Looking back on Atlanta

Fire Rescue International 2011 has ended and Rhett ( Fire Critic ),  Jeff Harkey ( Fire News.net / Daily 911 Deals.com ) and I are back home safe and sound… ok .. we’re safe.

Rhett’s driving  …. well, let’s just say it works on your nerves. Riding with Rhett will drive you to drinking  LOL. 


Rhett and I headed down last Tuesday and got to spend a night withhis sister her husband and his new baby nephew. It was the perfect start to our week. Special  THANKS to Valicia for the hospitality.

Wednesday morning, we got out early and headed to the Westin Peach Tree Hotel in down town Atlanta to participate in our 2nd  9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

Once again, we found something special within that stairwell while trying to pay tribute, honor and respect to our fallen 343 Brothers from the FDNY. You can read my post following the climb   HERE   and Rhett’s   HERE .

As mentioned in the links above, Rhett and I were HONORED to climb within the 1st group up. We were with a group of Chief Officers, most notably; our good friend  Matt Tobia  from Anne Arundel, Md. This was our hardest climb yet.

Another cool note from this climb is the fact that Victor Stagnaro  (Director of Fire Service Programs for the National Fallen Firefighter’sFoundation) made the climb as well.  Victor does a TON of work behind the scenes for these climbs and decided to pull “double duty” in Atlanta. AWESOME! Rhett and I are always happy to see and talk withVictor. He is a great friendwho can always be found working diligently for the NFFF. It was an added bonus and honor to have climbed with him! Here’s  a video from the climb …


Rhett and I are planning to make our 3rd climb on the 10th anniversary of the attacks next month on September 11th in Greenbelt, Md. If you have never climbed, YOU NEED TO !  If you are worried about about whether or not you can make the 110 stories, DON’T. Rhett and I will climb with you, at whatever pace;  and assure we reach the top.

Register for the Greenbelt, Md 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb HERE

After the climb, we unwound a bit and then headed out to John’s Creek Fire Station #63.

Johns Creek has a GREAT Department and 63 represents them well!  A-Shift Captain Mark Akins had contacted me earlier after reading that Rhett and I would be heading to Atlanta for FRI. He invited us out for a tour and dinner with his crew … how could we refuse?

See my post on the vist  HERE  and read why the Fire Critic describes them as ” Firemen’s firemen”  HERE  .

Ironfiremen and FireCritic.com visiting with Captain Mark Akins and the crew from Johns Creek Ga Station #63

Later in the week, while on the floor of FRI; I had the honor and privilege of meeting their Chief. Our talk was brief because he caught me busy at work. I hope I was able to convey to him how professional the guys from 63 are ( although I’m sure he already knew). 

Their actions were a true testament to the word Brotherhood.

Talk about customer service and positive public perception !

Special thanks to Captain Akins and the brothers from #63 A-shift  for an awesome meal and a fantastic visit. The members in attendance were Lt. Eddie Lee, FAO Phil Pirkle, FAO Kevin Castleberry, Sgt Tom Johnson, FF Jost Cater, FF Brandon Kingrey, and FF Grant Eckard.

Thursday, we started the morning out by joining Dave Statter and the NFFF at Atlanta Fire Station #11. We were there for a very special press release.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation awarded the NFFF  $1 MILLION DOLLARS  towards their Scholarships for survivors and Safety Training Initiatives !  See the official press release  HERE  .

We had a quick lunch and then headed out to check in for FRI and begin to set up the booth. Later that evening, Captain Akins from 63 met us at the hotel.

We had a great visit the day before but wanted some time with the Capt. and his crew where we could share a beer together.

We shared a little time together at the hotel before heading out for dinner. It was another very cool visit. The 3 of us seem to share a lot of the same views and are of  the same opinion on many issues. 

Firemen are all alike and share the same problems no matter where they are from.  Thanks again to Captain Akins for taking the time to not only spend with us but for making  us feel at home.

The next morning was going to be busy and we were already tired.

Although classes had been going on, tomorrow; was opening day for the exhibit floor.

Jeff Harkey   (Daily911Deals)  had arrived and would be staying with us for the remainder of our trip.

Jeff is another GREAT friend but when you get him and Rhett together, it’s hard to keep pace with them. They tackle EVERYTHING they do at 110%!

It was my mistake to enlist them in the search for a “Booth Babe” . They quickly began to take over and manage eveyaspect of our search. Interviews, auditions, background searches etc. When I wake up the next morning, our fold out hide-a-way sofa bed is in PIECES.  LMAO that musta been one hell of an audition!

I didn’t even want to know so I got cleaned up, dressed and headed out to meet Zach Green from Fox Fire.  This was my purpose for attending FRI.

I have posted many times on Zach and the Fox Fire Illuminating Product Line. I had helped work the booth and Firehouse Expo, and would do the same in Atlanta for FRI.

I hope you folks don’t get tired of hearing it because I say it all the time but THIS IS A GREAT PRODUCT !

This technology is going to change the way we fight fire!

It actually sells itself after you see it work, all I have to do is explain how and why.

Our booth stayed PACKED!

I’d dare say that we were the busiest booth on the floor.

Often times, we would have folks lined up out into the aisles waiting to see the product and receive a personal demo.

