Class A's


I’m going to head in several directions with the title because it seems as if I’ve been surrounded by “Class A’s” a lot this week.

One I’d like to share was when West McBride dropped by the station with his family on Thursday.

I’ve known West for some time now but we’ve never met in person until his visit. I’ve always though he was a “class act” and meeting him confirmed my suspicions.

West and his family were heading home from the Hershey, Pa area and thought there was no way he could pass through without stopping in for a visit. I was glad he did … we LOVE visitors here at Lucky #13.

West runs another very popular web site down in North Carolina. Be sure to check him out at the link below ….

Visit and follow by West McBride

Visiting a firehouse can be hit or miss depending on the crew on duty. Rhett and I always look at it as a chance to share some of the history, tradition and pride of our Department / stations. I hope West and his family enjoyed their stop and left with a positive impression of Station #13 and our Department.

Rhett wrote some very good articles over at on this exact topic in a series he called “Owning the Job”. Use the link below to see what he had to say…

Read Owning the Job. Part V-a cup of coffee

Another type of “Class A” I’ll mention is our uniform. Our “Class A’s” are what others may call our “dress uniform”. I’ve had mine on a lot here lately and will have to put em back on Tuesday.

I’m thankful that I’m not wearing them due to a funeral. Having said that, I do want to mention the passing of Chief John Sachen. Chief Billy Goldfeder described him as “one of the best, most active and senior Fire Instructors in North America”. You can read about Chief Sachen’s passing HERE .

I’ve been wearing my Class A’s due to our promotional process. A few weeks ago, I took the written / practical test for promotion to Battalion Chief. The test consisted of an IMS scenario, a “problem” employee and an in/out basket. I learned on Wednesday that I scored high enough to get an oral interview. We currently have 2 Battalion Chief positions open so the top 7 on the list will be considered / interviewed.

I believe there were 15 Captains in all who tested for the position and every one of them would make a good Chief in my opinion.

Of the top 7, I am the most senior when it comes to “time in grade” and years spent as a Company Officer (counting my years as a Lieutenant and 1st Lieutenant). We don’t get “points” for seniority or time in grade but I hope the Chiefs considering it when making their selections.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon I will put my class A’s on once again and try to convince the Chief to give me the chance to help continue to move our Department forward. WISH ME LUCK! (I know Bill Carey … “luck” has nothing to do with it…LOL).

(Do you really want to wish me luck or leave a comment on this or any of my postings? If so, it’s easy … just “like” and follow me on my Face Book Fan Page. Use the link below)

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So the next “Class A” I’ll talk about is burn buildings. A “Class A” building is one where we are able to actually have “live fire” inside burning “class A” combustibles such as pallets and straw. The other type of burn building is “Class B” of gas-fueled buildings. Either one can be constructed of concrete (block) or metal.

In our City, we are part of a Regional Training Center. The RTC was built by the 3 major jurisdictions in our area but is also used by many departments outside our valley. It’s a great facility.

We had a Class A building made of concrete block. It was a GREAT building in it’s time but all the fires took a toll on her. The building still stands on our training grounds but is no longer suitable for live fire training.

We replaced our Class A with a gas-fueled metal building about 3 or 4 years ago (I believe).

I’ve heard both good and bad comments since switching from the old to the new.

Obviously, the conditions are much different when burning in one vs. the other.

Those in favor argue that the gas-fueled buildings are safer for recruits and training in general. They continue with they burn cleaner, and are cheaper to build and maintain.

NFPA 1402 Guide to building Fire Service Training Centers

Those who oppose the gas-fueled over a Class-A say that the training is not “realistic” enough. They argue it’s difficult to produce smoke and heat. The arguments for and against each go deeper but that’s the basics that I hear anyway.

To get to my point, we’ve been having some trouble with our new building lately. Usually not a big deal but we also have a Recruit Academy in progress. Recruit Class #16 is actually about to graduate and needed to get their “final burn” in to meet state requirements.

Because of the closing deadline, and the need to get this burn completed, the Officers and staff of the RTC arranged for us to use a building in a neighboring jurisdiction.

Yesterday, we headed down to Pulaski, Va. to utilize their Class A burn building.

Visit the Pulaski FD HERE

I have to admit …. I was excited. It felt like old times!

Despite not getting any sleep the night before (thanks Nate Camfiord for the jinx) and being dead tired, I was not disappointed after I got there. Pulaski has a GREAT facility. The building was well designed and in great shape.

It was one of the best moves we could have made for our recruits.

It was something “new” for them. For one, they really haven’t seen “live fire” while in the academy. Second, they had never been in this building. They have been in our building so much that it should be becoming second nature to them. Using Pulaski’s building was something new and fresh for them.

Several of the recruits made comments as to what an “eye opener” the experience was. I think it was a GREAT learning experience for all of them.

They were fortunate to have such a great group of instructors as well.

Salem’s Training Officer, Captain Kevin Totten was the Incident Commander for the burn.

He and his staff chose instructors that know how to take their time with the recruits. How to slow it down and talk and TEACH while inside rather than pushing in, knocking it down and racing back out for high fives.

On this burn, the recruits did both engine and truck work in all types of scenarios. The instructors worked with EACH recruit to assure that each got their hands on each position.

The building held good heat and our “stokers” were able to generate not only some good fires but smoke as well. This was as close as the recruits will get to a “real” fire before they graduate in 2 weeks.

It was hot, the work is not easy and it made for a long day but it was all worth it.

I explained that to the recruits after the burn during our “critique”.

I hope they appreciate what the instructors did for them. I’m sure each of them had other places to be. Something else to do, family to be with etc. Instead, they CHOSE to be there …. with the recruits teaching them our profession.

The stokers TOOK A BEATING. They took it for the recruits. All of us did. In return, we expect to be paid back.

They can pay us back by doing a good job. By always doing “the right thing”. By “HONORING” the job and those who served before them. I talk about it all the time .. TRADITION, PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT. It’s what the fire Service was build on.

I expect them to learn something everyday. They may graduate in two weeks but they should never stop learning. I hope they never loose that hunger to learn or the excitement for the job that I seen yesterday. I wish each of them luck and long, SAFE careers.

So, I’ll be in the hay field and down by the creek all day tomorrow. I’m back at the station for 24hrs on Monday and then 4-day break (not including my interview on Tuesday). I’ll try to get back with another post as soon as possible.

Like always, until I do, stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines