1. Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a police officer like my father had been, so I joined the local police’s explorer post and started riding with them. I had the most fun when the police would respond to fire department calls, because the stuff they did and the people they interacted with were really interesting. Once I graduated from high school, I decided to go straight into EMT and paramedic school. I attended the St Louis County Fire Academy and graduated in 1987.
2. Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor
I have always enjoyed teaching so when the opportunity came to be a Shift Training Officer at my current department, I took full advantage of it. Since I have been a training officer, Asst Chief Brian Zaitz (Kirkwood Fire Dept & ISFSI) has inspired me to continue to get involved with other opportunities to teach or be involved, like SAFER Grant Application Peer Reviews, teaching at FDIC, and continued education/mentoring after retirement.
3. What are some things you are working on in your organization and how can others learn from them
Currently, I am putting together a class on pulling trailers with emergency vehicles for our department. The biggest take away from this presentation is the safety differences between pulling residential trailers like campers or horse trailers as opposed to rescue equipment like ATVs or heavy rescue tractor trailers. I am also putting together a presentation for FDIC for April of 2023.
4. Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career
Probably, the most significant accomplishment for me was to have my first article published in Fire Engineering Magazine in Feb 2022 on the uses of a booster line and its overlooking/underuse. While most departments are using the larger hose, a booster hose is easier to handle and more appropriate for things like brush fires, car fires, or washing antifreeze at car accidents. It is also incredibly useful for decontamination of firefighters after a fire.
5. What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor
a. When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by
One thing that I would hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor, is to inspire and teach the next generation of firefighters how to aggressively pursue their dreams in the fire service and teach them a little common sense along the way. I had so many inspirations and mentors throughout my early years of my career, that I would love to be able to be that person for one of my recruits.
6. What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started
A few of the biggest changes that I have noticed in the fire service is the introduction of IT and safety equipment advancements along the way. One example would be the use of thermal imaging. 30 years ago when I started, thermal imaging had not even been introduced, now it is used by every firefighter during a fire, to be able to see individual heat signatures that previously would not be able to be seen. This has saved so many lives/properties in my career alone, since we can now see even the smallest ember.
7. What is something that most people don’t know about you:
My wife and I met over a dead body. I was bringing a deceased individual into the emergency room, and she was the nurse I delivered them to. Additionally, my family has a deep connection to football. My son played D1 football with the University of Tennessee, and for a short time, I played Semi-pro football for a league that supported Backstoppers.
8. 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
Adult day care leader. Most people in the fire service know, we as firefighters are just little kids that love to play with big toys – we have boats, trucks, ATVs, etc. and never know when to stop “playing.” Our bodies generally have to make that call for us.
9. And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor
Never stop taking classes. Never stop learning. Just when you think you have seen it all, you will realize that you haven’t. Be passionate about what you teach. Train, train, and train again. It may be your fellow firefighter’s life that will be saved from it someday.