Hey all,

I got a phone call today from a brother out of State. We hadn’t talked in about 6 months and he regularly kept up with the Roanoke Fire Blog. Apparently, he missed the transition from the old blogspot address and hosting to the new and improved site here at RoanokeFire.com. In all actuality, he had emailed me back in February, as a lot of other guys did, but I did not return their emails. It was not out of disrespect, I just didn’t feel like talking about what was going on in Roanoke. I didn’t care about what was going on.

Some of you might be asking how such a big proponent for positive change, safety concerns, and the all around need for truth in the department would suddenly not care. I will give you a short synopsis, and yes comments are open so you can throw in whatever the hell you want.

Prior to January, I was the Secretary/Treasurer of IAFF Local 1132, a position I held for somewhere around 4 years. I loved the job, with all of its ups and downs. The biggest perk was being able to meet and hang around many others locally, across the State, and even across the Nation who were like me, wanted change, and were committed to the IAFF and their Union Brothers and Sisters.

After January, I was no longer the Secretary/Treasurer. The reason being is because I resigned. I resigned at the request of some of the members of my Local. Don’t think for a minute that it was a majority of the members, it wasn’t.

It has now been several months since that meeting and I have not talked about it too much. Not because it is painful to talk about, but because it angers me. It doesn’t anger me that I resigned. It angers me because I figured if they weren’t happy with the way I was doing things, they would DO things differently. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, the movers and shakers of the Local are still plugging away minus one and the the ones who wanted my head on a stake are still doing what they did before…nothing constructive.

I get asked all the time to post stuff on the blog. Things like “our apparatus was out of service” or “did you see what they did the other day” or “what about those cuts that City Council is thinking about”. I hear it, but I didn’t post it. I didn’t post it because I was sick of sticking my neck out.That is about over. I am going to get back into it.

I still believe that this site was a great way of educating:

  1. The public learned about what was going on
  2. The press learned about what was going on
  3. The public and press were explained things that are usually swept under the rug
  4. Other Union Brothers learned about what we were going through
  5. Union Brothers learned that it is ok to speak up
  6. Marketing the Department and Local across the Nation as a great department (faults and all)

After all, we are a great department.

I am looking out the window and noticing that nothing is still burning. We don’t burn houses to the ground like some neighboring departments (has a lot to do with response times). We work well together. For the most part, we look out for one another.

Our local has come along, but it hasn’t even scratched the surface of what it is capable of. One thing I was always weary of was exposing weaknesses of our Local. I wasn’t covering anything up, I just wasn’t giving attention to things we should be doing better.

Luckily, it doesn’t matter anymore. I can no longer be held accountable for my words as an officer of the Local. That is a big weight off of my shoulders. Therefore, you will soon hear more about what is wrong and what we need to do better as a Local.

The best part of not being the Secretary/Treasurer is that I get to coach my son in soccer and lacrosse. I get to go see my daughter do gymnastics and dance. I get to hang out with my wife. I get to get back to living and I am loving every minute of it.

I get to do all that and I don’t have some asshole standing by to say that I am not doing anything or asking what I am doing for them.

I have always stood by the reasoning that an organization is only as strong as its members. Local 1132 is no different as are most Locals in the States and Canada.

We could be so much stronger if the ones who say things like “What is the IAFF doing for me” would spend their energy becoming part of the solution.

I am still an IAFF member and I am looking forward to staying involved. I am a proud IAFF member.

- Rhett Fleitz

This morning, IAFF Local 1132 members hosted a breakfast in honor of retired firefighters from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department (although all were hired and most retired when it was still the Roanoke Fire Department). The breakfast was attended by about 50 firefighters, a couple of spouses/relatives, and a handful of helpful Local 1132 members. The highlight was having Bob Gillespie attend. Bob will be 95 in a couple of months and is the oldest living retired firefighter. There were so many firefighters in attendance who do not get to see one another on a regular basis. The guys loved being around each other and to tell stories on each other.

The Retirees normally meet on the second Tuesday of every month for a breakfast at K&W Cafeteria. Our breakfast took the place of the normal breakfast.

Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers stopped by to say hello as well as Roanoke Fire Fighters Association President Rodney Jordan and Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback.

The event was put on by Captain Willie Wines Jr. (C-Shift VP) and most of his crew from Station 9 C-Shift. Thanks to all who helped including Robert Reid, Rachel Winter, Ben Obaugh, Scott Boone, Craig Sellers, Baron Gibson, Rodney Jordan, and Willie Wines Sr.

I must admit that you don’t really know about our fire department until you have hung out with these guys a couple of times. Enjoy the pictures and video.

Editors note: you are getting the videos in their entirety because I have not learned how to edit them yet. Give me some time and I will catch up to the technology! I have a camcorder that records in HD, but I lose some of the quality when uploading to youtube. I hope to figure this out in the future to make it better.

Video of the Retirees getting settled in and catching up.

Captain Wines welcoming the retirees.

Pete Price reminiscing over the past. Great stories!

Ok, I have corrected the glitch for all the newly registered members on the Local 1132 site. You should be able to click on online voting and the voting initiative will show. My apologies. If indeed you still cannot see the voting initiative, please contact me directly and I will update your profile.

One other note. If you have already registered, please do not register again. If you cannot find your registration information through the website, contact me and I will reset your password and send you the information via email. For this stuff please use my email: webmaster@local1132.org.


Also thanks to all who helped with Fill the Boot today. If you would like to help out tomorrow (Sunday) please contact Steven McFaden at Station 2 and he will point you in the right direction. We are collecting at Towers Kroger from 10am – 3pm.

Attention all RFFA members, please take the time to complete a short one answer voting initiative on the Local 1132 website. If you would like to leave further comments on the banquet, feel free to leave feedback here or contact myself or Tim Parry.

Click here for LOCAL1132.org

Please post on Union Boards in Stations
Attention All IAFF Local 1132 Members:

AFLAC Signup March 26th and 27th at the Credit Union

Your Union Officers have been working diligently to remedy the situation left by Roanoke City’s decision to discontinue allowing AFLAC to directly draft from payroll.

Due to this issue, Local 1132 has decided to create its own group account with AFLAC. The group will be administered by the Local. This will also enable Local 1132 to decide what programs/products will be offered to its members.

The immediate need is to get all Local 1132 members switched over to the new group from Roanoke City’s group. The Local has been working with the Roanoke Virginia Firemen Federal Credit Union to create an easy transition to the new group as well as set you up with direct deposit from your payroll into your Credit Union Account then having AFLAC draft from each individual account.

The process only takes about 5 minutes. You need to fill out a form for AFLAC followed by a new payroll deduction form for the RVFFCU.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Rhett Fleitz #######.

Here are some answers to common questions so far:

· You will direct deposit into your Credit Union account biweekly. AFLAC will draft from it once a month.
· There will be an extra half payment put in your RVFFCU account twice a year – AFLAC will not draft this amount.
· You may sign up on March 26th or 27th.
· If you cannot make these dates, contact Rhett Fleitz.
· If you have not had the chance to get AFLAC since being hired or would like to add/drop your coverage you will be able to do so in the following months. Please bear with your Union Officers while we get everything set up.
· We would like to get everyone set up by April 1st. Please plan on coming by the Credit Union on the 26th or 27th.

Rhett Fleitz
Roanoke Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1132

Did you know that IAFF Local 1132 (Roanoke Fire Fighters Association) runs a nearly complete listing of IAFF Locals call the IAFF Locals Listing (http://www.IAFFLocals.com). If you didn’t, now you do.

I digress…I realized today that the IAFF Locals List has achieved excellent status on Google. That is right. If you search google for “IAFF”, with or without the qoutation marks, that the website is #2 just behind the IAFF website (http://www.IAFF.org). Let me just say that it has taken about a year and a half to reach this status.

I just thought I would pass along the news. You can view the search here.

By the way, we get about 10 additions each week for the site and I update it about once a week.

2007 Annual Roanoke Valley Guns and Hoses Hockey Game
Click the picture for the article and more pictures.
Pictures by Michael Overacker
This is a reminder of the Guns N’ Hoses 4 Hockey Game tonight at 5pm at the Roanoke Civic Center. Youth Hockey begins at 5, the Firefighters VS. the Police begins at 6/6:30. Be sure and come out to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The Roanoke Fire-EMS/Roanoke Fire Fighters Association Color Guard began the event with the posting of the colors.

The Color Guard members are L-R Noel Gardner,
John Burrows, Daryl Songer, and R.T. Flora
Last night was the 2006 Annual Awards Banquet held by the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association Local 1132. The event was held at the Holiday Inn, formerly the Clarion, and was an enjoyable evening.

The highlights of the Banquet are the Retirement Axes handed out to the Firefighters who retired during the past year, and the awards giving to firefighters for exceptional acts including Firefighter of the Year.

Of the retirements over the past year, the firefighters who were present to receive their retirement axe were; Billy Obenchain, Oscar Smith, John Sweeney, and Michael Overacker.

Michael Overacker photographed the evening, so this is the picture
of him receiving his retirement axe.

This year the coveted “Firefighter of the Year” award actually went to 5 firefighters for a double rescue that occurred at a house fire. Captain Scott Mutter, 1st Lt. Scott Alford, Lieutenant Jamie Brads, Firefighter George Harris, and Firefighter Eric Mulford performed two rescues on the scene of a house fire. Congratulations to all you guys.
Receiving the award for Firefighter of the Year are: L-R Scott Alford, Eric Mulford, Jamie Brads, and Scott Mutter. George Harris was unable to attend.

Special Thanks to Vice President Tim Parry for all of the planning that goes into providing the banquet. The many hours of preparation paid off, and it seemed as though everyone enjoyed themselves.

My lovely Bride, Becky, and myself at the Banquet

On another note: There has been a lot of discussion about the Banquet and where it is held, whether we should have a DJ or a Band, the cost of the banquet, and when it is held. In the coming months the RFFA will be revisiting the planning of the event to make sure that we are planning the best possible banquet for all of our members to enjoy. Feel free to leave comments on what you would like to see change or stay the same.

I was unable to take many pictures during the event. Michael Overacker took many photographs of the event and will have them available soon.

Guns N’ Hoses 4 will be on January 13th at the Roanoke Civic Center. The annual event benefits the MDA and pits Roanoke Valley Firefighters against Roanoke Valley Police Officers in a friendly game of hockey. More information can be found here.
Merry Christmas to all the Roanoke Fire Blog readers. The Fleitz Family is in Nashville for Christmas this year. The Blog will be on a little bit of a break.

Below is the beginning of a post I was working on the other day. I did not have time to finish it, however I thought that posting the legislative link might afford you the opportunity to learn about the up coming legislation.

In January, representatives from Locals across Virginia will be meeting in Richmond to learn about legislation affecting our jobs and benefits. Once the legislation is understood, the firefighters head to the General Assembly to meet with their respective Congressman and Representatives and lobby for the bills we want and against the ones we don’t. That is a brief synopsis of what goes on during the Legislative Conference. It is a learning experience each year. Luckily, for the Virginia Firefighters we have Art Lipscomb and Robbie Bragg III who head up our Legislative Committee. Click for Link

Mike Overacker has posted some more photos of the breakfast on RoanokeFirefighters.com. Check out the pictures here.

