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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 podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, in about 20 minutes, 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.
284 Episodes
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Your department has probably been described, at least informally, as an all-hazards department. That usually means things like water rescue, hazmat, high-angle rescue, and so on. But over the years, and especially since the time of the late Chief Alan Brunacini may struggle with it. It may not relate strictly to firefighting. My guest to discuss the value of customer service –and what it is --- has been on Code 3 before. Chad Costa is a battalion chief with the City of Petaluma, California Fire Department. He has two decades in the fire service, and he’s worked in some pretty diverse situations, from a rural department to a city as well as CAL FIRE. Chad is the technology and communications battalion chief and a division group supervisor on California Interagency Team 5. Support this podcast
If you’re not a career firefighter in a major city, this is going to be a familiar topic. If you do work in a major city, get ready to hear something a little scary: A lot of volunteer and smaller combination department ladder companies are just two…or fewer…people. And given the declining numbers of fires we’re seeing, those firefighters may not have much experience setting up their apparatus. As always, training is the key. But it has to be worthwhile training. Here to talk about how to get solo truck operators up-to-speed is Ryan Johnston. He’s a 23-year career firefighter for the Waterville, Maine Fire Department. He started in the fire service as a volunteer in 1991 and to this day, still volunteers in his hometown of Oakland, where he's a lieutenant. He’s a charter member of the Managing Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and owns Maine-Iac Training, a fire service training company. Support this podcast
It’s not easy to be married to a firefighter. Whether you’re the wife or a husband of one, you know it can be tough to deal with emotionally. And if you’re thinking of marrying a firefighter, you need to understand that there’s more to it than the one-hour orientation class the department offers you. A lot more. That’s why Mike and Anne Gagliano wrote a book and frequently speak around the country about how they’ve made it work for 35 years. Mike retired as a captain with Seattle Fire after 30 years of experience in the fire service. He has written a bunch of articles for fire service magazines and websites. He’s also co-author of the book “Air Management for the Fire Service.” Anne is his co-author of their book, "Challenges of the Firefighter Marriage." Mike and Anne Gagliano joined me to talk about what they’ve learned over the years. Support this podcast
This time, I’m doing something a little different. It’s been a tough fire season here in southern California and it’s not over. I’m helping out my friends up the road at the Los Angeles Fire Department. They’re doing a fundraiser, selling "LAFD Strong" t-shirts to buy more and better equipment. So, if you’re in SoCal, listen up. If not, you are, of course, welcome to listen too, as I talk with Assistant Chief Wade White, who oversees the LAFD’s Supply and Maintenance Division. I think this certainly beats fill-the boot campaigns. If you’d like to contribute—and get a t-shirt—go to The LAFD Foundation’s website at http://www.supportlafd.org (supportlafd.org). All the info you need is right there. Support this podcast
How would you grade your most recent Incident Commander’s performance? Solid or...timid? Solid is an IC who has been trained and seasoned—and one more element: practiced. Timid is someone who is maybe trained, but not especially seasoned, or inexperienced, and especially – a little scared. They’re afraid someone’s going to get hurt or killed. Today’s guest argues that a timid IC is worse than simply inefficient: they’re incompetent. That’s what Nick Martin posted on Facebook recently. If you want to see the post, it’s linked at code3podcast dot com slash afraid. It’s one of five in a series on nervous ICs.  Nick is a Battalion Chief with the City of Salisbury Fire Department in North Carolina. Before that, he served as the Chief of Training for the City of Columbia, South Carolina and as a Lieutenant with the District of Columbia Fire Department.  He started with the fire service 1994 in his hometown, Swarthmore, PA. Nick founded and runs Combat Ready Fire, which offers a variety of firefighting and fire leadership courses. Support this podcast
The way we used to train newbies, in lots of jobs, not just firefighting, could best be described as “tough love.” That’s being charitable. We were downright mean to them, and if they came back, then maybe they were suited for the job. But newbies, or in this case, probies, and different nowadays. They’re smarter. And if you treat them the way we used to, they’re likely to quit. You may say “Good riddance,” but if we built these folks up instead of trying to tear them down, we could end up with some pretty intelligent firefighters. That’s why today’s guest has some tips on how to turn millennial probies into firefighters without acting like drill instructors. Jacob Johnson is a battalion chief with the City of Pearland, Texas. He began his fire service career with the Katy, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department in 2000 and later became a career member of the Katy Fire Department. Support this podcast
You probably know that recruiting has become a real problem at many volunteer fire departments. That’s true. But what’s worse is when you get someone to join, get them qualified, and then in a year or two they quit. The NVFC says its happening at least partly because volunteers are being lured in by the big red trucks and then find they’ll spend a lot more time doing EMS work. That makes sense. If they joined because of the video or poster of firefighters in turnouts at a structure fire, they’re going to be disillusioned. So why do departments keep doing that? We’re discussing that today with Joe Maruca. He’s chief of the West Barnstable, Massachusetts, Fire Department. That’s a combination fire department on Cape Cod. He served as a volunteer firefighter from 1977 until becoming chief in 2005. He is a Massachusetts director on the National Volunteer Fire Council, and serves as the vice chair of the NVFC’s recruitment and retention committee. He’s also a retired attorney. Support this podcast
I just had Pete Van Dorpe on the show, a couple of weeks ago, talking about his article from 2015 titled, “Mounting an Intelligent Interior Attack.” Coincidentally, Nick Salameh, a previous guest on this show, wrote an article this month for Fire Engineering that referred to Pete’s story. He called it, “Why Aren’t More Firefighters Making the Change to Intelligent Firefighting?’ In it, he suggested that some of today’s firefighters “after a decade of findings, are still doing the same things they’ve always done when other proven tactics are available to make firefighters much more intelligent, efficient, and effective.” Nick Salameh is a 36 year veteran of the fire service. He was a Fire/Emergency Medical Services Captain level II and previous Training Program Manager for the Arlington County, Virginia Fire Department, where he served 31 years. He is a former Chair of the Northern Virginia Fire Departments Training Committee.   Support this podcast
There is always an on-going discussion about how aggressive firefighters should be at structure fires. Inevitably, the argument gets into interior attacks vs. transitional. That discussion bypasses a real question, which is, how do lives get saved fastest? Today’s guest says the answer to that is: Get the fire out first. If that sounds like an old-school answer, you’re right. Because this guy is old school—but not always. Peter Van Dorpe is vice-president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He’s also a member of the advisory board for UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute. Pete had a 33-year career with the Chicago. Illinois Fire Department, where he was ultimately chief of training. In 2013, he moved to the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District, where he worked for five years as assistant chief and then chief of the department. Support this podcast
This episode previously ran on Sept. 11, 2019. I talked with retired Fire Chief Rick Lasky about the events of that horrible day in 2001 and what he recalled about it. Support this podcast
How do you select a handline when you arrive at a fire? Do you have an all-purpose go-to that usually gets pulled? Some departments routinely pull the reel line. You know, the booster line? Or so I’ve heard. Of course, if you choose the wrong line, there’s rarely a chance to correct the mistake. Using a line that’s too small will make a quick knockdown into a major hassle. But you also don’t want to have to lug a 2-1/2 around the fireground if it’s not necessary. Here to give us some ideas on hose selection is Mark van der Feyst. Mark’s been a guest before on Code 3. He’s been on the job since 1998. He works for the Woodstock Fire Department in Ontario, Canada. He is an international instructor who teaches in Canada, the U.S.and India. And he’s the lead author of the book Residential Fire Rescue. He’s also president of Firestar Services, a training company. Support this podcast
If you spend any time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the videos posted by Fire Department Chronicles. If you haven’t, you need to. Go there right now and look them up. I’ll wait.The man behind these videos is Jason Patton. Jason’s covered a lot of ground on these videos, from whether TV shows about firefighters are realistic … what do YOU think he found? …to how to get fired. But the one that caught my attention most recently was one in which he critiqued a Wall Street Journal video about firefighting. It was titled, “The Five Things a Firefighter or Paramedic Won’t Tell You.” There’s link to it in the show notes. Jason set about correcting the record in his own..unique…way. Jason Patton is a career Firefighter and Paramedic who has worked for Riviera Beach, Florida, Fire Rescue for 11 years. He also works with a treatment center specializing in mental health and addiction for first responders. And he is the VP of Fire Department coffee. Support this podcast
You may have heard this oldie-but-goodie already, but bear with me: A smart man learns from his mistakes. A really smart man learns from others’ mistakes. No where is that more accurate than in the fire service, where a mistake can kill you. But the problem with learning like this lies in the way you do it. How many YouTube videos have you seen where something goes wrong and there are dozens of comments written explaining how this would never have happened, if they had just (fill-in-the-blank). The armchair ICs writing those comments weren’t there, of course, and don’t have the complete picture. That’s not to say there’s nothing to be learned this way. Here today to talk about what we can pick up from stories and videos of fires is David Traiforos. He had 47 years in the fire service when he retired as chief of the Franklin Park, Illinois Fire Department after three decades there. He continues as an instructor, at NIPSTA Training Academy, McHenry County College, both in Illinois. And, nationally, as the lead instructor of Great Lakes Fire & Rescue Solutions. Support this podcast
This show is a little different. We’re going to talk about prehospital care from the point of view of an EMS liaison. He sees the results of good treatment in the field. He sees what happens when treatment is done poorly. And he’s also able to see the differences between the care provided by career and volunteer departments. He can tell you what results in the best patient outcomes. Roger Dyjak is a firefighter and an EMT-B for the Memphis, Michigan Volunteer Fire Department. He works at two Michigan hospitals as the EMS Liaison. Support this podcast
Once upon a time, there was a really cool video game called SimCity. The goal was for the player to build up his city by adding improvements and such. If you simply went wild and added everything you could want, the tax rate would go up and the citizens would get angry. But if you didn’t have enough amenities and services, bad things like crime sprees, traffic jams, and fires would cause a mess in your city. I think of that game from 25 years ago when the topic of fire protection versus costs comes up. It was really disappointing to see a thriving SimCity suddenly lose a block of buildings because not spending money on the fire department seemed to be working. That’s the problem, though: it only works for so long before it doesn’t. Many career fire departments have just three firefighters on an engine instead of four. Or they get along with fewer fire stations than they need, because the city has grown, but the residents don’t want to pay for another house, apparatus, and staff. There’s got to be a better way to convince people that fire protection is a worthwhile place to spend money. Here to discuss that with me is Richard Marinucci. He’s the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills, Michigan Fire Department in 2008, after a quarter-century in the job. He's a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Support this podcast
It’s easy to become jaded or cynical when the fire department administration comes up with a new list of core values. They sound good, but you know and I know and the American people know that those core values get printed up on posters, sent around to each fire house, pinned to the wall…and then ignored. They just hang there and fade…until the next administration comes along and issues new ones. But what if these core values were actually put into practice somehow? What if they actually meant something? Today’s guest has some ideas on how to do that. Lieutenant David Bullard is a 20-year member of the fire service. He’s co-assigned to the Training Division of the Columbia County Georgia Fire Department and a Firefighter with Grovetown, Georgia DPS. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Georgia State Firefighter’s Association, he’s a National Volunteer Fire Council State Director and a whole lot more. Support this podcast
Since 1977, firefighter line-of-duty-deaths have been dropping. You know that already, right? And structure fires as a whole are decreasing as well, which you also know. Here’s something you may not realize: more civilians are dying in fires. It’s true. Since the 1980s, the rate of fire deaths is up six percent. This statistic is readily available—the source will be in the shownotes—but it’s not been publicized much. How did we get into this situation? And what will it take to fix it? Today’s guest has some ideas. Daniel Byrne’s been a guest before on Code 3. He’s a Community Support Officer for the Burton Fire District in Beaufort County, South Carolina. He’s a third-generation firefighter, and a retired Assistant Chief of Training from the Georgia Air National Guard 165th Fire Department. Support this podcast
If you’re a firefighter in a large metro department, you might find today’s topic a little unfamiliar. Because for firefighters in rural or even suburban areas, the challenges can be very different than yours. And if we’re talking about a volunteer department, that adds a level of difficulty. Today’s guest is the chief of a volunteer department that covers a rural community. He knows that any call may be hampered by longer response times, a lack of manpower, and even lack of water. Yet his department has the same goals as every other: to get on scene and get the fire out. How to accomplish that? The first 10 minutes on scene count. We’ll talk about that. Justin Bailey is the fire chief of the Oliver Springs Fire Department in Tennessee. He oversees 20 paid-on-call volunteers who cover a 5.5 square mile area. Justin’s also a master firefighter with the Knoxville, Tennssee Fire Department, where he has served since 2007. He hosts seminars on volunteer training program development, professional development and rural fireground management. Support this podcast
Everybody knows THAT guy. There’s one in every firehouse. He’s easy to spot. He knows and is happy to lecture you on every fire science topic, but never seems to have time to help wipe down the rig. But as Chief Brunacini reminded us, egos eat brains. That’s why it never pays to believe your own PR. My guest made captain and then figured out that he’d become THAT guy. Ken Himel has almost 30 years in the fire service. During that time, he’s served in volunteer, combination, full-time, and career departments. He’s currently chief of Bayou Cane Fire Protection District in Houma, Louisiana. He is a certified fire instructor level II Support this podcast
With today’s rapid fire growth, it’s more important than ever before to get water on the fire as fast as possible. Flashovers, for example, can occur in just minutes now. But another factor these days works against us: limited staffing. Decisions about what jobs get done first need to be based on that reality. My guest today says getting water on the fire is the primary goal. Even more than search and rescue. I’m pleased to have Curt Isakson back on Code 3 today. He is currently a Battalion Chief for Escambia County Fire Rescue in Florida where he has worked for the last 19 years. Before that, he worked 9 years for Pensacola Fire Department. If you’ve missed seeing him speak at a live conference, you’ve missed a lot. He’s a lot of fun to watch and you’ll learn a thing or two. He also owns County Fire Tactics. Support this podcast
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