Bad news spreads faster than good news — and thanks to social media, it spreads in nano seconds. Whether a fire chief is accused of altering drug prescriptions, driving teens to prom on a fire truck or failing to perform during crisis response, millions know about it in the blink of an eye.
But the fire and emergency service also is filled with good news and inspirational stories that I wish more people heard.
Last week I heard from Solon (Ohio) Bttn. Chief Steven Nash, who wanted to give his crew a shout-out after a basement fire in a 2.5-story home with walk-out basement. Nash said the department had been working to change its culture so that firefighters didn't go in the front door in search of the basement stairs automatically — and this turned out to be key to a successful outcome.
“This, coupled with proper ventilation and air movement above the fire, proved to the crews on scene there are other ways to fight fire," he wrote. "The synthetic furnishings produced banked down, thick black smoke on all three levels.
“But mostly, it was the 'fire frisbee' — as it has become known as in our department — that stopped the forward progress of fire," he continued. "I was able to deploy it directly to the fire area from the outside two minutes prior to the arrival of the first engine. By the time they got in position with a Class A foam line, there was virtually nothing left to put out.”
Nash wrote that it was the best fire he'd been on in terms of tactics in 32 years. Isn’t that good news?
This time of year brings many more instances of good news to the FIRE CHIEF offices, as we open nominations for our annual Fire Chief of the Year Awards. Each nomination is accompanied by letters or newspaper clippings that show the commitment and dedication of the local fire chief.
Tom Carr's nomination for Career Fire Chief of the Year in 2010 revealed that he one of the first paramedics in Montgomery County, Md. Carr's passion for rescue prompted him to start seminars on auto extrication — with a focus on stabilizing the victim before taking the car apart — in order to get all local departments on the same page.
Chief Michael Varney was nominated in 2007 for his many years of commitment to the town of Ellington, Conn. At 16, Varney became involved in the fire department through the Explorers program, which put him on the ambulance as an EMT. In college, he studied information technology and eventually joined the fire department in 1984, becoming chief in 2000.
Over the years, Varney worked full time for the state of Connecticut and was instrumental in coordinating the state’s GIS and communication interoperability efforts, chairing the Connecticut Fire Service Technical Advisory Committee and the Statewide Public Safety Radio Interoperability Committee.
The nomination letter for Rick Haase, the 2004 Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year, explained how he was chief of two fire departments: the Conoco-Phillips Oil Refinery and the Staunton (Ill.) Fire Department. Haase’s priority in both departments was training. Aware that training was difficult for volunteers, Haase initiated a special volunteer training program in 1999 that included 15 home-study programs for basic knowledge on ladder operations, hydraulics, health and safety, and incident command. After each study program participants took a test for state certification.
The Fire Chief of the Year Award, sponsored by ., is not about commanding a single incident or disaster. It is about years of leadership and dedication. Each career and volunteer chief of the Year represents thousands of committed individuals in the fire and emergency services.
Is your fire chief someone you would like to recognize for his or her leadership and commitment to improving your fire department? The deadline for nominations is June 14.
Let’s hear your good news story.