They say “time flies when you’re having fun” and I’m having a BLAST! It seems like just yesterday that I was “looking back” on 2010.
I started “blogging” back in December of 2008 while assigned to Station #9C (The “Melrose Misfits). I never imagined that it would grow into something as big as it has or that it would have been as rewarding as it is. When I was moved from Station #9, I decided to create the Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen Blog. Later, with Rhett’s help; we shortened the name to Ironfiremen.com and moved over to the Fire/EMS Blog Network . It was the best move I ever made.
The site continues to grow. My views or “hits” have TRIPLED from 2010 to 2011! I’ve always kidded about having 2 readers but obviously, there is a lot more than that. I still don’t understand why …. I don’t even know where I “fit in” as far as the “network” or other sites go.
By that I mean that I’m not sure there is even a “category” for me or the Blog. I’m not a straight forward ”news” or “educational” type of site. I don’t know what folks are looking for when they “click on” or visit Ironfiremen.com but obviously, they’re finding it (or something that keeps em coming back anyway).
2011 Black Diamond Boot, Fire Blog of the YEAR!
This was a HUGE honor for me because it was voted on by the readers. I was running against a lot of the sites that I follow regularly … my favorites … I never dreamed that my site would have even been considered on the same level as the likes of Statter911, The Happy Medic, Fire Geezer, Firefighter’s Own Worst Enemy, Wildfire Today or Fire Law by Curt Varone
The distinction of Blog of the Year and the sites growing popularity has opened many doors and propelled us in several directions. Those of you who follow regularly know that Rhett and I have been “on the road” a lot this year and each trip has been related in some way or another to our sites.
Our advertising, promotional, branding and networking efforts has allowed us to meet some amazing people and make many new friends. Not only that, we’ve also become involved with several outstanding organisations within the Fire/EMS industry along the way.
We’ve accomplished so much in 2011 that it would be difficult to pack into a single post. That said, I’ll just hit the month by month highlights for ya and TRY to keep it short …. see if you remember these and ENJOY the “look back” ….
The 17th may have been the site’s busiest day in January but the fire was not what stands out in my mind as most memorable.
It was January that the Roanoke Fire Department suffered an ” The End of an Era” with the passing of Battalion Chief Bobbie Slayton.
Chief Slayton served the City of Roanoke for nearly 45 years. He had been a Chief longer than I had been on the job. My dad worked for Bobbie as his Chief’s Aid / Driver for many years. Towards the end of his career, he was shuffled from his beloved “B-Shift” to “C” where I had the honor of working for him. Bobbie’s death was a huge loss for our Department. He’s still missed but spoke and thought of often.
He had suffered a stroke on December 26, 2010 and remained hospitalized until his passing on January 8, 2011. He was such an icon to our Department that, in his final days; our Local (IAFF L-1132) had a member “posted” by his hospital room door 24/7. It was only fitting that Captain Craig Sellers was by his side (along with family) when he passed.
There’s a GREAT picture of Bobbie and the members of Station #1B with the restored Bell from the tower at now “Historic” Station #1. We now only use the bell for funeral services. The irony is that the bell Chief Slayton worked so hard to refurbish sounded his Final Alarm.
There was plenty of fire to go around all across the State. We caught our share and even took in a job with our County Brothers. See that post HERE .
We were back on the field and gearing up for our 2nd season of Rampage Football. Yes … at 132 lbs, I played tail back for The Roanoke Rampage in the National Public Safety Football League. 2011 was our 2nd season.
It was also the month that I first introduced a “semi-regular” column here on Ironfireman.com that I call “Tricks of the Trade” .
FDIC was a BLAST! Rhett presented his class “Social Media in the Fire Service” for the first time … what an HONOR. I filled in and covered his position with Firefighter Netcast where once again I found myself surrounded by some of the top leaders of today’s Fire Service.
Who would have ever figured to see me hanging around folks like Chief Billy Goldfeder or Chief Alan Brucini? (we also met Captain Dugan who gave the Keynote Address along with retired FDNY member Kevin Shea). We met many friends and followers of our sites and made twice as many new ones.
Father Webb was just meeting and “feeling us out” back on St. Patty’s Day but now has become our “Official” Fire Department Chaplin.
Chief Adkins fixed up a mess of corned beef and cabbage and we had Father Webb out to share in the meal. This was the beginning of a GREAT relationship between our members and Father Webb. I was and remain excited to have him on and at our side. I hope the relationship continues to grow and can mimic the one shared by Father Judge and the FDNY. See my related post HERE
April 2011 : April would prove to be just as busy! I even got a special invite to the The 2011 Congressional Fire Service Institute Dinner !
Special THANKS to our Network boss Dave Iannone for the invite. It was a great oppurtunity where once again I was able to meet and talk with many well respected members of the Fire Service.
April was also the month where we had our biggest “Give Away” to date. After winning the Blog of the Year contest, I figured what better way to say “THANKS” to my readers than to give away a pair of Black Diamond X2 Boots? No “el-cheap-o, contesto’s” here baby … that was a high dollar pair of boots! Congratulations to loyal reader / follower Patrick Lynch of St. Michael’s College Fire & Rescue in Colchester, VT. on winning the boots. What was really cool was how we announced the winner …. watch this..
There were several highlights to this trip but the most notable would be getting to see my baby sister Jessi and meeting Captain Joe Schmoe of Report on Conditions for the first time.
Be sure to hit those links … it was a GREAT trip despite our loss on the field.
I continued to make new friends and meet readers and followers of the site. Casey Potter, wife of loyal follower and fan; Chris Potter invited me down for a surprise Birthday Party for Chris …. how could I not have attended?? See that post HERE .
We FINALLY KILLED THAT SON OF A BITCH!
I was on duty and glued to the TV. Emotion overtook me and I cried. I cried tears of joy and sorrow.
For me, it was like living the day of the attacks all over again. My mind was flooded with memories and emotion.
The tears of joy were of his death but the tears of sorrow were for the families of those he murdered. I knew that even then … at his death … he would cause pain to those left behind.
I hope our 343 fallen can now rest in peace. I hope his death brings some sort of comfort to the families left behind and like the Daily News so eloquently says .. I hope he ROTS IN HELL !
We buried another member in June. Firefighter/Paramedic David “Dave” Palmer lost his battle with cancer. His was to be our 2nd LODD (Line Of Duty Death) since 2009.
“Big Dave” and I go WAY back. I made Captain in 2000 and was assigned to station #3 ( now considered “old” Station #3 and CLOSED which was located at 6th and Rorer) where we would work together.
Like Chief Slayton, Big Dave will not be forgotten either. I quite often find myself telling stories involving him in one way or another. Things were different back then .. it felt more like a “Fire Department” and we had a lot of fun while getting the job done.
The picture upper right is our crew standing in front of Engine and Medic #3 at the Station. Pictured from L-R is Dave Palmer, Mike Pruitt, Brad Creasy, Lt Richard “Patty” Patterson and myself.
I was the Acting Battalion Chief while Rhett was riding the “seat” of of the 1st in Engine (#3) when we caught this 2nd alarm fire.
It was the first time in a while since Rhett and I had been together on a fire. This time however, it was me stuck out in the street and Rhett putting in the work.
I arrived 1st and upgraded the incident to a 2nd Alarm. I was able to catch some pretty good photos while doing my walk around and size up. This pic was taken just as Rhett and his crew were making entry. Some solid work put in on this one!
July brought Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, Md. and our first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
That climb (and the ones to follow) changed me forever. I’ve described the experience as beyond emotional and more near spiritual. I think I captured some of it in my postings because they remain my “most visited”
That post was before we even left for Baltimore. Read THIS P OST to see my thoughts after climbing the 110 stories.
Randy Armbrister from Max Meadows, Va. The picture left was Randy on his 1st day out in the Company.
I wanted to make sure he knew and was comfortable in his SCBA so he started the morning with it on. He checked equipment, cleaned the station and even mowed the lawn with it on.
You’ve seen and read about Randy quite a bit here on the site and I have to admit that it’s been refreshing having a “Rookie” in the house.
It’s kept us busy and even allowed us “older” members to “pick up the pace” a little in an effort to assure Randy is well trained and ready for whatever is thrown at us. Randy has (and continues to ) met all expectations and challenges with a willingness to learn and a smile. He’s only disappointed me once but we corrected that problem QUICK. Read ” I had to PULL THE BOOK ” by clicking HERE .
I cried a lot in Atlanta … I get choked up now even thinking about it. Rhett and I would make our 2nd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and this one would impact me even more than our first.
There were several things that happened in Atlanta that I will carry with me until I die
Before our climb, I remembered an e-mail I had received from my youngest daughter (Reba) back before our 1st climb in Baltimore. I had obviously saved it and opened and read it once again before our assent in Atlanta. I want to share that e-mail with you again …
“Dad , today after reading your most recent blog ” we are all climbing ” I wanted to tell you …..
Your the most amazing selfless person I know … You work so hard to save people you don’t even know and at the same time are working just hard to save all of us … You use your spare time to spread the word of your great profession that in my opinion (and yours) you can’t call a ” job” it’s just something you were meant to do …. There is no one else in this world like you !!!! ( well the buckaroo and I – but we are exceptions bc we are only a mold ) …. Good luck on your climb I know you can do it ESP bc of the cause but also because I’ve never seen ANYTHING you can’t do !!!! ( well you might not be able to carry Rhett lol unless u had to ) ….. Anywho …. Just wanted to let you know your amazing in everything you do and the buckaroo and I love and miss you very much …. Be safe have fun ,
Love .. Reba and YOUR buckaroo ”
I learned the same things listed in that e-mail about Rhett that day. I had “known” it but never really seen it until that climb.
