Beyond Southern Hospitality … it's Brotherhood!


I haven’t been around here in a while but I’ll get to that in another post. Right now, I need to tell ya about a little trip (or junket ) I went on last week.

Last weekend, I attended the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo in Raleigh North Carolina. After I finally got there, I HAD A BLAST!

For several reasons here lately it seems as though “getting there” is a huge obstacle. One of those reasons has been our mode of transportation.

The van we travel in (aka “The Blog Mobile”) caught on fire on our way to the Harrisburg, Pa show (read that post HERE) .

She dropped a transmission prior to heading out for Firehouse Expo in Baltimore.

And, about an hour out of Raleigh, the fuel pump decided to quit! Due to a previous engagement, Rhett couldn’t make the Raleigh trip so I took my wife Donna instead.

It’s her 2nd time out with me to a show / expo and the 2nd time we break down. There we sat, in 100 degree heat, on the side of the road just outside of Hillsboro, Nc. There’s one rental car place in town but they’re all out of cars …. really? … this is the weekend they rented em BOTH out? ..LOL

There was one garage but the mechanic had the weekend off. There was also a towing company but … you guessed it, the driver of the roll back had custody of the kids that weekend and couldn’t come out!

We had 3 bags weighing 100lbs a piece, my computer bag, a cooler PLUS Donna had on these really hot looking hooker shoes so walking was out of the question.

I called Jeff “I got a guy” Harkey .

Jeff runs the Expo as well as , the premier Fire Service web site for the Carolina’s.

If you don’t know why I call him “I got a guy Harkey”, you’ll love the story. I gave him the name following Fire Rescue International (FRI) in Atlanta back in 2011. Read the story in the link below … TRUST ME … it’s worth the read … LOL

Click to read “Funeral arrangements for Rhett Fleitz and Jeff Harkey” 

Well, true to his name; Jeff indeed “had a guy”. Not just any ol guy either …. he had Clint Earp!

Clint is a Lieutenant for the Raleigh Fire Department. Typically, he’s found in the tiller of Truck 4 but this week, he was on special assignment to assist with the Expo.

Jeff pulled Clint from his duties around the show and sent him to Hillsboro to pick us up!

Clint is a GREAT guy! (How could he not be with a name like that?) He even showed up to get us in a Chief’s buggy! I knew he was a true “Truckie” right away because he said not to mention the Chief’s car because he had to steal it … LOL.

All kidding aside, Clint took VERY good care of us and we had a great conversation during the ride as well. A true professional and Brother whos PRIDE in the job (despite his assignment) was obvious. THANKS again Clint!!

Clink got us quickly and safely to our hotel room where we met up with some more great friends and TRUE Brothers and Sisters, Michael Manning, Jason and Jesse Shotwell .

Mike, Jason and Jesse are members (and Officers) of the Davie Volunteer Fire Department near Roanoke Rapids, Nc.

They are also GREAT friends and long time supporters of, and what Rhett and I stand for.

Mike knew we were having trouble and offered to share a room with us. We took him up on the offer. I hope Donna’s snoring didn’t keep him up all night …lol. 

Not only did Mike share his room, they pretty much took care of us ALL WEEKEND! Obviously, we didn’t have a vehicle so they just let us tag along with them.

Our first stop was the Brotherhood Bash Friday night …. AWESOME!!!

Attending the BASH was actually the main purpose of my trip. I went last year and knew I’d be back. Click here to read last year’s post “North Carolina Brotherhood” .

Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. The Brothers and Sisters of NC obviously “get it”. For the 2nd year in a row, Brother Wayne Burton and the NC Capitol Area FOOLS  did themselves (and the Fire Service) PROUD!

More pics of the BASH from Mike Legeros by clicking HERE

Since we didn’t get to see the exhibits etc on Friday (due to the break down), we decided to visit the floor on Saturday morning. I’m glad we did!

Jeff Harkey, the North Carolina State Firefighter’s Association, and everyone else involved does a FANTASTIC job of putting on this Expo! I think it was better than Firehouse Expo in Baltimore this year.

Everything was geared toward the attendees …. the FIREFIGHTERS.

Beyond the Exhibits and BASH, they also held 2 showings of the Detroit documentary BURN, a BBQ Throw Down, Corn Hole tournament, a golf tournament, Haz-Mat Challenge and even a Parade through downtown Raleigh!

As far as the floor, they had more rigs on display than Firehouse in Baltimore.

There was a good selection of vendors as well. Actually, I can’t believe there weren’t more vendors.

The cost of a booth here vs. any of the other shows is unbelievably affordable. If your company was not represented at the 2013 South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo, YOU MISSED OUT!

Check out their web site for contact information and reservations for 2014 as well as to find out the winners of all the contests mentioned above ….

South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo .. click HERE

 More photos from the Expo by Mike Legeros HERE

Additional photos from Lee Wilson HERE, HERE and HERE .

I should also mention Michael Swiman.

Like Clint, Michael, Jason and Jesse, Michael Swiman took VERY good care of us!

Again, the words, Professionalism, Pride and Brotherhood come to mind!

He too is a Lt. for the Raleigh Fire Department who was on Special Assignment for the Expo.

He met us at the door on Saturday morning. He not only had complimentary tickets for the exhibits, he also had a special request / invitation.

Donna and I were invited to ride on an open cab rig during the apparatus Parade which started at noon and ran through downtown Raleigh!


We rode a 1955 American LaFrance. I’m not sure if had any “Ironfiremen” on it that day but it absolutely had Wooden Ladders!


The Parade route was AWESOME!!!!

Somehow, Jeff managed to shut down the entire downtown area for the parade.

The streets were lined with spectators / fans.

Everyone was waving and so excited. I even stepped off the tail board a time or two to shake hands and share a brief visit with some of the kids along the route.

Hell …. I felt like a kid myself!

After the Parade, Jason, Mike and Jesse took us back to our vehicle in Hillsboro (I had arranged for my future son-in-law to bring the trailer and pick us up).

This was another HUGE gesture by Mike, Jason and Jesse as Hillsboro was about an hour in the opposite direction that they were headed. They wouldn’t have it any other way nor would they take any money for gas or sharing the hotel.

I can’t say enough about the Expo or our North Carolina Brothers and Sisters. What I’ve experienced down there for the past two years is well beyond “southern hospitality” …. it’s TRUE BROTHERHOOD!

It was an honor to share the experience with Donna. I’m glad she was able to see how far the bond we share reaches and that there are no limits to what Brothers and Sisters will do to help each other.

Thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to come up and speak to us or take a picture… it was an HONOR to meet you all!

I’m already excited about next year and Rhett and I will be placing the event on our main schedule.

Please use the links I provided throughout the post and show your support for those that help support the Fire Service and what we stand for. For all you Face Book folks, please take the time to visit and “like” the pages for the  Davie Volunteer Fire Department as well as the Capital Area FOOLS and leave a message thanking them for promoting the Brotherhood (they both currently have less than 600 likes).

Davie Volunteer Fire Department

Captial Area FOOLS

As long as we’re talking Face Book, you can also take the time to like and follow as well….

Follow on Face Book Click HERE

Stay SAFE and in house ….

Captain Wines