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Friday, February 29, 2008

Golf Tournament

If anyone knows of any companies interested in sponsoring the Annual Roanoke Valley Professional Firefighters MDA Golf Tournament, please let me or Charlie Adkins know as soon as possible.

The Tournament will be held on May 29th at Hanging Rock.

Please leave a comment or notify Charlie at


Thursday, February 28, 2008


A short little note about comments. It is very easy to get your point across without using names or slander.

Firegeezer on Driving Simulators

I thought you might like this article on driving simulators. I do not know if this is what Roanoke City is getting with the new grant, but it is a worthwhile read.

Link on

Roanoke Electric Steel Fire

Mike Overacker has some pictures of the Roanoke Electric Steel fire up at

On a side note, apparently DC Tartaglia told Roanoke City Police to ban Mike Overacker from future fire scenes. I am not exactly sure what is going on with this, but I think that Fire Photographers do a lot to preserve history, document incidents, and offer Firefighters with proof of a job well done or not as a training tool and/or pat on the back. I have seen photos taken by fire photographers used for investigations, slideshows, hung on walls, in presentations, and on websites. Some of which are Mike's photos used by the City.

I don't think that the sentiment displayed today towards Mike is the same outlook that many others have towards him, even in Administration. However, I cannot speak for them.

I would like to say that I appreciate the work Mike has done over the years in photographing incidents. As a matter of fact, the RFFA plans to submit some of Mike's work in the IAFF Media Awards Contest this year.

If it isn't broke...then don't fix it.

If it isn't broke...then don't fix it. Over 150 firefighters in the City of Roanoke subscribe to AFLAC insurance - either cancer, long term disablity, or Intensive Care (I believe those are the three offered). The firefighters like the coverage, as do hundreds of other Roanoke City Employees.

Recently, AFLAC was given the boot and the City brought in BCI to "communicate" the new insurance coverage. When the 5 individuals came to my station they stated they worked for BCI and/or Empower and were only there to "communicate" the insurance to us.

I am not taking this time to talk about the fact that the Human Resources openly handed out our information, I will do that later.

What I would like to do is offer you some insight as to what I have found on the Internet about Unum, Empower, BCI, and whoever else is related. I might add that these are internet articles and I have no way of knowing the credibility of the articles.

Unum aka Unum Provident - The website states "We are a company of people serving people. When you choose Unum as your employee benefits provider, you're in the hands of 10,000 people dedicated to providing better benefits to organizations of all sizes and their employees."

On Wikipedia, it states "Unum garnered media attention in 2002 after attorneys who had sued the company went to national television outlets claiming the company had quotas for closing claims."

Here is another article on Unum - "Unum was recently forced by state regulators to reopen 290,000 disability insurance claims that had been rejected, including a case where 'Unum insisted that a man who had quintuple bypass surgery was fit to go back to his job at a stock brokerage firm, even though his doctors said the stress might kill him' and where Unum 'refused benefits to a man who had had multiple heart attacks'[7]."

Here are some personal experiences with Unum.

Empower - The domain was recently purch

This article talks about Empower purchasing BCI. "The Empower Group Ltd., the global organization and performance consultancy founded in 2000, today announced that it has acquired Bowker Consulting International (BCI), one of the world's leading strategic compensation and benefit practices."

BCI - Bowker Consulting International - The domain is not registered.

Really and truthfully, this whole thing is a mess. The City hired Empower to figure out what insurance would be the best. Empower did that and is now signing people up for the insurance.

Unum was the chosen insurance along with Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual had a local rep deliver the product and a lot of us already had the insurance.

The fact of the matter is that the City had a benefit that the employees were happy with. Of all the benefits, this one was adequate unlike so many others. So what does the City do? Get rid of it and replace it with a less than appealing alternative.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sorry for the delay...but hang on another minute

I know most of you all tune in each day to see something new or read the newer comments on older posts. I will have a couple of posts coming up soon. I have been a little busy with selling and purchasing a new house.

First and foremost, I will be dissecting this issue with UNUM, Empower, BCI, Global...Whatever they call themselves insurance company. I will be looking at many different dimensions of this issue and I hope to enlighten you.

I will also have some pictures up from the banquet. Mainly just to get Kenny Walker off my back.

I have a post that I have wanted to do on the promotional process. The problem is that every time I think of it it is right at promotion time. I would have rather had it out a couple of months ago. Look for that in the future.

And last but not least, we have to come up with an award(s). I would like to see an award given out in some form or fashion from right here on the Roanoke Fire Blog. It could be annually, monthly, weekly, whatever. I just need some ideas. I might have some ideas this weekend.

Maybe weekly superlatives? Sounds pretty good. However, I wouldn't want to hurt anyones feelings. I can see it now: The firefighter most likely to....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A peak at Charlotte

I got an email from John Poff, a frequent reader of the blog, with some links to RIT and Firefighter Survival training in Charlotte. Apparently John checks in on the blog because he is a former Roanoker. As a matter of fact, he states that he went to high school with Captain Tim Parry.

John is just one of the many out of towners or former Roanokers who has checked in with me to let me know they like to read the blog. If you are in a similar situation drop me an email and let me know what is going on.

John sent in the following links of Charlotte Firefighters at work.

Slide show of pictures

Simulated danger, real survival lessons

Charlotte is a pretty decent department from what I know. I looked into relocating there about 3-4 years ago and liked what I saw. The department is still growing and adding stations as the City of Charlotte annexes the outlying Counties.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Firefighters earn state award for work during Roanoke fire

One firefighter suffered cardiac arrest during the November incident, but colleagues helped him.

Scott Hetherington had no pulse and wasn't breathing when his fellow Roanoke firefighters pulled him out of a burning house in November.

They laid the 39-year-old on the front lawn, and Assistant Fire Chief Billy Altman began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Hetherington, who recovered.

Meanwhile, another crew of firefighters arriving at the Ferdinand Avenue house got to work searching the home and putting out the blaze.

"You could see the pain on their faces, and they did an outstanding job," Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback said.

The department is receiving a Governor's Award for their quick actions to take care of the fire scene and save Hetherington, who suffered a cardiac arrest.

Read the entire story here

Friday, February 22, 2008

And the beating continues

You can only take a beating for so long before one of two things happens, you fight back or you are beaten to death.

I think that most employees of Roanoke City are nearing a concussion.

This week the City tried to roll out a new voluntary insurance plan. Unfortunately for us they dropped the AFLAC program. WTF?

I remember taking my own time to fill out a survey not too long ago about various voluntary insurance, health care, child care, pet insurance, etc. Really it was all kinds of stuff. Fluff more like it. Some of the stuff was just plain absurd. However, I don't remember anything about the City dropping our AFLAC.

At the time of the survey, there were many attempts to make sure a large portion of firefighters filled out the survey. Guess what. The FD had the largest percentage out of any other department in the City.

This is a voluntary insurance plan with several different options. The plans are used by countless City employees including a large percentage of Roanoke's Firefighters. After all, Firefighters have an increased chance of getting nearly every kind of cancer.

Guess what. Poof, it is gone. On top of that, the City then turned around and just gave our information out to another company...again.

Let me be extremely serious for a minute. What the hell is going on?

I know that some of you boot lickers are probably saying "Rhett, Rhett, Rhett, why don't you just leave it alone. It is for the better. They are looking out for us. Promotions are coming up. I don't like the blog. You hurt my feelings. Leave them alone. Boo Hoo Hoo."

The truth is that I am vested. This is my job, my career, my life. I don't appreciate being treated like this. Nor should you. I love my job. I love being a firefighter. I bring up these issues to make it better, to make people aware, and to help my fellow brother.

Everyday the rules change.
Everyday we lose something else.
Everyday something costs more.
Everyday we have to spend less.
Everyday the call volume increases.
Everyday there is something more they want from us.
Everyday we perform at our best. Lives depend on it.
Everyday we work, we leave our families with the understanding that one of us might not come home.

Lest I remind everyone about the Core Values of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department
You can view the entire Mission, Vision, and Values here.
The core values are below. They are all important, however the ones outlined are the ones which seem neglected.


* The employees of this department are our most valuable resource. Only through them will our mission be accomplished.
* The residents and visitors of Roanoke are our customers. We will constantly strive to provide them with the highest quality of service possible. We will consider every customer contact an opportunity to demonstrate our mission and values.
* Employee and customer safety will affect our approach to the services we provide.
* We uphold a philosophy of participative management that involves employees in issues that affect them, encourages open dialog, teamwork, trust and shares ideas among employees and management.
* We will maintain department integrity and longevity through fiscally sound and proactive planning and budgeting.
* Through research and development, visioning and creativity, we will constantly strive for better ways to fulfill our mission to serve our customers.
* We will promote the attributes of leadership, service, pride and respect in a secure, diverse workplace.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Spend or not to spend

Did anyone read the paper today?
Did anyone get the email about not spending any money?
Did anyone read the paper the other day about the $880k given to a private developer?
Did anyone get the memo on the FD having to cut the budget by almost $500k?

What is going on in Roanoke?

The City Council just voted to hand a private developer $880,000 to build apartments in the old Grand Piano building under one stipulation; they have to offer 17 low income apartments. What a joke. Define low income. Do you really think that someone paying $2000 a month for an apartment downtown will want to have people paying $300 for an apartment underneath them? Or is low income more like only $1500 a month? If you ask me, it is a waste of money when the City, much like every other facet of government from local to Federal, is having money problems. Read the whole story here.

Money problems? That is right. Once again, the FD has to cut the budget...again. I would imagine that the FD budget is probably about 95% salaries.

I will tell you about two people who do not have money problems: Scott Graeff and Ed Walker
Read about Scott here, whereas Ed Walker, a Roanoke redeveloper, owns the Colonial Arms building and has created condominium spaces on the top floors.

But you can't blame them. The City is practically giving away money. Money that they cannot afford to give away.

Do you know where that $880k could have been better spent? Purchasing one of the two much needed replacement ladder trucks in the City.

So you have to ask who is making the decisions? City Council and the City Manager right? Well sure, but what kind of decisions are they making? One Council member spent over $15,000 last year on meals and travel. Compare that to another Council member who only spent $123. That is right, only One Hundred and Twenty Three Dollars.

The best part of the article is this:

"It seems to me that if he had decided to take that challenge on -- to go to lunch with everybody in Roanoke -- he should have at least run it by council," Wishneff said.

That is freaking hilarious.

But what is it being spent on? Read this from one of his friends:

But Michael Ridenhour, a Roanoke audiologist, had a different take on his lunch with Dowe in July at Wildflour, which came to $23.

"We mainly talked about his golf game. He hadn't been playing as much as he wanted to," Ridenhour said.

Dowe did ask his opinion about a proposed amphitheater project, Ridenhour recalled. But he said much of the conversation consisted of Dowe, who is an agent for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, asking Ridenhour if he could be his agent.

"I had high hopes that this was just going to be a friend-to-friend meeting. But as it turned out, he was trying to sell me something.

"I love Alfred; he's a great guy ... but I thought it was a Northwest Mutual lunch," Ridenhour said.

Dowe said he remembered the amphitheater being a bigger part of the lunch conversation. But he also acknowledged that it's not unusual for his full-time profession to come up during a meal over city business.
You can read the entire article here

Monday, February 18, 2008

Captain Marvin Huddleston Retires

Captain Marvin Huddleston is retiring. His last day is today. Huddleston was hired in August 29, 1979 by the Roanoke Fire Department. Huddleston was one of the first Paramedics in the Roanoke Fire Department if not the first (if my memory serves me correctly). Huddleston is currently the Captain at Station 6 C Shift.

Captain Huddleston enjoyed a steak dinner with the guys at #6, his wife Claudia, Chief Beckner, and Captain Loren Thompson. He then went home from the station for the last time on the job.

Congratulations on your retirement. The picture below is from a fire at Chemsolv and taken by Lt. Mike Overacker (retired).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

AFG Awarded to Roanoke City

Roanoke City was awarded $302,424.00 in Operations and Safety in the latest round of Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

Does anyone know what this is for? I have not heard and I am interested.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fire on Highland Avenue

Here is video from Roanoke Times on the fire today.

I have a couple of pics from after the fire I will try to get online tomorrow. Check over at Mike Overackers site for more pictures.

Why Roanoke City is the best

The other day, I was talking to a Captain about certain issues in the Department. As usual, we talked about many different issues that pertain to the day to day lives of firefighters on the job in Roanoke. Some of the issues were positive, others negative.

The thing that caught my attention was that while talking about the loss of Engine 7, and how the "Quint" Ladder 7/Medic 7 has been operating, he said that the reason why it is working is not because of anything other than "The guys (firefighters) make it work".

How true that is, not just about #7 but about everything that isn't peachy in the department. We push ourselves because it is our job. We make the job what it is. We make it as good or bad as we want to. In the face of all the issues surrounding our job, we do what we can to make it the best department around. If only we didn't have to always put on a fake smile to make everything look great at face value.

Not everything in the department is bad, actually far from it. However, the truth is that we work for decent wages, increasingly expensive benefits which could be better, on some great firetrucks and others that are terrible, in stations which are average or better, with rules that span from fairly straightforward City POP's to unwritten rules that shouldn't matter, in a City where the Citizens (most of them) love us, yet powers that be just want us to show up to work and keep our mouths shut and be happy.

The initiatives of the Department aren't all that far fetched. The direction the department has taken in the past few years has good merit, but the planning and implementation is missing a key ingredient - buy in from its members.

You can come up with the best plan, but if you don't sell it to your constituents it is worthless. For example, by removing Engine 7 you can easily change the numbers to make your point whichever way you want it to go. Statistics and Analysis are used to prove that point. However, the guys on the street running the calls are effected. We make due with what we have to work with.

In the fire service, tragedy dictates policy.
FDNY - everyone gets self rescue rope after two firefighters die jumping to their deaths to escape fire.
Charleston - A potential full system overhaul after 9 firefighters die tragically fighting a sofa super store fire.
Prince William County - several initiatives, one big one being staffing after the death of Firefighter Kyle Wilson.
Lairdesville - numerous initiatives, most notably NFPA 1403 after a senseless training death.

However, those are more recent than some others. A lot has been done in the past after historic fires resulting in improved building and fire codes.

The most progressive Fire Departments learn from other Departments tragedies, mistakes, misfortunes, Firefighter deaths, Civilian Deaths, and otherwise lackluster policies and operational procedures.

We have reaped the benefits of some of these changes following others tragedies, but not all. We follow 1403 very closely, one of many NFPA Guidelines that are strictly followed by the department. There are so many other NFPA guidelines which we fall a little short.

What about the self escape ropes? I carry one, because I have taken the time and money to put one together - but it is not issued to me. I carried it before the FDNY tragedy because I felt it was a necessity. Why aren't we issued them? Will we have to see a similar fate before we see them.

What about staffing?
What about a fine tuned set of SOP's to follow?

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department is the best because of its Firefighters, nothing more nothing less. Without as much adversity, we could be so much better.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Training into the night at #10

Eventually, everyone gets there name on the blog. Some for more heroic or meaningful reasons than others. Today at Station 10, a couple of the newer firefighters learned an important lesson about Old Glory. Station 10 does not have a light on the flag and it is the newest firefighters role to raise the flag in the morning and lower it in the evening. Today, Old Glory was forgotten about until Captain Flora noticed. He immediately summonsed the firefighters who's duty it is to lower the flag and fold it. They were given a little lesson in proper etiquette. Below is Firefighter White and Firefighter McDonald saluting the flag before bringing it in for the night. Thanks to Captain Flora for the photos.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ladder 13...the busiest?

I bet you that right now, Ladder 13 is the busiest truck in the City. Maybe not for calls run in its first due, but all together.

Most recently, it was on the Ferdinand Fire. First in as a matter of fact. So what if Ladder 7's crew was on it.

It was also on the Summer Tree Apartment fire. A little out of the first due of Station 13. 7's crew was on it that day too.

It is kinda like that joke. You know the one with the punchline...Everyone gets a turn on her. No wonder when we get Ladder 13 back to Station 13 she is broke.

On the other hand. Ladder 7 ran 31 calls the other day during the wind storm. That is a couple more than normal. I am not sure, but they might have been riding Ladder 13 actually.

...Anyways, I have a good story for you guys soon. It is a historic story. One that takes the blog back to its grassroots. That is right, one that should shake your core. One that many may not know about. So stay tuned for that soon.

31 calls, now that sounds like fun....ONCE.

Stay Safe.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Get out and Vote

Vote tomorrow at the Primaries.

Everyone should vote. Whether you are voting for Obama or Clinton or McCain or Huckabee, you should get out and vote.

I still don't know who I will vote for, but I will be voting.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Time to make some phone calls again

A very important bill in Senate needs your support. The Line of Duty Bill was uncontested until yesterday when . Your support is needed to contact Senator Edwards and let him know you want his support on this.

Read more on the Local 1132 Site. Read about the current status of the bill here.

Contact Senator Edwards here.

View other Legislative tracking on

Call his office now. Ask for his support on Senate bill 329. That is all you have to do. From what I understand, they have already received 73 calls from across the State this morning.

Stay Safe

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Superman or Super Chuck

Captain Chuck Swecker might have the stature of Superman, but I am not sure that he is the Man of Steel. This picture was sent in by his brothers on A-Shift. Captain Swecker is currently assigned to Firehouse 5 on A-Shift.

The Crow Update

Black Crow Terrorist Policy
January 27, 2008

It is the policy of the Black Crows to respond vigorously to all terrorist attacks at our station and to our members as well as our mascots. The Black Crows regard all such terrorism as a potential threat to station security as well as a criminal act and will apply all appropriate means to combat it. In doing so, the Black Crows shall pursue vigorously efforts to deter and preempt, apprehend individuals who perpetrate such acts.

January 18, 2008 our founding symbol of pride was brutally abducted by terrorist. Information from underground sources have revealed that he has been tortured and has made the ultimate sacrifice. Although he will be missed, other Black Crows within his family have proudly stepped up into his place and took over his duties.

It is the policy of the Black Crows not to make concessions to terrorist, therefore if any member is lost in action they will be held up and given the highest honors.

The only request the Black Crows will make is that all remains whether human or plastic be returned to receive these said honors and a hero’s burial.

Oops...better use spell checker

Humor is the best medicine. Therefore, I give you a goof up. Apparently someone messed up when ordering or making these rulers by misspelling the word PRACTICE . They incorecctly spelled it PRATICE. I guess it is the thought that counts. Don't worry. Everyone makes mistakes, just sit back and laugh because this is funny.

Improper Ladder Heeling

Do you work with this guy?

The ARFF Challenge

This video is great. Maybe the guys at 10 should try this...kidding.

Several Posts coming today

Stay tuned for several posts later today. A couple humorous. Actually all of them are humorous. I hope you all have a sense of humor.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stay Tuned

Hey all, I have been a little busy lately. I have a lot of stuff to post. Here are some of the things coming soon:

  1. Superman at #5? just wait it is funny.
  2. The Crow saga continues...or ends...or begins again.
  3. Pictures from the banquet. If you have some to share, send them in.
  4. A thought about the comments...again. Yes, some of you all still don't get it.
  5. Supplemental Life Insurance at the tip of your fingers. This is a decent deal at the tips of your fingers.
Also, feel free to take a minute to let me know about what else is going on. Just comment on things in general, ideas for the blog, or news I am missing.

Most of all, Stay Safe

Friday, February 01, 2008

Looking for Gary Fisher


Thanks for all the help guys. I talked to Gary last night. Everything is well overseas.

If anyone knows of anyone else overseas, let me know. I have been in contact with Jeremy Edwards from Roanoke County, he is deployed in Iraq currently.


If anyone knows Gary Fishers email, let me know. Gary if you see this, email me at

Also, I am looking for information on Roanoke Valley Firefighters who are deployed and/or working overseas in the war, helping with the war, or work related to the war.

If you know of anyone, please email me and let me know.