Category Archives: Stories

Why We Should All Want to be a Fireman

Clay-300x300I’ve known local WYRK Radio Personality Clay Moden for several years and in different circles, but even I was caught by surprise when he shared this ‘true confession’ about his life long dream to be a firefighter.

Although he hasn’t joined our ranks [yet], his confession does explain a lot about why he’s always been a very vocal supporter of the volunteer fire service (and everything else that is right about America).

I’m proud to know him and call him a friend – even if he only helps us from the sidelines. I hope his story inspires others to step up and join our service.

By at least my definition, Clay Moden is definitely a kid!

Here’s his story:

And if he ever wants to fulfill his dream, I know a guy…

PS – Clay: Thanks for the plug for our Erie County NY Volunteer Fire & Emergency Services Recruitment Campaign:



Dad’s Sidekick: Chief Brian Taylor

10514897_10202278920675104_1695580206_nAs you can see in this photo, being a firefighter was a lifelong dream of mine.

18199333_10213092893940736_8938572403190730248_nAs a child, I went to the fire station with my dad every chance I got. Dad was a volunteer firefighter and EMT in a small Northeast Ohio for 33 years. Read more of this post

Love Story Forged by Fire

Shiloh and ClintonBy Shiloh MacCabe Powell:

This is a story I wrote last year. This is a story about love and friendship, and about the day that Clinton asked me to be his wife, one year ago today:

Our story began long before we met. Shortly after I moved to Alaska, I took a job in aviation at a company called MarkAir. I worked on the ramp, loading cargo and bags on to airplanes- mostly 737’s. Most of my coworkers were male. It was a very physical job, and as a woman- I knew I had to work twice as hard to look half as ‘good’ as the men. So I did. I have never been afraid of hard work. Several of the guys were pretty immature. Many were not. I made some lifelong friendships in the couple of years I worked there (1993-1995). I met one of the greatest men I have ever known during that time. He was my supervisor. He was in charge of making sure we got the airplanes turned around on time and loaded properly. Andy Mullen was his name. Read more of this post

A Good Fireman Retires – FDNY Capt. Al Hagan

“A Good Fireman Retires” – Capt Al Hagan-Beloved Fire Officer & Union Leader (REPRINTED FROM: The Secret List)



An old friend (and one of the original TSL subscribers) Captain Al Hagan has retired from the FDNY. Al was also President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association IAFF Local 854.

www.ufoa.orgMany of you will also know Al as a popular FDIC and Firehouse Expo Instructor-among many other classes and seminars-you are definitely fortunate to have spent time with Al .

He is absolutely one of a kind.

Al retires almost 41 years working as a Firefighter (E-36), Lieutenant (L-44) and Captain (L-43). He retired Saturday morning, August 30th, effective at 0900….Labor Day weekend. He is also retiring as President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. In Al’s words: “Collectively, it was a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world!  I’d like to thank all of you that were kind enough to help.”

Take a moment to read and enjoy the below story from The Chief Leader.

Even if you haven’t met Al-take a look at the below for a great lesson in leadership-at the firehouse-and at the political level:


A GOOD FIREMAN-CAPTAIN AL HAGAN:al-hagan-president-ufoa

Alexander Hagan last week had already removed all of his personal photos from his office: the many snaps of his family, but also the one that captured himself in a very different time-in gym shorts as a young man who competed in five marathons when he wasn’t fighting fires.

As he got ready to retire on Aug. 30, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association President and Fire Captain, now 64, looked back fondly on a time when on nice days, he sometimes ran the 13 miles to work.

Smoke Took a Toll

Those days have slipped past, ended by a bum knee and the chronic bronchitis and cough that have plagued him for more than a decade. The lung problems recently sparked a diagnosis of reactive airway disease, a condition that can result from exposure to noxious substances and that has been called “occupational asthma.” Mr. Hagan said he might have gotten it even if he hadn’t spent months cleaning up at the World Trade Center site after Sept. 11. Read more of this post

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.


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 ( 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 ( (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


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.

Sand HeartSpeaking 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.