Setting And Leading By Example…

Photo by MichaelOlszewski

Photo by Michael Olszewski

I helped to instruct at the 2015 Into The Smoke Training Days held this past weekend in West Chester, Pa.

It was a great two day event that I would guess had close to 100 Firefighters in attendance each day (counting instructors, stokers, logistics, staff etc).

The conditions created / presented were about as close to “real life” as you can get when working in a Class A Burn Building.

Photo by Michael Olszewski

Photo by Michael Olszewski

It was a learning experience for everyone involved … instructors and students alike. That’s where the title of this post comes in…

I didn’t hear a bad or negative comment all weekend. Everyone was talking about how great the training was and how much they had learned.

I left the training grounds to make the 7 hr drive home late Sunday evening after all the fires were extinguished and the buildings were being ventilated and washed out. Many of the students left a little before me while many Instructors / staff stayed later than me to complete the clean up.

No matter who it was, I hope the training / learning didn’t stop there on the fire ground and I also hope what they did (or will) learn will be more than Strategy and Tactics.

You see, there’s a reason they named it “Into The Smoke”. We created some pretty intense smoke and heat conditions throughout the weekend. Heat and smoke that not only took it’s toll on the Brothers and Sisters in attendance but also on the ¬†TURNOUT GEAR they were wearing!

photo by Michael Olszewski

photo by Michael Olszewski

I hope you, and everyone there this past weekend realizes that. Carcinogens and Cancer has been and continues to kill firefighters at what should be an alarming rate. It’s up to us to minimize that risk.

I wonder how many of the Brothers and Sisters who attended threw their hot, wet, smoke (and carcinogen) soaked gear into their truck or car for the drive home?

The same truck or car that their wife, kids, family will ride in tomorrow or the next day.

I wonder how many of them just tossed their gear up into the back of the rig? The same rig where ALL of their members ride.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

It’s NOT about how “Salty” you look. I don’t care how much heat your helmet took, how black and smokey your gear looks and smells etc. I do care about your risk of cancer and want to do my part to ensure we all go home.

boxI hope those in attendance noticed.

I drove what The Fire Critic and I call our “Blog Mobile”… aka a mini-van.

It’s also a vehicle that my entire family rides in when Rhett and I are not on the road.

Because of that, I carry my gear in a sealed, plastic tote.

The tote was cheap and it holds all of my gear…. including my helmet, spare hood, gloves etc.


open boxThe first thing I did when I got home (late Sunday night) was to get that tote out of my vehicle even though it’s enclosed.

I spent the day wondering how many sets of gear from this weekend is still in personal vehicles?

I took the tote to the station with me for my next tour.

I’ve considered the gear “OUT OF SERVICE” since I took it off Sunday evening. It’s out of service not because of damage but because it needs cleaning.


gross deconI took the gear apart … removed the liners, knee pads etc.

I inspected it for rips, burns, thermal hits etc. (found none).

I laid it all out and gave it a good rinse / gross decon.

This included my hood, gloves and ear flaps from my helmet.

Afterwards, it all got washed in the machine.


We don’t have an “extractor” so we use a “front load” washer.

washing machineI wash the inner and outter shells separately.

Again… this includes my gloves, hood and ear flaps.

The gear is then hung in a shaded, open air space (out in the bay but NOT in direct sun light).

During the process, the tote is also washed with mild soap and warm water.

In addition, my helmet also got cleaned.

cleaned helmet 2A gross decon followed by a good scrubbing and even wax for my Bourks.

(Note the difference in color of the helmet as well as the MN8 Fox Fire Helmet Band / Tets from this pic as opposed to the one above)

After approx 24 hrs, every piece of my gear is dry and clean.

It may not be 100% carcinogen free but it’s a heck of a lot better than how it was when I left West Chester.

I hope I was able to teach at least ONE of those students in attendance SOMETHING this past weekend. As an instructor (and ¬†Firefighter / Officer) that’s what I’m supposed to do. ¬†Actually, I’m supposed to do more.

I’m supposed to lead by example. You are too …. each of us…. no matter the years of experience or rank. I hope by posting this I am. It’s surely another teaching point and quite possibly the most important lesson from the weekend. Clean and carcinogen free …. IT’S THE NEW “SALTY”.

Read a related article “The silent killer, carcinogens and our gear”

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Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines