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Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Look

Bear with me while I change some stuff around. This might take a while.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Prayer of protection for those who protect -

The Blue Mass was last night at St. Andrews Church. We had a good crowd, although there could always be more. The event is held for all Fire, Police, EMS, and related workers of all religions. The Roanoke Blue Mass began last year when the Knights of Columbus decided to bring the "Blue Mass" to Roanoke in order to pray over the Public Safety workers.

Prayer of protection for those who protect -
Prayer of protection for those who protect
About 100 people attended the Blue Mass, celebrated to pray for the protection of those who serve in public safety.

By Amanda Codispoti

The wail of bagpipes exploded through the cathedral, from the black and white checkered floor to the vaulted ceiling.

Children seated in pews covered their ears as the bagpipe ensemble, Warpipe, led the procession to the altar. (Read More)

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Sometimes I am humbled by my brothers and sisters. As the days go by, more and more blood sweat and tears of the Brotherhood are shown through actions that you might see, but more often than not are behind the scenes. Case and point, tonight 4 stations baked desserts for the Blue Mass. These guys weren't able to attend, but they helped out. For that I am truly indebted. I am sorry I cannot thank everyone in person, but take this thanks for what it is worth. The event was great, I only wish more firefighters were present. I will have more tomorrow on the event.

That is only one example. Like I said, everyday I see more and more.

Some people think that at times I am negative on the blog. At times I am, but I do not want you to think that it is my purpose to be overly negative. I say what I feel, I mean what I say. Sometimes my words are misunderstood. I want to set the record straight.

The reason for this blog is for one thing. I want to report on us, the Roanoke Firefighters for whoever wants to listen. I want people to know who we are, what we do, what we are about, and why we do what we do. I want people to know about my brothers and sisters the Roanoke Firefighters (nobody excluded).

I want to tackle all the issues. If everything was peachy, that would be great. But let us be real.

Since its inception, has seen a lot of changes. I have reported on the good and bad, the ups and downs, the unique and the ordinary. I have been able to uncover history that might have gone unnoticed, stories that might not have been read, firefighters who might not have gotten a notice.

I do this for my brothers and sisters. Luckily I do not have to do this alone. I get phone calls, emails, and have conversations from my coworkers. I can't do this alone, and I do not want you to think that I do it alone. My support structure is large. I have guys who keep me informed of the good and bad.

For this I am humbled. I enjoy walking into a firehouse and seeing guys looking at this site. I enjoy hearing from Roanoke Firefighters who say they enjoy the site and look at it daily. I enjoy the words of encouragement, although I do not expect it. It should be me thanking you guys. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have anything to write about.

There are readers in other Cities, States, and even other Countries who enjoy reading about my brothers and sisters. I hear from guys who used to work here, used to live here, and know many of you who are your fans. I hear from citizens, officials, and leaders who enjoy reading about their Firefighters. They like knowing about your ups and downs, your accomplishments, and your stories.

Honestly, I do not think you know of the readership of this site. It is amazing how people end up right here. Google and Yahoo are good friends of ours.

What now? We will keep going. Keep sending in your stories, pictures, and questions. I will do my best to post about them.

A comment on the comments. I have enjoyed the comments from you all. In case you were wondering, I rarely have to moderate the comments on the blog. I enjoy any and all comments. Just as I provide you with my opinion in my posts, you are entitled to your opinion. In case you are wondering, if I post a comment it will always be from me indicated by my username "FireFleitz". It should also be noted that I, nor anyone else, can find out who you are if you comment as "anonymous". This is perfectly acceptable and I recommend using this feature. If I ever thought that I could keep this whole blog anonymous I would have done it, therefore there wouldn't be any question as to any "treatment" by exercising my rights to freedom of speech. Since this would have been impossible, I understand that my words might be inflammatory at times. However, you should know that I try to keep all posts as professional as I know how.

In case anyone is wondering, I still feel we work for the best Fire Department in the State. We may not be perfect, but none are.

Thanks for letting me do my part.

I guess I have veered from the original point of this post. Sometimes my best posts are ramblings where I just start typing and end up wherever my tiny little mind takes me.

I hope that I do my brothers and sisters justice.

God Bless,

FireFleitz out

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If you don't know, well now you know

Originally uploaded by firefleitz.
Just to keep everyone updated. I have updated my flickr account to include some more pictures. Check out all of the Obenchain pictures as well as some more bonus ones. Click on the picture, or click this link right here for all of the pictures.

What was she thinking?

Maybe we should start a new segment called something like "Job Security". Enjoy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

IAFF Motorcycle Group

I am spending most of my time taking vacation and spending it on the Blue Ridge Parkway ( Mile marker 95.5, ten miles south of the peaks and ten miles North of Rt. 460 in Botetourt Co. Harvey's Knob). On Wed. there was a group of motorcycles (all Harley's) coming through and I noticed a FF emblem on the back of a leather jacket that caught my eye.
I proceeded to ask questions and found that a group of 60 or so FF's from Texas, Okla. Missourri, & Maryland were traveling together and going South. I did not get where they were going as they were in a hurry. I could not get pic of the back of a jacket, but did get a pic of a sticker on a windshield of what was on the jacket.
You just never know where you will meet other FF's enjoying this beautiful country.

- Sent in by a reader

I always enjoy the emails. I have a couple more I need to get to.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Scuba instructor, rescuer imparts life-saving advice -

Chuck Swecker was featured today in the Neighbors section of the Roanoke Times. Unfortunately this section is only sent out to a particular area of the Roanoke Valley. If you did not get to read it, click on the link below.

Scuba instructor, rescuer imparts life-saving advice -
Scuba instructor, rescuer imparts life-saving advice

Stop, breathe, think and act; a critical lesson Southwest County resident and scuba diving instructor Chuck Swecker urges his students to follow.

Stop, breathe, think and act; words Swecker, a Roanoke Fire Department first lieutenant, lives by when called into action as a firefighter from Station 13 or as part of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs' division 6 technical rescue team.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Roof is on Fire

Thanks to a commentor on the last post for this video.

Going Vertical - Venting the Roof

Here are some interesting sites related to truck work (ladder companies). I found a new blog which covers the various aspects of the truck companies at The Bravest Online ( offers a video showing a decent look at a ventilated roof. This video is a great training tool. Note how all the smoke coming from the eaves is rerouted once the roof is opened up. Lastly, I offer you this video below. These various roof ventilations show that once you cut through the roof, you still need to pierce the ceiling of the floor below to properly ventilate.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The guys of Jackass have come up with an interesting use of firehose. The firehose rodeo.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Northside C-Shift Part Deux

Northside C-Shift pictures. Here are the coveted pictures from the photo op with Chief Obenchain. I believe that all of the Northside companies were able to make it to the Roanoke Civic Center for the pictures.

In all the pictures I have looked over, covering the entire history of the Roanoke Fire Department, I do not believe we have a picture of this many firefighters or this many apparatus.

A job well done for this historic photo and kudos to the men and women who put it together. You can still get your hands on the WEO/Obenchain Shirt. Check out the Local 1132 site for more information and how to order.

I will be adding these images to my Flickr account so you guys can look through all of them. Apparently I have used all of my free space on it, so I have to pay for more space. This isn't a problem, I just have to get around to signing up for it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Preston and Jade at Station #14

Preston stands wearing some fire gear.
Jade sits behind the wheel as Preston looks on.
Preston and Captain Willie Wines Jr. sit in Engine 14.

IAFF Proud

Check out Steve McFaden's new tattoo. He had the IAFF emblem tattooed on his leg earlier this week. I must say that the artist did a good job with this tattoo.

Roanoke's Hurt Park Apartments used for fire training

Roanoke Firefighters get another unique opportunity training using real apartments.

Roanoke's Hurt Park Apartments used for fire training:
The Hurt Park Apartments in Roanoke are set for demolition. But before the walls come down, city firefighters are moving in...for training.

When Roanoke firefighters pull up to the building, smoke is escaping from the second story windows.

They're told that people are trapped inside, perhaps young children.(Read More and watch the video)
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Protecting your Retirement

I have been to several conventions, meetings, seminars, and conferences in the past year or two. I have learned a lot of information from the firefighters who have been protecting our benefits in the past. We have retired firefighters still lobbying for firefighters across Virginia. At the VPFF Educational Seminar we began the legislative process for next year. Several bills we pushed last year never made it to a vote and will be re-emerging next year.

Today, I was able to learn from Bruce Roemmelt, a retired Prince William County Firefighter. Bruce has been involved in politics for a long time. He has lobbied for firefighters benefits for many years in Richmond.

One big issue facing firefighters is protecting our Pensions. Yeah I know, some of you might say "“I have 20 more years until I retire, why should I care about that stuff." The answer is that right now while you are not caring, your pension might be in jeopardy. If you have ever cared about anything relating to your job, this needs to be it. Sure, pay is an important issue, but I want to be able to walk away at a reasonable age and enjoy my retirement.

Across the United States, localities are trying to change the Pension Plans from a Defined Benefit system to a Defined Contribution system. This change is not new, rather it is a trick that Local and State Governments learned from Companies like IBM and Hewlett Packard. A defined benefit, or traditional retirement plan, offers a guaranteed benefit after required number of years of service. A defined contribution plan, which is often a 401(k) plan, requires employees to contribute a defined amount and bear the entire risk of opportunity of investment results (employees will not have a guaranteed benefit).

The reason why these Pensions are in trouble goes back to investment strategies in the late 1990's. When the stock market was doing well many States and Localities decided to capitalize. Pension funds were invested in the stock market and flourished for a couple of years. However, when the stock market tanked nothing was done about supplementing the funding and the Pension funds declined.

New Jersey'’s Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS), equivalent to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), floated $2.8 billion in 30-year bonds in 1997. This was a great investment for a couple of years until the stock turned. Now the fund is playing catch up and faces $10 billion in payments on the principal and interest.

I hear guys say "“Let'’s get the multiplier increased"”. I agree. However, I am wondering how much can get done by talking about it. We need to begin with making sure our pension fund is funded properly.

I will offer more information soon. If you have any questions let me know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Children's Wish Foundation International

Pictured R-L Assistan Manager Jeremy Brown, Rhett Fleitz, Co Manager Paula Booth.
Photo by Rhett Fleitz

I got a call yesterday from Jim Walsh, an IAFF brother in Scranton Pennsylvania. Jim asked if I could be at the Bonsack Walmart for a check presentation. Walmart donated $1000 to the Children's Wish Foundation International. This morning I ran up to Walmart for the presentation. Unfortunately, neither the paper or television station which said they would be there showed up. Therefore, I am doing the news today.

Children's Wish Foundation International is committed to bringing joy and happiness to seriously ill children throughout the world and this dedication has created special experiences for children around the globe. To date, Children's Wish Foundation International has touched the lives of children in 32 countries, providing a lifetime of memories for them and their family.
Jim Walsh's son received a wish from this organization several years ago. Jim has been involved with CWFI ever since.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


9/11 means many things to different people. I have read, watched, and listened to many accounts of that day. From firefighters to civilians, people from New York and D.C.

Up until 9/11, the one moment that stuck out in my mind when people would say "do you remember what you were doing when..." was the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. That event happened on January 28, 1986, my 7th birthday. I remember it vividly because it was a big deal at my school, St. Columbans in Loveland, Ohio. All of the students were gathered into the classrooms to watch the takeoff on the tv. Unfortunately, 73 seconds after takeoff the Challenger blew up. That moment was the single biggest historical moment etched into my memory...until September 11, 2001.

On that morning, I was working at Station 13. That morning we were doing the normal station duties. Captain Armstrong told us that something happened on the news. The whole company gathered in the day room and watched. We watched for several minutes, as Tower 1 burned, with our jaws dropped.

We watched the whole thing. I don't think we ran a call the whole day. We watched and we waited. We waited for the answers...the answers to all those questions. Most of those questions still are not answered 5 years later.

Roanoke City and the surrounding localities held a Memorial for 9/11 tonight downtown Roanoke. I am sure it was a fitting tribute to the 5th anniversary. My coworkers and I had to work like so many firefighters across the nation. We remember every day. We will never forget what those 343 Firefighters gave their lives for that day. We never forget what any Public Safety worker gives their life for.

Thank you to all of those who remember the selfless acts of the Firefighters on 9/11 and every day. Thank you for caring. Those men and women gave their lives so that others might live.

Just another day in Roanoke

Just another day in Roanoke:

Maybe it's time we showed our appreciation for the work the Roanoke Fire/EMS and Police Departments do for us?

They might not be perfect, but damned if you'll find one single department anywhere that is.

They need our support, they need higher pay for the dangerous work they do, and they need better support from City Hall, and much less politics so they can do the job they are supposed to do.

Maybe it's time to start asking where DO our tax dollars go, if not to retain Roanoke's Bravest and Roanoke's Finest?

Tonight, 7pm at the City Market building.
Come show your support for those who keep us alive.

Show them your grateful.

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AR-1 arrives in Roanoke

AR-1 has been delivered to the Roanoke Regional Airport. The truck is an E-One Titan. AR-1 will be placed into service after training this week. It will be be in service just in time for the Roanoke Regional Emergency drill on September 23rd. You can view more information on the E-One site under new deliveries. has also listed it under new deliveries.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Arlington County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association - Local 2800 IAFF

Read this below, then follow the link to the full article. I will let you draw your own conclusions. I think I have offered enough opinion by now. I will entertain comments.

Arlington County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association - Local 2800 IAFF:
The underlying message in this inquiry is that EMS has to be made a better place to work so that firefighters want to work there. The current mentality of requiring personnel to go to EMS school is a concept that has been tried before and failed miserably. All indications are that the current requirement is also failing miserably. Not only are new firefighters not being allowed adequate time to learn the job of a firefighter (thereby compromising service delivery on the suppression side), they are simply tolerating a two year mandatory stop over in EMS. Obviously, that mind set lends itself towards compromised EMS service delivery. People become firefighters because they really want to do the job. You need to create a system that will create that same desire towards EMS. Mandatory assignment to EMS is a poor policy that compromises both fire suppression and EMS service delivery! (Read More)
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CBS To Rebroadcast 9/11 Documentary - News

CBS To Rebroadcast 9/11 Documentary - News:
The CBS Television Network and filmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and James Hanlon have updated the multiple-award winning program "9/11".

Watch Video Preview

The two Naudet brothers had been working on a documentary of FDNY and a probie's life in the city. September 11 saw them on a call with the company in the streets of New York when the sound of a low flying jet was heard overhead. As they panned the camera up, the American Airlines jet crashed into the World Trade Center tower.
I remember watching this the first time it aired. I have a copy at home as a matter of fact. I thought that the film gave a great sense of realism to what those firefighters were up against that day. I believe that films like this one will stand as a great history lesson for our children and future generations to watch and witness what happened on that terrible day.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006


I have been busy getting back into the swing of things after the trip to Toronto and sending the book in. I am trying to make up for lost time with my family. I am working on a couple of things coming up.

I hope to see you all at the Blue Mass at Saint Andrews on September 28th. Plan on attending. For more information check out the Local 1132 site.

The new ARFF truck should be delivered in the next two or three weeks.

From what I understand, the new Station #10 on the north end of Williamson Road has moved on to Architecture and Engineering. This should be the next station to open after the new station downtown opens early next year.

Sunday September 10th, there will be a Valley Wide Memorial Service at the Market Square in Downtown Roanoke at 7pm. Come and pay respects to the 343 firefighters, the police officers, and thousands of civilians who lost their lives on September 11th in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93.

The IAFF recently voted to make September 11th a Fire Fighter day of Remembrance in Toronto at the IAFF Convention. You can watch the IAFF 9/11 tribute.

I am sure the event downtown will be special, unfortunately C-Shift is working that day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Gift

Today the firefighters got a surprise. Captain Barker and Vince Stover came around to Station #10 to hand out this handy tool. Everyone received one, A and B shifts will be getting theirs this week. The tool is the Res-Q-Rench which is manufactured by Task Force Tips. The tool is multiversal boasting: a collapsible spanner wrench, a glass punch, seat belt cutter, gas line shut off, and door chock. It probably has some other uses I have not figured out yet. Thanks for the tool, it is appreciated.

Monday, September 04, 2006

2007 IAFF Convention

2007 IAFF Convention
Originally uploaded by firefleitz.
Here are the pictures from the 2007 IAFF Convention.

Vinnie Bollon (left), IAFC President Fire Chief Bill Killen, and IAFF General President Harold Shaitberger. Chief Killen is receiving token of appreciation for his work, and for speaking at the convention.

Click on the picture and you will be able to navigate through the Roanoke Firefighters Flickr account.


Firefighter pay is a common topic on this blog. Not only local pay in the Roanoke Valley, but often times I incorporate other pay nationally as a comparison. More often than not I am speaking up for firefighters pay in the City of Roanoke because it directly effects me.

I do not do this to tick anyone off. I do not do this to rub it in anyone's face. I specifically do this to get firefighters involved. My intention is to educate and possibly get a response.

How many times have you thought about leaving your department to go somewhere else for better pay. How many of us actually follow through with it? We have firefighters leaving all the time for better pay, but not all of them. Most of us decide that our seniority or tenure is worth more than starting over.

What are we left with? Low Morale. We get bothered by the fact that someone else is getting paid better for doing the same job. This decreasing morale creates a domino effect of other issues.

But other City's cost of living is higher! Yeah, yeah, yeah. I agree. I have always conceded that this is true, but not to the extent of our pay disparity across Virginia and the rest of the Nation.

Why not do something about it?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

MDA Telethon

The MDA Telethon is in full swing. I enjoy seeing this event year after year. I will not be making it to the local event in Lynchburg this year as I have the past several years. This weekend, across the Nation and in Canada, Firefighters will be collecting for the MDA through Fill-the-Boot Campaigns. Local 1132's Fill the Boot was held two weeks ago due to scheduling conflicts. Unfortunately Local 1132 had a sub-par year. Being that a good year is only a couple of thousand dollars, you can imagine what a sub-par year equates to.

There are many firefighters out there who understand the partnership the IAFF and MDA have made in the pursuit of finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy. These Locals raise tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in the matter of one week. Some Locals have the blessing of their Departments and City Governments to collect while on duty. The firefighters take care of the logistics, safety, and scheduling. In Roanoke, the City Government has enacted a panhandling law. This law restricts anyone from collecting on streets.

I have collected at the Fill the Boot campaign each year for the past 5 years. Eventually my coworkers will understand the reward of collecting for the MDA and seeing the children we help. The benefits of helping out one day to collect are very rewarding. After all, there are those people who wait for things to happen, and those who make those things happen. Hopefully, the Local 1132 firefighters will enter the spirited competition which so many IAFF Locals enjoy each year. This competition is healthy in getting the firefighters to raise more and more money each year.

If you would like to see Local 1132's MDA ambassador Cory Craighead visit the Local 1132 link. Cory came out this year with his father, Steve, to help us collect money for the MDA. Cory has recently received a brand new motorized wheelchair he is very proud of.

North Carolina firefighters are currently trying to pass legislation enabling them to collect at intersections:
For the third time in 12 weeks, the PFFPNC was successful in passing legislation to benefit IAFF Locals in North Carolina. The latest legislation paves the way for IAFF Locals to conduct fill-the-boot drives on state highway and road right-of-ways inside municipalities. The boot drives help raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. On July 26, 2006, HB 1413 (with the PFFPNC amendment) was ratified by the North Carolina General Assembly. Current state law, G.S. 20-175, forbids fill-the-boot activities on state right-of-ways even when they are inside the boundaries of a local government. In years past, IAFF Locals conducted fill-the-boot drives across the state on highway and road right-of-ways.The State always turned a blind eye to this type of activity. In recent years, many cities and towns pointed to G.S. 20-175 as a liability and restricted fire fighters and paramedics from collecting money for MDA. Subsequently, the total amount of money raised dwindled. The PFFPNC asked that an amendment to overturn this General Statute be added to existing legislation. (Read More)
Virginia will likely look into legislation which would mimic NC's. These laws supercede those of the Local laws.

Next year will be our year. I look forward to seeing you out there.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Firefighting in Roanoke

Here it is in all its glory. The book is near completion. Click on the picture to see it enlarged and read the text. This is the cover proof for the book. There weren't any changes, so that is exactly what it will look like. The picture is Fire Station 1 in the 1930s.

I will receive a cover proof of the book in about a week. I will make any necessary changes and submit the book draft. After they alter make the changes the book will go into printing. This will be at in about two weeks. The book will be available sometime in the next 6 months. That is the guarantee. Hopefully it will be available in January or February. The timing couldn't be more perfect with all of the events of next year.

The long road of writing this book has been enjoyable. I have had a lot of assistance from my peers. I appreciate all of the help. Print the picture out and post it in the stations, this way no one will say "What book".

Now that I have the book behind me, look for more initiatives in the future.

Blue Mass


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.

Msgr. Thomas Miller, presiding

St. Andrews Catholic Church

631 North Jefferson Street

Roanoke, Virginia 24011

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To recognize and honor men and women of all faiths who serve the Roanoke valley in area sheriff’s offices, fire/EMS, police, state and federal law enforcement departments.

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