“Two Hatters”…Firefighters Wearing Two Hats (or more).

1700c“Two Hatters”. It’s a term we often use in the Fire Service.

For us, it typically refers to a member who is a paid  (Career) Firefighter as well as a Volunteer  (usually in a different Department / Company). That member wears one “hat” (helmet) while on the “paid” job and another while volunteering… two hats.

It’s a difficult situation that can be VERY stressful at times.

Rhett (Lt. Rhett Fleitz aka FireCritic.com)  and I are “Two Hatters”. Actually, we are a whole lot more than that. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how many “hats” we wear… but it’s SEVERAL!

It’s been on my mind a lot here recently and it may take me a minute or two to explain.

Let me begin by saying IT’S OUR FAULT.

Illustration by Paul Combs

Illustration by Paul Combs

We put ourselves in this position and to be quite honest, it was by design.

We’ve worked to get ourselves into this situation…. we’ve worked HARD! This is where we’ve wanted to be (or at least we’re on a chosen path… I’m not sure we’ve reached our destination just yet.I’m not even 100% sure where we’re going BUT at least we’re making good time! LOL).

We both began our careers as volunteer firemen.

For various reasons, neither of us volunteer today. We do however, despite being Union Firefighters; support volunteers.

For us, it’s not so much about supporting Career vs. Volunteer; it’s about supporting the Fire Service. It’s about being PROFESSIONAL, doing the job and even more than that …. it’s about DOING THE RIGHT THING. It’s about supporting our Brothers and Sisters who are out there in the street day after day…. on the FRONT LINES of America sacrificing themselves and all that they have in the service of others. It’s WHO WE ARE and a pay check will and can NOT define us.

In a sense of the matter, I guess that is two of the “hats” we wear (Paid and Volunteer) but it also gets even deeper and so much more complicated. WHO EXACTLY ARE WE and how can we be “defined”? I’m not sure there’s an answer to that.

Harmony RoseI posted an article 2 days ago for “Throw Back Thursday”. I used a title / category that I call “Rekindle” because it was an older or “re-post”( if you will). The post I chose dealt with a former Porn Star (Harmony Rose) attempting to become a Volunteer EMT while enrolled in a local nursing program.

The original post drew a ton of “hits” for the site. It also generated  a lot of comments. That’s one of the main reasons why I (and all the other publishers) post …. for the “traffic” (hits) and interaction (comments, “likes”, “shares” etc). In those terms, it was a good article. It created some good discussion / debate as related to the topic of recruitment.

That same post wasn’t as well received this past Thursday. I actually got some comments stating that “they” (the person making the comment) didn’t see the relevance in a half naked woman to the fire service or my web site. They were shocked that I would display such a picture or even mention PORN on a “Fire” web site. It wasn’t what they “signed up for”. Maybe they should have read the article.

See the pictures and read that post HERE

Do these commentators even even know who I am? Do they follow this site? Have they ever even read my posts? Apparently not. The post above dealt with several issues surrounding the recruitment (and even hiring) of members. It dealt with the “Morales and Ethics” of the Fire Service as perceived by some. I do (did) not have an answer / solution to the problem /issue but the article asked some good questions, brought some issues to light and made for a good debate. Who would YOU rather have responding to YOUR home or working beside YOUR loved one… a Felon or a Porn Star?

Is there such a thing as a “good” felon (the example of failure to pay child support was used multiple times). To me, a felony is a FELONY. There are no “good” ones. THAT’S WHY THEY ARE FELONIES and not misdemeanors. As far as Harmony Rose, I’ll ask it again… how did whomever did, recognize her? They recognized her because THEY’VE SEEN HER MOVIES (or at least one of them). So is it ok to watch porn as long as you’re not involved in the making of it? If she can’t VOLUNTEER because she made the movie, why should the person who watches them be allowed to? Is there a difference? Where do you “draw the line” or should you even?

Buckaroo naked in bootsMy point here is that this is NOT a “Firefighter News” type of site. This is NOT FireCritic or Statter911.com . I post about whatever happens to be on my mind at the time I’m in front of the computer.  Now keep in mind that I’m 100% firefighter so whatever I write is usually related to the fire service in some way or another but I also write about the side nobody else seems to…. the Personal side. I write about ME, my life as and thoughts on being a Firefighter. It’s what I can relate to and hope you do as well (it seems as if many of you do).

My long time followers will remember that I’m not afraid of nor am I a stranger to nudity or controversy. I was the FIRST site from the Fire/EMS Blog Network to publish a picture depicting FULL FRONTAL NUDITY.

Of course the picture was one of my grandson, “The Buckaroo” in his fire boots but still, I was leading the way and opening doors for other bloggers…LOL.

All kidding aside, a lot of people related to that photo while others submitted negative comments. Many of you have sons and grandsons just like the Buckaroo. They have their own little set of turnout gear. They have helmets and little boots. You’ve seen them in this exact same “pose” / situation. It’s what the sons and grandsons of firefighters do (run around naked in fire helmets and boots…LOL). It’s US passing on the hunger and thirst for the Fire Service to the next generation.  It’s a part of our LIFE. I’m just fortunate enough to have a platform where I’m able to share it with everyone else.

My followers have watched the Buckaroo grow up over the past 5 years. This site had me  talking about the shift I had the night before and then sharing a video of me and the Buckaroo feeding cows or working in the hay fields the next morning / day. It was an up close and personal look at the life of a firefighter. The “behind the scenes”life.  It just so happened to be MY LIFE.

So there’s another “HAT” we (Rhett and I) wear … writers / bloggers. We “SHARE” the stories of the Fire Service as seen through OUR EYES.

Captain Wines of Ironfiremen com on the computerLMAO … now that’s funny in itself. I’M NO WRITER! Hell, I’m a high School drop out! How can I be a “writer”?

Well, in all honesty; it really doesn’t matter “how” because apparently I am. I write and for whatever reason, some of you read and listen to what I’ve said. Rhett is in the same boat and that’s where another one of our many “hats” comes into play.

It could be argued that we are Fire Service Leaders. Members all across the Country (and the World for that matter) see and listen to what we are saying. Together, he have around 120,000 followers and received tens of thousands “hits” per day between our sites! We have a HUGE “reach” but with that comes a certain amount of “responsibility” as well. We have to make sure we’re putting out the right message.

Our success / popularity as writers / bloggers has opened MANY doors for us and increased our inventory of “hats”. Now, we also “speak” on a National level! People from all across the Country ( and some from outside the United States) want us to come speak to their members at various functions / events. We travel coast to coast to speak for an hour at some type of “Ceremony” or spend entire days presenting 8 hour classes on various topics. It’s been an UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCE! We last spoke in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the KZOO Fools (link). Read about that event in the link below…

Click HERE to read “Providing Mutual Aid”

Schedule us to speak at YOUR event. Click HERE

Captain Wines of Ironfiremen and Lt Fleitz of Fire CriticIn addition to speaking, we’ve also worked our way into key roles of events and organizations such as The National Fallen Fire Foundation’s Memorial Weekend (link) and the National Firefighters Endowment(link)  and F.O.O.L.S (link).

These are even more “hats” that we wear and like them all, we wear them with PRIDE!

Who wouldn’t be proud to be associated with groups such as these? The Mission of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation says it all. Here’s part of it ….

“Our mission is to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes and to provide resources to assist their survivors in rebuilding their lives.”

Through the National Firefighters Endowment, Rhett and I have assisted in acquiring and delivering MUCH NEEDED equipment to firefighters all across the Country. We’ve helped respond to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and Moore, Oklahoma following the deadly F5 tornadoes. Most recently, we assisted with the Detroit Mutual Aid project. Read that post in the link below…

Read MORE about the Detroit Mutual Aid HERE

MN8 Fox Fire Family at FDIC 2013We can also be found at many of the Fire Service “Trade Shows” throughout the year.

FDIC, Firehouse Expo, Raleigh, Long Island, New York State, Harrisburg etc.

We’re can usually be found working between the MN8 FoxFire (link)  or the Black Diamond (link) booths.

We’re usually pretty easy to spot.

Most times, there’s a crowd gathered around us or you can just look for the two guys wearing kilts, fire boots and leather helmets (Phenix Fire Helmet link) .

Captain Wines and the Fire Critic with the Black Diamond gals FDIC 2013Aside from our speaking engagements, we are scheduled to be at 9 trade shows this year alone!

You can find us in Long Island, FDIC, Harrisburg, NY Chiefs, New England, FH Expo, Raleigh, FRI and New Jersey.

If you’re attending one of these event, find us and stop to say hello. We LOVE meeting our Brother and Sister firefighters! Just be sure to offer your name.

We open up our lives on the pages of Ironfiremen and FireCritic.com. We also communicate with many of our readers / followers through our Social Media outlets (Face Book, Twitter etc). We are so accessible that even though we’ve never actually met in person, many of you feel like you know us personally.

In all honesty, you know us better than we know you. We receive hundreds of messages, comments, e-mails etc a day and there’s NO WAY that we can remember them all or put a face with every name. When we met, simply simply offer your name / Department and say we’ve met through Face Book or wherever. That will save us (me and Rhett) a lot of embarrassment and “beating around the bush”..LOL. Rhett recently posted about this issue on FireCritic.com , read what he had to say in the link below…

Read “Breaking through to the other side”

photo 4 (1)Now, keep in mind that like YOU, we are doing all this while trying to juggle a family life. Yea… we have wives, children and even grandchildren.

Although our lives are deeply entangled in the Fire Service, it’s our families at home that allow us to live this “lifestyle” and be as active as we are.

There’s MORE “hats” for us to wear! Husband, Father, Grandfather, Son, Brother, Uncle etc. It’s a thin line that needs to be walked to balance the two worlds in which we live. Our families are, after all; the reason we do what we do!

That’s why you sometimes see “that” part of our life here on the pages of Ironfiremen and FireCritic.com.

We’re EXCITED about what’s happening in our lives and we want to share it with YOU … our extended family.

Rhett Father Daughter DanceThis past Saturday night, I worked my day off at Rhett’s station while he attended a Father / Daughter dance.

It was the first time he’s had the chance to attend such an event with Jade and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. What does this have to do with the Fire Service and why was it posted on our pages? Because this is what FIREMEN do…. IT’S PART OF WHO WE ARE!

These are the things we think about whether  or not we get to attend them or are forced to miss them (and keep in mind that MANY events like this are missed due to being on duty etc).

Like I mentioned above, it’s a fine line that we walk between family and everything we do related to the fire service.

We hear a lot about the “Culture” of the Fire Service these days. I actually speak about it often. We hear terms like “a culture of safety” or “a culture of extinguishment” (just to name a few). I always ask what type of “Culture” are you (or your Department) building? Whether or not you’re aware of it, good or bad, you ARE fostering some type of “culture”. Maybe it’s a culture of “training”? A culture of “progress”? Maybe it’s a culture of “complacency”?

I’d like to think that Rhett and I are creating  a Culture of Service. “Service” to the Brotherhood…. to our Brother and Sister firefighters. “Service” to the job…. to the Fire Service as a whole (will we leave it better than we found it?) and “Service” to our families.

I hope this posts lends a little more insight to our newer readers / followers. It’s a little taste of who we are, what we do and some of what you can expect to find on this site. These are just a few of the “hats” we wear. Maybe “two hatter” isn’t the best description …. maybe something more like a 10 or 20 hatter is more fitting  … LOL.  Regardless of how many “hats” I wear, I want to thank you for reading / following the site. I hope you continue to do so. If you’re not already, be sure to “like” and follow us on Face Book as well (use the link below).

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Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines