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Code 3 - The Firefighters' Podcast
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Code 3 - The Firefighters' Podcast

Author: Scott Orr

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The twice-weekly podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, through interviews with those who know it best. From Chiefs to Probies, Engineers to Firefighters, and Paramedics to EMTs, award-winning journalist Scott Orr talks with them all. Show notes at Code3Podcast.com
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On this show, we’re going to dive into some more detail for structural firefighters who find themselves working in the wildland-urban interface. If you’re going to be working these fires, there are new challenges to consider. The conditions are different, which means crews need different training, especially when they haven’t spent much time on wildland assignments.One big example: weather. It’s a factor that isn’t usually a consideration in structure fires, but it can mean everything in the wildland-urban interface. Here to explain what you need to think about –and why – is Tom Aurnhammer. Tom has over 40 years’ experience in the fire service. He’s chief of the Los Pinos Fire District in Ignacio, Colorado. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. A fifth-generation firefighter, Tom holds a Chief Fire Officer designation and is a member of the Institution of Fire Engineers, U.S. Branch. You can hear him on the Back Step Boys podcast with Ron Kanterman.
There are lots of books about management styles available, but for my money, the ones written by firefighters are the best. They’re specific. They’re full of real-world examples. And they aren’t just page after page of the author’s latest catchphrases. For example, there’s “Fully Involved Leadership,” the new book by Chief Gary Ludwig. It explains concepts that any member of the fire service can use to become a strong leader… from how to keep your emotions under control in stressful situations to good decision-making. And Gary does it by storytelling. That’s the best way to make concepts clear. Gary has four decades of experience in the fire service. He’s currently chief of the Champaign, Illinois fire department. He’s responded to an estimated 25,000 fire, rescue and EMS calls during his career.
If you’re a structural firefighter, you’d probably rather not deal with wildland fires at all. That’s normally not really a problem, until the flames reach the wildland-urban interface, which is happening much more frequently than in the past. Then you guys from the cities need to know stuff like the 18 Watch-Outs. Or to be ready to go on a run that lasts 12 hours. Decades ago, city firefighters didn’t have to be concerned with this. Welcome to the New Normal. Here to discuss that with me is Brian Fennessy. Brian is the Chief of the Orange County, California Fire Authority,where he's been since 2018. He began his fire service career in 1978 working as a hotshot crewmember with the U.S. Forest Service, working his way up to crew superintendent. In 1990, Fennessy joined the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and became Chief of the Department in 2015. He has held multiple Incident Command System certifications and positions, and has also served on National Incident Management Teams.
Training is critical to performance, especially these days, when there are fewer real-world fires but the ones that do ignite burn hotter and faster. Problem is, a lot of training is not very realistic. Classroom only goes so far, and hands-on costs money. It also takes equipment, and some departments don’t have it to spare. Here to offer some ideas is Jason Caughey.Jason is the chief of Laramie County Fire District #2 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Before he arrived in Cheyenne in 2011, he was the chief of Gore Hill Fire Rescue in Great Falls, Montana. He spent 10 years working for the Montana Fire Services Training School as a regional instructor and regional training manager for the state of Montana. He is also a current technical member of the Underwriters Laboratory Positive Pressure test committee and he teaches a college course on fire behavior.
What qualifies someone to be a battalion chief? If they’re in a career department, it’s pretty clear. They need a specific amount of experience, they have to pass a written test, and probably an oral board of some kind.But what about volunteers? That’s a whole ‘nother deal. The volunteer BC may simply have more “time in grade” before being allowed to promote. This may be a person who shows up for more required training days and more responses than others. But does that qualify someone to run a fireground? Is it time to start testing candidates for the battalion chief – and higher – ranks? Back again to discuss that with me is Ed Dolan. He’s been a member of the Catskill Fire Department in New York for 30 years, and he’s served 16 years as a chief officer.
I got an email a few days ago. It was full of comments about the show, like a lot of other emails I get. But this one was different. It came from a firefighter in Germany, and he wrote mostly to discuss the Eurohelmet debate. Their regulations require the new helmets for interior attacks, and a lot of firefighters there don’t like them, either. I was interested to read how things are done there…and much is the same as in the U.S. So I decided to ask the guy who wrote me to come on Code 3. Ulrich Koellner is a 24-year veteran firefighter. He, like 97 percent of firefighters in Germany, is a volunteer. His position is something like a battalion chief—he’s a deputy platoon leader and the head of the hazmat squad.
Let’s say you wanted to become a company officer. In your interview, you probably told them it was because you felt your leadership could help the department, and you meant it. Even if you also felt that a promotion would give you a raise. Or more prestige. Or, mistakenly, less work. But if those were your real reasons for wanting the job, you’re headed for trouble. Here to explain why and what a company officer really needs to know and do is Kelly Lemmons. Kelly is the Deputy Chief of the Colonial Park Fire Company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is also a firefighter/EMT for the Defense Logistics Agency. He’s served over 19 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and is a Staff Sergeant serving as an Infantry Advance Leaders Course Instructor. Kelly was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in combat in Iraq in 2005.
June 30, 2019, marks the sixth anniversary of the LODD of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, who were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire southeast of Prescott, Arizona. The 20-man crew, the only certified IHC that was part of a municipal fire department (City of Prescott), was trapped in a canyon when the fast-moving flames overran their position. The flames were so intense that their emergency shelters were not enough to protect them. One man, Brendan McDonough, who was assigned to be the crew’s lookout, was not in the canyon and survived. On Saturday, June 29, I visited the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center in Prescott.
Volunteer firefighters make up most U.S. departments, by far. Yet the state of volunteer firefighting is in serious trouble. The NFPA issued a report in March that said there were 46,000 fewer volunteers in 2017 than a year earlier. There just aren’t enough people willing or able to answer emergency calls any more. And it’s not just limited to rural areas. Response times are going up and the number of people responding keeps falling. It’s past time to start finding solutions. Here to discuss that is Billy Goldfeder. He’s the deputy chief of the Loveland-Symmes, Ohio Fire Department. He is a prolific writer for several fire service magazines. Billy’s a member of the board of directors for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the September 11th Families Association of New York and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Today’s topic is flowing water while advancing the line. Some departments always do it. Some don’t. There’s pretty good evidence that flowing while advancing is safer than dragging an uncharged line into a burning structure. Studies support water on the ceiling to reduce super-heated gases and cool it down. You can even change the fire’s flow path with a handline. Here to explain that and more is Jonathan Brumley. He is a firefighter with the Denver, Colorado Fire Department, having just left Houston, Texas. Since 2009, he’s worked as both a paid and volunteer firefighter. He recently presented at Firehouse World, is an instructor, and is behind The Fire Fight blog.
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