Your fancy terms, catch phrases and acronyms are great … but we still need LEADERS!

Captain Wines ( and Lt. Rhett Fleitz ( posted a very good article on Monday night.

I had the opportunity to review the post before it went live and subsequently had a great conversation with him afterwards.

I love it when he posts “original” content to Fire

As with all his posts, his latest brought up several valid points and touched on many issues facing today’s Firefighters and, the Fire Service as a whole.

He does so in a way that allows him to “leave the door open”. He gives you the room to think about what he said and then take it from your own perspective… to put your own “spin” on it.  Take a minute to read his latest in the link below…

Read “Can I Still Get Salty?”

downloadIn that post, he offers this .. “The biggest issue facing the fire service today is that Firefighters are the ones being held accountable, not the Fire Chiefs.You are preaching to the wrong choir. In most departments, Firefighters are not primary agents of change, Fire Chiefs are.”

That’s a powerful statement … powerful and TRUE.

I hope you got the point he was trying to make in the post (at least one or some of them anyway).


Is The Fire Critic talking about a cultural change here?

Is he spinning off of or building upon Brother Ray McCormick’s 2011 FDIC Keynote on a Culture of Extinguishment vs a Culture of Safety?

everyone-goes-home-2-rI don’t think so but I do think “Cultural Change” will play a huge role in solving some of the issues we’re facing today.

All you need to do is take a look at the 16 Life Safety Initiatives (link) put together by the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation’s Everyone Goes Home Program.

Have you ever read / seen them? Are they posted in your firehouse? Do you have any idea what the #1 initiative is??? Yep….you guessed it …  “Cultural Change”! 

Ok… so back to the article… The Fire Critic is all about EVERYONE GOING HOME. Without taking a stance, he mentioned Fire Service issues such as Science Based Firefighting, Physical Health, Behavioral / Mental Health, Fire Prevention and Seat Belts.

What I think he said was that there are some great, FACT BASED; information / ideologies out there (within the Fire Service) but it’s not getting out to where it needs to be.

The sad thing is that if  “it” (this vital, game changing information) IS getting out, it’s not NOT getting to the right people.  My spin on that is if it is getting to the right people, most likely; they’re not paying attention or they do nothing with it!

firefighterclosecallsI know of Chiefs who occasionally send this type of  information out as “must reads” or “great articles”. Really? How hard was it to cut and paste a link to a bulk or  Department wide e-mail list?

I read the Article when it came out … yesterday…. a week or maybe even 2 weeks ago. I’ll give ya that maybe “Firefighter Smith” didn’t get the chance to see the article and is just reading it for the first time but what will he do with it? As a firefighter (or maybe even an Officer) what CAN he do with it?

I can see it now… “man, that’s a GREAT idea … I wish we did that here” …. “Man, I wish we could try something like that here” …” I wish I worked for a Department who thinks like that”.

It’s like Rhett said in his post …  “Firefighters are not primary agents of change, Fire Chiefs are”.

So think of it this way … the Chief sends out a great article about seat belt use yet his Department has no concrete seat belt policy. If they do have a policy, maybe it’s paper thin and nobody is held accountable to it anyway (but, if anybody asks, they have one … he’s doing his job … right?).

Illustration by Paul Combs

Illustration by Paul Combs

As Rhett mentioned, look at all the information coming out in regards to “Science based firefighting”, transitional attack, offensive exterior attack, door control, ventilation, etc, etc etc. What is YOUR Chief doing with this information? Simply sharing or understanding, accepting and implementing change?

What was the point in sending it (the article) out in the first place if they’re not going to act? I wonder if that Chief just wanted the members to know (or think) that  he (or she) can read? That he  knows how to get on that inter-web thingy and search / find good articles. Maybe he’s even passing them off as his own ideas but that’s as far as it goes. As far as he’s willing to take it. Maybe he’s not ready, willing  (or capable) of affecting change? What will it take and when will they (these type of Chiefs) act?

I often hear a lot about the number of Line Of Duty Deaths per year. The conversation is usually about how we need to lower the number and how that whomever is speaking can’t believe the numbers are so high. I look at it the other way … I can’t believe the numbers are so low …. that they aren’t two or three times higher!

I think every day of how “lucky” a department somewhere was. How lucky they were that they encountered a “near miss” vs. a LODD. How lucky they were that the members took it upon themselves to attend “this or that” training opportunity that the Department couldn’t afford to send them to (but they did send out e-mail links to related articles). I know “lucky” isn’t really the right word but think about what I’m saying. If it weren’t for our members stepping up, I’m not sure where we would be.

And here’s the thing … you can only “step up” so much …. especially when there’s no (or little) forward movement or improvement. You can only beat your head against the wall for so long before you eventually develop a headache.

Rhett was right. There are a LOT of great people / organizations out there who are putting together the right information for the right reasons. Sadly, they’re doing a poor job of getting that information out in a manner that it will become effective…. getting it out to the right people. Maybe the problem is that the information is getting to the wrong people? I’ll take it a step further and ask that maybe we have the wrong people in the position to receive such information with a duty / responsibility to act ?

Image by Paul Combs

Image by Paul Combs

Has the “culture” of being a Fire Chief vs. the culture of being a firefighter / Officer grown that far apart? Has the priorities of our Chiefs become that misguided? Is today’s focus still on “doing more with less”? Budget cuts and effective “MANAGEMENT”?

Maybe that’s it? Has the Fire Service turned to “Managers” vs. Leaders?

Rhett mentioned propane fueled burn buildings. They’re cheaper, more cost effective etc, etc etc. From a City Manager or Fire Chief perspective, it’s good money management but do they serve their purpose? Are we getting the end result we need? Are we really getting our money’s worth? This (nor Rhett’s post) is about burn buildings or “Class A” vs. “Class C” and the “we” I speak of is the Fire Service as a whole.

How many Department’s are still responding POV? How many leave the station with just the driver (no minimum staffing)? How many Department have to special order over sized turnout gear for grossly overweight members? Are we simply “managing” the numbers we have? Are we “making due” and doing the best we can with what we have? Are we satisfied with that? ARE YOU?

It doesn’t matter how much research we do or how many lessons we learn. Without effective leaders to implement new technologies / ideals and promote change, we’re left treading water … I hope you’re a good swimmer. Rant over (for now..LOL).

Stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines