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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

An Answer

Someone asked a question in a comment on the last post about Butch Ferguson. I do not know how he is doing exactly. I do know that he is living at the Raleigh Court Health Care Center. He suffered a stroke a year ago January and another one more recently. The last time I saw him was in November. He was getting around then, although there was obvious deficiencies due to the stroke.

I got word today that Retired Captain Givens is at RMH. His wife contacted the guys at 9 and I was relayed the message. I contacted her and she said that he is not doing very well. Call me and I will give you the room number.

Update in comments if you have further.

2008 RVFFCU Annual Dinner Meeting at Mill Mountain Zoo

The 2008 Annual Dinner meeting will be held at Mill Mountain Zoo this year on July 11th. The Roanoke Virginia Firemen Federal Credit Union rents out the entire zoo and invites members and guests to enjoy an evening of food and fun with at the zoo. If you have kids, this is a perfect event for them. Door prizes, caricatures, the zoo choo, and other events are popular each year.

Contact the Credit Union at 342-5809. Visit the RVFFCU online here.

For those of you who do not know, the credit union was started...ah hell why not read about it on this post from May of 2005 right here on the blog (link).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

At Face Value

What the Citizens of Roanoke don't understand is that by taking Engine 13 out of service now, the department is setting up them up to make them feel better when they remove Engine 9 from service.

When the new Station 5 opens, it will be a combination of the current Station 5 and 9 (currently housing Engine 5, Engine 9, and Medic 9 collectively). When the combination occurs, Ladder 13 will be moved to the new station and one of the engines will move back to Station 13. The FD will come out smelling like roses. What the Citizens don't understand is that it will be smoke and mirrors. We all understand that.

Chief Hoback asked me if I knew why Ladder 9 was moved to Station 13 becoming Ladder 13. He told me it was because the new ladder would not fit in Station 9. The truth is that Chief Grigsby got all of the statistics together to prove the need for the Ladder truck at 13 instead of 9 and a medic truck was put in place of the ladder at station 9.

Now, they will sell the combination as not taking a truck out of service, but actually swapping an engine with a ladder. Everyone knows that the area covered by 5 and 9 is the busiest in the city for fires.

What sense does this make. If the news media was doing their job, they would pick up on this and run with it. Why the smoke and mirrors. This whole consolidation plan has been a huge magic trick. We are the pawns, the citizens are the pawns, and City Council has bought it all hook-line-and sinker.

There have been a lot of great comments recently. I applaud your insight. I cannot think of every angle and do not claim to.

It is amazing that our Fire Chief was worried for his job by not going against the budget proposal...supposedly. This same retaliation is what we have lived with for so long. I guess the same medicine is served to all under the current regime.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The New Tradition...

I was just reading an email from Billy Goldfeder. The email wasn't to me personally, actually it was broadcast to probably several thousands of email accounts nearly daily. The email is titled the secret list. Long story short, it started many years ago between peers and today it informs thousands of LODD's, on duty injuries, accidents, stupidity, and the like relating to firefighters.

Today's email began talking about the Charleston 9 and then talks about an LODD in Deleware. In the email, Chief Goldfeder talks about a quote he heard from a non-firefighter. His discussion led me to another point off topic of Charleston's 9, however still near and dear to our hearts. Read below what he typed and I will comment afterwards:

Text below from Billy Goldfeder view entire email and sign up for the secret list here
I was recently in a meeting with our website partner Gordon G along with some others who are deeply focused on the issues of firefighter safety and survival-and one of the comments that came up (from a non-firefighter) is "we need to see what we can do so fire chiefs, fire officers and firefighters can sleep better at night"...the simple but serious comment was referring to the many survival and risk related issues that are on firefighters, fire officers and firefighters minds when planning avoid tragic events. When I heard that comment-and I love that comment-because it refers to some level of peace of mind when a FD is well led, well trained and well disciplined, I thought of the 9 Firefighters who were killed in the Line of Duty in Charleston. In thinking about the comment, if there is anything that can be learned from Charleston, it is that leadership of any FD, at all ranks, must look beyond what they personally "like" or the traditions they are "comfortable" with...and learn what the best practices are in protecting their members when providing service.

In many cases, what's best isn't always within the confines of our own departments. Chiefs, Officers & Firefighters: it isn't "our" is someone elses...and we have to do what is best for those having the fire-and must do our best for those who are fighting the fire. The folks having their fire called us to do whatever we can to make it all better. And our families expect fire leadership to do whatever we can (before and during) to avoid those operating from getting hurt or worse. Sometimes we have to get hurt or worse. Most of the time, we don't.
This hit me as an interesting thought, and I put a twist to it. The Firefighters in Roanoke have (had) a lot of tradition(s). We have given a lot of those up for more safe, efficient, smarter ways of doing things. Some of these traditions were given up voluntarily, yet most were taken away without a thought of asking us or allowing us to buy in to the new program. The thought that comes to mind is it being shoved down our throats. However, there is a new tradition in town!!! That tradition is budget cuts, engine-to-ambulance makeovers, and more work for less firefighters. This tradition needs to stop. REREAD the comments from Goldfeder above!! He is a Deputy Chief and he is saying these things. We have been saying it for so long.

I like some of the old traditions, I understood some of them had to pass. At least I was here to seem some of them go...On the other hand, who will not be here when this tradition passes. When one of us pay dearly with our lives and everyone points the finger at our Chief or whoever is sitting in that seat at the time, who will have resistance to change then.

It is plain as day, we need change for the better. We all had stock in the new regime, but it didn't pan out.

2%? 3%? 5%? I think not. Apparently, some of us aren't getting around to the stations like others of us. Most firefighters won't tell one of the 3 top Chiefs to their face that they are disgruntled and that the job has been damn near ruined because of poor decision making by the City and the Department.

I will tell you this, whoever is reading, I get around to the stations. I get around to them a lot. I run into firefighters at their stations, at my station, at the Credit Union, on fires, at the Union Hall, talk to them on the phone (a lot), get emails from them, read their comments. I bump into them at the grocery store, at the furniture store, at the restaurant, at the mall, at the doctor's office. I meet their wives, I meet their children, I meet their parents. I know every one of our firefighters names and a lot of their families. I enjoy bumping in to them. They mean a lot to me because they are my brothers, my sisters, my peers, and my friends. These people are disgruntled! These firefighters deserve better! These firefighters need leadership and they need a department and a vision, core values, and a mission they can believe in. Not just words written and hung in the stations, they need words that the leadership believes in and abides by. We need

Charleston 9

Today marks the one year anniversary of the LODD's in Charleston. I have added several links to information on websites covering the incident on

Never Forget


1300 riders; that is the figure given for motorcycle riders in the benefit ride for Officer Bryan Lawrence. The latest tally is that the ride raised around $40,000 for Bryan.

That is quite the event.

Bryan is in therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The Shepherd Center is a Catastrophic Care Hospital. If you would like to keep up with Bryan, go to You will have to login and then search for the name "officerbryanlawrence". You will be able to see what he has been up to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

RFA Bowling Night, Officer Bryan Lawrence Motorcycle Ride, and a Rant at the End of it All

Hey all, the blog is still active. I have heard rumor of it getting shut down and that is not true. I have been busy. Very busy as a matter of fact. After all of the turmoil with the budget cuts, I have had to catch up on being a husband and a father on top of a little bit of travel. So I am writing this post as an update to several things.

First of all, the Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary (link) is hosting a bowling night this Friday. They need to know ASAP if you will be there. It seems as though we will have a great turnout already. More info:

The Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary is hosting a Family Bowling night for all union members including their families(including children). The event will be held Friday, June 13th from 7-10PM @ Hilltop Lanes on Williamson Road. The rate for bowling is $12.50/person (inclusive of shoes and unlimited bowling). Please respond to if you will be able to attend and include the number in your party so we can give them a final count. Encourage all union members to come. You do not need to be involved in the Auxiliary at this time to attend. Feel free to forward to other spouses and union members. Thank you for all your support.
If you want, call me or let me know and I will let my wife know who is involved with the Auxiliary.

I would also like to note that the Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary is a great place for your spouse to meet other spouses of firefighters, have fun, and get away from us occasionally.

Secondly, the motorcycle ride is this Saturday. The motorcycle run in honor of Officer Bryan Lawrence is set to begin June 14 at the Roanoke Civic Center. More information here (link).

Thirdly, I have been in a rut recently and I think a lot of other firefighters have been too. The take, take, take mentality of Roanoke City and OUR Fire-EMS Department has brought us to an ever increasing low. I don't want to get into all the details, but if you look back at the most recent posts you will see what we have been through. I have bumped into Chief's here and there and it appears as though they think this stuff has no effect on us. Of course it isn't their fault because they were told to do it (right). The fact remains that our morale is at an all time low.

I have remained positive over the past 9 years that things will get better. I have always maintained a level of professionalism when someone contacts me about working in Roanoke. I have always shot them straight and told them the truth. That truth was usually that we have the same problems other departments do but that our FIREFIGHTERS make us exceptional. This thought was brought to mind in recent conversations with Chief Hoback. I told him that the statistics he used to close down Engine 13 were the same statistics we make happen. We are the ones who run the calls and get there quick and make a difference by mitigating the emergency. Not the "too lean" (by his account) administration. The truth is that we are in a catch 22. We can't sandbag on calls or drive slower, that isn't what we do. What we need is leadership in the Fire Department who will stand up and say that enough is enough and lay out a new plan instead of continuing on with Grigsby's 10 year consolidation plan.

Lastly, on a measure of Safety on the job. Please make every attempt to work as safe as possible. Every year we get busier and have less firefighters to do the job. Administration now looks at Station 7 as a 5 person group. However, you are only 3 strong if the ambulance is on a call. Please remember not to over commit to anything so that we all may go home in the morning. I can tell you that while some others might not give a crap while they sleep in their beds at night, I do care. I have enjoyed working with each and every one of you and I would hate to see any of us die amidst all this bureaucratic red-tape bullshit that is going on downtown. The FIREFIGHTERS are the ones who know what is going on and who will ultimately pay for these budget cuts.

Solutions: I will give you the ultimate solution. Chief Hoback should *gasp* form a committee of Fire-EMS Department representatives and IAFF Local 1132 Officers to sit down and create reform of the Department. I wish I could say I thought that up, but actually it is pretty much stated in the Tri-Data Study. This committee should first rule to cast out the 10 year Grigsby plan and come up with a 5, 10, and 20 year plan to reform the department. This committee should be tasked with handing down tasks to other committees to research, develop, and implement in our department. Everything from dress, to response, to apparatus, to pay and benefits should be reformed. I will be the first to put my name in the hat on that committee.

I will be at the bowling night Friday night. I hope to see you all there.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Firefighters beat the heat for cancer research

"There are no flames to put out, but some local firefighters are sure feeling the heat and all for a good cause. Fire and EMS teams from Roanoke and Salem braved the heat Sunday to raise money for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Research at Duke University. "
I am sorry I missed this event. I was out of town. I hope all who were involved had a great time and raised some money.

Check out the video and read the entire story here

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Even the Citizens are recognizing it.

Read this post of the state of City Employees here

My particular complaint has to do with the fact that the city council, like the school board, has been the tail wagged by the dog. It isn’t like council doesn’t know the woman has been a holy terror. It isn’t like they don’t know she’s called Madame Umbrage – some of them probably have used the terms themselves – but the fact that they still do not take control of the situation rankles my taxpayin’ little self.

When they can’t fill city government positions because nobody is nuts or desperate enough to go to work down there, then maybe, like the school board, they’ll wake up. Meanwhile, the talent drain will continue. Experienced staffers who are excellent at their jobs are tired of the BS and are, like the teachers, voting with their feet or counting down until early retirement.

Read the entire post here

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

RFA hosts Family Bowling Night

This is a message from the RFA (Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary). Be sure to email them if you are a spouse and interested in getting involved in the RFA as well.

The Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary is hosting a Family Bowling night for all union members including their families(including children). The event will be held Friday, June 13th from 7-10PM @ Hilltop Lanes on Williamson Road. The rate for bowling is $12.50/person (inclusive of shoes and unlimited bowling). Please respond to if you will be able to attend and include the number in your party so we can give them a final count. Encourage all union members to come. You do not need to be involved in the Auxiliary at this time to attend. Feel free to forward to other spouses and union members. Thank you for all your support.

Your RFA Executive Board
Melanie Graham (President)
Becky Fleitz (Vice President)
Sharon Mougin (Treasurer)
Lori Compton (Secretary)

The direction the Blog is going

Apparently, some people do not like the blog anymore. Some of these people are the subject of a lot of the posts recently. I apologize. Not for the posts, but for the need for them. However, this isn't my fault. I am not the one who openly admits (and has to many firefighters) that he said what he had to say on camera and to the Roanoke City Council to keep his job. The words he spoke came from another's mouth, but it was his job to say them. Or what? Or he would be retaliated against? Perhaps retribution for telling the truth (if it is possible)? Maybe even fired if he did not tell them what he was told to say.

I remember in a Council meeting several years back the Nelson Harris said that Roanoke City would not stand for Retaliation. The comments were spurred by Rodney Jordan telling City Council about the retaliation that is ever present in the department. He promised us. After all, Roanoke City Council is supposed to be the Decision Makers in the City. They are supposed to have complete control and the City Manager and subsequent team under the CM is to carry out those decisions. So if the Mayor said it, it must be true (remember that little ditty).

Apparently, the web is tangled, that web which was woven several years ago. Now the City has Department Heads afraid for their job. So very afraid that one might actually put the Citizens and City Employees at risk instead of telling the truth. Those very employees which are "our most important resource" and " residents and visitors of Roanoke are our customers" (link).

There are so many other things to discuss. Like the Captains wasting their time on evaluations. Nobody cares about getting an 80, 90, or 100. It is nearly impossible to get 100. even if you get above a 90 what have you got. Nothing. Sure, last year there was more of a raise if you got above a 91. They were on the right track to a point. Other than having some Captains who did not want to take the time to justify a high mark, or want to fight with the Chiefs over why they gave the score. After all, the Captains should know and should be trusted to give fair evaluations. If not, then why are they Captains.

Mediocrity is the word of the day. Nobody cares about evaluations. Nobody wants to do any extra. Nobody wants to keep getting walked all over.

The sad thing is that I wasn't always this way. You can look back right here on the blog and see how I used to be. This department was the best department in the World. I have helped recruit many to the job. Candidates from all over the Nation pop in to see what is going on. I have always offered a no bullshit approach to it. I don't care who they are, just that they are interested and I pass on the information they need. Ask around, people know who we are and they liked what they saw. The tides have turned.

The only reason why I post these rants as I do is because it gives so many a voice. Too many people are scared of retaliation, and they are able to comment and add to my thoughts anonymously. I would much rather be working on something else and talking about all the good in the department.