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What I Learned at “Fire Camp”

Work is work and no matter how good your fire department is, we all are caught up in the daily grind. Stuff does not go the way we want. We have assignments that we are not really into and sometimes we do not see eye to eye with our coworkers. As much as we don’t like it, these are the realities of our workplace, and over time they can impact our outlook. I had the opportunity to teach at a conference this past weekend, what I jokingly call Fire Camp (a tongue in cheek reference to Band Camp), and I want to share some of the uplifting things the experience did for me.

I was very fortunate to teach with a great group of folks at the Revolutionary Fire Tactics conference in the Lake of the Ozarks this past July. Teaming up with the likes of Justin Mann and Woods Force Door crew and my Texas brothers from FD Tactics went a long way in reminding what I love about this business and how important it is to give back when you have the opportunity. I will also say that you don’t need to go to a big flashy conference. There are smaller local conferences with top-notch instructors popping up all over the country. You do not have to take out a second mortgage to get a few days of solid training.

For sure the thing that really slapped me in the face is that there are many like-minded people out there, you just have to go out and connect. When you go to a weekend conference, you are in the midst of people who want to be there. Attendance is voluntary, no one is made to pull hose when it is 95 degrees out, they did because they wanted to. The instructors I worked with had a passion for the fire service, and they genuinely wanted share knowledge and help people improve their skills. Do not be over critical of the folks you work with; it takes all types to make a strong team. Just know that if you have a passion for the service, you are not alone.

One of the skills we worked on was flowing water up stairs and the conversation revolved around to checking for structural integrity during the push. When I said you could always go around the staircase to the basement door to visualize the back of the stairs the other instructors came right out and said, “We don’t have basements where we work so that technique is totally foreign to us”. The point here, and I find it to be very refreshing, is that the true experts acknowledge they don’t know it all and are very receptive to new information. This little trick that I learned from working in the northeast solidified my position with the group. There is always something to learn and we can all benefit from being open to others.

As the class progressed, we started working on pushing hand lines up stairs. Because of time our practical sessions were very condensed, and it was important to not over teach at the expense of the students “hands on the line” time. The technique the lead instructor was teaching was totally different from the way I have taught this before. To be honest as much as I like my way, I like his method too. Because of the respect that was shown to me with my basement stair trick, I felt no need to jump in and say, “Hey look at my way”. Just because there is more than one-way to skin a cat you don’t always have to be the guy who throws the alternative out there. Sit back, take it all in, and add to your skill set. I know that because these guys are dialed in 100% there will come a time when I can share my technique with them.

The last thing that was made obvious to me is the brother & sister hood is alive and well. Although I no longer live in this region people welcomed me back as if I had never left. People I know from all over the country reached out when they heard I would be at the conference just to see if we could catch up. I literally ran out of time and did not get a chance to spend with time everyone that I wanted to see. I walked into the building where I had worked as the Chief and was treated like a king by the new Chief. I cannot say enough about the group with which I taught. I invited myself into the program, but you would have never known it. I became part of the team and we worked hard to help motivated firefighters build and improve their skills.

Our workplace can be a tough one to endure. Sometimes we forget that we work the greatest job on the face of the earth. Do not let the daily wear and tear rob your passion for the service. There are many like-minded people out there. These are experiences that will energize you, that will refresh you, that will help you go back to the workplace and hammer out another day. Take a trip to a Fire Camp and you will see how true these things are.

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