Rhett and I are a lot alike, especially when it comes to Brotherhood and the job. We climb alike and for the same reasons… it’s a MEMORIAL.
We were HONORED to be in the 1st group up in Atlanta but quickly learned that we were attached to the “wrong” group. Lucky for us, they didn’t “get it” and soon left us behind. It was how it should have been … Rhett and I alone in that stairway … paying our respects. It was then that he brought me to tears and showed me what the words HONOR and RESPECT were all about.
Rhett was having a tough time with this climb. No breaks, no water, for whatever reason; he was struggling. Near the top, he stopped and turned around … I though he was quitting. ” I missed one” he said. He wasn’t quitting, he had missed a step, turned around and climbed that flight AGAIN! Nobody would have ever know right?? WRONG …. he would have. As bad as he was hurting, HE CLIMBED IT AGAIN ! BROTHERHOOD, HONOR, TRADITION, PRIDE and RESPECT … we live by it!
There was a lot more that happened on this trip …. We got to meet and share a meal withCaptain Mark Akins ( now Battalion Chief) and his crew from John’s Creek Station #63. See that post HERE
I know it’s hard to believe but the trip ended up with us eating at a gay restaurant..yea… I was gonna kill him!
Obviously, the most memorable for me was the Climb. Not only was it the 3rd for me and Rhett, we would make it on the 10th anniversary of the attacks and my dad would climb with us!
You guess it … I CRIED AGAIN!
Kevin Totten and Tommy Warshaw joined us again while Bill Carey climbed with us for the 1st time. Rhett’s son Preston made it most of the way and Dad even carried the Buckaroo for one flight. Hit the link above .. it’s a good read.
This would be my 2nd year attending the Memorial Weekend and I would find it just as emotional as the first.
Rhett and I were there fulfilling obligations with Firefighter Netcast. We had the honor of recording stories from the survivors. Once again, a lot of tears were shed as we listened to the families share their stories of our fallen Brothers and Sisters.
The Memorial Weekend is every October and if you’ve never attended .. MAKE PLANS NOW!
Rhett and I also made a trip up to the Big Apple. He was teaching Social Media in NJ and I was assisting Zach Green and Fox Fire in the City.
While Rhett was teaching, Chief Billy Goldfeder had set Zach and I up with a personal tour of the Tribute Center. Co Founder Lee Ielpi would conduct the tour.
Lee is a retired member of FDNY’s Rescue 2 and lost his son, Jonathan; was on the job and assigned to FDNY Squad 288. Jonathan was murdered on September 11, 2001 in the attacks on the Trade Center and Lee would spend the next 3 months searching for his body. I don’t believe Lee has really EVER left that site since.
I can’t describe the tour he gave us … for whatever reason, there was a “bond” between us. Lee kept a hand on me the entire time, I can feel his touch even now as I reflect on our time together. It was a “father’s” touch and one I will cherish.
They recovered Jonathan’s body mostly in tact. They also were able to recover his turnout gear. That gear is on display at the Tribute Center. Lee wants us all to see that set of gear and to know the story behind it. Us .. me, you, him, her and our children. He suffers the pain of passing by that gear EVERYDAY hoping that we can all learn from this horrible act. If you’re ever in New York … GO!
Rhett and I would find ourselves on the road yet again. Like always, we were multi-tasking and packed as much as possible into a few days.
He was teaching Social Media once again in Kentucky so we decided to head up to Ohio and visit his old home place.
While there, we caught up and spent some time with Chief Billy Goldfeder and then headed out to the Fox Fire World Headquarters.
Not only was it our 4th climb, it was in New York City, at Ground Zero and in the shadows of The Freedom Tower ( 1 World Trade Center ) !
We were there helping out the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation.
Founding members of some of the 1st organized Memorial Stair Climbs, Oren Bersagel-Briese, Scott Eckels, Josh Smith, Brian Bush and Shawn Dunston ( along with Dave Statter) were also there.
Even though it was not “Official”, there was no way that we were going to be this close to Ground Zero, with this group of Brothers and NOT make a climb in Memory and Honor of our 343 fallen Brothers. SO WE CLIMBED ! We finished on the roof top looking down on the site where our Brothers had fallen. Where so many lives were lost and Heroes remain.
Rhett and I have been climbing so long and hard that we never really knew where we were going … WE FOUND IT THERE !
I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve the life I’ve been given this past year but I am truly THANKFUL. Together, Rhett and I have made the journey of a lifetime in just a few short years. I can only imagine what 2012 will bring us.
I want to say THANKS to my wife (Donna) and entire family for the love, support and for putting up with me all this time. Thanks to Rhett for the friendship, the BROTHERHOOD and for taking me along. THANKS as well to you .. our readers because it is your support that has allowed us these opportunities. I hope, that if even in the smallest of ways; that we’ve been able to give something back in return!
Stay SAFE and in House and I’ll see you next year!