Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chief Reason at FDIC 2011

This year at FDIC, I was a lone wolf. I guess that made me more mobile and I didn’t have to worry about the schedules of others. I only had ME to worry about and my nights there were shortened considerably.

I buy two shirts when I get to the Indiana Convention Center.
I always go to the Indianapolis FD Emerald Society booth and purchase their shirt, because the money is going to a great cause. It is an awesome group that provides a valuable, time-honored service that is such a part of the rich fire service heritage.
And I buy the “official” FDIC shirt from the “official” FDIC merchandise booth. There were other booths selling shirts to commemorate FDIC 2011, but they weren’t “official”. I accept no substitutes.
I couldn’t help but notice that excessive cleavage was missing this year. Oh; it dawns on me that the Fire Girls of Fire Girls calendar fame weren’t there.
However; the very tasteful America’s Female Firefighters calendar was there this year and some of the girls who posed were signing their calendars. Money from this calendar goes to sending juvenile burn survivors to burn camps, so I want to thank Andrea, Donna, Shawn, Emilie, Heidi, Jennifer, Cathy and Pam for signing my calendar and for taking the time to talk to me. They are beautiful women on many levels. Visit them at www.americasfemalefirefighters.com.
An up-tempo moment for me this year was seeing my buddy, Mike Kilburg of Country Club Hills Fire Department. Mike and I go back a ways on the discussion boards and became fast friends. He is an intelligent and committed public servant; one who is very passionate about his causes and I have the utmost respect for him and yes; sometimes we disagree, but it is respectful; which is why I love the guy!
It is those chance meetings that make FDIC such an outstanding conference. If you don’t see someone that you know at this conference, then you have lived under a rock.
Fire Engineering.com was giving away promotional shirts to kick off their new Training Blogs and National Fireman’s Journal Blogs. They were very spiffy long-sleeved T-shirts in a navy blue with white lettering. They were also giving away khaki colored ball caps with the National Fireman’s Journal logo on it. I got one of each, as I am blogging for the National Fireman’s Journal side, as I no longer have training skills. So, for the thousands of you who got the free shirt or hat from the Fire Engineering booth; you know now that it was a promotion to get you interested in the great blogs that are coming to www.fireengineering.com!
On Friday, I was staking out the FE booth where Bobby Halton and Erich Roden were to do their FDIC Wrap-Up for Fire Engineering Talk Radio. Erich was already there, but no Bobby. However; Ray McCormack stepped in and did a great job of interviewing such guests as Kevin Shea, Mike Gagliano, Jason Hoevelmann and John O’Donnell. As I listened to the show on my laptop, Chris Naum came over and we had a nice chat.
Every year, I get invited to vendor hospitality rooms, but I had so much going on this year that I was simply returning to my room and doing work. In addition, I bought Christopher Brennan’s (www.fireservicewarrior.com) new book from Pennwell entitled “The Combat Position”. I started reading it while I was waiting for the shuttle to the motel and when I got to my room, I continued to read it until I fell asleep.
The expansion and renovations that have been made to the Convention Center are amazing.
Now you don’t have to walk outside to get to Lucas Oil Stadium. You can get there from the Convention Center through an underground walkway. When you think about it; your hotel is connected to the Convention Center, parking is connected, restaurants are connected and now; Lucas is connected. You would never have to leave the complex. It’s all under one, huge roof!
Indianapolis could become the convention capital of the world with the facilities that they have built and expanded. Clearly, they “get it” where it comes to hosting guests in their city.
