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Protect the steps.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my first Captain was to protect the steps.

Whether we went upstairs to get a burning mattress in a brick apartment, or to perform search and fire attack in a two story house, Captain Mac would never allow a staff meeting on the steps. If an interior door enclosed the steps in a Cape Cod, it was quickly removed before we came down. He knew the importance of the steps for our egress and we knew he had our back and was protecting the steps.

Captain Mac was a lifelong learner. His degree was in street smarts. He was constantly asking me “What did you learn?” He didn’t ask everyone that question. I was honored that he shared his knowledge with me and since I knew he was going to ask I paid attention. I always wanted to answer correctly and to then listen to his explanation of why the fire did what it did and the best steps to approach the next one.

Fire behavior depends on many variables as do our careers. Fires often do the same things in similar structures, making it somewhat predictable. How, when and where we insert ourselves requires learning from each fire and striving to improve our performance on the next one.

I once asked Captain Mac how he learned so much about fire. He smiled and told me that he had been on the job a long time and that he had seen a lot of things. He had once been a Chief’s driver and the old Chief would tell him to “go up and see what we have Mac and let me know.” If a civilian needed rescue he did it, if a mattress was burning he threw it out of a window or got below the mattress and pulled it down the steps and he was able to find the fire and to quickly judge smoke, heat and fire extension. He closed his remarks with “I always learned from each fire and you learn a lot quickly when you are alone.”

I am so encouraged by the young people in the Fire Service who are making good career and life choices. They pursue college degrees in majors that will have a positive impact on the Fire Service and they continue to climb their educational steps throughout their careers. They find the balance between their formal degrees and street smarts. We need both. They read, they study, they pay attention and they apply lessons from one fire to the next. They are determined to learn their craft and they are taking the appropriate steps to be successful. They present themselves as willing students and by doing so they receive the support and knowledge of the veterans who can choose to hold on to what they know or to help you up the steps.

Why do I accept and enjoy speaking engagements? Why is IN THESE BOOTS important to me? Why do I enjoy the young people on the line? Why do I study and share? What causes me to enjoy staying on the lower steps while watching young people climb? What did you learn?

It’s all about you and your climb and encouraging you to protect the steps.

Be the best no matter what step you choose in your career.

Why did the most respected Captain in the department care about me?

Each of us can choose to climb up or get stepped over.

Don’t block the steps; the young people want to climb.

If you didn’t protect the steps in your career it’s never too late to get on the steps and move.

There is learning at each step. Don’t ever think you are too high to learn.

Young people who understand the steps can also be teachers. Listen slower.

How much do you learn when you are alone?

How do you spend your time?

Find your Captain Mac and show your interest in learning about the steps.

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Have a great day – it’s a GREAT day for it.

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