1700cThe Fire Critic (Rhett Fleitz) and I get a ton of e-mails, calls and messages each week but it's one I received yesterday that I'd like to tell ya about.

You see, A brother called just to say "thanks".

He wanted to thank us for "everything" we do. For my openness in sharing my battle with Grief, Depression and PTSD. For supporting the groups we do. For our efforts in spreading "the Brotherhood"… "everything" he said.

He went farther and said we have "HEART" and that's what struck me the hardest.

Maybe we do…. I don't know but I do know that we don't look at it that way. For us, doing what we do is a no brainer. It's natural and always seems like "the right thing to do". HEART is sooo much more than that.

I talked about it a little in a popular post back in April of 2013 ….  Click the link below to read that article…

Click HERE to read "You can't teach HEART"

I explained to the Brother on the phone that I wasn't sure about my having "heart" but I know several Brothers and Sisters who do. I see it on a regular basis.

Brooklyn-Fire-injures-5-members2-250x250You may remember the December 19, 2011 Crown Heights (Brooklyn, New York ) fire that injured 5 FDNY firefighters.

You may also remember the amazing video that captured Rescue 2 Firefighter Rob Weidmann bailing out of a 2nd floor window onto an aerial ladder. Rob was the most seriously injured of the 5 and suffered burns to more than 40% of his body.

You can read the coverage and view related video of that fire in the links below ….

Clcik HERE for related post from Fire Critic.com

Click HERE for coverage from Statter911.com

The photo above is from that fire and shows Rob making his way to the aerial while engulfed in flames. I don't disagree that his training played a huge role in getting him to that window but, I also know that it took a lot of "HEART".

Lt-Rhett-Fleitz-Captain-Willie-Wines-Jr-FDNY-R2-Firefighter-Robert-Weidmann-and-Zach-Green-of-MN8-FoxFire-300x223You see, I now know Rob personally. 

We've met on several occasions following his injuries and I'm humbled by each visit / conversation we share.

About a year after the fire, we found Rob at FDIC in the Rescue 2 booth.

I couldn't believe the difference a year had made. His progress, to me; was amazing. 

We found him at FDIC again this year as well as at Firehouse Expo. Each visit shows his progress. The dedication, determination and "HEART" that drives his recovery is evident.

1016984_10151576140727849_126134613_n-250x250What's even more impressive is the work he's doing now…. helping others.

Rob has teamed up with Sons of the Flag (link) to help others just like him…. burn victims.

I can't think of a better cause!

"Sons of the Flag is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting military, first responder, and civilian burn survivors by providing funding for innovative research. We bring together passionate community leaders, pioneering physicians, experienced military service members, dedicated first responders and purposeful civilians to complete our mission."

Rob could have thrown in the towel and given up at any point of his battle but he didn't. Whatever it was inside him that pushed him to that window back in December 2011 has continued to push him through his recovery and beyond. I think it's "HEART"…. I KNOW it is.

Don't think for a minute that it's been easy. Have you ever visited a burn unit? If you're on the job and haven't … YOU SHOULD. I think it should be a part of every recruit school / academy.

It's something you'll never forget…. what you'll see, the sounds and smells. BURNS DO NOT DISCRIMINATE. You'll see all ages, sexes, sizes and races.

You'll also find something else there …. family, strength, determination and the "HEART" I've been talking about. From that point on, you'll hold a much higher level of respect for anyone you ever meet who has been admitted to a burn unit. You'll have a better understanding of what it means to fight. To be "strong" (and it has nothing to do with how much you can bench press) and withstand pain. You'll see exactly what "HEART" is first hand.

Lt Andre KelleyThere's a second Brother with a similar story that came to my mind as well. Lt. Andre Kelley from the Lancaster (Pa) Bureau of Fire

Lt. Kelly was severely burned on Feb. 18, 2013 after being caught in a flash over while searching for victims on the 2nd floor  of a house fire on Madison Street in Lancaster, Pa.

Three (3) firefighters were injured in the blaze. Additionally, a mother and daughter ages 39 and 6; perished in that fire.

The Brothers and Sisters of the Lancaster Bureau of Fire made a valiant effort to reach the trapped occupants. They went all out! Once the 2nd floor flashed, one member was even forced to jump from a window to escape the inferno.There was nothing else they could have done.

Click HERE for related article with audio (of the MAYDAY) and Video 

PA-Lancaster-Madison-Street-fireAgain, I'll use the word "HEART". You can't teach what pushed Lt. Kelley (and fellow members) up those steps as "oceans and waves of flames" rolled over his (their) head. 

I've recently met some members from Lancaster who've shared Lt. Kelley's story (including his recovery) with me first hand and again I found myself humbled.

Lt. Kelley spent 10 weeks in the burn unit and is still undergoing rehabilitation. He's had to learn to walk again…. to button his shirt, use a fork and brush his teeth. 

Would ya care to venture a guess as to what he's ultimately working towards??? Would ya believe getting back to the job!?! Yea, Lt. Kelley wants to come back and he doesn't see why he can't. TALK ABOUT HEART! 

Relate story from Lancaster On-Line HERE

I can tell ya this …. I wouldn't bet against him! I haven't had the privilege and honor of meeting Lt. Kelley in person yet but I hope to some day.

It's stories like his and Rob Weidmann's that inspire me on a daily basis. Their stories define "HEART" for me. I don't know where it comes from and can't explain it. I can only hope to have a fraction of what they have each displayed on a daily basis buried somewhere inside me. 

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I should also give a shout out to the members of the Lancaster Bureau of Fire as well as to IAFF L-319 (Face Book link) and members all across the country for the support given to Lt. Kelley. The fund raisers, visits and the home coming they gave this Brother was amazing. Click HERE for a link to some videos (link) .

Of course, Firefighter Weidmann had an amazing outpouring of National and local support as well ( Related links HERE and HERE ).

These Brothers (and many more like them) still need our support and the best way I know to do that is through the Sons of the Flag!


Take a minute, use the links and find out what these Brothers are about. They are doing some AMAZING WORK!


Sons of the Flag web site

Sons of the Flag on Face Book

I'm thankful for yesterday's phone call and all the messages etc I receive on a daily basis but if you're looking for examples of "HEART" then you'll have to look further than me. Look at men (Brothers) like Rob Weidmann and Lt Andre Kelley and all those like them. 

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines