Well, here we are. Our goal here is to share what we know and have learned over our combined 100 years of fire service duty. Tom and I first met in 26 years ago when I joined Darien-Woodridge FPD as a part time firefighter/paramedic in February of 1993. Tom and I quickly became friends and unofficially began a race to see who could out-class each other. No, not out class with our Zuba pants, neon windbreakers and Vanilla Ice hair cuts. Out-class as in see who could take the most fire related classes. Unless it was offered by your department in house (rare), any hands on classes had to be taken down at the Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign which meant that Sunday night to Friday afternoon, we were living in Champaign. More so it seemed than in our own houses. Smoke Divers? Done. Fire Apparatus Engineer? Done. If they offered a hands on class, we were there. Fire Officer classes were offered at select departments and districts across the Chicago area so those were also well attended by us. It didn’t stop there. To this day, we continue to attend classes both didactic and practical to enrich and grow our knowledge base.
In 2012, I became acquainted with Kim and many other firefighters through social media on various fire service pages and groups. At first, it was her fire photography skills that caught my eye. Not your average fire photography of fire scenes and such but actually inside training towers and acquired structures to capture a moment in time of what it’s like to be inside a burning structure or live fire scenario. Her pictures have been included in fire service text and specialized training books as well as recognized throughout the world. But it was not just her photography skills that caught my attention. In her posts on the social media pages, she displayed a vast knowledge of firefighting but also was not afraid to ask questions: The whys of why we did certain things. She wanted and needed to know the whys. It was not enough for her to regurgitate a power point or lesson plan. She wanted her students and fellow firefighters to know the history behind what she was teaching and WHY it was that way; not just “Because that’s the way it is and it’s what we’ve always done it” which is to say to your student “I don’t know why. I’m just passing on what someone else said”. That sort of attitude is unacceptable to her. It is unacceptable to all 3 of us.
Our classes give the whys. Lots of them. We don’t want a single person leaving our class scratching their head wondering what we were talking about. We demand it from the people we learn, or have learned, from and demand it of ourselves. We want our audience to walk out of a class confident and assured that they were given a quality educational experience and presentation.
As we move forward and post on here, Kim, Tom and I like to say what’s on our mind. Do something good, we want to acknowledge and share it. Do something poor, we want to acknowledge and share it. If it bothers us, we say so. Everyone wants to be a professional until it’s time to be professional. And, to be clear, professional does not mean full time/career. Every single person that is a member of a fire department is a professional. Act accordingly! When someone calls you out for a good deed or performance, accept it and embrace it and improve yourself. When someone calls you out for a screw up or poor performance, accept it and embrace it and improve yourself. Improve the culture of your department through your actions and behaviors. Inspire those around you to do the same. There are several phrases that we like to use and I will share those with you: ‘You can either be a good example or a horrible warning’ and ‘You can either be A+ or C-‘. While, admittedly, we are not always A+ or a good example we strive to be and when we are a horrible warning or C-, we acknowledge and work to correct it.