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BAD PUBLICITY (?) … FIRE AND … LOTS OF IT!

I hope you all had as wonderful a Thanksgiving Holiday as I did. Mine was spent on duty but like many of you, I have so much to be thankful for that it really doesn’t matter where I’m at … I’m happy and thankful.

Family, crew, friends, health,  career etc … I am truly BLESSED and I thank each of you for being part of my life!

So, with Thanksgiving behind us, I hope you all got the chance to see my “Top Ten Stocking Stuffers“. Even if I have to say so myself, I think the list offers a lot of variety at some very affordable prices. Several of the items I choose came from (and / or were once offered on) Rhett and Jeff’s Daily 911 Deals  website. Holiday season or not, this site should be a regular stop for you … they offer some great “deals” on the industries top products. Fire, EMS or Police, Rhett and Jeff Harkey have something for everyone.

My postings have been so few and far between that I have so much catching up to do and I’m not sure where to start.  I’ve been busy both on the job and on the farm…. not to mention all the traveling Rhett and I have done here lately. I mention the farm work only because several of you seem to either relate to or enjoy reading about working a farm on your days off. The Buckaroo (my Grandson)  is also a big hit in my postings so, to tie them both in;  here’s a quick video of the little fella feeding the cows earlier this week ….

Yea … for just 3 years old, he’s growing FAST. We were framing a  new barn this past weekend and I had him up on the rafters with us. All the girls had a fit !!! They couldn’t figure out why I’d  have him up there. I told them it was because all the saws etc were down on the ground and that if I left him down there alone, he’d figure it was his job to make all the cuts! LMAO … they thought I was kidding but he was honestly safer on the roof with us than he was on the ground!

Photo by Nancy Pierce for Charlotte Magazine

So, on to Fire Department stuff …. I received an interesting e-mail this week. It was from a fellow who said he helped produce and article and video of Charlotte’s busiest Fire Station … Engine Company #15 .. The Shamrock Express! He wanted to know if I could / would help promote the article … he included the link.

I read and watched with mixed emotion … I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I hesitate to post this so allow me to explain why.

I know and have personally spoken to members of Charlotte’s Engine Co. #15. A few of them are regular readers / followers of Ironfiremen.com and often even take the time to post comments. Rhett and I have been invited into their station MANY times (although opportunity hasn’t allowed us to make the stop yet) . They seem to be VERY squared away and I’m proud to not only know them but to call them friends and BROTHERS. That said, this article / video (in my opinion) didn’t cast a very good light on the men of The Shamrock Express.

I think I know what happened but maybe you should read the article and see the video before I get into all of it ….

 

Charlotte Magazine article and video featuring Charlotte’s Station #15 The Shamrock Express

What were your thoughts? Again, mine were mixed. As I said, I know the men of Station #15 (some personally, others by profession). They’re good firemen … the best of the best in Charlotte. I have family  in the Charlotte area and I can tell ya that if they had to call 911, I’d want 15 on the run.

That said, I didn’t feel that this article and video showed who these men are … the kind of firemen they are. The article quotes a member as saying “nice” when he hears a report of heavy smoke showing over the radio. “Nice” as if he was excited or happy that someone’s house was burning.

The reporter further states that “most of the time, the crew waits” and describes their furnishings as  ” plush recliners” forming “an amphitheater of upholstery facing the big-screen TV”.  A portion of the video captures the Brothers at rest in those recliners, playing xX-Box and then eating some well marinated steaks for dinner.

For the busiest company in Charlotte, these Brothers HAVE IT MADE!

That’s the problem with videos and articles such as this …. they don’t show or tell the entire story. They also take things out of context. You can’t show up and ride with an Engine Company and understand firefighters…. it takes a hell of a lot more than a few hours to understand who we are and what we do.

Do firemen want your home to burn?? NO . Have I heard ” I hope we catch something good today” inside a station.. YES. I’ve said it myself years ago. A “crusty old Jake” broke me of that. One day, he said …” yea.. I hope we catch a good one too” … “ballooned out, fire from every window … a real cooker and oh yea …I hope it’s your place”.  My place???   WTF ??   What are you talking about? Then he told me … if you really want someone’s house to burn, it may as well be yours. At least then, you’ll have us to take care of you and your girls. The average person may not have that luxury.

