Not Your Typical “Truckie”

Glenn Usdin was a Run-to-the-Curb kid, growing up in the New York fire service and rising to the rank of fire chief in Lancaster PA. Like many in the fire service, his career path has taken him in several directions including a tenure as associate publisher of Fire Engineering Magazine, president of American-LaFrance Used Fire Apparatus, now the owner of a large used fire apparatus company – Command Fire Apparatus; an accomplished professional photographer and his most recent venture with FireEMS Blogs, founding the FireTruckBlog.com.

Listen in as Chief Usdin shares his story of how he’s made a career out of his fascination with fire trucks with host Tiger Schmittendorf on the Firefighter Storytellers Internet radio show live at 9pm EST on Wednesday-January 12, 2011.

This was my first ride - a 1963 Mack 85’ aerial ladder. Through a happy coincidence, I bought the truck back from a department that owned it since the 80’s. I have restored it to its original condition and bring it back to my old department for major functions. I just drove it in September for the Massapequa FD 100th Anniversary parade.

My earliest recollection of being exposed to the fire service was when I was about 4 years old. My grandparents would take me to an FDNY firehouse in Brooklyn that was right near their house. I was hooked. I’ve been a Run-to-the-Curb kid ever since and grew up in the Long Island NY fire service.
Once, we had a small electrical fire in our house while I was growing up. It wasn’t too big of a deal, except that I remember the throngs of firefighters and apparatus that responded to help us out. That memory has never left me.
I joined the Massapequa Volunteer Fire Department on Long Island and was sworn in on July 1, 1974 by Frank Russamano. I’ll never forget what he said to me.

I was 18 at the time and had just graduated from high school the week before. I spent the next 15 years there.

I moved to Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1989 and was elected chief two years later in 1991. I served as chief for 15 years. I’m proud to say that I’ve been there 21 years and I’m still active, serving as deputy chief.

Like many firefighters, I’ve had a few close calls like the time I discovered that a small piece of carpet held up by tack strips was the only thing that kept me from plunging into a basement fire. Another memorable moment was when I ordered crews (myself included) off the roof of a taxpayer fire about three minutes before it totally came down.

It’s been a great ride and I have many people to thank who have helped and had an influence on my along the way: Dennis Smith-FDNY E-82, Massapequa Chief Dick Hurst,  Deputy Chief Tom Halford from the 7th Division in the FDNY, Marty Flanagan from FDNY Ladder 124, and Captain George Geyer from Massapequa.

When asked what my proudest moment has been in my fire service career, I always answer with: Every day I was chief — watching our crews do amazing things.

Here’s my take on the importance of stortelling in the fire service: Firefighters love to talk. Talk bad and talk good. Most of our events happen so quickly, and so infrequently, that we need to tell others what happened, the good, and the bad. We can learn from both.

Run to the curb. Tell your story.

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Glenn Usdin is Deputy Chief of the Lancaster PA Volunteer Fire Department. He enjoys trying to balance his life in the fire service with his home life shared with his wife Marlene, daughters Grace and Ella, and son James. He was a special guest on Tiger Schmittendorf‘s  Firefighter Storytellers Internet radio show live at 9pm EST on Wednesday-January 12, 2011.

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