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.
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?


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

Msgr. Thomas Miller, presiding

St. Andrews Catholic Church

631 North Jefferson Street

Roanoke, Virginia 24011

+ + +

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.

+ + +



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

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

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

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

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

Northside C-Shift
Originally uploaded by firefleitz.

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for tuning in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AR -1
Originally uploaded by firefleitz.

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

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

National Volunteer Fire Council — Small Fire Stations Losing Volunteers:

Small Fire Stations Losing Volunteers

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

By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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

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

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

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

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

The highlights of the City firefighters are as follows:

C.J. “going, going, damn that was so close” Arrington

Todd “Fingertips” McFall

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

Highlight for the County:

Barry “I’m too sexy for this” Hurley

Highlight for Salem:

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

Engine 8, Medic 1, and Ladder 1 (currently replaced by the HTR truck) responded at shift change to a vehicle accident on Jefferson Street this morning. A boom truck was struck by a semi as a worker was working several stories up. The knuckle of the boom truck was hanging out into the street and a semi hit it as it traveled down Jefferson. The worker rode the boom all the way to the ground and was seriously injured in the fall. The worker was transported to RMH, his condition is unknown.
I know, some of you are still waiting for the pictures from the softball game. I will be uploading them tomorrow. I promise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, this is kind of like the link dumps that I have been offering, only this time there will be commentation. Let us start off with Travis Pastrana’s double backflip at the X games (link). That is just sick. To think that only a couple of years ago the backflip was cutting edge. Then we will follow that up with an older video of a tractor trailer that overturned onto a car (link).
Then we move onto the local scene. I wonder if there are any Roanoke Firefighters who have run into any of these self proclaimed thugs.

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

Roanoke Firefighters Blog:

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

Local 1132 site:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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