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.
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.
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.
About a month ago my good friend Mark Sigrist passed away. He worked for the US Forest Service for many years and was an experienced firefighter and Operations Section Chief. When I first became an Ops Chief myself, Mark was the senior Ops Chief on my team and mentored me in his own classic style. Looking back on those days I was nearly un-mentorable. But Mark did mentor me and I did learn. What he taught me were his values. First, be good at your job and don’t do anything half assed. Be professional and most of all, be concerned about the firefighters who we’re supervising. That last item was very important to Mark. He was always concerned about their safety, health and comfort.
Mark was a mentor to many of us on that Incident Management Team. I have two brothers, but Mark was the brother I never had. He was that big mountain of a man that everyone loved. And through all that serious and critically important issues facing fire chiefs everywhere, Mark told me it was OK to laugh and have a good time at work. I already did laugh at work. But I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate at this level of the organization and when was it OK. Mark was all business on the job and especially while on a fire. But when we were relaxed and not worrying about people’s lives and property, he made us all laugh. He was tough when necessary but kind and tender when that was needed by his co-workers and friends. But when I think of Mark I will smile and laugh because that’s what I loved most about him. He made me laugh. And in this life, we need as much of that as we can get.
To his family, all I can say is thank you for sharing Mark with us while he was alive. He spent so much time with us during the summers and I know that’s time he wasn’t with you. So thank you. To everyone else, here’s a tiny glimpse into one man’s life and how he impacted his firefighting co-workers around him.
Today (August 21, 2020) while listening to the news, I heard the familiar refrain that if California would only “rake the forest” they wouldn’t be having all these fires. This story is not about what you hear in the news or about our current leadership in Washington. But I do want to describe what it takes to make our forests and wildlands safer from fire. As I’ve described in previous stories, it is not easy to treat the fuels in our wildlands. It doesn’t matter if it’s a forest or brush or even just grass. It might be a federally managed Park or a National Forest. Maybe it’s a private or corporately owned timber production area. You may own 20 acres in the back country yourself. Or even more likely, you may live in a house surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape.
What’s important to keep in mind is that all the fires burning in California right now are not even burning in what we think of as a Forest. Many of the fires are burning in brush lands. There may be big trees scattered throughout the brush, but many of the fires are burning small state parks and individual’s small plots of lands. This isn’t gross mismanagement of public lands. To be more specific, there were more than 70,000 lightning strikes across California during their driest part of the year. Plus, the State is beginning to enter drought conditions once again. 70,000 lightning strikes on dry natural vegetation is going to start a lot of fires. I don’t care where you live.
So before you get all riled up, I’m not suggesting we can’t do more than we are now. I’ve been working for more funding and better regulations for years. And keep in mind I’m coming to this discussion with 45 years of experience and multiple degrees including a Masters of Forestry. I’ve been a prescribed burning practitioner and a fuels management expert for a long time. There are some who have more experience than me. But that list isn’t that long either. Lets just agree that this is a complex issue. And we really need public support for the agencies managing our wildlands and we need private land owners and homeowners to take some responsibility for themselves. And “Rakes”… rakes are critical around your own home to keep the pine needles away from your home. That’s about it.
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.
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.
While I’m comfortably sitting here on my boat writing the introduction for this week’s story, thousands of firefighters are working hard to extinguish major wildfires throughout the southwestern US as well as Utah and Nevada. Before the summer season is over, thousands more will be deployed to large fires across California, Oregon, Washington and the rest of the western US. These deployments are in addition to the tens of thousands of initial attack fire responses in their local jurisdictions.
This time of year, my thoughts always wander back to the many experiences during my career when firefighters lives were either put at risk or tragically ended while attempting to protect a home or subdivision from wildfire. What makes this so frustrating is that homeowners and local politicians have the ability to directly impact upon firefighters successes or failures in these efforts. Please take a few minutes to listen to this weeks story. The actions you take as a result could save the life of a firefighter who is there to protect your life and your home. Please do your part. And as always, thanks for listening.
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.
Have you ever wondered why firefighters love their jobs so much? Why do people voluntarily take jobs that put their personal safety at risk? Everyone wants a job that suits them. We want a career that we find enjoyable, gives us job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from our labors. With that in mind, I would have been ill suited to be an accountant or a grammar school teacher for example. We don’t always find our perfect career fit but here’s some perspective about firefighters and how our personalities mesh with our work environment. Remember these are generalities but represent what I’ve seen and experienced. I hope you enjoy the insight into the mind of many firefighters and why we enjoy our jobs so much.
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.
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
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!
In life you never know if you might be called upon to help fix a bad situation. You might not have any expertise to resolve it, but you’re it! You’re all there is. In this week’s story I’ll relate an experience when I was a responsible for rescuing a young boy from an abandoned mine. I had no training in mine rescue, let alone lead a group of firefighters into an old dangerous mine. My expertise was related to high angle rope rescue so I did have some specific experiences to draw upon, but this was definitely a new one for me. In life it’s nice to be “good” rather than just “lucky”. In this story I think I was equally good and lucky.
During our lives we’ll have many instances when we have the opportunity to listen to the little voice we hear coming from the back of our mind. We often want to make decisions based on clear facts. You know… Just the facts mam nothing but the facts. But in reality our decision making is a combination of facts, emoti0ns and some things in-between the two. The “things” in-between are inputs that your brain is receiving but your consciousness might not be recognizing them yet. I’ve had many experiences at work and at home where (after I made the decision) I realized I had been making a decision based in part on intuition.
This story is about a serious accident that nearly killed a young woman and how listening to the little voice in my head may have led to her being rescued.
Back when technology wasn’t exactly at our fingertips in the fire engine or command truck, we used old fashioned maps to find our way to emergencies. Having a hard copy map in your hand was always comforting but there is lots of room for human error. And if you’ve listened to more than one of these stories you already know I’m very human. Now in most modern fire apparatus, there is a computer screen with all the relevant information necessary to quickly and efficiently find the emergency scene.
This is a short and I hope funny story about something that happened to me almost 30 years ago. As you’ll hear when I tell the story, it could have been a tragic story but it wasn’t. I was to blame in this story and no one else. But as with many stories, the line between funny and tragic is very thin. If you live in a community and the Fire Department or emergency first responders are asking for funding for some new technology, I hope you give it a good luck and support their request. I hope listening to this story helps you with that decision.
Towards the end of the story you’ll notice a few blank seconds in the recording. Sorry for my lack of recording expertise. I’ll work on fixing those types of blips as I keep improving. And as always, if you enjoy listening to these stories, please share the website with your friends. Thanks everyone and see you next week.
When we see a multiple fire engines, police cars and ambulances at the scene of a minor accident, it’s easy to criticize. Since we don’t know what’s going on, we assume all those resources are unnecessary. The problem is we really don’t know and they don’t either until their arrive on scene to see what they have to deal with. This story is about my witnessing a terrible auto accident miles from the nearest emergency services and only having myself to manage 4 patients until help arrived nearly an hour later. I hope after listening to this story you’ll consider taking a CPR or first aid class. We all need to be prepared in case you also witness “flying bodies”. And the next time you see multiple fire engines, police cars and ambulances in front of someone’s home, assume good intent on behalf of those first responders. Hope you enjoy the story.