I had never thought of it that way. I had seen the devastation fire brings to a family … why would I wish that on anyone?

Later, as I matured in life and my profession, I began to understand those feelings. I didn’t want anyone’s home to burn or anyone to become hurt or injured BUT,  if there was a fire, someone hurt, sick or  trapped in a vehicle anywhere in the city while I was on duty, I WANTED TO BE THERE.

I don’t know if it’s age, experience or whatever but I do know it’s all about PRIDE. Back then, we had pride in showing everyone what a great job we could do. In those days, we were labeled as “hot dogs” and “cowboys”. Today, I have just as much pride in knowing that I’m ready and capable of handling any situation that may arise. Busiest company or slowest …. doesn’t matter. A company can run 20 calls a day and do nothing. On the other hand, a slower company may only run a single incident that same day but that one call may mean the difference between life and death.

To get back in line here, I think the Charlotte article misrepresented Brother Martin. He didn’t want to see someone’s home burn. He did want to show this reporter the work his company is capable of. PRIDE.

The recliners and X-Box … I can’t defend. What’s not shown is the time of day or how long they were there. No mention of how many runs on the tour.  After 6pm and  a full days work, training etc. if the boys want to relax, watch tv, play a video game or whatever … yea… they’ve earned it. What I didn’t like in the video is that they didn’t show station cleaning, company training etc. Most of our days are full well beyond running calls ( they did show the men working out). I think the reporter should have rode when they had on duty training, 2 physicals, a Captain’s meeting, a public relations event and hydrant maintenance to conduct.

Don’t forget about shopping, cooking and cleaning. YEA… we do all that too! There was a comment about the Brothers eating steak. Firemen eating steak in these hard economic times. Well, steaks are eaten at the firehouse. More often than not, it’s due to a special occasion …promotions, birthdays, transfers etc … or, like a reporter (special guest) being in the house. Again, what they didn’t show was the reporters plate. I’ll bet you that the only reason these guys bought steaks was because the reporter was in house. I’ll also bet that they bought him one and didn’t charge him ( I’ll also bet he didn’t offer to chip in).

Why didn’t they talk about the firemen buying and cooking the meals? We have that problem here in “The Noke”. Our citizens actually think that the City buys our food. YEA … they don’t understand that what we eat comes out of our pockets and that we don’t receive a “stipend” or anything for meals. When they see us at the local grocery store with a basket full of food, they are thinking it’s their tax dollars that are going to pay for it.

We have a Chief who will call and chew a Captain’s butt because multiple pieces of apparatus were at the same store. He gets a call from a  “concerned citizen” … Why were there 3 fire trucks at Krogers?  It amazes me still that this Chief can’t think enough to educate our customers. Why not explain to them … the firemen shop for their meals. They buy their own food, split the cost among the members and cook for themselves. Companies within the city keep a similar schedule so the window for shopping / cooking is small and they often end up at the store around the same time of day. We remain in service while shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. so service delivery is not affected … we simply drop everything and respond.

Usually, I don’t engage in “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”  because I understand how photos etc can be misleading. But, there was a shot in the video where the members appeared to be on scene of an auto accident and the Brother spreading absorbent was in his duty uniform. I’ll just briefly comment there and say …come on Brother… there’s a camera on the rig! Put on your coat, helmet and safety vest.

My point in all of this is that the Department / Company should have had more say in what was published. Maybe, I’m 100% off base here and the men of The Shamrock Express are proud of how they were portrayed. I know the members of that house are better than what most of you will take away from the article / video. With that said, what will the public come away with?

I think the producers of the documentary  “BURN”  got it right! If you haven’t heard of this film yet … pay attention.

 “Every shift, Detroit firefighters face injury, disablement, illness, death. But still they come back, day after day, resolved they can make a difference. And they do it with camaraderie and a remarkable sense of humor.  We have embedded with firefighters of the DFD and are following the Detroit story through their eyes. Our film explores human struggles, hope and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.”

Watch this video …..

This is how America’s Firefighters should be portrayed!

This project has been in desperate need of funding. They have now reached (and actually exceeded) their goal. Donations will not only help get this important story out to mass audiences but a portion of the proceeds will also go to the Leary Foundation to get much needed gear into the hands of Detroit firefighters. Deadline for donations is tomorrow ( December 1, 2011) so don’t hesitate to give and become a part of something special to our profession.

Find more details from the Fire Critic by clicking  HERE .

ALSO visit the Official website HERE

Detroit is not unlike many cities across this Country. There are hundreds of “mini” Detroits out there … who will be the next? I’m rambling here so I’m gonna cut it short. The Buckaroo and I have to haul a load of horses to Maryland tomorrow and then I’m back to duty on Thursday.

I’ll check back in then but mean while, let me know what you think of the Charlotte video and don’t forget to help out our Brothers in Detroit.

Until I get back, stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines

 

 

 

Comments - Add Yours

  • Gillian

    I feel this was a very poorly edited video and written story. I would have hoped the P.I.Office was involved and could have helped direct it in a more positive light. As for the video games, well, they got a run and left in the dark, I am going to assume this was after dinner. A good report (like some you have shared with us ;-) would have shared the time the reported visited and more of the intense activities done that day with a followup on here is how we try and unwind at the end of the day and yet remain ready to respond at all times. As for the absorbent guy, have to agree, what were you thinking silly! Put on a show, wear that pretty reflective vest, you do have one right? Overall I think the guys involved are looking at it in a positive light as they did nothing wrong and it did show their “life”, after all they know what they do every day. Many of us look at it and see what wasn’t shown. It is ALL of our jobs to help make our profession (career or volly!) one we are all proud to represent, keep up the good work Capt.

  • Mama

    I understand your hesitance regarding the article. One fire- Just one during a Month of non activity puts our sons, daughters, fathers and brothers in harms way. When firefighers are called to duty they are not going to an office job, a sales position, etc- they can die. You want to be inside that burning building or home? They protect us and our children- They are brave enough to go where we are afraid to go.
    And yes- when they are not inside a burning inferno- they eat, sleep and watch tv- I am glad when they have down time-
    One of those Heros is my Son.

  • Taylor

    Honestly, all of the concerns you raised I feel were answered in the article. The reporter explained that the city does not pay for food and also explained that they didn’t want something to burn, but if it did, they wanted to be there. The reporter also seemed to make the case that the House was not as busy as usual while he was there, when the one oncoming guy can’t believe that they only ran a few runs the shift before. As far as the video games are concerned with how dark it was in that room, and that the engine pulling out right after was at night, im guessing it was an end of the night, play some video games because everything else is done situation.

  • http://www.firedaily.com John Mitchell

    I feel I’ve made the following comments constantly for years. When will we finally “get it?”

    Fair ot not, remember this altruism: “Perception trumps reality.” Every time.

    When people hear about firefighters in DeKalb County Georgia, they won’t remember them as “DeKalb County firefighters.”

    When people see a story about a New York City firefighter off on disability caught participating in a mixed martial arts competition they won’t remember him as “an FDNY firefighter.” They will remember him as a “firefighter.”

    When people see a video of the Shamrock Express, they won’t remember it as “Charlotte firefighters.” They will remember it as “firefighters.”

    Like it or not, we all share the brunt of the public’s reaction to videos and news stories made by one firefighter or fire department.

    Today we are faced with staffing problems, lack of resources, and attacks on our pay scales and pensions.

    Now is not the time to be our own worst enemies. Start using your heads.

  • http://www.backwardsandstupid.com Chris Sterricker

    Yeah, I’m with you Captain America :) Wile it is a very real depiction of firehouse life, sometimes, in todays climate of political and citizen attacks this isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Nothing against the guys of 15’s, the video doesn’t really match the claim the article makes of the “busiest”.

  • http://firefighterparamedicstories.blogspot.com/ FireMedic

    I have to say that I agree with your hesitation about this video. Does it accurately portray what goes on at a lot of the fire houses across America? Probably. Is it the right thing to flaunt in today’s economic and political climate? Probably not.

    I hope my brothers and sisters in the fire service don’t misunderstand, I mean no disrespect. I just want to be careful about public perceptions so that we can all continue to do what we love.

  • http://Www.elaffhq.com Captain chaos

    It was a decent article, some bad light, some good. Anytime a reporter is in house, and on the rig your A game must be observed. It’s a single day, and in that time you have an opportunity to show just how much can sometimes be required. Even on a low call day, you can still leave a lasting impression about the work thats done when the radio waves are silent. I didn’t however like the comment about dis-connecting with the customers, and treat them like a broken piece of machinery. I always keep in mind, no matter how insignificant a call may seem, this is someone’s son. Someones daughter…. Father… Mother…brother… Sister. This is a life long friend, a neighbor. It’s a loved one of someone, and I try my best at all times to treat them like they are that to me. If I stick with that, I know I will always give them my best, whether they need help off the floor, or have a rival gang members bullet in their gut. I’m off my soap box, I’m 100 percent sure of what he meant, but I know how some people will read it. Its a good article to keep in mind next time a reporter walks into the house… How will you make your house look? How much pride will your chief have when he reads an article about your crew? Or how many phone calls will he have to answer? It’s a thing to read, and learn from. Hope everyone can take something from it like I have…. Hope all have a safe night. Ride hard brothers!

  • Bill

    I think your reservations about the article are spot on. Not to pick of the guys, but if reporters are coming hide the porno and video games. It’s only one night and while other firefighters might realize “hey its between runs”, the guy who just got laid off isn’t going to take it that way.

  • http://www.averagejakeff.wordpress.com Robby O

    “My Name is Ray and I like to go to Fires” Iconic words spoken by a Ray Mccormack in the FDIC Keynote a few years ago.

    I do not think we should have to apologize for wanting to show the mastery of our skills, just as news reporter should not have to apologize for covering a controversial news topic.

    Now I do not wish harm on anyones family, friends, belongings, etc but if there is a fire, I want to go to it, plain and simple.

    I will say though that I agree that when you have a reporter in or around you its time to step your game up, just last night we had a fatal MVA and the news showed up the captain came over to remind us to be aware of what you are saying and doing, you dont want to get caught on camera smiling or laughing at the scene of someones death. Its unfortunate but when the cameras are on, is not the time for brutal honesty.

    News flash the public really doesnt want to know what it is like to be a firefighter, they want to ensure that they are getting there monies worth out of a service, just like a resturant, or the trash pick up. The only other thing they are concerned about is that we show up, and help them when called. Other than that they could care less, but showing that we have recliners, XBOX, and other things will show them that there money is not being well spent. So when they (media, and public)are around we need to put our best foot forward.

    Maturity, immaturity, I think its just pride to want to perform your job, and show that all of your hard work has paid off. In my opinion if you do not want to go to a fire then you picked the wrong job. While we need to be professional at all times in our speak, and actions I do not think we should “apologize” for getting to do what only a few can do, the military doesnt apologize and there job can be twice as “damaging” or gruesome as ours and affect far greater lives. They do not want to have to do what they do, but when called to duty they do nto apologize for there actions they simply do there job, the same should apply for us.

  • FireMedic14

    I share mixed feelings about this article. The video was great and showed a “typical” day in house, minus the truck maintanance, training, and all the other daily firehouse duties. I feel as if the article portrayed the 15 house as fire hungry and miserable doing anything else. These guys seem beyond profressional and it is hard for me to believe that any call besides a fire frustrates them. Sure we have all been on those calls that did not need 911 service, or the 0333, 300 pounder, on the third floor who has called three times already today; but with that said we as firefighters take pride in our jobs. It is what creates a brotherhood, the firehouse family. All in all, I feel like the guys of Engine 15 where misrepresented!