I have one complaint, though; construction. See; earlier I was lauding it, but it’s also a pain; especially right there on Capitol Ave at the Convention Center. But, have you been down Interstate 465 that goes towards the airport? I swear that they have been working on that road for over 10 years. It is my hope to see it finished in my lifetime!
I lied. I have one more complaint…
This dude back at the motel had his ringtone set as an activated PASS device. You know; that sound that you DON’T want to hear on the fire ground? He was having a lot of fun with it. Oh; but it didn’t end there. He also had an air horn and a siren for, I would guess, voicemail and text notification. I have a suggestion for his “missed call” notification, but kids might be reading this.
OK; cranky ChiefReason has left the building.
Just like the secret to soylent green in the movie “Soylent Green” starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his last starring role); so it is with FDIC.
The secret is PEOPLE!
I love going there to see and to be in the throngs of people: instructors, speakers, authors, fire service legends and heroes, friends, strangers and of course; other bloggers and podcasters.
Check out this list of bloggers that I had an opportunity to chat with: Professor Mike Ward, Paul Combs, Chris Brennan, Chris Naum, Jason Hoevelmann, Chris Kaiser, April Saling, Rhett Fleitz and Willie Wines Jr. As an added plus, Paul Combs signed my copy of his book “Drawn by Fire” and Chris Brennan did likewise of my copy of his book “The Combat Position”. Thanks, guys.
I also got to talk with Rob Schnepp, Kevin Shea, Mike Gagliano, John O’Donnell, Dr. Mike McEvoy, Erich Roden, Bobby Halton; not to mention Shawn Longerich and Beth Kershner at the www.firesmoke.org booth. I also got to talk to Paul Conway (www.paulconwayshields.com), Chris Brown (www.thebravest.com) about his and Tim’s new venture “Emergency Stream” and Clint Bowring (www.thebowring.com), who has come out with an amazing firefighter tool.
I got to meet a couple of new friends in Mike Leuchtenberg and Gabe Angemi, but I also got to talk to some old friends like Jeff Morris (www.alexisfire.com), Mike Shull, Dean Peterson, Kevin Devlin, Steve Campbell and Gary Saline.
Peter Prichilo and Scott Nelson of www.fireengineering.com were available to talk about the new blogging platform that is coming to the website. They have been a great help to me as I continue to develop my blog at FE.com.
To wrap up the show, I spent some time with Erik Estrada, who played motorcycle police officer Frank (Ponch) Poncherello on the TV series “CHiPs”. It can still be found in cable land.
As I approached him, I asked Erik if he was still riding motorcycles and he said, “You bet!”
I asked him, “What kind?” He replied, “Everything”. And it reminded me that: the spirit of the wind and the freedom of the open road is all that matters.
Then, Erik told me that he was a member of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club (www.blueknights.org) and took out his wallet and proudly showed me his membership card. He still rides in support of his charities, particularly Safe Surfin’; a charity aimed towards keeping children safe on the internet. He is very committed to stopping internet crimes involving children.
As I was leaving him, he invited me to a motorcycle ride in Cleveland, OH on Saturday, May 7th. I asked him if he wears a helmet when he rides and he said, “Absolutely!”
So, if any of you firefighter bikers aren’t busy that day…
I have one more FDIC blog to do before I wrap things up. I found a most amazing tool that I believe is an absolute game changer. Be looking for it, but in the meantime, you can go to www.thebowring.com and check it out. I didn’t get one, but Chris Brennan did. I am anxious to hear from him.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gustin Delivers One-Two Punch at FDIC 2011

