Headline Animator

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The IAFF is behind us, the ball is in your court now.

The influence of this blog has always been humbling. I am not saying that the blog has a political agenda or influence. What I am saying is by bringing up certain ideals the blog has the ability to get you guys talking. But who is "You Guys"? Not only do the firefighters benefit from the blog, but the citizens, and other firefighters from across the Nation and even Internationally. That is right, there are hundreds of people looking in on what is going on. Perhaps this is the reason why I am cautious of being inflamatory to my coworkers in order to get them involved. The best steps we can take right now are baby steps. If you want citizens to be involved tell them. They stop in the fire stations. You must realize that nothing is free. If you are asking for higher wages, you must show them the deficeincy. This may help with getting a higher multiplier or better yet "20 years and out" with full benefits.

Some of you will never know the potential of your one voice. Collectively we are one strong Union. From the IAFF down to the 4th district, to the VPFF, to the Local 1132. Until you realize the strength of your one voice, you will remain a naysayer. Many of you will be perfectly content with this status. Others of you will realize that all these years we have been trying to ignite that fire within you. But that will never be enough. If you think that Roanoke Firefighters have ever received anything for free you need to think again. Historically, there have been a small group of firefighters behind each huge step we have taken. Do you think we added a third platoon changing the working week from 64+ hours to 56 hours because City Council thought of it? No, there was a group of firefighters who had the support of the entire Local to formulate the plan and excecute it.

What will it take to get you involved? If you are a citizen then you are probably ready to stand behind your firefighters. You are just waiting to hear the call for help.

If you are a Roanoke Firefighter, you are either waiting for it to get so bad that you will have no other choice. Otherwise you are one of those who will never stand up for yourself. You know the ones I am talking about.

If the Chief is not told something is wrong, how is he supposed to know? Well this is a good question. Some of the issues you might ask yourself "How would he not know that is going on"? Unless you speak up, he will think everything is fine. Especially when you guys are so quick to bring him his tenth cup of coffee in a row.

I heard the International Association of Fire Chiefs President and the Canadian International Association of Fire Chiefs President speak today. Trust me, if the ideals and unity which both of these leaders propose between the IAFC and IAFF existed in Roanoke we would not have any issues. I was astonished by the speech that the IAFC President, Chief Bill Killen gave. Apparently the ideals of the IAFC are lost in translation in Roanoke.

What is the problem? Maybe the years of worrying about getting to the top, and never officially speaking of the problems we face with the Chief are the problem.

Trust me, I know all of our Senior Staff. I can tell you this, all of them know how to pour a cup of coffee. Next time they show up, instead of running down your co-workers to be the first one to the Chief with a cup of coffee why not pull up a chair and talk about the hard issues. Why not ask him about our pay and benefits. Why not ask him about the IAFC's ideals and the fact that every day the IAFF and IAFC become more unified.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

That ain't fair, how come we don't make that much?

Have you ever been told that the reason why other firefighters get paid more is because the cost of living increase? I have. Have you ever been told that by a Chief? I have. Have you ever been told that by a Chief who makes less than a firefighter in another City? I have. I know a firefighter from a Northern Virginia fire department with 20 years of service who makes $82,000 a year. Do you realize that is more than our Acting Chief makes in a year? I learned this at the IAFF convention, while networking with other Locals from around the World. The firefighter doesn't even live in the City where he works. He lives in rural Virginia and commutes. He told us that the Captains in his City make around $117,000 a year. Doesn't that piss you off?

I usually boast our department, in this case I will have to defer. If anyone is wondering what department pays this kind of money you might want to start with a google search of the Alexandria Fire Department. Just a hunch.

Please don't take this the wrong way. I am not telling you to pack up your bags. I am telling you that a 20 year firefighter in Roanoke City makes around $45,000 a year. Do you really think that the $37,000 difference is due to the cost of living differential. I think not.

Let me also add that the firefighter above is not a Paramedic and does not work overtime.

See you at the next Union meeting September 5th at 7pm.

What has the IAFF done for me?

What has the IAFF done for me?

This is a common question I am asked by members of Local 1132, as well as other Locals in the area. The answer isn't quite that easy. You see, if I weren't busy selling the IAFF to all of my members and working harder to support the IAFF and its members we wouldn't be talking about it. If the members who ask these questions got involved and knew what the IAFF did, then I wouldn't have to tell them. If the members read the Local 1132 website daily to check for new information, and were on the email list, they would not miss important information, dates, and news. And if a pig had wings it might fly.

Since I am away from everyone, and nobody has asked what the IAFF has done for them for a couple of days, I will just go ahead and tell you. The IAFF Financial Corporation, which is owned an operated by the IAFF for its members, offers excellent products. From free checking/ATM accounts to CD's with an interest rate of up to 5.36% (today's rates), the IAFF FC is there to help. The FC also offers insurance at low rates through Liberty Mutual and Mortgages which you may be preapproved for in less than 15 minutes.

If you have not looked into the IAFF Financial Corporation you are missing out. If you have not looked, you cannot ask what the IAFF has done for you.

I will have more to come.

Monday, August 28, 2006

IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

Thanks to Rob Matzuga for these pictures of the IAFF Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs Colorado. Thanks for the pictures. Click the photo for more photos of the memorial.

This is fitting due to the unfortunate events of the past couple of days. Two of FDNY's bravest made the ultimate sacrifice. You can view a tribute to the two comrades, Lt. Howard Carpluk Jr. and FF Michael Reilly, on

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Northside C-Shift

Northside C-Shift
Originally uploaded by firefleitz.
Battalion Chief Billy Obenchain stands with the crew of Engine 14. Pictured from left to right are Pete Uzelac, BC Billy Obenchain, Captain Willie Wines Jr., Lt. Stacy Boothe, and Kenny Walker.

I have to say that it takes motivation and dedication to put together a photo opprotunity with the entire Battalion. Thanks to the guys at Station #2 for putting it together. It is guys like you who raise the bar. What will we think of next.

Special thanks to Travis Collins for the pictures. Click on the picture to see other pictures of the day.

IAFF Conference

This morning began with registration at the IAFF convention. The exhibit hall provided to be helpful in finding new programs, products, and activities.

Check out Project heroes : The gear was created by Total Fire Group. This gear is wild. The turnout gear fully encapsulates the firefighter. The exhausted breath returns to the turnout gear to positively pressurize it and cool the firefighter. There are several other design notes. Check out the link above for more information.

We also saw a group from I will report more on this site and what they have to offer in the future. Check them out, if you know anyone battling cancer pass the word along.

We aren't sure if the convention hall will have internet access. If it does, I will update this site and the Local 1132 site regularly.

Oh Canada

Just to let you know, I will be in Canada for the next week. If you need me you can email me at

We arrived today, and enjoyed dinner in Toronto. I will try to keep you all abreast of what is going on up here. We will be going to the Toronto Blue Jays game tomorrow.

Stay safe.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Just one of those days

Today was one of those days. If you are following along, you know that I am assigned to the ARFF crew at Roanoke Regional Airport. I just ran my first airport alert this week. I rotate on the engine, but it is obvious my skills, both fire and EMS have suffered due to lack of calls. So when I get to run calls, my lack of recent experience is evident. Maybe it isn't as evident as I think it is, but I am my worst critic (no comments necessary if you agree with me, thanks).

This morning began with a structure fire. Apparently someone was watching out for me because it was only a two car garage on fire, and I was the second in engine. E13 and L13 marked on scene with smoke and fire showing and passed command. Hodgin, who was driving the ladder hand stretched a line 200' for E13, leaving us to take command. Realize for a minute that this is the first fire I have been on in two years, and I was to be command. So I took command until BC2 arrived and assumed command, and the guys put the fire out. Everything ran very smooth, and I was grateful that it wasn't a house with people hanging out the windows. Job well done.

The we had EMS protocol rollout. Apparently the American Heart Association has decided that they needed to change the way we do EMS. Most of the stuff seems logical, although some of the changes seemed odd. I won't bore you with the particulars.

Tonight, we were tested again. Due to HIPAA rules, I will not provide details. We received a call for a child struck by a car. This call ended up being exactly what they said it was. Calls involving children are never easy. I wish the patient, the patients family, and the driver involved the best. I will be praying for all persons involved, including the Roanoke Firefighters who ran the call. God Bless the child, I am praying for the best.

When I was at the hospital, I took a minute to collect my thoughts, and a hospital janitor walked by. The man said something to the effect of "you can't let it bother you, once it grabs a hold, it is hard to get over". I know that. We all know that. What the man said was true. But that doesn't mean we can't care. That doesn't mean we can't have feelings too.

If you are wondering if I am ok. I am. I am just getting it off my chest. I thought I might give those of you who aren't firefighters or EMT's a glimpse inside what goes through our minds.

Firefighters and EMT's are the ones who have to respond to all that bad stuff that News channels love to report, and you love to watch. It is a hell of a lot easier being able to change the channel.

Thanks for tuning in.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jeremy Evans leaves for Charlottesville

Jeremy Evans' last day was today. Sorry I am a little late, but it has been a busy day today. Jeremy is heading to work for the Charlottesville Fire Department. Jeremy was hired on August 31, 1998. His latest assignment was with Station 13 on B-shift, my old stomping ground. Prior to station 13, he was assigned as a Lieutenant in Training, having been promoted in 2004. Jeremy will make Charlottesville proud. Although he might be working in Ablemarle soon. Charlottesville and Ablemarle are currently studying the possibility of merging the two departments into a regional department. Does that sound familiar. While it is rumor and speculation here, it is actually in the works there. Good luck Jeremy.

Albemarle Local 4007
Charlottesville Local 2363

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stop the Press - Fleitz runs an Airport Alert

Today, after a table top exercise with the numerous agencies which would be involved with an airport alert, we ran a call. That is right, for the first time in almost two years I have officially run an airport alert. I do not know if I am entitled to any awards or prizes, but I do feel like a million bucks. It seems as though all the hard work and dedication has paid off.

So let me give you a rundown of the event as it unfolded. We were sitting there eating dinner and this strange sound came over the loud speaker. Everyone jumped, except for me because I was wondering what the hell was going on. So I figured, hell if everyone else is getting up I might as well follow them. Then I said to myself "Self, this must be one of know...ah whatthehelldotheycallitthingys...oh yeah...AN ACTUAL AIRPORT ALERT." So there we went out the door. I called the tower to ask what was going on. It was a Navy jet, a training jet that we see periodically at Roanoke. The jet was having issues with its cabin pressure.

Ok are you ready for the exciting you think you can handle what happened next? Well nothing really. The jet landed, and we followed it to General Aviation, think parking lot for aircraft. It was kind of like walking behind an old lady in a walker.

So that is it. My first Airport Alert. Kinda like being a 40 year old virgin. You hear about it all the time, but you gotta wait forever to experience it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

September 11th Observances in Roanoke City

ROANOKE, VA - The City of Roanoke will host a regional 9/11 Five-Year Anniversary Memorial Service on Sunday evening, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. Neighboring localities have also participated in the planning of this event including the City of Bedford, the Town of Vinton, and the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Franklin and Roanoke.

The unique memorial service will be held in downtown Roanoke in Market Square, in front of the Market Building on Campbell Avenue. In case of rain, the event will be held in nearby Mill Mountain Theatre. The event's theme will be "In Remembrance ... Not Forgotten," and its program will include choral and solo music coordinated by David Wiley, Music Director and Conductor of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and an address by 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte.

Firefighting apparatus from all the participating localities will be on display beginning at 4 p.m. on streets near Market Square. City of Roanoke Fire Station No. 1 at 13 Church Avenue will be open for tours, and there will be a military flyover at the event.

For more information on the memorial service, contact Sharon Mougin in the City Manager's Office at 853-6019.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The fix is in

Some of you may wonder where in the hell the posts have been. The truth is that I haven't had time. I am finalizing the book right now. As a matter of fact I spent from 8am until 1030 pm today working on the final touches of the book. Unfortunately I am not done yet. I am still finishing off the last chapter. With any luck I will be finished as planned on Thursday.

The deal after that is it will go off to the publisher and they will send me a draft in a couple of months. After I return that they will have a publish date. I am hoping for February 2007, but I am not sure.

Next week I will be in Toronto for the IAFF convention. I will plan on posting stuff each day and updating the Local 1132 site regularly as usual.

I am working on getting a deal set with the new Virginia news site If you have anything to add or send to them let me know. They are looking for contributing editors. If any of you gurus out there are interested let them know. I will try to get them some photos and stuff so they can highlight our department a little bit. I did manage to get a link on it.

I have one video for you, since I have not had time to surf the net for your enjoyment. Check out these firefighters overseas trying to burn down their firehouse.

I have a little history lesson for you. The original fire station #1 was located at the corner of Jefferson and Kirk where the courtyard is, next to the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce. This station was closed in 1907 when the new fire station 1 was built, the one on Church Avenue. Have you ever wondered what happened to the original building. Well it got torn down in 1977. But what was it during those 70 years that it wasn't a fire station? Here is your answer.

Above: The building on the right hand side, Steins Clothing store, is the old fire station. That is right, the building was altered to provide the store front space.

Here is the old fire station. It doesn't look like it though.
Both of the pictures are from Nelson Harris' book "Downtown Roanoke"

Friday, August 18, 2006

MVA on 9th Street this morning

Roanoke Firefighters responded to an MVA on 9th Street SE at 11am this morning. Engine 6 arrived to find a single vehicle overturned. Ladder 1, RS-1, and Medic 1 also responded. The driver was not injured and the passenger only sustained minor injuries.

Pictures courtesy of Lt. Baron Gibson.

AR -1

AR -1
Originally uploaded by firefleitz.
The last time I posted the pictures of this truck I identified it as AR-2. Actually it is going to be AR-1. Lt. Dubose and Chief Manuel will be travelling to E-One for an inspection at the end of the month. The delivery date is sometime in September.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

National Volunteer Fire Council -- Small Fire Stations Losing Volunteers

Here is a decent article showing the two sides of two hatters. I thought it was an interesting article showing the impact of barring "Two Hat" Firefighters. Just remember that the bulk of this article is comparing firefighters from a fully paid IAFF department with a completely volunteer department. Read on.

National Volunteer Fire Council -- Small Fire Stations Losing Volunteers:
Small Fire Stations Losing Volunteers

Many small towns face a dearth of emergency responders as cities forbid their crews from serving other towns in their spare time.

By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

ROCKY HILL, CONN. - Fire Chief Joe Kochanek has a hard enough time making sure his volunteer department in this small town on the western bank of the Connecticut River stays fully staffed. Then the news from nearby Hartford hit.

In a new contract with its career firefighters, the city forbids them to volunteer at their hometown fire stations. The Hartford chief cites health and safety concerns. Chief Kochanek, who will lose two of his most qualified men, cites indignation.

"The reasons they're giving for doing this are totally, totally wrong," says Kochanek, standing arms akimbo in front of the shiny yellow trucks, parked in the new brick firehouse. "The fires in Hartford are no different from the fires here. If you say you're going to get hurt in Rocky Hill, what makes you think you're not going to get hurt in Hartford?" (Read More)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An update on the book

unfortunately for you all I have not been posting too much. Fortunately, though the last post got maximum exposure.

Things have certainly busy in this little World of mine. The deadline creeps up on the book, now due in a mere week. I think I got this under control. Many thanks to all the guys out there who have gotten pictures to me. I think this book is going to surpass most expectations. Including mine.

The latest great find is an original Constitution and By-laws from 1891 for the Fire Department Board for the City of Roanoke.

Look for an update on the future of Station #1 soon. The new fire station is moving right along, slated to open in February 2007 from what I hear.

Sorry I don't have time for more. I will try and get something good up tomorrow.

Monday, August 14, 2006

WEO T-Shirts

Several Firefighters led by Richard Lipes have gotten together and created a T-shirt to sell in order to raise money for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma research. William "Billy" Obenchain, the Northside C-shift Battalion Chief and possibly the most respected firefighter in Roanoke, suffers from this disease. Chief Obenchain has been battling this disease for several years now and is currently being hospitalized due to complications. The shirt features a poem written by Chief Obenchain at a live burn exercise. The t-shirts are being sold for $15 and the profit will be sent to the Duke University Cancer Research Department specifically for this type of cancer. Please contact Richard Lipes by email to order your shirt at

The front of the shirt:
The back of the shirt:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

History - The oldest picture of the FD

Yesterday, as I was working on the pictures for the book I noticed something. Not just anything. This was a history changer. This one will be a keynote of the book. One of the pictures I got copied from the History Museum thanks to Kent Chrisman is more than I ever thought. It is a picture of one of the volunteer fire companies. Which one you ask? Well it is narrowed down to the Friendship #3 or Junior #2 companies. The dress looks like that of the Friendships. However the building behind the firefighters looks to be Rorrer Hall, where the Juniors were once housed.

But that isn't the interesting thing, that is a formality. The best part about it is that the men are all lined up holding a banner, which is not legible, with a hose cart behind them. So I say to myself "Self - why are they holding swords?" and then I answered "You idiot, those aren't swords, those are the ropes to pull the hose cart". So there you have it, possibly the oldest picture of Roanoke Firefighters. But you cannot see it yet. You have to wait for the book. That is the deal.

March 2007 - Firefighting in Roanoke.

I will post the image of the cover soon, once I have turned in the rough draft.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The pictures are up

You can view the pictures of the 2006 Guns N' Hoses Softball game on the Local 1132 site. The direct link to the page where the photo albums are is here.

The highlights of the City firefighters are as follows:

C.J. "going, going, damn that was so close" Arrington

Todd "Fingertips" McFall

J.J. "You think I am going to swing at that" Price

Highlight for the County:

Barry "I'm too sexy for this" Hurley

Highlight for Salem:

Mike "Did I really make that face when I hit the ball" Elliston

Accident on Jefferson Street

Engine 8, Medic 1, and Ladder 1 (currently replaced by the HTR truck) responded at shift change to a vehicle accident on Jefferson Street this morning. A boom truck was struck by a semi as a worker was working several stories up. The knuckle of the boom truck was hanging out into the street and a semi hit it as it traveled down Jefferson. The worker rode the boom all the way to the ground and was seriously injured in the fall. The worker was transported to RMH, his condition is unknown.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

I know, some of you are still waiting for the pictures from the softball game. I will be uploading them tomorrow. I promise.

As the book nears completion I have realized how much there is to the heritage of the Roanoke Firefighters. Hopefully the book will give the rest of my coworkers a glimpse into what I have learned. Most of it can be heard at various firehouse kitchen tables, just not all at once. I guess that is the bonus of working in a firehouse full time, another one part-time, and being a Union Officer. I must say that the most communal of the firehouse tables is probably #8, especially A-shift. I get to eat with A and B shift regularly when I work upstairs at the Credit Union. That place is a revolving door. You just can't beat the camaraderie of lunch with those guys. Especially when ole Sexton gets on his kick of kickin everyone's ass. The next story will be about kicking mine for that comment.

As the deadline closes in on the book being finished and several events coming up that I will be attending I am asking for anyone who has anything to post please let me know. If you have a picture, or news, or something job related, or whatever just send it in and I will post it. You can attach your name to it or leave that out. Whatever you want to post, I am willing to take a look at.

In other news, Shawn Roark and his wife just recently had a baby girl. Shawn is a firefighter in Bristol, Virginia who had come to work for Roanoke just briefly before having to return to Bristol. Shawn keeps me updated regularly and enjoys reading the blog.

The WEO shirts are in. Look for information on when and where to get them tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

History abounds, but what the hell is it?

This tank below hangs on the wall down at fire station #1. Actually there are two of the tanks on the walls. They hang right next to Ladder #1. Ladder #1 sits right where the horse stalls used to be. So what does all this stuff have in common? Well the first motorized apparatus that Roanoke City bought were 1911 model Seagrave engines. These apparatus were housed at #4, #5, and #6 fire stations while #1 and #2 continued to use horses for several more years. These horses at station #1 were kept in stalls, and the "off-duty" horses were in a nearby pasture. Unfortunately there aren't any known photographs of the inside of station #1 showing the horse stalls. The tanks that hang on the wall of station #1 were actually the tanks off of the 1911 model Seagrave's. There being two tanks on the wall, we can assume that at least two of the three were scrapped.

The question is whether or not the tanks are the water/chemical tanks or the fuel tanks. Later on in the 1920's the fuel tanks were located right behind the seat. If you look at the picture below you will see the tank, but there is space behind the seat where a fuel tank might be located behind the side panel. It appears as though the tank is a water tank because the valves and gauge that seem to be attached to it.
Picture courtesy of the History Museum of Western Virginia.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I just got an email in reference to this new website. is a news site for Virginia much like is for North Carolina and is for South Carolina. I frequent both of those websites for news information. Hopefully this new site will provide the same service for Virginia. It will be neat to see some of our stuff on that site in the future. I will see if I can submit some stuff. The site has an extensive link listing as well.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Truck jackknifes and catches fire

This video has been removed. Go to for other videos.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Link Dump 5 - To keep you occupied

Ok, this is kind of like the link dumps that I have been offering, only this time there will be commentation. Let us start off with Travis Pastrana's double backflip at the X games (link). That is just sick. To think that only a couple of years ago the backflip was cutting edge. Then we will follow that up with an older video of a tractor trailer that overturned onto a car (link).

Then we move onto the local scene. I wonder if there are any Roanoke Firefighters who have run into any of these self proclaimed thugs.

Someone posted a comment, which by the way it is good to see the increased communication, about how many people see this site. Well I know I have posted the stats in the past, so I will update you on this site and the Local 1132 site. In case you were wondering about my run stats on the ARFF crew...still none. I have been running calls on the engine and I even rode the medic truck for 12 hours last cycle. I almost felt like a firefighter again.

Roanoke Firefighters Blog:

Weekly average: Pageviews 170 Unique visitors 121. It should be noted that when multiple people view the site from the same IP address like the City computers it only counts 1 each hour. So the numbers aren't inflated by the City computers. Total hits = 61,560 pageviews

Local 1132 site:

Weekly average: Pageviews 191 Unique: 83. It should be noted that compared to the blog which is only 1 page plus the archives the Local 1132 site has about 70 pages. Total hits = 44,314 pageviews

And yes the traffic was up this week... I am sure you can imagine why.

A little note about comments. As you all know from reading the past several posts that there is a site designed for anonymous posts for firefighters to vent and I guess write whatever the hell you want. You are more than welcome to place comments on this site I just ask you to keep it professional. Feel free to try a little trick that I do when I want to vent. Start typing exactly what you feel, don't hold anything back. But before you submit it read it over and realize that people are going to read it. Delete the parts you want, keep whatever you need to and post it. Then live with the fact that you just said what you said. Of course I have a lot more riding with my name on all my posts and comments. But don't get me wrong, I don't blame the anonymity.

So I leave you all with this: The 10 best Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live skits of all time (link). This is hilarious.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back to work

I am back to work today. Look for something later.

I noticed the military contingency at the Airport this morning. They are being sent off in high style. It isn't too often a 757 is parked on the carrier ramp.

I recieved the rest of the Guns N' Hoses softball game pictures. Look for a photo album on the 1132 site tonight.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Rumor Mill Mentality

Well the cat is out of the bag. The Roanoke Rumor Mill is no longer a secret. Well not exactly, people have known about it. It wasn't openly spoken about until now. Some firefighters have told others about it. I kind of figured it was better left alone as an internal site that the firefighters used. After all you cannot control the firefighters and what they say or do.

If the rumor mill was not anonymous, it would be dead. That is a fact. Besides the occasional person getting on there using there real name to defend themselves, everyone is anonymous.

But what purpose does the rumor mill serve. Well it is a place where firefighters can vent. Sure some of it gets personal, but who cares. You think that stuff isn't said in the firehouse. The rumor mill is the common firefighters way of pointing out flaws in the system, as well as busting balls which is part of the job.

The interesting thing is this. I have now posted almost 650 posts on this blog. Do you know what most of the firemen remember? About 5 posts. The ones where I have shared my opinion as it differed from the majority or was opposing Roanoke Fire-EMS Administration. Nevermind the hard work and dedication I have put into getting Roanoke Fire-EMS on the map. Never mind the posts that have evoked the reminders of pride, brotherhood, and honor. Nevermind the recruiting tool that this site has grown into. Nevermind all of that. When I share my differing opinion, even when it is shared by most Roanoke Firefighters, there are always those coworkers of mine who love to gasp and comment on how stupid it was to say those things.

Realize for a minute that when I stand up for something, which isn't too often, I do it properly. I am not rude, ignorant, or irreverent. I state the facts. This is what is referred to as being professional. Some of those who might have a brown nose might call it having balls. Be it that I am standing for something, speaking up for something, or just doing the right thing I am doing it.

What about my viewpoint? Some have said that I am a strict Union Man. Well would you want anything else as your Secretary/Treasurer? I wouldn't.

Why is everything about the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association and not the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department? Well I am not involved in RFEMS activities too much. I serve on a couple of committees and do little things here and there, but I am not a golden child. I figure this has a lot to do with the fact that I am on the ARFF crew right now. Who knows.

It has been interesting serving as the Secretary/Treasurer though. I get to learn a lot very quickly. It is amazing how firefighters up to Battalion Chiefs ask me what we (the Union) are going to do about certain issues. Some of the issues should be solved on the company level between Captains and Battalions Chiefs. Others would be solved if the Captains stood up as a group and demanded a solution. But everything isn't always so cut and dry.

The Roanoke Firefighters morale has been crippled in the past several years. Maybe if we had been able to sit at the table of the 5 and 10 year planning sessions we might have come out unscathed. Maybe we would have had a chance.
  • If we were able to understand the decisions made on consolidating firehouses, purchasing apparatus, manpower, pay and benefits.
  • If we were able to give our side of the story.
  • If we were able to give input on the need for a salary and benefits overhaul.
  • If we were able to show how a merit raise and a cost of living increase were necessary to stay above the average, or at least meet average pay.
  • If we were able to show how much we give to this department, to the City, and to our citizens outside of our job description.
  • If we were able to show the extra hours and loss of overtime pay.
  • If we were able to show the micro-managing, the unwritten rules, the unfair and unequal treatment.
  • If we were able to have some of the small things back, the things that made it fun and worth while.
  • If only...
Someone explained to me the other day a view that I had not realized. All the things we used to have to de-stress, to wind down, and to cool off are gone. All day long we are supposed to keep busy, train on this, fix that, go here, do this, be here then, eat when you get a chance. Some companies are busier than others, but no one ever plans a 911 call.

Case and point: Several years ago, during the drought, the Chief said we couldn't wash our vehicles anymore. I do not think there was a firefighter in Roanoke who did not agree with this. The region was in a serious drought, we were doing our part. The problem is that the ban on washing our vehicles was never lifted. Why you might ask? Well that is a good question. I am wondering the same thing myself. Just that little thing, to wash our vehicles on duty would do so much for this department.

Sometimes you just have to take a step back and take a look around. Otherwise the rumor mill runs rampant.

Go ahead 1...2...3... GASP.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cuppa Joe - Hydrant Painters go with the Flow

I had every intention of writing a post on the newly painted hydrants. However Cuppa Joe beat me to it. Read the article here.

I will add that the Roanoke Firefighters put in a lot of hard work in the hottest months of the year to get those hydrants completed. Each of the hydrants had to be flow tested, to check the water flow capabilities, painted silver, the bonnets had to be color coded for the proper water flow, and then a tag had to be attached. Each hydrant in the City had this completed. Bolts were loosened on some hydrants that were 100 years old. Those bolts probably hadn't been touched since they were put in service.

The last of the hydrants are being completed in the following weeks.

Thanks for the hat tip Joe.

IAFF Media Awards

The IAFF Media Awards were published today and received second place for the Affiliate website award. got a little mention as well. It is good to see all the hard work on the website paying off. The awards for Affiliate website were as follows:

1st Place - Toronto Firefighters Local 3888:
2nd Place - Roanoke Fire Fighters Local 1132:
Honorable Mention - California Professional Firefighters:
Honorable Mention - Hamtramck, MI Local 750:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Roanoke firefighter files grievance against city over job transfer -

An article ran in the paper today: Roanoke Firefighter filing a grievance against the city over job transfer. The article speaks of how Mike Banks, a 31 year veteran and Captain of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department, has filed a grievance over comments made about his website during a cluster meeting with the Chiefs of the department. Captain Banks hosts a website: The site enables firefighters, or anyone for that matter, to post comments on a message board anonymously. The firefighters have left a wide array of comments over the past 2 years on the site. During a cluster meeting last year, Banks states that he was told to take the site down by the Chiefs. The cluster meetings are held at various stations in the City so that other Companies can meet up and the Chiefs can speak to more firefighters at once. I was at the meeting that Banks speaks of and worked for Banks at the time of the meeting. I also heard that the same remark was made at other cluster meetings that day.

I do not think there are too many firefighters in the City who would disagree that there is retaliation in our work place. I am not saying it happens every day, but it happens. Most of the firefighters are not willing to stand up for even the smallest things because of the fear of retaliation.

Is this unique to Roanoke? No I do not believe so. I think this sort of thing happens in a lot of fire departments. That doesn't make it right.

The morale of the department continues to plummet. I cannot say when it started its downward spiral, but it continues. The issues like overtime, FLSA, retaliation, mandatory holdover, non-reimbursed required off-duty training, and pay have taken there toll on Roanoke's Bravest. While we have made small victories on some of these issues like getting overtime pay back we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately some of these issues are knowingly being done wrong by the City and it takes a veteran like Mike Banks to make a stand. Everyone else is running scared looking for someone else to be the poster child, and I don't blame them.

Here is another blogs take on the situation.

A view of the article is below, click for the rest of the article.

Roanoke firefighter files grievance against city over job transfer -
Roanoke firefighter files grievance against city over job transfer
Michael Banks says he was transferred in retaliation over his controversial Web site.

By Mike Allen

A career Roanoke firefighter has filed a grievance against the city, saying he was transferred from his old job as retaliation for his refusal to take down a controversial Internet site.

Roanoke Fire-EMS Capt. Michael Banks hosts, a Web site where some Roanoke firefighters anonymously air their complaints about management. People post on the site "because they're afraid to say something personally," Banks said. "It's just an outlet for people."

City officials assert that Banks' transfer had nothing to do with the Web site. "Absolutely not," said acting Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback.

On June 2, Banks was reassigned from the airport fire station, where he had served for more than seven years, to the station on Riverland Road. Banks, 54, has worked for Roanoke Fire-EMS for more than 30 years, attaining the rank of captain in 1992.(Read the rest of the article)