I think the show was another HUGE success for Zach and the Foxfire line. I guess I should say that I KNOW IT WAS A SUCCESS because we actually sold out of the helmet bands while there. That means that at least that many brothers and sisters will be able to preform their duties more efficiently and SAFER.

See Zach’s thoughts on Fire Rescue International 2011   HERE

So, we worked the floor non-stop for the next 2 days! At 4 pm on Saturday, we broke down the booth and Zach and the Foxfire crew were on their way home. Rhett, Jeff and I would stay for another day.

After packing up Foxfire and seeing them safely on the road, we had the honor of packing and loading another unbelievable exhibit. The 9/11  Better Angels  exhibit by Dawn Siebel.

This is a HUGE exhibit that has hundreds of pieces. Most of the pieces are fragile and must be individually wrapped and packaged.

It was an HONOR to have been entrusted with this task.

If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet, you need to do so. Im not sure where it will be on display next but at the very least, hit the link I provided above to read about it and view a video of the display.

Thanks to the NFFF for all they do in getting this enormous exhibit out for public display!

 ( I’m reasonably sure that the exhibit will be on display somewhere on the grounds duringthe Memorial Weekend coming up in October in Emmitsburg, Md. If you haven’t done so yet, MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND NOW … here’s the link with all the details   Fire Hero.org )

So, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest before heading out to dinner. I should have went to bed hungry! If you haven’t heard or read it yet, we ended up at a very “exclusive” restaurant for dinner that night. Special thanks to Jeff’s “GUY” for the recommendation. HAD I ONLY KNOWN  HE WAS A COP! LMAO  .. anyway if you missed it, CLICK HERE  for details.

Sunday morning, we were up and at it early again. This time, we were packing for our journey home.

Home is about an 8 hour drive for Rhett and me but we had some stops to make along the way. Jeff was going to tag along as far as Charlotte due to his plane / train ride back to Raleigh NC being cancelled due to Irene. I rode in the back so I could keep an eye (and my pistol) on the two of em after their escapades the night before.

We headed straight to Charlotte’s downtown fire station #1.

We were greeted by Captain Blake Redden. Another great fireman who understands the meaning of “Brotherhood”. I had actually met Captain Redden on the floor of FRI. He knew Jeff  ( Fire News.net ) and they had met up somewhere on the floor. Jeff brought him by the Fox Fire booth for a quick intro. Next thing you know, we’re invited to drop by for a tour on our way home!

L-R Charlotte Fire Captain Blake Redden, Ironfiremen.com's Captain Wines, Charlotte Dispatch Supervisor Jeff Williams and The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz

It was a very cool visit.

They even have their dispatch center on the top floor of the station. We got the COMPLETE  tour.

 Captain Redden took up upstairs where he introduced us to lead dispatcher Jeff  Williams. Jeff fit like a glove! We could have sat and talked with these two guys for hours!

Unfortunately, we were still on a tight schedule and had to get back on the road.

Special thanks to Captain Redden and  Jeff Williams for their time. Rhett and I both know and understand what it’s like to have visitors roll in on a Sunday.


We left Jeff Harkey in Charlotte and Rhett and I got back on the road. We had one more stop yet.

Ryan Monteith, The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz, Captain Wines of Ironfiremen.com and Bill Shick

You may remember back to an early July (2011) post where I posted on a visitor to Lucky #13. CLICK  HERE  FOR  THAT  POST . Brother Bill Shick described himself as an avid reader of the site and was passing through. He said he just HAD to stop.

Bill and I had a great visit back in July and he told me that if I was ever in or around Charlotte to be sure and look him up.

Ironically, Bill works at Charlotte’s Station #1 but he was off duty on Sunday. The good news was that we was working his 2nd job as a firefighter in Davidson, NC. It was on our way home and just a few short miles.


Rhett and I had a great visit will Bill, Julia ( Bill’s girlfriend) and Ryan. Of course, they gave us the tour and showed us the rigs but the best part of firemen visiting firemen is sitting on the tailboard and telling stories. We did a lot of that.

I knew back when Bill walked into Lucky #13 that he was a good guy. Our visit with him on Sunday proved it. Thanks to Bill, Julia and Ryan for their time and brotherhood.

Ok, to wrap things up, I need to say a special  THANKS to Rhett.  He has been a great friend and a TRUE BROTHER.  We have traveled a lot together and each trip gets better and better.

Thanks too to Jeff Harkey. I have just recently meet Jeff and knew I had made another great friend from the first moment. Three men living together in a hotel room for a week takes a lot of tolerance. When 1 of those 3 men is me, the tolerance level multiplies. LMAO

I also need to THANK Rhett’s other sister Vanessa. Vanessa works for Westin and has always been the one behind the scenes setting us up in hotel rooms as we travel across the country.

I’m glad she doesn’t work for the Econo Lodge or Super 8 because every hotel we have ever stayed in is FIRST CLASS!

I mentioned that for our stay in Atlanta, we had a two room suite!  IT WAS AWESOME. We had room to work and play.

When our guests would come in, they couldn’t believe the view!  There were helicopters landing on buildings BELOW us !

So, it was indeed ANOTHER great trip for The Fire Critic and Ironfiremen.com Better than that, it was even better for Rhett Fleitz and Willie Wines. Our next stop will be Greenbelt, Md for our 3rd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 11th! We hope to see you there. Until we see ya again, Stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines