Hi everyone. The picture here is a good depiction of the fire that this story describes. Although the story isn’t about fighting the fire, it’s about the interactions between the firefighters who are fighting the fire. As I look back on things, fighting the fire was routine. The interactions with my co-workers and others involved was the challenge and what I remember most of all. The point of this story is how important it is to walk humbly. The fire where this story takes place wasn’t particularly difficult or challenging but it definitely wasn’t going to go out by itself either. What I had to pay the most attention to was the human element. And as you can imagine, dealing with human emotions is probably more dangerous and risky than fighting fire. So… I hope this one makes you giggle a little. As you will hear… it still makes me giggle.
First of all let me apologize for taking so long since last posting a story. I was making preparations to get my boat ready to make the nearly 400 mile trip from Portland Oregon to Anacortes Washington. My mind was on making sure my boat and I were in good shape to make it up the coast safely. But now I’m safe and sound in my new Marina on the beautiful Puget Sound.
This particular story came to mind because I had been interviewed twice this week regarding firefighting operations; once for the LA Times and once by CBS radio in LA. The reporter for the radio station asked me if there was anything I wanted to add at the end of the interview, so I figured I would remind people about redeeming their (YOUR) responsibility for protecting their homes from wildfire. This story relates to the unnecessary risk we put firefighters in every day trying to protect homes from wildfire.
Over the years I’ve been closely involved in firefighter fatalities while the firefighters were protecting homes from a wildfire. Even though we say “no home is worth the life of a firefighter”, we still lose firefighters every year trying to protect homes and communities. What causes me to see red with anger is when homeowners do nothing to protect their own home, then expect the firefighters to come in at the last minute to save their home. If you want your home to be safe from a fire, then be an adult and use appropriate building materials in the first place. Trim your landscaping appropriately, rake leaves and pine needles, ensure you have adequate access for fire engines, etc.
Thanks for listening and I SWEAR, I’ll post one next week you can laugh at.
Over the many years of my career I’ve aspired to present a professional demeanor to those folks who worked for me and to the citizens we served. I made a point to act like a professional Firefighter, Fire Captain, Fire Chief, etc to those around me. I believe it inspired confidence for those in our organization and helped build trust with the public. I might have been a goofball in private, but outwardly I hoped that I appeared professional and competent. I think I was 99% successful in that regard.
From the earlier stories you’ve already heard how we don’t always deliver on my expressed value of professionalism but I tried desperately to never let the public see our goofy side. This story is about how my fire organization laid bare for all the public to see (hear) just how stupid we could be. What I love about this story is that even though I was about to literally explode while ripping out the tongues of some of my employees, after a few years passed they love to tease me about my reaction to their less than professional behavior. I hope you get a chuckle from this one.
When firefighters go north to Alaska to fight fires for the first time it’s a real adventure. Firefighting up there can be very different than in the lower 48 states. In the interior of Alaska, distances between roads can be gigantic. Logistical support comes via cargo nets from helicopters or cargo chutes by plane instead of trucks. Those are just two of many differences. On my first fire assignment to the interior we were sent to protect some scattered hunting cabins owned by native Alaskans as well as the oil pipeline from a wildfire started by lightning. Since we were protecting the pipeline we did have some road access. This story is about what happened one night while assigned to the fire. Keep in mind that although I might refer to my co-workers as knuckleheads (which you’ll soon see why), I loved these guys. They were like real brothers to me and I still love them and the memories from when we worked together.
Some funny, Some tragic, All pretty entertaining
Now that I’m retired, I thought I would tell some stories that have been entertaining my friends for years. Over the last 4 decades many crazy things have happened to me while working as a county structure firefighter and a federal wildland firefighter. No matter what agency you work for, you get to experience what most people don’t get to see or don’t want to see. Many of the stories are funny but not all. Some of the stories include serious topics as you might imagine. Many of them have decent leadership lessons embedded as well. But my favorite stories are the funny ones. You might hear me laugh a bit as I tell the story. No matter how many times I hear myself telling the funny ones I still laugh. l really hope you enjoy listening to the stories as much as I enjoy telling them. If you do, let me know. I appreciate any feedback and suggestions to improve the stories.
Since beginning this site, I’ve been approached by fire professionals, educators and others to speak to their groups on the topic of firefighting and leadership. This new turn has become a great and unexpected opportunity for me. If you have a group that could benefit from this old fire leader telling some stories and how those stories relate to your group, send me a note through this site.
Update: Between July 1, 2019 and February 18, 2020, stories have been downloaded over 50,000 times. I really appreciate everyone’s interest and support. Please tell your friends to visit the site and enjoy one of our stories. Thanks!