RttC Kid: Chief John Buttino
>>>These are their stories (DEH, deh.)
By: JOHN BUTTINO – for www.runtothecurb.com
Fire Chief of the Eggertsville Hose Company and Run-to-the-Curb type kid
For anyone who is a fan of the “Law and Order” TV series, the line above should be a familiar one.
I commend my good friend, colleague and brother Tiger Schmittendorf for his duty and courage to recruit firefighters who are passionate for community service, educating them about what it is that we do and for keeping these stories telling for eternity. Our predecessors would be very proud to see you keep the tradition alive!
My story travels down a unique but familiar road. Unique in that it was my ride, however, familiar as it was family that attracted me to the fire service.
It was 1982 when I “responded” to a dumpster fire behind the Buffalo Marriott Hotel while riding in a big brown pickup truck with my dad. He had just become a probationary firefighter with the Eggertsville Hose Company (EHC) in Amherst NY.
He shouted over to me to “Stay in the truck!” (A line I would grow very accustomed to hearing many a time).
The dumpster was ablaze. That was my first real fire.
As time goes by, so do the memories, like the time I sat on the jump seat of old Engine 4 in 1986 watching a house on fire. Back then, radios had batteries that went dead (just like the ones we use today!) I got to hold all of the used radios, well, both of them, as we currently have more radios on one truck than we did in the whole fleet back then.
I also remember the times we sat in the old club room playing board games because there was nothing to watch on the 10-channel cable TV. As I open the cabinet in our current club room and bring out the box of toy cars for my son to play with, I still see some of those games collecting dust.
Before the days of communications rooms and fancy alarm rooms, I remember sitting at the alarm desk right in the middle of the apparatus bay area to get a bird’s eye view of all of the big trucks returning.
Another memory I have is of being a fourth grader at Windermere Elementary and being so excited that my dad was going to come and visit with the other firefighters; only to be later disappointed that my teacher (you know who you are) would not take us outside to see the fire trucks after the presentation. Now I am proud to visit our district schools and tell them I’m an Eggertsville firefighter and a graduate of our school system.
RISING THROUGH THE RANKS:
Fast forward 27 years and I have had what seems like the quickest but most satisfying ride of my life: from joining the EHC in 1994 to reaching the pinnacle of being elected Fire Chief in 2009.
I wrote the following speech to my firefighting family:
It is with great honor that on January 1, 2009 I became the twenty-third chief of the Eggertsville Hose Company. It then came to the reality that dreams do come true. I am also lucky enough to be the father of two wonderful, yet energetic children. As I made this all important step I thought about how I would have never been in the fire service if it were not for my Dad, who in 1982 brought an impressionable 6-year old up to the firehouse for what seemed to be every day.
I remember the countdown I used to keep: “Only 9 years 3 months 3 days till I can join the fire company!” That part went by so slow but since 1994, time has really flown by! From painting wheels on the old Macks to sitting on the jump seat of “Old Number 4” at a house fire – some of those are moments that I will cherish forever and try to pass on to my children.
Over the last 16 years I have grown as a firefighter, as an officer and as a man. This was only possible by the support and love given to me by my EHC firehouse family. For all of you new firefighters and for some who have been around a while, let me explain how much I am grateful for having the Eggertsville Hose Company. It is because I joined the EHC in 1994 that I was able to advance my training and education, secure my career, and provide for my family.
Remember that it’s not about what the fire service can give you or do for you. Reward and achievement come hand in hand with the dedication and hard work you portray.
“The climb” as Hannah Montana sings it, was surreal (I’m not only a dad of a Hannah Montana fan but a fan myself) – achieving heights of success along with pits of disappointment.
Being elected to my first firematic position as Lieutenant was a very special moment. As I converse with firefighters from other departments, some who elect their officers and some who appoint them, I express the sheer pride that is exhibited by one who is elected by his peers.
I continued down that path until being elected to Captain just a year and a half later. I can recall two conversations with my then Fire Chief Steve Matisz.
The first: “Congratulations on being elected Captain. You earned it and will do a great job!” The second guidance he offered was “It’s time to buy a house,” a piece of advice I heeded and promptly purchased a home (thirteen doors from the station).
Another thing Chief Matisz added was that he was going on vacation and wanted me to be acting Assistant Chief – a huge honor as a Captain!
Today as fire chief, I breathe a sigh of relief when a fellow firefighter purchases a home in the district. It not only extends his dedication to the community but solidifies his dedication to the fire company he serves.
THE NEXT STEP
Attaining the rank of assistant chief was one which I sought after for some time. It was also something that I thought I deserved. However, the membership didn’t agree with my theory.
I made two unsuccessful bids to be elected to the position. Though I had grown in the fire service through education and climbing the rank ladder from the ground up, it was experience in life that I lacked.
In the six years I spent as Captain I purchased a home, had two children and was in a committed relationship. Individually, each of those brings trials and tribulations. Combining them creates a whole new set of challenges.
On my third attempt in October of 2004, I ran for second assistant chief and won! It was a tremendous honor to don the white hat for the first time and it will be difficult to take off someday. I worked a year and a half as the Chief of Training as well as coordinator of all school fire prevention presentations and our annual department’s open house.
THE THRILLING THREE
Being elected first assistant chief under the leadership of Chief Mike Boehm was monumental. Not only is it a personal achievement, but it brings you only one step away from the top of the ladder.
Michael Boehm became our twenty-second fire chief and would see us through our 100th Anniversary.
When I became Chief, I told my new First Assistant Chief Brian Multerer that it is big step and indeed feels different when you are in that position. People count on you not only as a leader – but as the next leader of the department. It didn’t take him long to figure that out for himself.
As assistant chief, I spent three awesome years with two great people and developed relationships with them and their families which I hope will last for many years to follow.
I had also ran against both of them for positions over the years which, for some in the fire service, would be an end to a relationship. Ours grew stronger.
I feel that’s due to how we all feel about our fire company. I consider Brian and Mike as true, honest friends and brothers to the greatest degree.
Together, our department progressed and succeeded on many levels. It’s been a heck of a ride.
Being elected Chief in 2009 started a whole new journey. Not only did I have to tend to the operational success of our company, I was tasked to develop and refine policy, lead new firefighters and re-engage senior firefighters who over time may have committed to different ventures.
As I write this bio, I’m a month into my second year as Chief. Year one went by with many challenges, most of which were overcome. I hope to continue this “blog” as time goes by to document one of the most special times of my personal and professional career and to help guide those who may be driving down the same path.
We live in a world of high stress, work overload, family commitments and working parents. The volunteer fire service is headed down a mysterious path.
My mission – my dream is to guide the ship of a proud, progressive, tradition-rich fire company down that passage into the future, prepared for all challenges as they come along. Doing so will take some willing team members, sweat, tears and hard work but, like everything else in the history of the volunteer fire service – we can adapt and overcome!
Download the full story of Chief John Buttino.
John has even more great photos at: http://picasaweb.google.com/buttinoj/RunToTheCurbPictures#++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ John Buttino is Fire Chief of the Eggertsville Hose Co. in the Town of Amherst NY and a Communications Unit Leader with the Erie County Department of Emergency Services. John was installed as Chief of Department the same year that his father Mike received his life membership. John is a Run-to-the-Curb type kid who wears his passion for the fire service on his sleeve, literally and figuratively, sharing his love for the fire service with all those who will continue his legacy of service. His kids Christopher and Elise love to hang out at the firehouse with their Dad. ©2010www.runtothecurb.com