  • ShamrockDriver

    I waited some time to respond to see what all would be said and so I wouldn’t influence any responce to what Capt. Wines brought up. That said, maybe we could have “acted” differently but then we wouldn’t have been us. Is that good or bad…I have pros and cons on both sides. So on to some info for y’all. 1)the videographers rode for 24hs and made a 3min clip. 2)the X-box is brought from one of the firefighter’s home and was played in the evening 3)the TV was bought by all three shifts pooling their monies(around $30 a member for the 15 assigned @ St 15) 4)Cable and the paper and bottled water for the truck cooler is paid for w/funds from the station kitty from sales from the drink box and canteen. 5)All the recliners were donated after years of home use from MEDIC and station members. 5)we charge $5 a person per meal no matter if it’s hotdogs or steaks. We do this so we can build up our shift kitty so once a month or so, or when we have guests, we can have steaks and still only charge $5 a person and let the shift kitty make up the rest. 6)I do want to go to fires. Now that I’m more matured, age and experience, I pray that it’s a vacant building scheduled to be demolished(no life loss and no property loss)and I said all of that to the writer. I also said that if a fire IS going to happen I hope MY shift is working because I think my shift is better than the other two. Not that we are better but it’s my shift and shift pride states that MY shift is better than theirs. 7)I made the statement that I viewed people as machinery. I should have made sure he knew I was talking about the trauma calls. I was telling him about my wife asking me one time how I could do it that she couldn’t do my job. This is the way I keep my emotions out of it when someone is going to die unless I act quickly especially when it comes to child trauma. Lastly. Everyone went home the next morning. Riders and firefighters alike. No civilians died those two days and we helped those that called. Thanks for the artical Capt. Wines, you made me think on it. As always, Stay Safe Brother.

    • http://www.statter911.com Dave Statter

      ShamrockDriver,

      Sorry for the late response. Got a little busy.

      First of all, I like that all these comments on Willie’s site are respectful and looking very thoughtfully at the issue at hand. Some of those who comment on my site could use a lesson.

      This is one where, in my view, no one did anything wrong. Could they have done something better to lessen the concerns raised here. I think so.

      First, I believe some sensitivity to the issues and how they are perceived would have made a big difference. I don’t for a moment believe that the reporter was out to slam anyone. I think if the PIO or firefighters had pointed out the hot button issues firefighters face and the perception problems, it would have gone a long way. I have shot in many fire stations and know that there are things if now put in context, the public will never get.

      It is a real dilemma. The press (and any good writer) is looking for you to be yourselves and if you are yourself there is a good chance the public isn’t going to get it.

      Last night I spoke to a graduating recruit class in Arlington County, VA and touched on some of this. You don’t need a ride-along to face these issues. Firefighters are now under the watchful eye of citizens with cameras on most every call they make. There is a lot of what you do that easily can be misunderstood and taken out of context. Being aware of this is quite important these days. Just make sure you are doing your job to the best of your ability and think of how it is going to look to the outside world.

      Good luck and thanks for asking for my input. Never hesitate if I can be of help.

      Willie – great topic for discussion. You have proven again, you really are The Fire Critic.

      Statter

  • Cookie

    Well,well,well. The article was ok. But like any news report, the information that grabs the attention of the readers was produced. I have 15 yrs with CFD and spent 10 of that in what used to be one of the busiest stations in the city. As busy as we were, our run totals did not compare to 15. One report shows that 15 missed more calls in their area than some companies ran. This due to them already being on a call. Station 15 is not for the firefighter that only wants to collect a paycheck like a large majority of our new hires do. You have to be all in to ride at this station. More medicals, wrecks, and fires than any company in the city with the exception of maybe 23. If the readers knew T. Martin, they would know he isn’t excited about someone losing their home. Bet they don’t know he is a police officer too. The driver, W. Love, comes from a family of firefighters and is one of the best drivers on the dept. He ranks slightly below me. JK Wally. The capt and fire fighters there are all in. You want to know what it is like, spend a full tour with those boys. Get up and go home after running 9-10 calls after 2200 hours. Or go to their second job with them and watch them put in another full day of work so they can make sure they financially support their families better than what a fire fighter salary can.

    We know and station 15 knows. Enough said

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