2011 Ironfiremen.com's Year in Review!

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.

See the post  “Ironfiremen.com looks back at 2010”  by clicking HERE

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).

One of the things I’m most proud of is having been voted

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”  ….

January 2011 .  Looking at the stats, my busiest day as far as  “hits”  was the 17th. I had 2 posts up that day as Roanoke’s Bravest battled a  Multi-Alarm Fire and stupid drivers at a local Days Inn.

You can re-visit those posts on Ironfiremen.com   HERE  and  HERE .

For MORE on that incident from Fire Critic and RoanokeFirefighters.com  (including more photos) click   HERE  and HERE

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.

The posts following his death were some of the hardest I’ve written. For at least as long as I’m alive, Chief Slayton will never be forgotten.

See my related posts HERE  HERE   HERE  and HERE

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.

See related posts and photos from VaFireNews.com and RoanokeFirefighters.com  HERE and  HERE

February 2011 : The post receiving the most hits for February was when we announced winning the Blog of the Year contest but the month was really about football, fires and “support systems”!

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.

As far as “Support Systems” go, February introduced you to our Firefighter’s Auxiliary as well as to our Fireman’s Federal Credit Union .

It was also the month that I first introduced a “semi-regular” column here on Ironfireman.com that I call “Tricks of the Trade” .

March 2011 : Things got REALLY busy for me and Rhett in March. Among everything else that happened, we would travel to EMS Today in Baltimore, Md and FDIC in Indianapolis.

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.

See my related posts  HERE  HERE  and  HERE .

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.

Back at home, I would meet one very special new friend … Father Webb.

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.

See the related posts  HERE and HERE

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..

May 2011 : May would have me traveling the farther than I ever have. Thanks to the Roanoke Rampage Football Team, I would make my way out to California!

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.

See related posts  HERE  and  HERE 

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 .

The biggest news however would come on a GLOBAL level ….


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.

Read the post  ” Taking it all in ” by clicking  HERE

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 !

June 2011 : Big fires and more funerals.

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.

See my related post   HERE   and coverage from Va Fire News  HERE

June would also find me and Rhett together on the fire ground!

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!

See the related post   HERE  and  HERE 

July 2011 : A new Rookie, Never Forgetting and Honoring our fallen!

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”

Read WE ARE ALL CLIMBING by clicking HERE 

That post was before we even left for Baltimore. Read   THIS P OST to see my thoughts after climbing the 110 stories.

Click HERE to see what else we got into  at Firehouse Expo 2011 

July as brought me a new “Rookie” Firefighter …. RANDY!

 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 .

August 2011 : What a month! Fire rescue International in Atlanta, Ga, our 2nd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, Randy’s 1st fire and a GAY BAR !

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 :) ”

How AWESOME is that?

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!

Read the post  ” A Perfect Tribute ”  by clicking HERE

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

Rhett launch a new web site ( Daily911 Deals.com ) with partner Jeff Harkey while I worked the booth with Zach Green and Fox Fire.

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!

Funeral arrangements and details from the Gay Restaurant HERE and everything else Atlanta HERE 

September 2011 : Pink shirts, more fire for Randy and our 3rd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb!

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!

Read that post and view more pictures by clicking HERE

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.

October 2011 : The 30th Annual National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Weekend and an UNBELIEVABLE trip to New York City!

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!

See my related posts  HERE   HERE  and  HERE 

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.

It was an AMAZING trip because neither Rhett nor I had been to the City since the attacks. It was a humbling experience.

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!

Read related posts  HERE   and    HERE

November 2011 : Chief Billy Goldfeder, Flashover Simulators, calendar girls and a Home coming.

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.

Read all about our Cincinnati trip by clicking  HERE

December : Rhett and I returned to GROUND ZERO and made our 4th Memorial Stair Climb!

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 !

Read the related posts  HERE and HERE

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!

Captain Wines