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For the sports-challenged, my title means that FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan hit a home run with his keynote address.

I was fortunate; like so many of us who couldn’t be there today, to watch the live streaming video. A big shout out and thank you to the FDIC technical staff for making it possible.

FDIC has been described as the Mecca and the Super Bowl of fire conferences. It is Woodstock, Lollapalooza and Farm Aid all rolled into one. And for some, it is like Spring Break at Daytona Beach or the Daytona 500.

But, when all of the analogies, metaphors and superlatives have been said; it all boyles (for my Irish peeps) down to the keynote speaker, FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan and his keynote address, “Why Are We Here?”

For, in my mind, it is the keynote that puts the thumb print and exclamation point on FDIC. The speaker must capture the energy, purpose and extend the legacy of the greatest fire show on Earth.

Dugan succeeded.

Pacing back and forth like a caged lion, challenging his audience with his steely gaze, while pointing his finger at them to make his point; his voice crackling with passionate emotion; Mike Dugan either mesmerized or hypnotized you into following his every move. His heart was on display for all to see and hear. No pretenses; no false witnesses; he was 100 percent red, white and blue.

But, was he challenging his audience, as others would suggest?

Or, was he performing an intervention on behalf of the fire service?

In my opinion, the fire service has been in an addled state for the past half dozen years; alternating between euphoria over reduced LODDs and anger over how firefighters are still dying. It’s as if we can’t enjoy a success long enough to pull some positive energy from it before we continue the arduous mission of getting everyone home safely. It is almost bi-polar; love/hate with a splash of narcissism from the “grab it by the throat” crowd that steers the impressionable minds towards the gray areas where they must use their underdeveloped, cognitive reasoning instead of the mentoring minds of their departments that will surely keep them out of Harm’s way until they can reach a maturity in their decision-making. WE own it. WE are setting the stage for future firefighters. They don’t need our pep talks; they need our leadership. Which is why I asked…

Was it a challenge or intervention?

Just like a counselor would ask his patient, “Why are you here”; Capt. Dugan posed that question to an international audience of firefighters.

It’s no secret that the firefighters in the fire service are getting older  and as Dugan pointed out…it’s time for the younger ones to step up. I think that the undercurrent to that is that the tremendous knowledge in the older men and women of the fire service needs to be tapped before it is gone.

It is a fact that many, many good books have been written, but books can never replace real time/real life  contact with that book’s author. You read his book. Great; you read how to do it. But, what if he could have actually told you and SHOWED you? Priceless!

Dunn, Brannigan, Lasky, Salka and Mittendorf all have great books out, but how many of you can say, “I took his class” or better still, “He mentored me”?

As the fire service goes forward, there CANNOT be any gaps in the information between generations. Dugan points out very aptly that fire isn’t burning hotter, but it’s getting there more quickly.

You HAVE to know the science; to be a student and to continually learn in venues like FDIC and then be willing to take it back and to share it.

It was easy for me to sit and watch the live streaming video of the keynote address and to get emotional, because Mike Dugan was emotional; someone who clearly loves his vocation/his avocation.

He paid homage to his mentor.

He made it clear that the opportunity to be a firefighter should not be taken lightly or taken for granted, because decision-makers who are not of the brotherhood are ending careers.

FDNY Capt. Mike Dugan is the type of firefighter who will radiate that energy that we all seek to re-charge our batteries. Whether it’s in the classroom, hallway or bar; you will benefit greatly from a short, chance meeting with people like Mike Dugan.

So, when the lights go on and the doors open at the Indiana Convention Center, ask yourself, “Why are we here” and then, go and immerse yourself in the limitless possibilities.

Great keynote, Mike Dugan. It would be my distinct honor to shake your hand.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

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