Run to the Curb!

This circa 1940s photo courtesy of Chief Tom Merrill of the Snyder Fire Department in Amherst NY is what Run-to-the-Curb is all about: Capturing the imaginations of kids and firefighters alike to fuel their passion for the fire service.

What kid doesn’t want to be a firefighter? Every time they hear a siren or see a fire engine race by, they run to the curb to see what’s going on. Thus, I call these future firefighters “Run to the Curb” type kids.

I was one of those kids and I bet you were one too. It’s something you never grow out of — and many of us chose to grow into it.

Run to the Curb!” is a living document and possible online book project too. Here, I’ll share my experiences, my stories that have been writing themselves over my thirty years in the fire service —and my thoughts on our need to be better story tellers

And, I want to hear your stories too. You can share your childhood experiences and your connections to the fire service and in doing so, share the brotherhood, history and traditions of the fire service with fellow firefighters — and those who wish they were.

Check back often as more stories are added and we build this legacy together.

Run to the curb. Tell your story. Tell your fortune. We can’t wait to hear it.

Death, Taxes and the Brotherhood

Depew Hook & Ladder Co PatchDear Tiger:

I enjoyed meeting you this morning at Depew’s day drill. I belong to the Depew Fire Department’s Hook & Ladder Co. 1. I am proudly a “Hook” with a Maltese Cross tattoo to prove it too. (Once a Hook, Always a Hook!)

I want to tell you this one story:

My proudest moment in the department came nearly two years ago, February 2011, at my Mom’s wake.

My Mom was a fireman’s wife. My Dad, Vince, died as a life member of the Winchester Volunteer Fire Co. many years ago. Mom was just weeks shy of her 89th birthday. We held the wake at Hoy’s Funeral Home in West Seneca. Read more of this post

News Article Offers Insight into Interesting Lives of Volunteer Firefighters

The Boys and their boys: Pat Davis and Zach, John Latimore and Kyle, Alex and I, and Bruce with Keegan on his lap.

The Boys and their boys: Pat Davis and Zach, John Latimore and Kyle, Alex and I, and Bruce with Keegan on his lap.

Buffalo News Feature Reporter Ann Neville — a volunteer firefighter herself — shares her keen insight into the interesting and interrupted lifestyles that come with being a volunteer firefighter in this two-page feature published on Sunday-December 15, 2013.

We often say that life in the fire service is not a job — it’s a lifestyle — and a very interrupted lifestyle at that. But, the next time the siren sounds we’re ready to run out the door: clothes, keys and equipment in hand; leaving our loved ones behind in a warm bed, at the dinner table, or just as we were all ready to walk out the door for a family gathering. Read more of this post

The Midnight Express

This will be a shorter version of a much more detailed post to come but for now, I have to share some of the story behind this photo.

DCFD IRON MIKE

JIM GUY: Just found this photo of Tiger (when he was just a cub) and Iron Mike- DCFD

A good friend and mentor of mine, Jim Guy just posted this photo of me that dates back almost 20 years.

I’ll never forget my first trip to Washington, DC and visiting the “Midnight Express” — home to 16 Engine, 3 Truck and the 6th Battalion Chief. Despite being my first trip, accompanied by Jim, Dave Sherman and Ric Dimpfl, they made me drive on the Beltway around DC — just perfect.
We were traveling as the management team of The Fire Fighter Newspaper, a publication just three years in existence at the time, to the annual National Fire & Emergency Services Congressional Caucus dinner hosted by the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI.org) at the famous Washington Hilton. As the dinner cost something like $250 a plate, we were honored to be the guests of Volunteer Firemens Insurance Services (VFIS.com). (Why the Washington Hilton is famous is fodder for the longer version of this story!) Read more of this post

The most important stories of all

6255977082_80989e7d2a_bTwo years ago, 2011 was my first year on the social media staff for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and, being my first time attending the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, I said afterwards that I was glad I was so caught up in the technology that I didn’t get caught up in all the emotion of it.

Last year, I wasn’t so lucky. I was tasked with interviewing and capturing the stories of the survivors about their firefighters.

Our goal was to capture 60-90 seconds of video for sharing via the Foundation’s various social media channels. Invariably, even if I talked to a particular survivor for 10 to 15 minutes, it wasn’t until the end or when I asked if they had anything else they’d like to share, if they had anything else they wanted people to know about their loved one — that the real gemstones of insight came out. Read more of this post

Three Decades and One New Sidewalk.

I just came home from responding to my third second-alarm fire of the week in my role as Deputy Fire Coordinator in the Erie County Department of Emergency Services and have a narrow window of opportunity to write this post. I’ve got about two hours to shower, shave, eat and then report to a law enforcement detail I’m assigned to until 3am. So here goes:

Earlier today I responded to an EMS call for a person with chest pains. Being assigned as Fire/Rescue only, I don’t typically respond to a ton of house calls but I try to help out at my fair share. Today, I was glad I did.

Two of my all-time favorites at the fire station: Angelo Rizzuto and Denny Allen+ at a drill in 2010.

Upon returning to the station I went around to the administrative side of our building to check on the progress of our large parking lot paving project (large, as in square feet and dollars!). The contractors were just finishing the last section of new sidewalk around the perimeter of our assembly hall. Standing there with our President Geordie Sinclair and 53-year active member Angelo Rizzuto, I asked Geordie if I could write my initials in the corner of the concrete, just as I had done when the assembly hall and original sidewalk were built, in 1971.

I remember that event as if it were yesterday, recalling how the contractors paid a few of us neighborhood kids 25 or 50 cents a day to help them pick up materials and debris. I was 8-years old.

I thought that initialing the new sidewalk would only be appropriate, seeing as I’m still here, so many years later. It was then that Geordie reminded me that I have an important anniversary coming up this week. Read more of this post

Love at First Fire

20120628-171720.jpg

It was about 11pm on a Saturday night and I was taking this girl home from our first real date. Prior to that we’d bumped into each other at a local watering hole or connected through a mutual friend. But this was our first real date, I’m talking a fancy dinner at Ground Round and then window-shopping, which is what young couples did when they don’t have any money to actually go shopping and buy anything.

I wanted to impress her so I got up the nerve to ask my father to borrow his 1963 Mercury Comet. I loved that car either because it was born the same year I was, or because it was orange and rust colored. The orange was the paint and the rust was nature’s doing. It was a two-door with a bench seat in front. You don’t see many bench seats these days. That’s unfortunate.

Having almost two whole years of fire service experience under my belt, I carried my gear in the trunk of my Dad’s car, which amazingly still opened despite the gaping rust holes around the lock mechanism. That was probably my most daring feat of the evening.

As we passed through the Village of Angola on our way to her house in nearby Silver Creek, we came upon a house fire located just “over the tracks” that dissected the village’s social and geographic boundaries at the time.

I pulled the Comet into the old A&P Supermarket across the street so as to stay out of the way of arriving apparatus. I donned my gear and waited for the first engine to arrive.

I instructed my date to wait and watch the operation from a safe vantage point on a grassy area across the street from the house on fire.

I helped stretch a line to the back of the house and up the stairs to the second floor with a partner who’s name I no longer remember. We conducted a primary search and made our way through the smoke towards the front of the house.

I leaned down and opened the bottom sash of a window installed almost at floor level in the front bedroom. Crouching down, I first stuck my left and then my right leg out the window and on to the porch roof. Emerging from the window for unknown reasons, probably for a photo op or to wave to that pretty girl watching from across the street (LOL), I stood up — and immediately fell through the roof to the ground below. She was undoubtedly impressed at this point, I’m sure.

Dusting off my ego and literally pulling up my boot straps, I gathered myself and went back inside the house, this time with a far more experienced firefighter named Denny Allen. I’d been friends with Dennis for as long as I could remember, as I had grown up around the corner from the Evans Center Volunteer Fire Company, my fire company. I always admired Dennis for his ability to remain calm under some of the most chaotic conditions and I trusted him with my life.

We went back to the second floor, this time to conduct overhaul operations — to open up the walls and pull the ceiling in this now smoldering fire. As we began to poke and prod the ceiling with our pike poles, it seemed like the entire ceiling came down on top of us at once. The heavy plaster and lathe knocked us to the ground, jarring my mask loose on my “state-of-the-art” Scott 2A Air Pack, the kind with the elephant trunk hose pre-connected to the mask.

Crawling towards fresh air and the lights from the apparatus outside, I stuck my head out of the same window I had emerged from earlier in the fire fight. And, apparently I had ingested enough brown, acrid smoke to turn my stomach upside down and I proceeded to empty its contents over the side of the porch roof, all the while my date watched from across the street.

Operations at the fire scene dragged on for hours and I got her home from our first date very, very late. It was the next day. I don’t think her parents were too thrilled about that or if they really believed the story why.

That fire occurred 30 years ago today, and that girl, the former Laurie Brunner, has been my wife for 25 of those 30 years. We will celebrate our silver wedding anniversary the day after Christmas, later this year.

I’m confident that the fact that she has stuck with me since that very interesting end to our first date is a clear indication that at least one of us is crazy.

Speaking of crazy, thirteen years ago we took a leap of faith together when I took “early retirement” and gave up a perfectly good paying career in with a bright future to take advantage of an opportunity I’d been offered to do what I love, to serve in the fire service.

No doubt a counter-intuitive financial move, especially with two young kids at home, I forfeited a full time job with great benefits for a part time job with no benefits working for the county. My choices were to either continue doing what I made a lot of money at, or do what I love.

For me, it was a no brainer. For her, I think it was both a test of her sanity as well as a testament to her love for me and my quest for happiness and career satisfaction. Although it still hasn’t paid off financially, I’m confident that even she would agree that it has rewarded us in many ways that we enjoy more and more each day.

I owe virtually all of who I am, what I have had the opportunity to experience, and most of all, the things I have been successful at — to her. Although she’ll readily admit that she doesn’t love the fire service the way I do, through the ups and downs that come with life in the fire service, she’s always supported me in doing what I love.

To say thank you (and remind her of a date she never remembers-LOL) I arranged for roses to be delivered to her office today with a card that read: “Happy 30th Anniversary of our first date. Thanks to you, I still believe in love at first sight. — Love, Tiger.”

She called to tell me that it made the other girls in the office jealous. I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have what Laurie and I have together.

Our first date ended in love at first fire. A fire that has flared and flickered up and down through our relationship, maybe even smoldered at times, but one that rekindles over and over again and holds the promise of burning brighter every day.

For that I thank her. I love you Laurie.

#MyFireStory Runs-to-the-Curb @FireRescue1

FireRescue1 — a leading fire service news portal has caught on to the importance of storytelling with a Twitter based story-sharing campaign. Using the hashtag #myfirestory, @FireRescue1 entices firefighters to share their story of why they got started in our business with the chance of winning a free FireRescue1 t-shirt.

Taking great interest in their campaign that mirrors the motivation behind @RuntotheCurb, I shared my own story of how “It was in the cards” that I would become a firefighter.

@FireRescue1 retweeted my story, which I assume means that I won an awesome free t-shirt [#canneverhaveenoughfiretshirts], according to the contest rules on their web site.

That also means I’m in the running for the grand prize. I hope I win as it will offer me the opportunity to showcase the importance of storytelling in the fire service by having at www.RuntotheCurb.com and www.FirefighterStorytellers.com mentioned in their online newsletter.

Wish me luck!

Running to the Curb — and then the Engine!

I stumbled upon these videos while searching for another fire service related piece and thought they were cute. The first shows two twin boys running to the engine and gearing up for the big one while the second video shows an older boy waiting for his turn to really ride the big rig.

While neither video is certainly “professional grade,” they are both good reminders of what made each of us come to the fire service as Run-to-the-Curb kids and hopefully serve to motivate us to keep doing what we love to do.

I’m sure there are plenty more videos just like this out there on the web. Do you have a photo or video of your future firefighter gearing up to be a Run-to-the-Curb kid? We’d love to share it here.

Twins:

Gear Up:

URGENT SCHEDULE CHANGE: Firefighter Storytellers

URGENT UPDATE: 

Tonight’s Firefighter Storytellers show has been rescheduled to Thursday night 11/10/11 at 9pm.

We’ve been preempted by a live show from the National Fire Academy with the ever popular Dr. Burton & Carolyn Clark at 9pm EST.

Please listen in to their timely show on Firefighter Netcast as we mourn the loss of fire service and journalism legend Hal Bruno, Executive Director-Emeritus of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation – www.firehero.org.

Tremendous loss of a talented storyteller

Firefighter, Journalist Hal Bruno

Today, as we mourn the loss of fire service and journalistic leader Hal Bruno, it’s important to remember what an important part he was of our fire service, our communities and our world.

His depiction of the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School fire that claimed 95 innocent lives is a classic example of his impact on our industry and the news world.

Rest in peace fine sir. You will be sorely missed but your contributions live on.

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