Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service?
My name is Caleb Eytcheson and I am the Training Lieutenant for Platte Valley Fire Protection District in Kersey, CO. I am married to an amazing wife and we have two great kids (Ava age 4 and Emma 8 mos.). In my free time I enjoy hiking with my family and have recently taken up fly fishing.
One of the stories that I like to tell as to why I joined the fire service is that I was in school to become an engineer and was sitting in Calc 2 one day when I had a sudden epiphany that I definitely did not want to be an engineer if this is what it involves.
To be honest growing up my father was a firefighter and I was certain I did not want to become a firefighter after seeing how much he was gone either at the station or working for Oklahoma State Fire Service Training. However, as I got older and I was trying to decide what type of person I would be I knew I wanted to have certain traits in whatever I did professionally. These included being there for people in their time of need, being able to handle anything that was thrown at me, and having kindness and empathy for others. I learned those traits from my father and realized that a career in the fire service was one that would allow me to do something that was pretty cool (wet on red) while helping to grow me as a person and serving the public. I began volunteering for a local department and was quickly hooked on the fire service and have not looked back since.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
Definitely my father. He dedicated himself to the fire service in a way that he was incredibly technically knowledgeable about the subjects that he was teaching. What really set him apart as an instructor though was his ability to relate to anyone from large metro departments down to the smallest most rural fire department. He did this by being kind to everyone who he met and going above and beyond for anyone and everyone. As I began working part time as an instructor I was amazed at the amount of people who I met statewide who not only knew my father but also had a story of how he had impacted them personally. They all remembered him and the contributions that he made to their career. I hope that I can be that for others moving forward in my career as a firefighter and instructor.
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?
Currently I am working on making the training as easily recordable for everyone on our department. I believe there are several small trainings and other activities that happen on a daily basis that are not recorded. As we are better able to capture these things we are already doing we will free up time in our training schedule for other trainings that our members will find more interesting.
I am also looking forward to implementing two ideas that I learned from ISFSI members including basing training off of JPR prioritization on the Risk/Frequency matrix and implementing “Rep the Work, and Coach Good Reps”.
Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
Completing my Master’s Degree in Public Administration was the most significant professional accomplishment that I have to date. I was able to finish with a 4.0 GPA and was “corded” by my professors for the tenets of Leadership and Research. Not only completing this degree with honors but also being able to be recognized by my professors is a testament to those around me who supported me during this process. My wife and my Fire Chief were both very instrumental in helping me in this process and I am forever grateful to them. Along with several mentors and other people who I reached out to for my research papers.
What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?
I want to make sure that the members of my department are the most prepared they can be for any event they may face. At my department we have amazing resources/facilities along with truly great personnel. I know it is my job to live up to their expectations and the expectations of the community that we serve by providing them the tools to be the best trained firefighters and most capable to provide service to the community.
When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by?
Someone who was technically proficient, level headed, and kind to everyone that I meet.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
I’ve only been in the fire service for a little over 11 years now but the biggest change I have seen so far is in cancer risk reduction. I may have been late to the game but washing my gear when I first started was only for making sure it didn’t stink after a long training. Now we have instituted a policy of cancer risk reduction that goes all the way to training. Every member who participated in a recent live fire evolution not only participated in the cancer risk reduction (including decon and gear washing) but did so willingly and with enthusiasm. This is a great trend that I would like to see continue as we learn more and more about the best ways for reducing cancer in the fire service.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
If I had unlimited resources I would definitely be a full time student. I truly enjoy the experience of going to school. Learning from the books and professors but also getting to know my fellow classmates and learning from their experiences is something that has been invaluable to me. I even enjoy writing research papers and taking a deep dive into a topic to hopefully better understand why things play out the way they do, however I do get frustrated with the strict rules of academic writing.
If you could choose your title (other than the generic Training Officer or Firefighter) that uniquely describes you in your position, what would it be and why?
Facilitator. At my department I am blessed to have incredibly proficient and capable officers and firefighters. Because of this, most of my job is setting up the training plan, scheduling, and then letting the creative and smart people go to work while I get to participate as a student. I know I am lucky to have this, but truly my role is a facilitator and a student for the other incredibly capable members of my department.
And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
Be accepting of new ideas but look critically at everything you see. There are a lot of training resources out there that were not available even when I started in 2009. Now you can go on YouTube and see a video of all sorts of trainings/incidents. Most of them are helpful, some of them are specific to one department or area, and even fewer are just so someone can pound their chest and tell everyone how great they are but provide no benefit to others. Always look for new ideas but also understand that every new idea is not necessarily the best so look at them with this in mind “Does this strategy or tactic increase our ability to save lives and protect property?”