Captain Bill Gustin of the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department was a perfect complement to FDNY Captain Mike Dugan’s opening conference address.

Where Dugan was telling the young firefighters to turn introspective; to soul search for their reasons that they are firefighters (“Why Are We Here”)-Gustin was telling them what they could expect.

From budget cuts hurting both career and volunteer departments to the changing attitudes of the public, “doing more with less to doing less with less”; Bill Gustin put the fire service on the stage as seen through the critical eye.

And, how can you argue with him when he states that we spend too much time and money on getting firefighters out of trouble when the focus should be on keeping them out of trouble in the first place?

He had very strong words on the apparatus accidents that have occurred in the past few years. His simple message was to “slow down”. To the apparatus drivers, he reminded them that, if they hit someone and it is their fault, they could be arrested, lose their job and then get sued. As a comparison; he couldn’t remember of too many firefighters who fell off of rigs when it was still acceptable to ride outside of the cab. How true!

Here was another fire service veteran advocating learning from others’ mistakes. NIOSH LODD reports, NIST burn studies and UL were all mentioned as very good sources of information that should be read; then used.

I liked his straight forward delivery. He stood at the podium and gave his honest and personal insights on where the fire service has been, where it’s at now and where it’s going.

Sound familiar? Yeah; Gustin “BAGged” it!

Now; Captain Gustin wasn’t delivering a safety sermon. In fact; “safety” was rarely mentioned, but…

The message came through loud and clear.

He mentioned that firefighters were dying “with a hose in their hands”. He wasn’t advocating not doing interior attacks, but he was advocating applying water from the exterior to slow down fire growth in order to make it safer for teams to go in AND he made it clear that he was not fond of “bursting”.


Because applying short, nozzle bursts of water doesn’t put the fire out, but only delays flashover. He advocated getting water and “plenty of it on the seat of the fire”. What a concept!

Though his message was directed at the young firefighters in the audience, it wasn’t condescending. He encouraged education and to take advantage of the changing technologies like thermal imaging. But, he stressed that technology alone is no substitute for making critical decisions in regards to building construction and fire behavior.

I believe that we will have to continue to see advances in the way that we think!

And having frank and honest discussions on points made by Captain Bill Gustin in his address will go far in reducing firefighter injuries and death.

It wasn’t so much a “wake-up call” as it was a call to be awake and aware of an inherently dangerous profession.

Throw in respect for the job, respect for each other and respect between generations of firefighters.

Gustin and Dugan; two heavyweights who delivered a one-two punch at FDIC 2011.

Catch them both in the archives at: http://www.fireengineering.com/index/videos.html.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dugan Goes Yard With FDIC Keynote Address

For the sports-challenged, my title means that FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan hit a home run with his keynote address.
I was fortunate; like so many of us who couldn’t be there today, to watch the live streaming video. A big shout out and thank you to the FDIC technical staff for making it possible.
FDIC has been described as the Mecca and the Super Bowl of fire conferences. It is Woodstock, Lollapalooza and Farm Aid all rolled into one. And for some, it is like Spring Break at Daytona Beach or the Daytona 500.
But, when all of the analogies, metaphors and superlatives have been said; it all boyles (for my Irish peeps) down to the keynote speaker, FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan and his keynote address, “Why Are We Here?”
For, in my mind, it is the keynote that puts the thumb print and exclamation point on FDIC. The speaker must capture the energy, purpose and extend the legacy of the greatest fire show on Earth.
Dugan succeeded.
Pacing back and forth like a caged lion, challenging his audience with his steely gaze, while pointing his finger at them to make his point; his voice crackling with passionate emotion; Mike Dugan either mesmerized or hypnotized you into following his every move. His heart was on display for all to see and hear. No pretenses; no false witnesses; he was 100 percent red, white and blue.
But, was he challenging his audience, as others would suggest?
Or, was he performing an intervention on behalf of the fire service?
In my opinion, the fire service has been in an addled state for the past half dozen years; alternating between euphoria over reduced LODDs and anger over how firefighters are still dying. It’s as if we can’t enjoy a success long enough to pull some positive energy from it before we continue the arduous mission of getting everyone home safely. It is almost bi-polar; love/hate with a splash of narcissism from the “grab it by the throat” crowd that steers the impressionable minds towards the gray areas where they must use their underdeveloped, cognitive reasoning instead of the mentoring minds of their departments that will surely keep them out of Harm’s way until they can reach a maturity in their decision-making. WE own it. WE are setting the stage for future firefighters. They don’t need our pep talks; they need our leadership. Which is why I asked…
Was it a challenge or intervention?
Just like a counselor would ask his patient, “Why are you here”; Capt. Dugan posed that question to an international audience of firefighters.
It’s no secret that the firefighters in the fire service are getting older  and as Dugan pointed out…it’s time for the younger ones to step up. I think that the undercurrent to that is that the tremendous knowledge in the older men and women of the fire service needs to be tapped before it is gone.
It is a fact that many, many good books have been written, but books can never replace real time/real life  contact with that book’s author. You read his book. Great; you read how to do it. But, what if he could have actually told you and SHOWED you? Priceless!
Dunn, Brannigan, Lasky, Salka and Mittendorf all have great books out, but how many of you can say, “I took his class” or better still, “He mentored me”?
As the fire service goes forward, there CANNOT be any gaps in the information between generations. Dugan points out very aptly that fire isn’t burning hotter, but it’s getting there more quickly.
You HAVE to know the science; to be a student and to continually learn in venues like FDIC and then be willing to take it back and to share it.
It was easy for me to sit and watch the live streaming video of the keynote address and to get emotional, because Mike Dugan was emotional; someone who clearly loves his vocation/his avocation.
He paid homage to his mentor.
He made it clear that the opportunity to be a firefighter should not be taken lightly or taken for granted, because decision-makers who are not of the brotherhood are ending careers.
FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan is the type of firefighter who will radiate that energy that we all seek to re-charge our batteries. Whether it’s in the classroom, hallway or bar; you will benefit greatly from a short, chance meeting with people like Mike Dugan.
So, when the lights go on and the doors open at the Indiana Convention Center, ask yourself, “Why are we here” and then, go and immerse yourself in the limitless possibilities.
Great keynote, Mike Dugan. It would be my distinct honor to shake your hand.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

FDTC: Fire Department TRUSTEE Conference

Blog Note: Don Rickles (young ones will need to Google) said: “We make fun of the ones we love”. So, feel the love!
For the record, I am a fire district trustee and I have struggled to find a diplomatic way to address my thoughts on this issue, so I am going to just jump in and use my usual recipe of humor, sarcasm and just a dash of cynicism.
There have been several discussions and blogs written on the “aging of the fire service”. Most of the conversations have centered around FIREFIGHTERS, but I have noticed for many years the age of the fire district trustees. In fact; at a seminar a few years back, the moderator asked who had 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years as fire district trustees. Hell; I haven’t even made it to 10 years yet and there was this guy who had OVER 50 years as a trustee and he was still upright and ambulating under his own power.
Now; when I was an active firefighter, I was a sponge and soaked up all of the training that I could get my hands on. I have noticed that training for trustees is few and far between, so I was lamenting about it to Bobby Halton on Fire Engineering Talk Radio.
I was running down the list of HOT training for this year’s FDIC and it is a real smorgasbord of hands-on and classroom training for the firefighter and the instructors-in-training. The list of instructors reads like a who’s who and navigating the shark-infested waters of fire districts begs for this type of training for the REAL leaders of the fire service; the trustees!
Well, Bobby made some wise-crack about clipboards, paper, pens and pocket protectors, but told me to submit a proposal.
We’re going to go public, baby; nation-wide!
What could happen? Think about it. I went from being one of the oldest firefighters on the department to one of the youngest trustees in the entire state of Illinois! So, unless Biff and the boys can get a weekend pass from the senior living center coordinator to come after me; I don’t see a problem. And besides; someone needs to tell them that ball-busting is a time-honored, fire service tradition.
So; go grab a beverage and I’ll do my best to lay this out for you.
FDIC has been responsible for bringing the best of the best together for umpteen years.
As the firefighters and their fire departments have directly benefited; somewhere over there in the corner stands the lonely trustees, hoping and praying that it didn’t cost any money.
See; that right there could be a break-out session; “Training-Going Dutch Treat With the Trustees”. Learn how to look down at your feet as you ask your firefighters to split the cost of training with you. Learn how to discourage firefighter development with snappy comebacks such as ‘We didn’t budget for it’; ‘We don’t pay for outside training’; and my favorite, ‘Don’t we have training officers?’
I want to point out here and now that thriftiness has always been the hallmark of fire district trustees or to put it another way…a bunch of tight-wads!
If you are at a vendor booth, you can always tell who the trustee is. He is the one who dumps the dish of free candy into their tote bag. Don’t berate them; it’s their dinner, because they are trying to make FDIC on twenty bucks a day. If you ask them where they’re staying; it’s the rest area just up the interstate. They are still wearing the first free hat that they ever got. Oh; they got a closet full of new hats at home, but THIS one has a mesh back and isn’t worn out yet. This begs a session in; “Free Quote Equals a Free Dinner”. Learn how to act like you are serious about buying from a vendor; learn clock management (hitting the booth just before closing time); learn how to slip food topics into the conversation and to become a pro with facial expressions guaranteed to project sincerity. You will learn how to reach for your wallet without ever coming into contact with it (This could be an all-day session by itself!). Soon, you will be on your way to a five-star eatery as a “prospective customer” (I know; I’m laughing, too!)
Now; I have a good friend who is “in the business” and he tells me that he can spot a trustee from a mile away. Can you say, “PROFILING”? But, according to my good buddy, they stick out like that chrome Q on the front bumper.
And after he told me what he looks for, I felt like such a fool. Are you ready for this? He looks for…
Velcro fasteners on pure white athletic shoes. Wal-Mart brand!
According to my buddy, these are worn with blue jeans, but this trustee will more than likely have another pair of blue/gray with Velcro straps to wear with their dress pants for when they go out for that free dinner! He continues to tell me that he and his crew used to bet each other, but it was becoming too easy a sport. They would look at clothing-bib overalls for instance; denim shirt with the Pioneer Seed Corn logo and of course, the SHOES. But, they would notice physical features like ear hair that was so thick that it resembled ear muffs. There has to be a hearing aid in there somewhere one of them would say. And what of this phenomenon of wearing suspenders AND a belt to hold up your plaid slacks? There’s a session there: “High-waisted Pants in a Hip Hugger Society”.
Other classes and their short descriptions:
“Why is HE on the Board?” Well, the short answer is because he is good with money, but how do you know that if you’ve never actually seen him SPEND any? Includes a video of squirrels gathering nuts.
“Opening Act Vs. Open Meetings Act”. Yes; there is a difference, however subtle.
“Nutrition: Oatmeal and Prunes; a Moving Experience”. This one is sponsored by Kimberly Clark. Free samples, you ask? Depends!
“Getting Familiar With the Standards”. No; we aren’t talking NFPA standards here. We are talking about standard REPLIES. In no time, “We can’t afford it”; “We can’t raise taxes”; “We just spent money on new equipment” (Note: “just spent” was five or more years ago); “We don’t have the money”; “It costs money to run a fire department”; and “We have to run it by the attorney” will roll off of your tongue. Time will be spent practicing how to say these replies with a straight face.
“How to Sneeze Without Launching Your Dentures”. A must if you have ever been to a class where the room was very tight or there wasn’t a sneeze guard over the salad isle at the restaurant. Waiter; there’s a fly…set of dentures in my soup!
“Spending Money Without Complaining”. In this session, participants would hear from a trustee who actually spends tax money without complaining. Hear positive, up-lifting messages such as, “What can we buy for the department?” or “If you need it, we will get it for you”; or, “No, no; you won’t need a fundraiser to pay for it!” and “We will hold a hearing to raise the tax base”. A national search for that ONE trustee will begin immediately. I have been told that he DOES exist.
“Remembering When”. Take a stroll down memory lane. This session will teach you to preface every sentence with “I remember when it only cost ______ (fill in the blank) to fill up a truck” or “I remember when you could get three loaves of bread for a dollar” or “I remember when we burnt coal for heat”. This one is used when discussing where to set the thermostat at the fire station!
“A Fire Truck Shouldn’t Wear Out”. Here, trustees will learn to whine in a high pitch to get a repair done for free, even though the warranty has expired. Other topics will include: applying for antique status for your front line pumper, 101 uses for duct tape and setting up a 40-year rotation for buying new trucks.
“Borrowing Money While Saving in CDs”. You need money. You won’t raise taxes and you want to leave the CDs for “emergencies”. Here you will learn to proffer a convincing argument that it’s cheaper to borrow money at 7 percent than it is to cash in a CD that is earning 3.75 percent. And if you clip a table cloth to your shirt, you can fly just like Superman. This is a feel-good seminar.
“Your Fire District and a Prostate Exam”. Time will not allow me to list all of the benefits of this class. PPE will be provided.
I didn’t forget the Fire Girls calendar booth either. They will feature Betty White and Larry King in drag. Appearing in the Extreme Makeover booth at the same time will be Joan Rivers.
Well, I hope that Bobby is reading this. I think it’s a pretty good start. I am sure some of my readers will send in their suggestions.
Now; I must go and check out E Bay. I heard that you can get Air Jordans with Velcro. And I have a birthday coming up.
And if you see me at FDIC this week; don’t mention to anyone that I’m a blogger. This week, I’m a trustee looking to make a “major” purchase. Oh; and I don’t have dinner plans. Hah!
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rotate For Freshness

I don’t know if I have been lucky, in the right place at the right time, blessed or a combination of the three.

I started writing my thoughts down and sharing them over 10 years ago; not only on discussion boards, but in op-ed pieces.

It started at Firehouse.com. They were in the process of rolling out a “MembersZone” section and for a subscription, you could get additional content that wasn’t accessible as part of the free membership. I was a charter member of MembersZone and was asked to submit articles for the “Volunteer’s Corner” section of MembersZone and so it began. I did a couple of articles for them before they realized that I would rather state my strong opinions on their discussion boards than to write vanilla flavored pabulum for their “exclusive” section of content. I stopped writing articles for them.

As some of us became disenfranchised with some of the firefighter websites, we broke away and www.iacoj.com was born. The International Association of Crusty Old Jakes became reality, thanks to the vision of Ron Ayotte and the hard work of Dave Leblanc and Steve Gallagher. They invited me to come over and write for them, so I did. It was here that I believe that my style began to break out and it was starting to receive some notice. Plus, many of the pre-eminent fire service talent were joining the Jakes and it was simply a great place to go and have respectful/intelligent discussion. No badge bunnies, wannabees or pretenders were getting in to cause their usual disruptions to the really important mission of teaching and learning fire service curriculum.

In the meantime, a new website was being created by the former Firehouse.com owner and he asked me to come over and join him. I was a part of the first wave of bloggers for FirefighterNation/FireRescue FireEMSBlogs.com where I wrote and posted over 200 articles on various topics of my choosing.

As an extension of the website offerings, FirefighterNetcast came along to drive the product in the “Internet radio” arena. FirefighterNetcast on Blog Talk Radio had been on the air only a short time when I was invited to join the cast. I did a year of Voice of Reason before my job situation required more of my attention and I had to take a leave from the show.

Things were starting to get pretty crowded at FireEMSBlogs, some were trying to copy/mimic/mirror some of the bigger “stars” and guys like me, who simply wanted to write and not stream video or late-breaking news were getting pushed down into the pack. I was looking for something else and then…

I saw Bobby Halton at Fire Rescue International in Chicago last August. It was kind of funny; at least, I still laugh when I think of the look on Bobby’s face when I confirmed his suspicions. After all; he had only seen my profile pictures to that point. His look was one of “is that who I think it is”? I mean; I KNEW who I was looking at!

I was walking through the lobby with my crew and I spot Bobby coming towards me. As he got closer to me, I noticed he was staring right into my eyes and as I grew a little uncomfortable, I said, “Hi, Bobby”.

He replied, “Chief Goodrich”.

We grabbed each other by our right hands and then pulled together for a warm hug and pat on the shoulder like old friends. We exchanged pleasantries, but there was something very genuine between us in this chance meeting. I mean; I knew a lot about Bobby, but we had never formally met. It was a high point of the show for me. For those of you aspiring to blog, I can only describe it as one of the most humbling experiences that I have ever had. My work had the attention of the editor-in-chief of the oldest continuous fire service magazine in the world and he recognized me AND called me by name. THAT was the weird part.

I immediately back away and said, “And just how would you know my name?”

He replied, “Are you kidding; I have read some of your stuff. You should come and write for me”.

I replied, “I have never been asked”.

Bobby replied, “You have been now”.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I have posted over 20 blogs and a couple of features for www.fireengineering.com, which is to say that I don’t write for the magazine. I write for the website.

There are some exciting changes coming, which is why I am writing this piece. The people that I have been working with here are great. I am so pumped that I will get to meet some of them at Indy in a few days.

And a new chapter opens with Fire Engineering Talk Radio on Blog Talk Radio. Congratulations to Bobby, Scott and Erich on your first show; appropriately from FDIC.

Forever changing; forever advancing the fire service through Fire Engineering.

See you at FDIC Thursday – Saturday.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maple City Sorrow

Blog note: On March 6th, many of us paid tribute to the memory of Assistant Chief Dennis Olson of the Monmouth, Illinois Fire Department, who died in the line of duty on that day in 1993. This blog raises many questions, may raise many dormant feelings, but it is done with the utmost respect for family, friends, community, fire department and most of all, Assistant Chief Dennis Olson.
Monmouth, Illinois is known as the “Maple City” in west central Illinois.
At 6:14 am on March 6, 1993, Assistant Chief Dennis Olson and the Monmouth Fire Department responded to a fire at Term City, a rent-to-own business located at 510 South Main Street in Monmouth.
As Chief Olson attempted to open a door, the building’s roof collapsed, causing the cinder-block wall to fall outward and onto Chief Olson; crushing and killing him.
An incident that was over in a matter of minutes changed the lives of a wife and daughter-now a widow and fatherless child-forever.
And we ask, “What is a person’s life/a firefighter’s life worth? What is a lifetime of that day’s painful memory worth?” Hold your answers; there’s more.
On THIS day, a well-respected and loved firefighter’s life was worth whatever Mark Skiles had stolen from the business to that point and a VCR that he had given to Jeramie Myers to set the fatal fire.
It would seem from reading the accounts of the day* that Skiles was a perpetual screw up. He couldn’t make money from his sales skills, so he had to resort to stealing merchandise and money from his employer. He attempted to set a fire to cover his thefts on March 5th-less than 24 hours before the fatal fire of March 6th-but failed to burn down the building. He enlisted an 18 year old “boy” to set the fire on March 6th, used a gasoline trail that led to the front door of the business and then bought the boy’s silence with a video cassette recorder (VCR). No; there aren’t enough laws to protect us from people that stupid.
Skiles was no doubt thinking that he had gotten away with the fire that he had set on March 5th when the initial cause came out as careless discarding of smoking materials. The fire had started behind some cardboard and wooden pallets on the west side of the building. Quick action by the fire department held the damage to about $50,000.
But, was this initial cause issued to set a trap or to quickly close out an investigation? Because, either way; it gave Skiles another opportunity. Who knew that it would come less than 24 hours later? Who among the fire-setters knew that the heat from the accelerant, the fuel from the furniture and the bow-string truss construction would be the booby trap that would set a fatal chain of events into place? It didn’t occur to them that they were committing a crime to cover a crime that led to yet, another and more serious crime; the crime of MURDER!
So; while the bereaved family, friends and community were paying their final farewells to Dennis; the two that were responsible for his death were walking the streets as free men for the moment. I would bet my paycheck that, at this point, they were more concerned about getting caught and going to jail than they were about killing a firefighter who went to work that day; just like any other day. Remorse was misplaced.
It took a little more than eight months-November 16, 1993-for Jeramie Myers to confess to setting the fatal fire. It took Mark Skiles until the next day-November 17, 1993-to confess to “paying” Myers to set the March 6th fire and he also confessed to starting the fire on March 5th to cover his thefts from the store.
  In March of 1995, Skiles was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the death of Assistant Chief Dennis Olson. Shortly thereafter, Myers was sentenced to 24 years in prison for aggravated arson. When you think of all of the crimes that were committed by these two, it is very apparent that plea bargaining was used; despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence.
I can’t begin to fathom or to process what Judy Olson; the widow was dealing with at this time.
I can tell you that I have communicated with her many times through the social medias and she lives not far from me.
I can tell you that she is an extraordinary and amazing woman. She is deeply spiritual. She is very caring and compassionate. She has been an outspoken advocate for firefighter safety. She has been a source of solace for others who have gone through a death in their family. She is a very intelligent lady and it is very clear that she cherished her time with her husband and has lived through his death on a spiritual level. That she can find strength from her experience to strengthen others met with similar circumstances is phenomenal.
But, I struggle sometimes to make sense of human-kind’s ability to move past a tragedy that is tried within a judicial system that seems to give little regard for the unintended consequences of someone’s careless/reckless behavior; the collateral damage that is caused to the families of a victim and this idea that if the criminal says that he “didn’t know that the gun was loaded when he pulled the trigger”; this is to somehow make the act more palatable? I don’t think so.
And it leaves me with questions like:
How deep do you have to go inward to find that place where you don’t hate, but you don’t forgive, either?
Is it somewhere between Anger and Sorrow?
Can you actually rationalize that the careless/reckless actions that caused a loved one’s death was committed without any thought that someone else might be injured or killed as a result of those actions, because I think that this is the key to finding inner peace at some point.
I want to believe that the value that a person has is somewhat measured by their service to family, friends, community and their God.
Certainly, if this were to be, then our judicial system would factor in these “mitigations”, regardless of whether the person charged with taking this life “meant to”; or is “sorry” or is “a good candidate for rehabilitation”.
There has to be real value placed upon a life that is taken.
There has to be real value placed upon the impact that crime has on family, friends and community.
And there has to be a real price paid by the criminal who would dare to take another person’s life; whether it is by pre-meditation or “by accident”.
Yes; many firefighters are willing to die in the service of their communities and judges must be willing to send firefighter killers away for the rest of their natural lives, in my humble opinion.
*Some information contained in this article is drawn on news accounts from the Monmouth Review Atlas written by Ron Fields.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.
On November 17, 1877 P.Y. Everett and Clifford Thompson began a publication called the National Fireman's Journal, its tagline was "Devoted to the Interests of the Fireman of the Country". That was the founding of what we know today as Fire Engineering Magazine. Today much of what we do is electronic and in keeping with the efforts of Everett and Clifford we are introducing the Fire Engineering Blog Network.

Most of our bloggers are going to be in the training section because that's what Fire Engineering is devoted to. In this section, The National Fireman's Journal we will be devoted to the interests of the firefighters on a more broad scale. In this section you will read people's opinions. These opinions are solely those of the writer and will not be edited by anyone at Fire Engineering. Nor will they reflect the editorial opinion, except for mine, of Fire Engineering Magazine. Some of it may be satirical and humorous, some of it may be political, some of it might just be of interest to firefighters in general. We hope that you will enjoy what's written in these sections. We hope that when you agree you will take time to add your voice, and when you disagree you'll take time to add your voice.

I thought I would do my first blog on one of the things I enjoy most about being a firefighter that really goes to the core of who we are. And that is attending FDIC. I always love this time of year because this is when the fire service gathers for its annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis and the running of the FOOLS. My wife was asked the other day when FDIC was and she answered spring! For many of us in the fire service especially those of us who train and teach the coming of spring each year also means the opportunity to link up with old friends, hear new ideas and be part of the greatest training conference in the world.

You can feel it the minute you get off the plane in Indianapolis or the minute you park your car at your hotel. You can feel it as you pack your bags at home and fill your cooler with cold beer for the hotel room. You can feel the excitement building in side of you as if you're 10 years old and you're waiting to get your first BB gun at Christmas. You can feel FDIC has been called the Woodstock of the fire service, it has been called the annual recharging of our batteries it has been called many many things but for 83 years firefighters from all over the world have all come together to be part of FDIC.

It's a pretty amazing conference when you consider that roughly 30,000 folks gather in downtown Indy for six days to celebrate the calling of the firefighter. And FDIC really is devoted to the interests of firefighters solely. At FDIC everyone who's teaching is an instructor, a real firefighter, they're not there trying to sell you any kind of managerial program, or any kind of product they are there to help make our profession safer, more effective and more confident.

You know I might've been wrong about being 10 years old and the BB gun, it's more exciting than even that. If you've never been it's hard to explain, if you have then you get it it's just FDIC! I'll see you there.