>I wrote this about the Chief late at night, a few hours after I found out he had passed. It has been three days since then and this is the first time I have let this out.
21 November 2008
Today is the first time in my young career as a fireman that I have had to deal with losing one of our own. It was not to fire, an apparatus accident or a heart attack on the job. It was not one of these but it is no less heart breaking. It is no less devastating, personally or professionally.
I met Battalion Chief Phil Rounds well before I had even considered becoming a Fireman. I was working at Sears in the Home Improvement department when I first met him. Right from the start he made an impression on me, knowing exactly what he wanted and asking me to make it happen. He was on duty and he had brought a curly haired fireman with him to help load up the cabinets that are now in the engine bay at station one. I helped him with the purchase and after that day I barely remembered what department he worked for. I would never forget his face though. In June of 2006 I became a fresh faced Recruit Firefighter and I once again met Chief Phil Rounds. And to my surprise, he remembered me. After finishing the class at the end of June I was assigned to his shift, B- Shift, and that was the first time I had the opportunity to work for him. I learned allot in a very short amount of time. From cleaning tools, putting wet stuff on the red stuff and learning basic EMS, to cleaning the bathrooms. All of these kinds of things are necessary to get by in the job. However you can’t learn what is really important from drilling or reading a manual. It comes from sitting down at the kitchen table with the whole crew and learning what it means to be a fireman, a brother, life long friends. That was the first thing I learned working under Chief, how to be part of the crew. As a probationary member, you try not to talk much and you always give up your seat. You get stuck with the nasty jobs and the jobs no one else wants to do, but you know you are part of something bigger then the vent above the stairs you find yourself cleaning. Chief Rounds never let you forget that it was a family first, a job second. I have not been at this long, but I know this is one of the most important things a young firefighter can learn.
I will always remember the good days as well as the bad. There are so many moments I remember with him. First Sunday on the job, we were ordered to attend Sunday brunch at Pikes Landing. We were attacked by bee’s, but hey, we were eating 18 dollar buffet and doing the job! I remember my first tanker run with him, on the Steese highway, I remember the first time I shook his hand. I can remember driving Brush 13 to a fire on a general alarm assignment, Chief sitting next to me, using the opticom to get there just a little bit faster. Making interior attack and hearing explosions on the left side of my head. There was chief with his white hat breaking out windows with a shovel. I have been sent on errands to pick up Mexican food at Taco King, I have shed tears after hard calls. All this with Chief being the rock, running the shift like no other can. One of the last times I can remember very well with Chief was when I was running the Fill the Boot this August. It was late in the day and here comes this women. At first she seemed like she had a innocent question, but the first thing she said is “Who is in charge of this!?” I said me and she came right into my face, yelling about safety vests and traffic plans. Chief saw this and stepped in, knowing it wasn’t my fault. He calmed the waters with that tone of voice that you know could convince any one, of any thing. I looked up to him for that because he showed me that he was taking care of his own. One of my fondest memories of Chief Rounds is that he always made it a point to use your first name. This really stuck with me because allot of people, Captains and Chiefs alike seem to use last names. It just a habit, but when someone makes it a point to use your first name, you remember it. I liked that about him, and even now, I try to make it a point use the first names of the guys at the house. Chief Rounds taught me respect.
The Chief was always for the students, 100 percent of the time. I really respected him for this and I hope the department can carry on his views. He believed in our capabilities and even though we have our rough times, he still pushed for our input and our level of responsibility. I thank him for this, but I know I can never thank him enough.
These words are of a heavy heart. I did not get to say good bye to him like I would have wanted to. A few nervous words in a video camera. It will take me a long time to get over not being able to say good bye. I will have to do it in my own way, and so I am writing of my time with Chief Rounds. I will leave this department in my own time but it will be my one wish that he be never forgotten. Firefighters come and go through this department with such quickness that it worries me. I will do everything I can to never forget him, and I will work my hardest to pass his memory on to the next guy, or girl for that matter. The University Fire Department is a unique place, this is not unknown. This is something most of us have never had to deal with, and I hope everyone takes something away from it. I am honored to serve with the men and women of this department but I am most honored to have served under Battalion Chief Phil Rounds.
I will never forget.
Former B Shift