Yesterday, December 12th, was the second Retirees Breakfast at the Union Hall. Approximately 50 retirees attended who seemed to enjoy the camaraderie. It was really good to see all the guys enjoying each others company and able to get together in a large group to reminisce about “Back in the Day”. There were guys there who retired 20+ years ago up to our last retiree John Sweeney, who retired last month.

Willie Wines Jr. kicks off the breakfast and welcomes the Retirees

Willie Wines Sr., his buddy the Larry the “Governor”, Willie Wines Jr., Brent Berry, Wayne Hall, Stacy Boothe, and J.J. Price cooked up one hell of a spread for the guys. They should be commended for the breakfast they served to the group. We appreciate the job they have done for the second time now. Next time you see those guys be sure to say thanks.

Travis Collins, George Perdue, and Mike Overacker attended and were able to capture the event with photographs. Thanks to all the other guys who attended and helped out including R. T. Flora, Kenny Furrow, Rodney Jordan, and Jon Willdigg.

The Retirees seemed to really enjoy the event once again. I think that all the current firefighters really enjoyed seeing the “Old” guys have such a great time.

“Firefighting in Roanoke” the recently published pictorial history of the Fire Service in Roanoke was available for the guys to purchase and most of the guys got one. I think the best part of the event was that the guys were having their comrades sign the book like high school students signing a yearbook. I think that Gary Moorefield’s Wife started off the signing and she would not let anyone leave before they signed her book. There were enough stories told that day to write another book.

George Perdue signs “Big Daddy” Sullivan’s Book

There were a couple more spouses than the last one present at the event. It was great to see the excitement that they shared in their husbands careers.

After it was all over with, it was fun to kick back with the guys who had helped with the event and chew the fat. It was good to open up the Union Hall for another event. It seems as though the building is being used more and more for events. If any of you firefighters have an event coming up let us know if you want to use it.

From what I understand, the “Billy Obenchain” T-Shirts sold pretty good after the event at station 2. If you want to get a hold of one of the shirts, stop by station 2 on any shift and they will have one for you. Here are some pictures of the event, I will have the rest up on the Local site tomorrow.

The Union Hall was a packed house

The guys look over the book “Firefighting in Roanoke”

Amanda Codospoti, a reporter with the Roanoke Times, was able to interview many retirees for an article she is working on for the paper. Look for something on Friday in the paper possibly.

The Golf Tournament for next year is in the planning process. It looks as though the tournament will be held at Hanging Rock. Contact Tina O’Brien if you would like to help.

I need to know what year we had the first tournament. If you know, please let me know.


As many of you Roanoke Firefighters know, there is an election tonight and tomorrow night at the Union Hall. If you need to see who is running for which positions check out the Local 1132 site. I am running against Richard Lipes, and I appreciate your vote. The voting will be tonight from 7-10 pm and again tomorrow night at the business meeting at 7 pm.

Sorry I haven’t posted much recently. I have been busy. It was interesting when someone asked me that if I lost the Secretary/Treasurer election, would I still do the RoanokeFire blog. The answer is yes. This blog has nothing to do with me being the Sec/Tres, and furthermore it is unofficial to the RFFA.

I have been busy with all sorts of things. Recently, as some of you know by now, I started VAFireNews.com. The website is growing still, and I have enjoyed the fact that the Roanoke Fire Blog is regional, mostly regarding Roanoke City. VAFireNews.com is Statewide. It has gained a lot of interest across the state and is continuing to receive more and more local articles from firefighters and freelance writers.

I am getting to the point now, where I can juggle the two sites and I hope to revamp the posts on the blog soon. But fear not, the blog is still alive and kicking.

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.

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.

The influence of this blog has always been humbling. I am not saying that the blog has a political agenda or influence. What I am saying is by bringing up certain ideals the blog has the ability to get you guys talking. But who is “You Guys”? Not only do the firefighters benefit from the blog, but the citizens, and other firefighters from across the Nation and even Internationally. That is right, there are hundreds of people looking in on what is going on. Perhaps this is the reason why I am cautious of being inflamatory to my coworkers in order to get them involved. The best steps we can take right now are baby steps. If you want citizens to be involved tell them. They stop in the fire stations. You must realize that nothing is free. If you are asking for higher wages, you must show them the deficeincy. This may help with getting a higher multiplier or better yet “20 years and out” with full benefits.

Some of you will never know the potential of your one voice. Collectively we are one strong Union. From the IAFF down to the 4th district, to the VPFF, to the Local 1132. Until you realize the strength of your one voice, you will remain a naysayer. Many of you will be perfectly content with this status. Others of you will realize that all these years we have been trying to ignite that fire within you. But that will never be enough. If you think that Roanoke Firefighters have ever received anything for free you need to think again. Historically, there have been a small group of firefighters behind each huge step we have taken. Do you think we added a third platoon changing the working week from 64+ hours to 56 hours because City Council thought of it? No, there was a group of firefighters who had the support of the entire Local to formulate the plan and excecute it.

What will it take to get you involved? If you are a citizen then you are probably ready to stand behind your firefighters. You are just waiting to hear the call for help.

If you are a Roanoke Firefighter, you are either waiting for it to get so bad that you will have no other choice. Otherwise you are one of those who will never stand up for yourself. You know the ones I am talking about.

If the Chief is not told something is wrong, how is he supposed to know? Well this is a good question. Some of the issues you might ask yourself “How would he not know that is going on”? Unless you speak up, he will think everything is fine. Especially when you guys are so quick to bring him his tenth cup of coffee in a row.

I heard the International Association of Fire Chiefs President and the Canadian International Association of Fire Chiefs President speak today. Trust me, if the ideals and unity which both of these leaders propose between the IAFC and IAFF existed in Roanoke we would not have any issues. I was astonished by the speech that the IAFC President, Chief Bill Killen gave. Apparently the ideals of the IAFC are lost in translation in Roanoke.

What is the problem? Maybe the years of worrying about getting to the top, and never officially speaking of the problems we face with the Chief are the problem.

Trust me, I know all of our Senior Staff. I can tell you this, all of them know how to pour a cup of coffee. Next time they show up, instead of running down your co-workers to be the first one to the Chief with a cup of coffee why not pull up a chair and talk about the hard issues. Why not ask him about our pay and benefits. Why not ask him about the IAFC’s ideals and the fact that every day the IAFF and IAFC become more unified.

What has the IAFF done for me?

This is a common question I am asked by members of Local 1132, as well as other Locals in the area. The answer isn’t quite that easy. You see, if I weren’t busy selling the IAFF to all of my members and working harder to support the IAFF and its members we wouldn’t be talking about it. If the members who ask these questions got involved and knew what the IAFF did, then I wouldn’t have to tell them. If the members read the Local 1132 website daily to check for new information, and were on the email list, they would not miss important information, dates, and news. And if a pig had wings it might fly.

Since I am away from everyone, and nobody has asked what the IAFF has done for them for a couple of days, I will just go ahead and tell you. The IAFF Financial Corporation, which is owned an operated by the IAFF for its members, offers excellent products. From free checking/ATM accounts to CD’s with an interest rate of up to 5.36% (today’s rates), the IAFF FC is there to help. The FC also offers insurance at low rates through Liberty Mutual and Mortgages which you may be preapproved for in less than 15 minutes.

If you have not looked into the IAFF Financial Corporation you are missing out. If you have not looked, you cannot ask what the IAFF has done for you.

I will have more to come.

Thanks to Rob Matzuga for these pictures of the IAFF Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs Colorado. Thanks for the pictures. Click the photo for more photos of the memorial.

This is fitting due to the unfortunate events of the past couple of days. Two of FDNY’s bravest made the ultimate sacrifice. You can view a tribute to the two comrades, Lt. Howard Carpluk Jr. and FF Michael Reilly, on Firehouse.com.