First of all let me say that I really enjoy reading all of the other blogs from around Ronaoke and in other areas of Southwest Virginia. While this was not the first fire related blogs on the net it was one of the first that has maintained throughout the years. Sure we have had hiccups, but it has been a growing experience. Bristol and Danville followed. In the wake of being offline we saw a new brand of station specific blogs right here at home starting with Station 9, then soon after Station 3, Station 6, and Station 1. You can find links to those blogs on the right.

Some of the blogs have offered a great introspect as to what goes on inside the individual stations from day to day plus or minus a shift or two. For firefighters, the view is great and offers the comic relief we all need. The hi jinx within and between some of the stations is hilarious. I have truly enjoyed reading each of the blogs on a daily basis or at least checking to see if they have been updated. was recently brought under fire for some of the comments. Some of the comments were bred from the writings of yours truly. I talked about the issues, whether you liked them or not. Every issue has at least two sides. I usually spoke for my side, which was most commonly the correct side of the issue for the Union view. I brought up the hard topics. I offered my point of view and you were allotted the opportunity to tell me to go to hell or offer your side of the issue. I do plan on continuing this tactic to keep everyone in the learning stages of what is going on and not allow us to get lethargic in some of the issues which really pose threats against us. One of those issues is our disability, something that I will be writing about soon.

What troubles me is some of the posts and writings on these other blogs. I know that some of you (all six of you) are rolling your eyes right now. Obviously you know what I think of that. Some of the posts like “Slow Sunday” , “Last day of the cycle…….SLOWWWW“, “So far a slow day“, and “Slow in the East” for example don’t exactly do much good for us when we are trying to keep City Council from cutting positions. Sure, I know what it means and I know the ins and outs of the fire service. While you might say it is a slow day, there are still a lot of things that get done. But more importantly, we don’t get paid to do housework or train, we get paid to act. That action is done whenever the call comes in; wherever the call is; and however we need to get the job done. The problem is that citizens don’t understand all of that. Remember some of the scrutiny we have gotten from other bloggers on the net. They just don’t get it and will not understand it until they have to pick up the phone and dial 911. Only then will they expect the best from us. That best is something we are having to work harder and harder to deliver with every drop of the ax on our staffing, apparatus, and stations.

One thing I have always tried to do on this site is talk about the worst case scenario. That is what we train for, that is what we have to expect, and that is what will happen on occasion. Politicians and administrators play the odds. The odds are with them for sure. Rarely are we given the opportunity to show them that the odds failed because when they do either citizens or ourselves pay the price; and when it does that is not the time to stand up and say I told you so. That is bad business. Not for us, that is when we NEED to stand up and point it out, however when only firefighters stand up and speak in those times it is often misconstrued. That is when we need the public to understand, to be aware, and to stand up behind us.

Those time and when the ax drops on the next positions or stations are when administrators and politicians will grasp for straws to keep themselves afloat.

I guess I kinda went off on a tangent, but my point was not lost. Have fun, keep it real, and lighten up on how many calls you don’t run. One other thing, don’t ever dream, wish, or hope a fire happens.

Open Post today. I have been busy and haven’t had time to post much. But I do have stuff coming soon. I have been working diligently on the redesign of and I hope to have the new site up and running soon. Once that occurs, I hope to redesign this site to a new hosting provider which will let me broaden the scope of the blog and give you all a little bit better site to look at. Just wait for it!

For now, this is an open post. Keep it civil!

Today, the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department is operating with 2 of 4 ladder trucks. That is right folks. The entire Southside of the City is left without ladder trucks. Currently, when operable the City has:

Ladder 1 – 100′ ladder
Ladder 2 – 95′ platform
Ladder 7 – 75′ ladder
Ladder 13 – 75′ ladder
Reserve Ladder – 121′ ladder

Today, we have:

Ladder 13 – in service with the reserve ladder
Ladder 2 in service.

But what about the other two ladder companies? Well Ladder 1′s crew is operating on the HTR truck (no ladders on it at all). Ladder 7 is operating with a reserve engine company (a 12′roof/straight ladder and a 24′ extension ladder).

You tell me what is wrong. Since I get a lot of the “why are you bringing that up” mentality, I will tell you why. Because we are unprepared going to work like this. AND, the people we protect are unprotected. How many people right now are above the second floor working in an office in Downtown Roanoke?

I don’t see how purchasing those 75′ quints that are always out of service is any different than Alfred Dowe squandering away City dollars. Both of those 75′ ladders are out of service right now and they are only 10 years old. What a waste.

But what the hell do the firefighters know? They don’t run the department. They don’t twist the statistics. They just merely risk their lives for yours.

I wish that the Chiefs downtown would really hear what the firefighters think and say about the state of our department. I wish that our firefighters didn’t feel so threatened of retaliation and were able to speak out and ask the questions.

Where do I start? Much like the rest of the FD I am losing my hair from scratching my head.

Ok, accept this as as much of an apology as I am willing to give. The information I posted earlier was a little less than the complete truth. However, that is not entirely my fault. The majority of blame is actually in the hands of the people calling the shots but only giving us the cliffnotes minutes before action.

Let me say this, from what I am hearing since the document was published (which can be viewed on is that there will be a Medic 8 and Engine 13 will stay in service as well (according to Admin). The Clearbrook guys will come back to the City. How, What, and When all depends.

Has anyone heard the phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves”? Well it seems as though that has become the Roanoke Fire-EMS Vision Statement.

If indeed our management is handed down by our City Manager and Assistant City Manager, then would it be safe to say we could save a lot of money by replacing certain people with monkeys and a lifetime supply of bananas?

How long will our fake smiles we put on in public last? Numerous of us are unhappy with a lot of what is going on, even if some people only say it is 5%. Then again, how can you believe those statistics if other statistics given to Council members were way off base?

What is the answer? I don’t know at this point. There have been numerous people begging for a vote of no confidence for some of our staff, but will that sink in or not?

You know what amazes me? That we the firefighters are still able to provide the best EMS care, Fire Suppression, and public service considering our circumstances.

I will be the first one sitting at the meeting of the labor/management committee that our Tri-Data report called for.

It would be nice if City Council took off their blinders and started running the City and supporting mandates and initiatives for our City Management to carry out.


If you want to write for the Roanoke Fire Blog, simply email your post in word form to me at and I will post it. If you want to post it anonymously, I will honor your wishes.
Hey all, I will be back in town for a few days by Sunday evening. I appreciate the comments and discussions. I would like to address one comment though about how I handled the retirement of Mark Podlewski. I have in the past, posted a picture and as much information as I can find about or retirees. I try my best to honor their service which is just a small gesture that I am afforded due to my position in having this blog. That honor which is usually nonexistent from our department.That being said, let me offer you a couple of reasons why Mark’s retirement post was not what you expected:
  1. I was going out of town and very busy.
  2. Mark did not even tell the guys he was working with he was retiring, his BC accidentally let the cat out of the bag.
  3. I did not, and still do not have my external hard drive which has all of the Union’s Photos on it including any of Mark.
This has little to do with Mark and more to do with the fact that I do what I can when I am able. I do not take offense to your viewpoints. As a matter of fact, I appreciate your concern and your attention to detail.

As for what I have been doing. I have put everything on the back burner for the past week and enjoyed myself down here in the Outer Banks. I actually shot some pics of a house fire and they were posted on FireNews.Net (NC’s version of Check them out here.

Other than hanging out with my family for the week, the highlight of my vacation was swimming with some sand tiger sharks and barracuda. I was able to do this while SCUBA diving on the wreck Dixie Arrow off the coast of Hatteras, NC.

There was an interesting comment on the last post which read something like this:
Awesome to have some good news and posts on here for a change. Great Job

I find this interesting. I don’t disagree the fact that the post it refers to is good news. What I do find interesting is that so much of what is on this blog is good news. It is easier to remember the negative over the positive aspects though. I understood this early on in this blog.

The ironic twist is that commonly I speak out against Administrations “actions” and occasionally their “words”.

Take for instance, the recent budget cuts. I won’t name names, but certain Chiefs came around to various stations to tell us they were not in support of the cuts. They SAID they weren’t. But when it came down to it their ACTIONS spoke louder and showed that the cuts were no big deal to them.

Therefore, it would have been impossible to speak about this event without being either positive or negative. Either I would have to talk about their words or actions which contradicted each other.

Furthermore, how can anyone actually be in support of the current administration? It is darn near impossible. If you support what they say, you would be pissed by their actions. If you support their actions, you would be mislead by their words.

Think about it for a minute.

You know that mentality that our City leaders have that we can play the odds when it comes to Public Safety. We remove a truck here and move a truck there. Decrease the police officers and firefighters. Consolidate this station and that station. Then we tell everyone nothing will change. This is playing the odds.

This mentality is a lot cheaper than “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Cheaper to taxpayers, cheaper to the City. Budget cuts are in effect across the Nation. September 11th has worn off. The days of Politicians and Local Leaders realization of the need for more firefighters and more police officers is gone. Now the fight has become local. Only in the face of tragedy do things change anymore. Look at Charleston. Firefighters complained for years seeking change in their outdated system. 9 Firefighters died and suddenly everyone is opening their eyes.

Unfortunately, this playing the odds mentality has seeped into the rank and file of our department. The ideals of needing more firefighters on the trucks and more firefighters on scene have been replaced with “Who Cares” and “We have tried but cannot make a difference”. Very true, we have tried to get them to listen. So far they aren’t hearing it. I will be damned if I am going to give my life up because the system failed me. Don’t take that the wrong way, I am still willing to risk my life for the life of another, that is what we do. However, I am not going to give my life by accepting the odds and going along with Administration.

Through this whole ordeal of budget cuts and future changes, the single most significant moment was when Chief Hoback admitted that he had not seen the Fire-EMS Budget located in the Resource Allocation Plan. That same documentation that we were told he created, one of three as a matter of fact, and our City Manager picked that one. This happened, I was there. It was a moment of clarity.

We all know who is running the department. Call it what you will and use your own analogies, but it is not safe the way things are going. We need change. We need reform.

I took a class recently at the training center. The class was offered on duty and was taught by Retired Chief Poff from Roanoke County. The class was on the art of reading smoke. This class was great. Not only did I learn a lot, but I could tell that the other firefighters with me learned a lot. The case studies on the Keokuk Iowa fire that killed 3 firefighters and the Houston McDonald’s that killed 2 firefighters was especially interesting. These case studies were interesting because I remember them. The lessons learned from the fires which took these firefighters could be life saving one day.

With our current and future cuts, consolidation, disbanding of companies we are in a downward spiral. The end is nowhere in sight. We have effectively created a quint concept in some of our stations and possibly more in the future. With 3 firefighters on our rigs, this is a recipe for disaster. The one saving grace is that while we do have fires in Roanoke, we do not have many fires with people trapped. This enables us to not risk quite as much while fighting fires. We still search and are capable of rescue, we just don’t have to push the envelope too far regularly. Who can forecast the future? Apparently our City leaders can. Because they continue to cut and play the odds. Just don’t let that mentality get a hold of you.

I guess the most interesting thing about this blog being banned by the Chief is that it is being banned right now. I have covered very interesting topics in the past that have not had the same effect. Do not misunderstand me, a ban was not my intent.

I still maintain that this blog is positive and shows the unadulterated opinion of the Firefighters of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. An attempt to cover up this shows that certain people have blinders on.

Not every Firefighter embraces this blog or the thoughts on the site. However, those are the ones who read it the most to see what is said next.

If you remember back to the beginning of the blog, I brought news, fires, and history to the forefront. It was only when I finally realized that I could do more with the blog that I decided to add commentary and opinion. Unfortunately, some people did not like this.

I still contend that this department needs significant change. Blocking this blog from City Computers isn’t going to change anything. Similarly, nothing is going to change in the department until certain people are realize it.

One ironic twist is that the person who banned this blog is also the person so many Firefighters saw as a catalyst for change. No dice. When the sword changed hands, even he continued to slash at the morale and backbone of this department.

One thing is for sure, either I work in a make believe department or he does. The stories, comments, thoughts, and ideas I hear from our Firefighters cannot be the same that he hears.

I could talk about the positive attributes of this site and the work that I have done, but I don’t do it for myself and do not need to toot my own horn. I will note one thing though. When I wrote “Firefighting in Roanoke”, the book was never publicly recognized by the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. It was at that moment that I realized I was not embraced by our management. I am not going to change to make people like me.

I have maintained that this Department is where it is at because of its Firefighters. We have created and maintained one hell of a department. Through all of the despair, cuts, poor planning, bad decision making, lack of leadership, and mismanagement we continue to do our jobs. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment. I have not met one firefighter in our department who has not complained about current management. Yet the Management continues to cut because of arrival times, fire under control times, etc. Times that are created because we are the best. We know the territory and get there quick. We know how to fight fires and put them out quick. We know how to mediate any emergency and do it quick.

All this in the shadow of:

the IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger and International Association of Fire Chiefs President Steve Westermann signed a joint agreement yesterday at the 49th Convention to provide a framework to improve labor relations between fire fighters and the nation’s fire chiefs. This occured last week at the IAFF Convention, just days prior to the IAFC Convention our Chiefs attended. (Read more about it here)

“The Labor Management Initiative also states that labor and management must improve communications and training, and promote a relationship based on respect, trust and understanding. The LMI also calls for labor and management to find ways to identify problems and resolve disputes.

Westermann urged fire fighters and fire chiefs to work together so they can do their jobs more efficiently and more safely.”

Didn’t the City send some of our Chiefs to this conference?

In case you are wondering, I will not be changing the domain. You all know how to get to this site, why should I change anything. Aren’t there bigger issues to deal with?

Wait for it….wait for it…wait for it…

It will be positive, professional, and warranted.

For the other media outlets, THIS web site and have been banned on Roanoke City Computers in a fit of Censorship from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief.

I must say that the commentary on the last Open Post was rather amusing. I did not have time to read every comment until just now. Some of the comments were just hilarious. The raw bread comment takes the cake.

It is interesting to see how the comments escalated.

I have a lot to add, I just need to find the time. Maybe soon.

Do you guys think I should have a weekly Open Post? Every Friday maybe?

Hey guys,

I just realized that it has been over a week since my last post. I have been busy much like most of you all. I have so much to say, and I hope to get to it soon.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I am taking the kids to Emerald Pointe with several other families. The Roanoke Firefighters Auxiliary set up the trip. We are hoping for decent weather.

There has been a lot going on in the City, although at the surface it appears as though the Department hasn’t changed much.

I noticed in the paper the other day where the city has spent over a million dollars on another piece of property. I swear, Roanoke City is having a very lucrative budget crunch. The claims of not having money are met with what seems to be one of the biggest spending sprees I have seen in a while.

The Roanoke Times had a nice piece on Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham…I didn’t read it. I am sure that they got their point across, unlike the news media is able to do when we have a story for them. The one sidedness of our media in Roanoke is embarrassing to say the least.

If you think back to when Chief Hoback took the helm as Chief of our department most of us where saying things will change. Most of us gave him a chance. Most of us kept our heads up and wanted to believe that change would come.

Damn, this is getting depressing…

I will continue on though.

You know that 6 million dollar station 1 they built, well they are replacing it piece by piece it seems. Soon they will have a brand new garage floor throughout. Apparently, the work was sub-par. Shock.

Ladder 13 went out of service the other day…and then the reserve ladder went out of service. Engine 13 stayed in service though, and the City operated with 3 ladder trucks, well actually 2 and a half. Ladder 7 accounting for that .5.

I was told by one of our Chiefs that if a truck is broke he will shop it automatically. That if it is unsafe, then it needs to be fixed and does not need to be in service. This was told to me without me asking. I didn’t say a word…until now. Why the hell are Ladder 7 and Ladder 13 still in service if they have not been able to fix the relief valves since February. Hell we have needed 4 people outside of the apparatus drivers to come in special and tell us they are broke. What gives.

Oh yeah, Engine 8 failed the pump test twice and was kept in service for months.


I will tell you what I think. I think we are on a one way trip to the darkest day of our lives. I think that without change, one of us is going to be seriously injured or killed.

The best thing we have going for us is each other. Watch your back, watch your brothers back.

I have some more stuff I need to post. Some feel good stuff as well. Look for it soon.

Firefighters will tell you that Firefighting is more of a lifestyle and less of a job. Although “job” is what it tends to be referred to, the word has more meaning than what outsiders realize. That is just one thing that outsiders or “civilians” don’t realize about our “job”.

Firefighting is one of those jobs that is very hard to explain or even justify. For example, whenever it suits the media or taxpayers, many like to refer to the down-time we have. The fact that we have to go to the grocery store, and sit down to eat meals, kick back to watch the evening news, and even sleep between calls at night grates on some peoples nerves. They do not realize that we could be in the middle of anything…and have to go on a call. We don’t finish what we were doing, we go.

How do you think your wife (spouse) would feel if you were in the middle of a heated argument and had to cut the argument short to run a call? What about cooking a nice meal for the family, getting your plate loaded up and sitting down to dig in after a hard days work…and having to go on a call.

We spend 24 hours at our assigned station, or get transferred to another station to spend 24 with other firefighters. We enjoy what we do, or we wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t enjoy it, it would not be worth risking our lives for others.

That is our mentality. Sure we might not risk our lives every day, but we are willing, capable, and trained to do so. Most civilians do not realize the extent of our dedication to our jobs. That is what we are paid to do after all. To protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors of Roanoke City. Those words may not mean much and you might not give them much thought at all. I guarantee you that every Firefighter thinks about this from time to time; and every Spouse of a Firefighter thinks about this often.

Over 100 firefighters die each year in the line of duty while they are working. Hundreds more die each year from job related illnesses and injuries i.e. cancer, hepatitis, trauma, and diseases. Hundreds more are disabled each year from injures on the job. When Firefighters retire, their bodies are worn out and tired.

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department always scores high marks from citizens for our service. We are a dedicated bunch.

However, public opinion of Firefighters is that we are out of sight and out of mind. You don’t think about us until you need us, and at that time we had better perform like you want us to. But what if we had fallen into a state of disrepair, what if we had not been trained properly, what if we didn’t care anymore, what if our trucks didn’t run, what if we didn’t know what to do? This wouldn’t be the time for you to find out would it?

I am not saying that our Department has gotten to this point, but it could because our voices are not being heard. One reader of the blog thinks that since the Fire Chief said so then he must be right. What if that Fire Chief told all of his firefighters to jump off of a bridge? Since that reader thinks he is right, we would all jump. Not a chance, and we would be there to save that naive reader from jumping as well. But that one reader wouldn’t be the only one, his thought process is the same as many.

But I digress, this isn’t about our Administration it is actually about the citizens. We need your help in making sure we are taken care of. I don’t mean so that we are overpaid. I just mean that when the next alarm sounds, we have enough firefighters on scene quickly with the proper resources at hand to do the job efficiently, effectively, and safely.

Historically, change in the Fire Service is often brought about by trial and error. The trial is usually found in training because Firefighters like to keep our job simple and easier. The error is usually tragedy in which Firefighters are hurt or killed in the Line of Duty.

However, change isn’t always that easy. For instance, consider the posts on this blog and the comments shared by others. There have been many posts and comments which have argued right and wrong, the lack of leadership, and the faults of certain directives, policies, procedures, and planning. These thoughts offered mostly by Roanoke City’s Bravest have united many of them as well as helped them understand others points of view. The combination of commenting and reading by many has helped educate each other (and myself) of thoughts and feelings I might not have considered.

Now think about if tragedy were to strike in whatever form or fashion. Will change occur then? I think so. Which is exactly the problem. We should be fixing these issues now, not making them worse so that tragedy is averted. Unfortunately, our department is run by playing the odds. Why is our Administration happy with 70% for this and 80% for that and 90% for that. Using those statistics to prove that we do a pretty good job getting there quickly enough most of the time. What if that other remaining % had a name? What if there were faces to go with that “acceptable loss”? Why aren’t we striving to make it 100% across the board? Is 90% the new 100%? Do we even care about who gets left behind because of our “supposed” budget shortfalls.

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.


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 ahead…to 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” fire…it 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 reform…now.

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.

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.

I was reading this story on FireGeezer (link) and it got me thinking about another story I had read recently. Basically, the point is that no matter what we do on duty or off duty we are always Firefighters and EMT’s. We do it because we love it, we do it because people’s lives depend on it, we do it to serve, and servants we are. Sure, we may not be rescuing victims from the 9th floor of a high rise on an aerial ladder every day, but we eventually we will have our day. That day will define us and it may come several times in our career. When that day comes, we will not look around for our pedestal, we will not look for the microphone, we will not seek opportunity to tell our story, nor will we seek or expect praise. We will pick up the equipment, get the truck in service and head back to the station with our brother and sister firefighters to get ready for the big one. Much like we do every day, we will be ready for whatever emergencies are given to us that day, and we will mitigate them as we have done for years.

This is who we are. We do it because we want to be a part of a greater good. We want to make a difference, we want to be a part of the team. We don’t do it to be called heroes and we do not consider heroes. Many Firefighters will tell you that Heroes are the burn victims at burn camp or the kids at MDA camp who suffer from Muscular Dystrophy. Heroes we are not. We are mere mortals.

We do it because we love doing it. The adrenaline rush helps too.

And you are waiting for my point…Here it is.

We do our jobs, we do it very well. We pride ourselves on the great job we are able to do. The only thing we ask in return is a decent salary and benefits as well as the proper gear and equipment to do our jobs. For us, our salary could be better, and the benefits could certainly be better. I have talked about that in the past and will in the future I am sure, but I would like to discuss something else.

For years now, we have had to make up for deficiencies in our department. Take away an engine here, move a station there, run more calls, do more public relations, install car seats, pre-fire plans, test and retest hydrants then paint them too, run calls into the County, run calls into Salem, train on your days off, reduce an engine and ladder truck down to a quint, do the job of 6-8 guys with only 3, follow the rules that we want when we want you to, remember unwritten rules that from 20 years ago.

The saga continues. I am sure that the Chiefs could show up in any station and hear some bitching about all of the recent events, but they will never hear the complete truth. That is what I am here for. The Firefighters of all ranks are disgusted. The morale has hit an all time low. The Department is falling apart at the seams. The Firefighters who have had to keep the Department held together for so long are fed up. All of the cuts, bullshit, retaliation, boneheaded moves, stupid judgement, mismanagement, micromanagement, and otherwise unsound decision making that the firefighters have lived with for so long and still kept the department running might actually ruin the department. The Firefighters can only hold back the flood gates for so long. Once the defenses are breached, the department will go down the tubes.

Firefighters are already looking at Roanoke County for a potential place to go work. Salem is looking very good as well. It is no longer about going to another department for more money and the same problems, it is now about going to another department to get away from the heap of problems which continue to pile up in our department.

Even the bootlickers are curling up. They are quickly realizing that the boots they are licking are starting to smell. The unease downtown is easily seen. Nobody knows what the hell is going on. The County doesn’t want to give up the 6 at Clearbrook…Well duh.

Firefighters are realizing that all of this overcompensating for poor planning and decision making is not worth it. Administrators are scurrying around like contestants on Survivor trying to form alliances for when the shit hits the fan to ensure they aren’t voted off the island. I would be scared of my name being on any pieces of paper downtown due to the potential audit of the Fire Department’s spending habits.

As for us, we will continue to be the best, but don’t blame us if we fail. We tried to tell you and you and you…but you didn’t listen.

I have had a lot of time to think about the events which have unfolded in Roanoke in relation to the Budget cuts. The thoughts I have often turn to realization that the people we have talked to about this situation do not grasp the issue at hand.

The remembrance of September 11, 2001 is lost to our local politicians down to our Fire Chief. The understanding that it is not possible to comprehend the worst disaster ever has been shaken off by even the media. September 11th stands for a lot of things, the point I would like to make is that not even the FDNY (which has close to 12,000 members) could not even prepare for what happened. I am not saying that a situation like what happened on September 11th in NYC could happen here, however most forget what happened only 3 hours away at the Pentagon. Could we have handled that situation. The disaster at the pentagon is easily overshadowed by the World Trade Center incident, but lest we forget about it.

It is unfortunate that the ones who pull the strings have forgotten about the potential disasters in which we must be ready for at any given moment. I am sick of those people living life playing the odds with the citizens and visitors we are sworn to protect. Shame on them.

Kyle Wilson died in the Line of Duty doing his job searching for people who his crew thought were trapped in a residence. This is how we work. We don’t sit outside and call their phone number to see if anyone is home, we react. This reaction we train for. The painful realization of the outcome because of that trained reaction by Kyle Wilson and his crew could have happened to any one of us. Were there problems? Of course there were. I have never been on a fire that didn’t have problems. Even the ones we call bread and butter are not that easy.

The point is that if we screw up, someones life could hang in the balance. We don’t get to play the odds. When we show up on a house fire, we don’t roll the dice to see if someone gets to live, we do our jobs…and we do it damn well.

The Charleston FD is going through changes much like after Kyle Wilson’s untimely death. Charleston FD lost 9 Firefighters in a fire. We have a system put in place to investigate incidences such as these and report the findings. Kyle Wilson’s fire has been very beneficial to his Firefighters he left behind. That is a hard pill to swallow. It took his death for the string pullers to recognize the need for reform within the Fire-EMS Department. I wonder if that gives Kyle’s friends and family closure? I can tell you that if something happens to one of my brothers or sisters and reform is mandated due to the investigation it will not sit well with me. Especially after we tried our best to show that the budget cuts are putting the odds against us.

Charleston’s events have created a report which calls for reform in the department. That same department which the firefighters said it was only a matter of time, yet the Chief stood by the system.

Do you see what I am getting at. Anything can happen anywhere at anytime…and we will be called to unf^%$ it. Do you feel prepared?

A message to the news media. You guys missed this event by a long shot. I was there, I was interviewed. If you truly wanted the story, you would not have reacted the same way City Council did. You should have interviewed the Chief and then interviewed us. However, you decided to take the high road. Do you really think that 250+ Firefighters who are sworn to protect you while you are at work, the citizens and visitors in Roanoke would just make this up.

We may not all have degrees, or spend weeks away fattening up our resumes, but we know what is going on. We are the ones on the front line. We are the ones who train to react and allow our actions to be led by experience, training, and knowledge.

This job is being ruined by people who are not in touch with our reality. This job is being ruined.

It is unfortunate that our firefighters seem to have lost all respect for our Fire Chief and others near. The Fire Chief’s position was created to manage the department. This person was almost always promoted from within and new the rank and file of the department. That closeness created a checks and balances system so that the Fire Chief would not lead his subordinates astray. Nowadays, Fire Chiefs have become the middle man between Downtown and the Fire-EMS Department. This should not have been allowed, yet it is a product of our City Council and City Management.

A lot of people have brought up the fact that our Fire Chief came from the EMS Department. I really could care less. The problem I see is that if our EMS system failed, we have a larger EMS Department in town who would be more than happy to help out. That department is Carilion Clinic Patient Transport. Their system has more ambulances and more personnel who are EMT’s or Medics. However, if our Fire Department crapped out we are screwed. Sure, during the day we could get some help from Roanoke County…but at night we are pretty much it.

I don’t like to dwell on what if’s or worst case scenarios, but we are being managed by the mentality of “That will never happen”. HUH? To me, in my line of work, the mentality which will keep us ready for the next emergency wins.

On top of all that…All during the budget cuts I got phone call after phone call after phone call about how the Chief did not want to make the cuts. Even to the point of insinuating where to find the information to prove that the budget cuts could not and should not be made. It amazed me at how many people believed that the Fire Chief did not want to make the cuts. What interviews were they watching? I do not blame them for wanting to error on the side of the Fire Chief. I believe that they truly wanted to believe that their Fire Chief did not want to make the cuts. But I watched, and I listened, and I worked diligently to prove that the budget cuts were wrong, dangerous, and irresponsible. Yet, even the City Council members who doubted it asked him if it would change anything and he said no.

What does this mean? Well it means that one of two things are going to happen. 1) Nothing will happen and our Firefighters will continue to make up for deficiencies in our department. These same deficiencies which we have been supplementing for who knows how long. OR 2) Something will happen to shock our leaders in the Department and Roanoke City to understand that we were right all this time. That we were not making this up and that it was wrong.

That something could be many things.

I assure you one thing. It has changed…everything has changed.

Apparently now just because you hold a title you are right. At least that is what some Council Members think. Council Member Gwen Mason says in an interview with WSLS says that Management assured her that the proposed cuts wouldn’t change anything. This is hard to comprehend. The Fire Chief says one thing and 250+ Firefighters say that he is wrong. In a detailed 40+ page report the Firefighters lay out the significance of the proposed cuts and still no one listens. The Firefighters try every available outlet to discuss the issues in a very professional manner and yet their voices are unheard. The Fire Chief says that we can take away an Engine and nothing will change, yet he couldn’t be more wrong. First and foremost, one thing that not too many have taken into account is that the Firefighters views of the Fire Chief has changed. What does this mean, well it means everything. Long ago, a product of no confidence in the leader led to mutiny. In current times, you may not see mutiny especially in a para-military Department such as ours. However, you will see even the bootlickers checking the taste in their mouth to see if they like it anymore. What will this produce? I am not exactly sure, but the things I am hearing might send a message.

Firefighters are not allowed to strike, even if we could we aren’t the type of people who let our jobs not get done. If you were privy to the conversations I am, you would be surprised by what you hear. A Captain explained it best in the Council meeting when he said that Firefighters used to talk about how long they had been here and now they talk about how long they have to go. It is evident that we are only numbers. Not the City Council, not the City Manager, Not the Fire Chief, not the Deputy Fire Chiefs could care if we have a name with our faces. That could not be more evident with the way they have treated Mary Thompson. I will be happy to pull the first knife out of her back. 23 years of dedication to the Fire Department and she is told to pack her boxes. Only one person in Administration has been here longer and yet it means nothing. If that doesn’t send a message to potential Firefighter candidates I don’ t know what does.

I have tried my best to be honest about the job to potential candidates. I don’t paint a rosy picture and usually I sell the job by talking about our greatest asset…our Firefighters. I will put you guys first and I think you know that. Of course, Roanoke City claims the same outlook, but we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is more is that not City Council, not the City Manager, not the Fire Chief actually knows what is going on. There is talks of the guys coming back from Clearbrook, over hiring, and still the budget cuts. Getting rid of one position in Administration only to turn around and hire two more. Who knows what is going on? All I know is our work load gets heavier and heavier.

Who really cares anymore? I will tell you who cares. We care. If we didn’t care we wouldn’t have fought for the positions. If we didn’t believe in it we would have not bothered.

Apparently Jay Warren has the same thought process as our Fire Chief. He states that

Calling an ambulance went up as well, although your insurance should cover that increase.

Yeah, so insurance just pays for this out of the kindness of their hearts right. WRONG. We pay for it. You and You and You and You. Insurance premiums will go up more and more and more and more. Nothing is free.

For coverage on todays Council Meeting look here: