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For Bobby Halton: "Brother Berg Wants A Story"

Chad Berg, my good friend, wants a story. I have recently read Chief Halton's latest editorial, much on my mind. I take pen in hand,..or keyboard and this is what comes out. Please read it all, the major point is in the end.

So, Brothers, there we were....Hey, I'm not gonna lie to ya, it wasn't the coldest night in Alaska, we've seen much worse. But lend your ear (or eyes) and I'll tell you a tale of frozen fingers, ears and eyelids, moustache hairs stuck to masks, brothers goin' down hard on the ice, .....frozen limbs and raging fire!

Well, I'm not lie'n. It really is like that. However, there's no dramatic music. So we had this job at Phillips Field Rd. Came in just after midnight, on the evening of 10/30/08. Closest hydrant is 2400 ft. Type 2 building, insulated with polyurethane foam, no sprinkler system, and a wood frame 2 story office building inside a third of the structure creating massive cumbustable void spaces. Our brothers on A shift made a quick knock down with 1 3/4" lines, ...twice. Hot as hell in the office spaces, they tried to confine the fire there, not knowing it had already penetrated walls, may have had multiple sets, and was well on its way towards running the walls. Two lines were burnt through tryin' to get at the heat in the upper floor (I may have sequence of events out of place). This really made the company officer's case about using big water on big fire, ....but that is of course, another battle.

I arrived on scene about 30 minutes into the fire, roughly ten minutes into the defensive mode. Still trying to hold the fire to one end of the structure, I was sent to place our aerial device into service as a master stream on the second floor of the office area which had openings through both the wood frame walls and the metal exterior walls for windows. Efforts to hold the fire back came to an abrupt end as the roof began to sag across the A - C span. At that point, ordered to attack the fire showing from the roof line, I had my driver, Waisenan, take me up to a good 60 degree angle and then swept the peak of the roof line four a good hour.

Throughout the aerial operation, firefighter Tim Bramble of C shift, just over twenty-one did excellent service as my tip man, then Josh ? from FWFD, a new firefighter, took over on the vertical raise, his first time operating on the tip. In between frozen tip men, I operated alone, trying to open the roofline gap with the masterstream as by this time putting anyone near the roof wasn't a safe option. It was my intent to open enough roof with that straight stream to let the fire vent up. FF Ohms of University wasn't able to make it up the ladder, he was already so soaked and frozen, he could'nt safely move his arms, I had to send him back down. Manpower and airpacks were becoming a serious issue. Around that time FF Mulvaney, just twenty years old, dropped the ground from an extension ladder, his boots covered in ice, ....fell a good 15 feet at least. (He's okay, he didn't land on his airpack).

City Fire, Wainwright Fire, Chena Goldstream and Steese all committed a few men each, but after several hours, the pool is empty. With the inital attack crew out of service in rehab, we had only one shift left to fight the fire. City's Platform did good service throughout the fire, and not to forget the heavy commitment that each department made in the water supply operation.

My airpack ceased to function, but there wasn't anyone to replace me, so I kept at it until ordered down. During that time my radio lapel mic froze open and as a particularly nasty ball of ugly smoke rolled up at my feet, I blurted out "Oh, F*#!?$." As if to say, "I bet I'm gonna end up on gallery".

Here's the thing. During that fire, which eventually went out, the young men and women of the University Fire Department were on their feet at -13/-15 below for over 6 hours into the dawn, then many continued to work right along side me and my fellow shift Captain for another 24 hours straight. Everyone on scene was frozen to the core, several having been involved in Tod and Jerry's fight to stop the fire early on. Tod mention's extreme heat in the initial attack and specifically points out the strong work done by his company of skinny, short hard working University Firefighters. FF Russell and FF Stansbury, both under twenty years.

In an answer to Bobby Halton's latest Editorial in the recent issue of Fire Engineering, our department is standing strong, built on young, energetic men and a few solid young women. We guide, teach and infuse ourselves and our culture into these "cursed generation types" and we lead them with a "First In, Last Out" mentallity and believe it or not, just as Chief Halton pointed out, .....they do the job, they give everything they have while the effort is being made and many go beyond.
There are times I really miss being a part of a company of grown men, lasting years with the same guys. You can really rely on their experience and maturity. But you know, I would never leave these valiant young people. They go the extra mile, whenever we ask it of them, ....when we ask in a way they can understand, with an approach that make sense to thier language of today.

I don't change myself for them, I change the way I communicate myself. And other than that, they are the same people they've always been, that we also were. If we want strong, ethical, moral, honest, hard working firemen with integrity and fortitude than we must first and foremost be that ourselves. Follow that with quality, solid training! They do see it, they are captured by it, because it is so different than the world they live in today. LEAD and they will FOLLOW!!

Give me a company of University Firemen, and I'll take on the beast any day. You take a company of our University Firemen, and they will bring to bear everything they have soaked up here, and duplicate it for you there. They are some of the best Alaska has to offer the Fire Service. ....They're also really good at XBox. I'll see you Brothers on the next job!! FTM-PTB-KTF-RFB-DTRT-EGH!!!!!

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Comment by Ben Fleagle on November 19, 2008 at 12:20am
Joy Beth, you of all people know what can be done with these young firefighters! I'd always be honored to have you workin' with us! I'm proud of you and I'm confident that you will go far!
Comment by Ben Fleagle on November 12, 2008 at 5:58pm
'Bout time you piped up, Brother! UFD rocks!! Best job I ever had. That isn't because of the calls, the pay or any of that, its because of these young people! My only regret is that more young college bound folks don't know about what this place has to offer.
Comment by Chad Berg on November 12, 2008 at 4:06pm
I love the title!

Great summary Cap, and way to give credit where it's due. To the boys bustin' their arse! I love the UFD, how can you not!
Comment by Doug Price on November 9, 2008 at 8:50pm
This is all great stuff. We have had some new recruits come thru my paid dept., and when they get on shift they don't ask questions, they don't learn the trucks.But yea they will do something if you ask them but it's like Tod said give them a break and their gone into hiding somewhere. Like Brandon said seems like the smaller the dept. the better love for the job there is. Why is that? In my volunteer dept. after every call the Chief tells every thanks before he leaves one on one that to means alot. We don't get that from the BCs at work. I'm like Chief Halton, I'm proud of my son. I have a step son that is 15 and already knows what he wants to do with his life first it's the coast guard and he wants to join the fire service following in his mom's and my footsteps. Thanks guys for all you do for this great job as we know it. And thanks Chief Halton for getting this page started and for all you do. KTF. Take Care
Comment by Bobby Halton on November 8, 2008 at 2:32pm
You never need to apologize to me, brother. I am also looking forward to hanging out in Mishawaka next week. Bobby
Comment by Brandon Roark on November 7, 2008 at 9:26pm
maybe UFD could expand thier training program to include the use of spellcheck. Chief Halton, I apologize for butching your last name.
Comment by Brandon Roark on November 7, 2008 at 8:34pm
I can honestly say that I am PROUD to have had my passion fostered by UFD, Capt. Fleagle, Capt. Phillips, Capt. Kuiper, Chief Styers and Engineer McGilvary (now with North Pole fire). I reflect daily on my experiences and education I received from the above mentioned men and can honestly say that I am a better fireman and a better man for my time spent there.

I often look at the 250 men I work with today and compare them to the 36 "boys" I worked with at UFD. It is undeniable that those 36 "boys" carried more passion, dedication, enthusiasm and discipline then my entire department carries today (please do not misconstrue that as a dig on my current department but rather a praise of the rank and file of UFD).

To this day I still have dreams of going to work with my brothers from the far north. I miss those guys and that place. I only pray that I can give back 1/10th of what I received at UFD to my current brothers and sisters here in Indiana.

Brother Fleagle, I remember that hard line and I am thankful for it!!! (no matter how many pushups it took for me to understand it).

Chief Holton, I look forward to seeing you next week in Mishawaka!
Comment by Bobby Halton on November 7, 2008 at 5:18pm
Here is the October Fire Engineering Magazine Editorial, Bens is better..

October Editor’s Opinion

With the Deepest Respect

By Bobby Halton

I just finished another mind-numbing piece about Generation X and Generation Y and how they are somehow different, inferior, and dangerous. Horsefeathers! I was upset to find that now an even more vitriolic title, which I refuse to repeat, is being used to degrade and insult the next generation of firefighters now coming on the line. I am firmly a baby boomer … OK, I am an old guy and damn proud of every gray hair on my head. However, I am equally proud--if not unequivocally prouder--of my sons, their friends, and their peers who make up the newest generation of firefighters.
The true leaders of my generation of firefighting--distinguished firemen and firewomen--all seem equally as frustrated with these self-proclaimed generational geniuses who belittle the new folks. The real leaders worked their way through the ranks, took no career shortcuts, led crews in fires, led battalions or districts in battles, and went to the school of hard knocks, thereby gaining wisdom through real-life experiences. They are proud of the legacy and the foundation they have laid for this the next band of real American heroes. We know who they are because we refer to them as the senior gentlemen and gentlewomen of the fire service.
Tom Brokaw said of our parents’ generation that they were men and women who rose to every challenge without fear and won. He referred to them as the greatest generation and, although it is true that they served with honor and dignity and that they continued the deliberate focused development of this incredible fire service and this wonderful country we now enjoy and cherish, they are not “the” greatest generation. Every generation of Americans since John Adams and the gang threw the tea into the harbor has been the “world’s greatest.” I am ashamed of the fools who do not recognize or honor this newest generation’s potential, commitment, dignity, and courage.
I would like to share with you the words of one of this newest and greatest generation, in a letter written to his Mom and Dad. This young man is an example of what we refer to as America’s treasure, our sons and daughters, our nephews and nieces. This young firefighter/soldier/cancer survivor went to our nation’s capitol after getting his orders to deploy to Iraq. What follows in italics is an excerpt from that letter:

We went to Arlington National Cemetery, and it took all I had to hold back my tears. I know I’m not old enough to personally recall these times, but this place is so moving to me.
I am very young, but to see the Vietnam Memorial moved me. I stood quietly, tears streaming down my face, with the realization of the ultimate cost these service members paid. I bought a sticker that reads “For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” This struck a cord with me that I can’t explain.
Standing here in our nation’s capitol, I realized that this is where it all begins and ends. This is the very place where my freedom begins. This is the place where my future starts. I begin then the next chapter in my life, being deployed to Iraq. It all starteds in this very place that I am visiting. It also may be the very place that the final chapter of my life is written. Through it all, these monuments have given me the sense of freedom that most will never know.
With all of this said, Mom and Rick, I want you both to know that I go willingly. I have never felt more of a sense of calling as I do in our nation’s military. I know that you are having the most difficult time with this, but Mom, I want you to know that I truly believe that this was my calling. I feel that it was written for me to be part of something bigger than you and I. I love you and will see you soon. Love always, Gary Michael.

Sergeant Gary Michael Henry was killed in action on August 4, 2008, by an improvised explosive device six months after witting this letter. He was buried by his family and fellow firefighters from the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department (IFD) and the Indiana National Guard. The Irish poet Oscar Wilde said, “Duty is what one expects from others; it is not what one does oneself.” Perhaps that was true in Oscar’s world but not to American firefighters or servicemen. Duty was the internal force driving IFD Captain Gary Henry, a force as compelling as any ancient migratory survival instinct. Gary lived duty, honor, and courage. This beautiful man is a true example of this generation’s values.
Oscar Wilde was a great poet, but I would bet he couldn’t make a second-floor advance or protect a stairway while the truckies finished a primary search. I am in awe of this generation’s courage, its values, its strength, and its untarnished honor. It is with the deepest respect that I offer my condolences to all the families who have lost a loved one, but let it be known that the fire service will never forget or disrespect what Gary and the rest of them have given for us. Nor will I allow anyone to disrespect what those beautiful treasures now coming into our fire service are willing to give.
Chief Bobby Halton
Comment by Ben Fleagle on November 7, 2008 at 3:34pm
You know its not them, its us. Its how we separate ourselves from the current world around us. If we fail to do that, fail to show them what firemen really are, how we tick, what we believe in, and where we want to go with them, they'll just go back to the video games, they got time.
Don't get me wrong, I bust chops all day to keep these guys movin' and I've often taken the hard line with them. But what must see is consistency in what we say and do. Then they buy in!!
Comment by Eric Hankins on November 7, 2008 at 2:37pm
Yous twos guyz don't scare me....

Great words Ben. Always a pleasure reading you stuff.. Keep up the great work.

We are currently graduatring three new Firefighters here at YCFD (today actually) and all three of them are eager, and ready for the challenge. I love it.

KTF Brother,


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