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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Roanoke's Firefighters keep it REAL

Today, posted a story by Captain Willie Wines Jr. about a call that Engine 9 ran recently. Check it out here.

Also, Firefighter Travis Collins had another article published in Virginia Fire News Magazine. Tiffany Bradbury also had a story about Roanoke Fire-EMS Accredidation. Brad Creasy, a long time writer for the mag also had a couple of articles from over in town Bedford.

Keep up the good work.

Virginia Fire News Magazine does not have a website, although you can view the information on the mag and get a subscription here.

IAFF Pumpkin and Pumpkins at Station 9

Travis Collins created an IAFF Pumpkin and Station 9 created a Medic and Engine Pumpkin for their station.

Check them out here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Artists video rendering of an FDNY Firefighter

This is a pretty cool video of an artist creating an awesome painting. Thanks to Scott Fritz for the heads up on this.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blitz attack on Bennington's House

This Thursday and Friday, October 25th and 26th, Firefighters will be working at Bennington's house. If you would like to help, please show up or contact Captain Willie Wines Jr. at #9 tomorrow to work on Thursday, and Captain Todd Stone at #1 today or Wednesday to help on Friday.

It is reported that News Channel 10 will be there on one of the two days to do a story on how the Firefighters are helping Jeremy finish his house. It would be great to see a lot of firefighters out there. Somebody please take some pictures.

You do not have to be skilled in a trade to help. Some of the work that will be getting done is building the garage (remember it is a log home and log garage), hard wood flooring installed, trim work inside and outside, as well as numerous other odd jobs here and there.

Jeremy appreciates all of the help he has gotten to this point. I believe that if we have enough people on these two days, we will be able to complete the job by November 11th.

Todd Reighley wrote:
If you can figure it I will cover lunch and drinks for both days. Don’t know if the union would authorize use of a credit card and I can cut a reimbursement check or If you can find one central lunch provider, I can call in and cover it with my CC. I would come out and throw down, but the 6,800 miles is a bit of a commute. Plus I wouldn’t make it back in time for morning roll call. Let me know what you figure out, I would like to lend a hand and thank the guys for pitching in.

So you guys work it out and get back to Todd.
Meanwhile, I am on vacation, out of town. If you need me, email me.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Staffing in Roanoke Part III

This post is just for a little clarification as well as some "case and point" examples for the nay-sayers and those who wanted examples.

First of all, Jay at Firefighter has talked about the two part (now three) post on staffing in Roanoke. Check out the post here and the podcast here. FireGeezer also covered the story here.

I believe that Jay understood me exactly, and in talking to many firefighters I believe that I got the point across. However, there are plenty of firefighters who still don't think it is a big deal to simply mark trucks out of service for long periods of time for any reason at all.

I did not realize that my point would be proven so quickly, but yesterday was a perfect example of what I meant. Yesterday, Engine 2, Engine 3, Quint 7, and Medic 7 were reported to be out of service from 0800 - 1700 hours (8am til 5pm). That meant that at station 2 we were left with ladder 2 and medic 2, at station 13 we were left with ladder 13, and at station 7 we were left with NOTHING.

The interesting thing is that the neighborhood groups around station 7 were told that their service would not be changed (to which there was a collective laugh by the firefighters). If indeed engine 7 was still in service, one of the trucks would have remained in service (I should hope).

I can't make this stuff up.

As for solutions. Well I have been working on solutions for all of this including the medic thingy. Sure, they are my ideas or that of the firefighters which I believe will work. Of course, all of it costs money. If it didn't cost money, we wouldn't be working the way we do.

Free Michelin Tires for first responders

I wanted to let you know about a great way for first responders to receive new tires. Michelin is giving away free sets of tires to 50 firefighters/EMTs. To nominate your favorite first responder simply fill out a quick form online at There is no restriction on who you can nominate, so pick your firefighter brother or sister, your EMT colleague, or any other first responder that has touched your life. The nomination process end on Nov. 23rd.

When sending your nomination via email to, please include the following:

* Your name, address, phone number, and email address
* Your nominee’s name, address, phone number, and email address
* Type of first responder vehicle in need of new tires (not required, but helpful)
* Why is this person important to the community? (Hint: recent examples of heroism, overall achievement, ongoing commitment to bettering the community, his/her character, etc.
* Why is the community in need of new tires for their first responder vehicle?

Or you can use the form located on the Michelin website.

Arrington Sports Awards

John and Sue Arrington run Arrington Sports Awards in Rocky Mount, Virginia. John is a 1st Lt. on Ladder 13 B-Shift.

Arrington Sports Awards has made awards for firefighters in Roanoke for a long time. They also make awards and uniforms for sports teams in the region.

The business has recently expanded to include a larger area to show off the many awards and uniforms they create and sell.

The next time you need awards or uniforms made, be sure to give them a try.

Arrington Sports Awards
140 Franklin St
Rocky Mount, VA 24151 Map
Phone - (540) 489-1200

Friday, October 19, 2007

Benningtons House is coming along - will be featured on the news

Jeremy's house is coming along pretty well. There is still a lot of work to do. Mainly the trim (inside and outside) and hardwood floors. The electrician and plumber will be back next week to finish their work.

Craig Sellers, Matt Dewhirst, Lynwood English, Jeremy, and myself worked over two days to complete the tile in the kitchen, 3 bathrooms, and laundry room. I am pleased to say that Jeremy should be finished with the grout by now.

Thanks so much to Captain Sellers for coming out and working 2 days and getting the tile down. I am glad to say that I learned a new trade. Not that anyone would pay me to lay tile, but I know the basics now.

WSLS News Channel 10 will be out to do a story on Jeremy's house and how the firefighters are helping to build it on either the 25th or 26th. I understand that Captain Stone is getting a group of guys to come up on the 26th and there will be a group going up on the 25th as well. Please contact me or Jeremy if you would like to help. It sounds like we will be building the garage and working on the interior and exterior trim. If the hardwood flooring is in by then, we will be laying that down as well.

Channel 10 got the idea from reading the story on the blog.

Many others have helped do things up to this point. The response has been overwhelming of people wanting to help. Jeremy is hard to get a hold of when he is working on the house. If you need to talk to him or have a message for him, just get a hold of me and I will pass along the message.

I think that we can get the stuff complete by the November 11th. However, he will need all of the help he can get. It would be great to see the numbers there on the 25th and 26th like we had for the Habitat for Humanity project (You can view that story on the blog here).

The picture to the left is Craig Sellers installing tile in the laundry room. He related his help that day (Jeremy, Lynwood, and myself) to that of his sons helping him........when they were 3 and 4. Just kidding. The tile looks great.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Staffing in Roanoke Part II

Reading some of the comments from Staffing in Roanoke (the previous post), I realized that some of you want more information. I try my best to write on the basis of non-firefighters reading this and/or firefighters from other jurisdictions. Apparently I have fallen short. That is ok. I will elaborate further.

First of all, I want to say that the reasoning for writing Staffing in Roanoke was to shine light on apparatus being taken out of service almost daily due to the lack of staffing. My solution is to hire more firefighters and/or create more positions so that when these events occur, we will not be taking units out of service for the lack of 3 firefighters.

Although I have been a proponent of a minimum staffing of 4, the last post was not intended to develop cause for it, I have written about that in the past and will do so again in the future.

One of the commentors asked about information on what firefighters do and reasoning for needing 4 firefighter on the truck. The cause for the question was for ammunition to assist in writing council. I want to be certain that we are at least operating at par before attempting to increase staffing for the 4 minimum.

The issue at hand is that Roanoke Fire-EMS staffs its fire engines and fire ladder trucks with a minimum of 3 firefighters. When we do not have 3 firefighters for each truck we mark trucks out of service. This is not the intended result of having a minimum of 3. The minimum of 3 is to ensure that we have 3 on every truck. If we do not have enough then we need to call in overtime (quick fix) or hire more firefighters (long term fix). Surely, the Department cannot guess when members will quit or retire, however it can be proactive by over hiring to merely cover the gap.

Almost daily, an engine or two is marked out of service so that members can go to intermediate class, instruct at the recruit school, or occupational health for physicals and drug tests (random tests), and many other reasons. However, marking the trucks out of service is not the answer.

For years, Administration has attempted to decrease Roanoke Fire EMS down to 9 stations (currently we are at 12, in 1995 we had 14).

We have lost:
Station 12 - closed around 2000, Engine 12 was taken out of service and Medic 4 was placed in service. We also sent 6 firefighters to staff a county station (Clearbrook). The County is still counting the dollars it saves!

Station 3 - closed last year, Engine 3 and medic 3 are now Engine 1 and medic 1. This was a cosmetic change and no apparatus were taken out of service.

Engine 7 was taken out of service this year and Ladder 7 became a Quint. Medic 7 was put in place of Engine 7.

It should also be noted that in 1991, Engine 1 was taken out of service to put Engine 14 in service on 460 (Gus Nicks area). City Council decided at the last minute to delete the new firefighter positions needed to staff the new engine 14 and simply up and move engine 1 out there from downtown. The newly funded firefighter positions became police officer positions.

With the future of the Roanoke Fire EMS Department still up in the air, the 9 station department concept is still on the table. Some of which would include the combining of Stations 5 and 9 (northwest), 2 and 10 (northwest), and 6 and 11 in Southeast. This was laid out in the Tri-Data Study recently completed for the City.

What will happen? Who knows. But rest assured, the trucks that remain in service should REMAIN IN SERVICE. It boggles my mind that the department is run on a skeleton crew. We have been chiseled away to bare bones and the future looks like it will get worse.

So as for right now, the 4 firefighter minimum seems far fetched when we cannot even comply with the 3 firefighter minimum.

I have stuck my neck out pretty far on this blog. And so be it if my skeptics only remember the stuff they disagree with. However, I have seen this occurrence long enough. I feel that there needs to be change. Trucks being marked out has become commonplace. I want the firefighters to know that this type of behavior is not safe or acceptable. I believe that many of us have become numb to the fact that it happens so often and feel that it is ok. It isn't.

I just don't want to be the person to be on this same pedestal saying told you so after a firefighter fatality or civilian fatality because trucks were out of service.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Staffing in Roanoke

Staffing in the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. This topic has bothered me for a long time. There are several issues relating directly to staffing, and I hope to cover several of them in the next few paragraphs.

First of all lets talk about trucks being out of service. I think that if we had scrolling message boards outside of each station notifying the citizens of when the trucks are out of service and why, we would have several complaints. I know that a lot of it is part of life like going out of service occasionally and being out on a call, even out of service for training. However, being a firefighter on the Northside, it is amazing how often Engine 2 and Engine 13 are out of service due to manpower.

Now let me give you a little background. All of Roanoke City's Fire Engines are staffed with a minimum of 3 firefighters (I will leave rank out of it). 3 of the 4 ladder trucks are staffed with a minimum of 3 firefighters. Recently, one of our Ladders (Ladder 7) has been staffed with a minimum of 4 firefighters. This is due to the fact that the Engine was taken out of service at that station and replaced with an ambulance. Better or worse, there are more issues concerning this removal of an engine. The Ladder that remained in place of the Engine Ladder combo now acts as a Quint, meaning the truck can do everything an engine and ladder can do (for the most part). The problem is that the truck doesn't do anything on it's own except sit quietly. Therefore, now you have 4 guys doing the job that in Roanoke requires 6 and in other cities requires 8 to 9 firefighters. That is right, in some cities, the minimum staffing is 4 on engines and ladders and even 5 on some ladders. But Roanoke apparently places a lot of stock in its firefighters by doing the job with 3.

I digress, the issue is staffing not removal of apparatus.

The point I was beginning to make with laying out the minimum staffing is just that; the minimum staffing is 3 on each piece except 1. If you walk in any fire station in Roanoke you will see 3 on the truck 80% of the time (just an educated guess). Where are all of the extra firefighters? Well the answer is that there aren't many. With guys off on vacation, sick, and light duty, and vacancies due to retirements, firefighters quiting, and other reasons we are left with the minimum on duty.

So basically every day we begin with the minimum unless by chance a station here or there has an extra firefighter. Extra being used very loosely because actually an extra firefighter would be above and beyond the 4 assigned to most apparatus.

So that is at 0750 hours when we begin our shift. Soon, apparatus will be magically marked out of service because of numerous reasons. Company level training, individual training, drug tests, physicals, meetings, investigations, promotional testing, Captains meetings, and many other reasons. Basically, anything that would require at least 1 firefighter to leave the station and not be able to answer calls while being in their first due territory.

This is when, on the Northside, Engine 2 and/or Engine 13 are most commonly out of service. It is usually out of the Battalion Chiefs hands. They work with what they have. On the Southside, I would imagine that the situation is similar. I bet the citizens would have a fit if they knew how often these trucks are out of service, when just a handful of more firefighters would fix the problem.

In the past, I have been a huge proponent of minimum staffing of 4, or compliance with NFPA 1710. Right now, I am not even pushing for the minimum of 4, but rather just the minimum of 3.
After all, if we have to mark a truck out of service because a firefighter has to go to training then are we really meeting the minimum of 3. I THINK NOT. Minimum staffing of 3 should mean a minimum of 3 all the time. Doesn't it just make sense. It seems to me like a cover up. Sure, the system allows for a certain amount of trucks to be out of service at a time. But for what reasons. Maybe we need to reform the system and add some positions just to ensure the minimum staffing is met.

I am kinda scared to ask for a minimum staffing of 4 anymore. The way things are currently going, if it was agreed upon, it would cost marking 5 trucks out of service unless of course we had every vacancy filled and everyone was at work that day.

I will leave you with a couple of things.

First of all, the Charleston review panel has come out with a recommendation of a minimum staffing of 4 in 2 years. Charleston FD is approximately the same size as Roanoke Fire-EMS.

Second, this video from the IAFF on NFPA 1710 (thanks for the heads up from Jay at Sorry for those of you on City Computers, you aren't allowed to access YouTube.

Thirdly, this video from Fairfax County IAFF on the topic of staffing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

John Dubose is Retiring, David Sexton Retires

Lieutenant John Harley Dubose (above) is retiring from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. John was hired on August 23, 1984 and his last day will be November 1, 2007. John's last assignment was on A-Shift at Station 10 assigned to the ARFF Company. John might be best known for being a part of some of the best cartoons the fire department has ever seen. Congratulations and best wishes on your retirement John. By the way, the neighbors called and asked if you could please finish the GARAGE MAHAL!!

I would have posted Davids retirement sooner, but he had concocted some scheme of going out with a bang. He decided not to do the idea, so I figured I would post his retirement. Firefighter David Sexton was hired on January 15, 1985 and retired just recently (I don't have the date). Sexy Sexton is probably the funniest and most sadistic member of our department. His demonstrative and colorful stories are a true pleasure to watch and listen to. The first time I worked with him, I learned that he had kicked everyones ass in the department.

The department will be different without these two class clowns. Best wishes. Both pictures were taken in the early 90's.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Eddie Fielder's Last Day on the Job and Retirement Party

Captain Eddie Fielder's retirement party was last night at Hooters. We had a great time and enjoyed some good stories and maybe a couple of beers.
Hooters announced Eddies Retirement on the sign out front

All of the guys got together for a picture. L-R Rhett Fleitz, Travis Collins, Zak Obenchain, Lynwood English, Jeff Proulx, Eddie Fielder, Teddy Adkins (in the very back), Jeremy Bennington, David Bishop, Todd Harris (in the very front), Chris Elmore (back), Sam Stump (front), Jim Mone, and Ben Obaugh.

The members of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department all chipped in to get Eddie this bugle on a pedestal. The engraving reads:
Captain Eddie Fielder
In Recognition of 23 Years of Dedication
To the Roanoke Fire - EMS Department
Congratulations and Best Wishes on
Your Retirement
September 17, 1984 - November 1, 2007

Todd Harris presents Eddie with a retirement gift

On the night of Eddie's last day at Station 13, the guys invited his wife, Cathy, in for a steak dinner. Standing in the back are Trevor Shannon and Jim Mone. Clockwise from the front left are: David Bishop, Jeremy Bennington, Cathy Fielder, Eddie Fielder, Joe Hodgin, Chris Elmore, Sam Stump, and Zak Obenchain. The dinner was also for Zak Obenchain who was leaving Station 13 to go to work at Station 2.

Station 13 C-Shift on the last day of Eddie's Career. L-R Firefighter Zak Obenchain, Firefighter Chris Elmore, Captain Eddie Fielder, Lieutenant Rhett Fleitz, Lieutenant Jeremy Bennington, 1st Lieutenant Sam Stump, Captain David Bishop (taking the helm at station 13 C-shift due to Eddie's departure), and Firefighter Lynwood English.

The dinner crowd for the evening: Standing - FF Zak Obenchain, FF Chris Elmore, Battalion Chief Dale Barker, Captain Eddie Fielder, Lt. Jeremy Bennington, FF Jim Mone. Kneeling - Lt. Rhett Fleitz, 1st Lt. Sam Stump, Captain David Bishop, FF Lynwood English.

Eddie Fielder and his wife Cathy in front of Engine 13

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reminder: Eddie Fielders Retirement Party

Captain Eddie Fielders Retirement Party will be tonight at 7pm at Hooters on Williamson Road. Everyone is invited.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Captain David Heck is Laid to Rest

Captain David Heck was laid to rest today. Firefighters from across the Roanoke Valley were on hand to show their respect for David, his family, and his friends.

I would like to take a minute to thank the Chiefs of Roanoke City, Roanoke County, and Salem for assisting in this event. It is testament to the brotherhood here in the valley. I would like to especially thank the 4 firefighters from the Lynchburg Fire Department who came and played the bagpipes. I was able to hold it together until the pipes played and the bells tolled.

The Honor Guard was exceptional at all of the services. Many thanks to The members of Salem's Honor Guard and Roanoke County's Honor Guard for helping out the City. I hope to see you guys working together more in the future.

Through this unfortunate event, Roanoke's Firefighters have been placed on an emotional roller coaster. Coping with this tragedy has been tough for many of us. I believe that we will be talking about the good times over coffee for some time.

The Heck family is extremely proud of David's Brother and Sister Firefighters. Jana, David's wife, took a minute at the funeral service to speak of all the love and compassion she has witnessed the past several days. She was sure to point out how overwhelmed she was by the support of David's Fire Department Family. It was a heartfelt thank you to all of us who have assisted the family to this point and in the future. She was especially thankful for the assistance of David Bocock and Dennis Duncan who have been great friends with David over the years.

Jana knows that if she needs anything in the future, all she has to do is call.

If you would like to read more about David and see more pictures of the Funeral Services click the picture below.

God Bless the Heck Family

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Captain Eddie Fielder Retires

Captain Fielder circa 1994

Captain Eddie Fielder is retiring today after 23 years of dedication to the department. Eddie's most recent assignment has been as company officer at station 13 on C-Shift (my Captain). Eddie was hired on September 17, 1984 and his retirement date will be November 1, 2007. We wish him a healthy and happy retirement. He will be relocating to Myrtle Beach with his wife, Cathy.

The guys at 13 will be sending him off with a steak dinner tonight. Feel free to call or stop by to say goodbye. We will be having a retirement party for Eddie on Wednesday, October 10th at Hooters at 7pm. Plan on attending.

I will have more as the day goes on.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Captain David Heck passed away

Captain David Heck passed away suddenly on Friday, October 5th. Captain Heck was the company officer at Station 7.

Pray for his wife and 3 children.


The arrangements are as follows:

Captain Heck will be given a Fire Department Funeral at the request of his Family.

His viewing will be from 2-4 and 7-9 on Monday, October 8th at Oakeys East (Bonsack). His funeral will be held on Tuesday, October 9th at 11am at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton. If you have any questions, you may contact me directly at

We are in need of Honor Guard members for the Funeral.

Obituary: From the Roanoke Times
David Thomas Heck, 41, of Roanoke, went to be with the Lord on Friday, October 5, 2007. He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter O. and Joyce B. Heck and nephew, Daniel Cromwell. David was a captain in the Roanoke City Fire Department Station #7 and also a member of Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church. He is survived by his wife, Jana Heck; children, Alexia Diane Heck, Jacob Thomas Heck and Evan Douglas Heck; sisters, Sherry and Lori Heck; brother, Walter O. Heck, Jr. and wife, Debbie Cromwell-Heck, father-in-law and mother-in-law, Robert and Nancy Adams; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Danny and Laurie Adams; niece, Michelle Cox; nephew, Brandon Heck and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church with The Rev. Dr. Rob Colwell officiating. Interment will follow in Mountain View Cemetery. Family will receive friends at Oakey's East Chapel from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, October 8, 2007. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church Honduras Mission. Arrangements by Oakey's East Chapel and Crematory, 540-977-3909.
Published in the Roanoke Times from 10/7/2007 - 10/8/2007.

The Ride for Billy Altman is tomorrow

Here is the information:

October 6 Charity Ride for Billy Altman
Motorcycle Ride to benefit the Altman Family Fund.

* 10am
* Va Dept of Fire Programs
* $10 per bike/$5 per passenger
* For information: Donald Hansen 531-7460 or

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

1001 posts

I missed a huge milestone on the last post. It was the 1000th post.

I hope you guys have enjoyed the blog thus far. It is hard to believe that there have been 1000 posts to date. What the hell have been all the posts about? The simple answer: everything related to Roanoke Firefighters.

This may not be the busiest fire related blog on the net, this may not be the most popular fire blog on the net, but it is one of the oldest.

A lot of fire related blogs come and go. There are fire blogs for all types of readers, however I think you will find that this is one of the best localized fire blogs on the net. Not because of me, but because of the topic.

It has been fun giving the Roanoke Fire EMS Department, the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association, and the respective firefighters international attention. I couldn't have done it without you all and the readers.

By the way, check out the Virginia Fire and Rescue Magazine for a write-up and pictures on the 13th Street fire.

I will continue to showcase the Roanoke Firefighters, add a little humor, include some politics, post news and incidents, piss some of you off, and vocalize issues on the forefront of our minds. All you all have to do is keep it real.

See you at the big one!