewhere and brought in to another jurisdiction. During my 45 years in the fire service I’ve witnessed so many crazy incidents related to mis-use and mis-handling of fireworks. The same piece of fireworks may be safe in one location but totally unsafe in another depending on surrounding vegetation and age of the person using them. I have witnessed homes damaged by fire from a bottle rocket and injuries from the mishandling of easily purchased fireworks. Every firefighter has their own experiences with fireworks. It’s inevitable to be exposed to some crazy stuff. Hope you enjoy this week’s story and please comment and let me know where you heard about this website from. Thanks for listening everyone.
In my experience, the public and even firefighters themselves have a miopic view of the challenges facing firefighters on the fireground. They see the obvious dangers from fire. They don’t realize that sometimes there are other equally dangerous pitfalls awaiting us. There are critical challenges we have to deal with on fires that go beyond what you might think of. In today’s story I relate an incident where a newer female Division Supervisor had to figure out how to communicate with an older experienced tough and grizzled supervisor. The story also involves me as a supervisor of both of them and how I had to ensure they were working well together and communicating appropriately. Of course there will be the requisite laughs because in this business, you have to laugh at the messes we find ourselves in. Hope you enjoy the story and please leave comments where you found the story link? Thanks everyone.
After the last week of social unrest and violence, I thought I would lighten the mood a little with a short story of life around the fire station. I am definitely not calling all firefighters knuckleheads but… well sometimes we can be a bit immature. It comes from working hard and often under stressful conditions. The public is always watching us and we have to exude a professional, confident demeanor. Of course we want everyone to trust us because we Really are competent and wanting to serve the public. But when we’re back in the station, we relax. And when we relax sometimes we might be less than mature in the way we kid and joke and decompress. This story is just one of those times. It still makes me laugh out loud to think about. Hope you enjoy this week’s light hearted story and distracts you from the current craziness we’re living through.
This website has had nearly 80,000 story downloads so far. So I’d like to ask you to leave a comment about how you found BobbieOnFire.com. I’d love to know where everyone is coming from. Thanks all and we’ll see you next week.
Many fire departments and wildland fire agencies are currently preparing for the upcoming wildfire season. In parts of our country the season has been underway for some time but in much of the west, firefighters are spending time in “refresher classes” and taking their introductory wildland fire courses. Often times when we are sitting in those classes we’re thinking how we’ve heard this all before… or nothing is really going to happen that I haven’t already experienced, etc, etc. We minimize our risk and the more years of experience we have the less we think we have to learn.
Today’s story is a shortened version of a tragic wildfire where 6 firefighters were killed in a burn over. I’m telling this story to try and motivate firefighters to pay attention and take seriously their annual fire refresher training and other training courses. I hope hearing what happened to some experienced firefighters will help you stay focused during your training.
Among older and retired firefighters, I often hear about the “Good ‘Ol Days”. “Why by god… back when we could… bla bla bla.” There are lots of things that were pretty cool about the Good ‘Ol Days. Back then we could ride on the tailboard of a fire engine. That was fun. Of course firefighters died riding back there too. They fell off, got run over, had head injuries, etc. By by god, those were the good old days. I was subjected to some less than professional behavior “back in the good ‘ol days” too. Some things about the good old days really were better. But there is much that I’m glad we left behind. This week, I’ll tell a story about my first controlled burn. I was young and not very experienced, but had the opportunity to try something new. At the time no one I knew was burning in the desert scrub in Arizona to learn from. The nearby Coronado National Forest started their controlled burn program after I started mine.
This story relates how youth and enthusiasm coupled with a little knowledge and experience can accomplish great things… and sometimes be a failure. I would say at the bottom of my balance sheet, my experiences were positive and helped me become an asset as an experienced burner. Over the years I gained more knowledge through agency classes as well as my graduate studies for my Masters Degree. But as in any career, youthful enthusiasm can be a great asset. Hope you enjoy this weeks story and please send comments or suggestions for future stories. Thanks.
Years ago while assigned to a wildland fire, the Operations Section Chief asked me to conduct a burn out operation along a 9 mile stretch of a two lane road in California in order to put out the fire and protect numerous homes. I was successful in the operation but like most things in life, nothing is simple. Personal relationships, past experiences and our professional knowledge all play into the success or failure of any operation. This was especially true in this case. In the end, what had been a very challenging fire with some bleak experiences turned into one of my significant career events. Hope you enjoy listening to this story and get something worthwhile from it. As always, thanks for listening.
In the early 2000s, the Incident Management Team I was a member of was dispatched to a hurricane on the gulf coast. These assignments were always challenging and fascinating to be a part of. I always learned a lot when I responded to a major emergency but this particular one was especially so. There are lessons for all of us in this story no matter what kind of work we do. I hope you find it interesting and educational and as always I appreciate any constructive feedback. Thanks for listening.
This weeks story is about how we might use humor on the job. Often times we have a distorted perception of our own sense of humor. I know for me personally if I was half as funny as I think I am I’d be on late night TV getting the laughs and making big money. When I go back and re-listen to some of the stories here at BobbieOnFire.com I still laugh at the funny ones. Heck, the incident might have happened 30 years ago, I’ve told the story dozens of times but I still laugh at it. At least I enjoy them.
The problem is when you’re working, what kind of humor is appropriate and what is not? In this story I give some insights and perspectives based on my experiences. I hope you get a laugh from hearing some of my examples of what NOT to do. Unfortunately in my life and career, I might have more examples of what not to do as I have what to do.
As always I appreciate any comments and suggestions. Please share BobbeOnFire.com with your friends. Also, please follow all the health recommendations coming out of your state and local agencies. Let’s do all we can to keep our active first responders and medical personnel safe. Thanks.
This week’s story is meant to entertain a little, distract you from our current events a little and also to make you think a little. It takes place in 2001 when I was an Operations Section Chief trainee. My Incident Training Officer had expectations that I wasn’t ready for. Her expectations were correct. Up until that time I just thought about the actual firefighting. The paperwork surrounding it was always just an afterthought to me. She opened my eyes a bit. Not that I ever got good at the paperwork. Years later we worked together often and eventually I was her supervisor. But man… did she make an impression on me. Hope you enjoy the story and share with your friends. Thanks.
In life we don’t always get a second chance. It’s great when we do get that second chance but it doesn’t always happen. Hopefully we learned from an earlier experience and improve the next time. Life is just a series of experiences and opportunities for learning. Sometimes I’m not sure I’ve learned the lesson and maybe that’s why I have to repeat a similar experience over and over. Kind of like Ground Hog day. But in the fire service we use a simple exercise called an After Action Review or AAR. It’s just a simple process where the people involved review what happened and consider what might have been done differently and better the next time. It’s a great way to learn. This is common in the military as well as the fire service. Other groups use the AAR exercise to learn from as well. We would all benefit from conducting group AAR exercises or even just personal ones to improve our performance.
Today’s story is about a time that as a Captain of an engine company I really messed up. But I was fortunate to have an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and get a do-over. I was thinking of how it might be appropriate to think of this story in terms of our current Corona Virus situation. I hope we as a country as well as individually learn how to do better next time. Stay safe everyone and pay attention to the Center for Disease Control and your local officials. The life you save might be that of your firefighters, EMTs and hospital workers. Thanks for listening.
As I write the introduction to today’s story, the United States and really the whole world is captive to the Corona Virus Pandemic Anxiety Syndrome or CVPAS. (I had to make up an acronym since I’ve spent over 40 years working in government.) I’m not suggesting we don’t have anything to be concerned about. On the contrary I believe we had better be listening to the scientists, virologists, epidemiologists and doctors. But even if you’re healthy and have a bathroom full of toilet paper, you might still be anxious. Truth be told, I have a little CVPAS since I’m in the target demographic; I’m a senior citizen now and have questionable lung health due to all these years of breathing smoke and a month of working at Ground Zero (9-11) and breathing all that was in the air down there. But we can’t get crazy about this either. Be smart and listen to the experts.
I chose this week’s topic because it’s just a cute story that I hope lightens your worries. Nothing heavy. No one gets hurt. No one is at risk. Everyone is happy. So take a listen and think about the good things you have in life and be thankful for your blessings. Thanks everyone and leave a comment if you can.
In my career I’ve had some unique experiences. One of them is the number of times I’ve been nearby when a fire has broken out. In a previous story you might have listened to the time I was near a fire start in the city of Sacramento. Well, I’ve had many similar experiences when I was the first person on the scene of a new fire. And if you’re a firefighter who happens to be near the start of a fire, you’re going to find yourself under suspicion of being an arsonist. There’s good reason that we suspect other firefighters. Unfortunately, there have been many firefighters who have been convicted of arson. For this reason, firefighters must be above reproach to protect their own reputation and those of our fellow firefighters. As you listen to the story, keep in mind those times you’ve been accused of something you hadn’t done. Or even more importantly, when you’ve been tempted to talk about someone else. Hope you enjoy the story and please comment and share with your friends.
Around 2000 I was assigned to a large fire in the northern Sierras as a Division Supervisor. On this particular fire I had multiple 20 person fire crews as well as many fire engines working for me. This story is about one of those fire crews who were from Hawaii. They were a great crew with an outstanding work ethic. But they also were quite comfortable relaxing when it was appropriate too. Their positive outlook and attitude stuck with me all these years later. Please listen and imagine being on the forest fire with this interesting group of men. I thank them for their hard work and for their contagious happy outlook.
No really… they really hate me. Or maybe they just love the way I taste. But regardless, I’ve had some bad experiences with ants. Especially in my first 6 or 7 years of firefighting when at least once a summer I’d have an episode of being bitten or stung or just attacked by big red or black ants. This week’s story is about one of those instances, what happened and how I reacted. I think you’ll laugh along with me but of course, there’s a lesson to be learned too. How do we recover from embarrassment’s at work? Do we let stupid things impact us in the long term or do we just move on. I hope you enjoy the silliness of this story and also think about how we can deal with minor set backs at work. Enjoy.
How we react to tough and challenging situations at work can determine our successes and failures. It’s not always easy to know how to respond to bullies and negative people who can have a direct impact upon our lives and careers. Sometimes we’re dealing with a boss who is the bully and sometimes we have people working for us who are the bully. Of course you have to deal with each of those situations differently and there is NO one right answer. How we decide to deal with challenges like this can depend on many circumstances that we find ourselves in. This story is about one specific set of circumstances and how I dealt with some “challenging employees”. I’m not suggesting this was the best way or even a good way to deal with this group of knuckleheads. But the story you’re about to hear is how I did deal with them. The results were positive although that isn’t proof that my method was the best way.
Be advised that in order to reach these rough tough characters and to accurately retell the story, you’ll hear the F word a few times so if you don’t want to hear that, you might listen to another story instead. Thanks for everyone’s continued support of my story’s.
In the fire service I’ve often said that the worst thing that can happen to a well functioning crew with good attitude is having no fires or no emergency calls. Even though we always had lots of work to do around the station or out on projects, the attitude would sink into the toilet when the call volume decreased. During those slow times is when my firefighters began to “bitch” about the boss (me), the bosses boss, the uniform policy, the caterer on the last big fire we went to, the equipment on the engine, the other crews we work with…. and it went on and on and on and on. The best cure for sport bitching is being busy on skill testing and demanding emergency calls.
In this weeks episode, I talk about some of the dangers of bitching on the job. I think it’s an important lesson for all of us. It might not be an “exciting” topic but if you’re a worker in an organization, a company officer, a manager or leader you have the ability to impact the entire organization through your attitude. As an experienced but recovering bitcher I can speak from a perspective that might help you in your career. I hope you enjoy this episode. Thanks
This week’s story takes place when I was a Captain on a Fire Department years ago. It was really just a routine medical call. But while responding and even treating the patient we really didn’t know it was just a routine call. There was mystery involved. Initially we had no clue what we were even responding to. It makes it hard for the first responders to show up and not know the nature of the emergency incident. In this case we didn’t understand all the particulars of the incident until after the patient was transported to the hospital. The way it unfolded was unique to say the least. A common theme in my stories has been to trust your intuition, follow your gut and be prepared for anything. This short story is another illustration of why I feel so strongly in those lessons. I hope you enjoy this story. Thanks to both John and Curtis for joining me this week.
Back in 1996 I had recently quit my job as a Fire Captain at my Fire Department and had returned to school to get my Masters Degree. So I wasn’t currently working for a Fire Department or a Wildland Fire Agency. Instead I had been hired as a temporary firefighter for the summer and had been working for a State Agency and the Forest Service. Because I already had 22 years of experience at that point and carried the commensurate fire qualifications, I was utilized as a Division Supervisor when assigned to active fires. This particular fire was located in eastern Oregon. I was excited for the dispatch because I had never fought a fire in Oregon at this point of my career. So off I went to Oregon as I describe in the following audio story.
What is significant in this story was my perception of the man I was working for. I had never met him before but from the way he spoke to me, I assumed he thought I was a bit of a drone. But as you’ll hear in this story, he had a direct and lasting positive impact on my career. The lesson I learned from this is to not judge based on some hasty communications or limited knowledge of someone. My advice to other younger and often female firefighters I’ve mentored is to not be scared away from the gruff communications style of some of their supervisors. You don’t really know what’s going on behind his mustache. I hope you enjoy the story and please leave comments. Thanks.
As I’ve often mentioned on this site, you never know what’s going to happen in the course of your day, week, career or even your life. Today’s story is about a time when I was minding my own business and thought I was going to have a nice evening having dinner with an old family friend. My evening was surprisingly interrupted by a citizen’s request to respond to a fire instead. How I responded wasn’t all that dramatic but my reaction to the entire episode was something I still wonder about. Hope you enjoy this episode and as always, please share my site with your friends. Thanks!