Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service
My name is Demond Simmons—I am a proud member of the Oakland (CA) Fire Department. I recently completed year 23 of a hopeful 50-year career in the fire service. I am the current special operations chief for the OFD. Special operations responsibilities include ARFF, technical rescue, water rescue, hazardous materials, and incident safety officer. I was born in Muskegon Michigan. I came west to San Jose as an eight-year-old in 1981. I completed all of my formal education through undergraduate studies in San Jose.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
As a kid growing up, I was never fascinated with fire engines/trucks—for short period of time, I lived in an apartment complex directly behind a fire station in San Jose. I never entered a firehouse as a kid. Prior to graduating from high school, my college choice was Howard University in Washington DC. Circumstances diminished that dream during my senior year in High School. At the urging of my high school counselor, I enrolled at a junior college in Northern California. During my first semester, my focus revolved around business administration. While going through the school schedule for the spring semester in 1992, I came across a page that listed “fire science” courses. It was at the moment I decided to change my major and pursue a career in the fire service. During my lunch break one day at work, I drove down to the community college and enrolled in the introductory fire science course. Six years later, I was hired with the Burlingame (CA) Fire Department. In 1999, I became a member of the Oakland Fire Department. I truly enjoy every aspect of the profession!
I have always enjoyed reading and learning. That coupled with my desire to be “good” at my craft led me to becoming a fire instructor. Teaching requires strict discipline—I train or educate myself on some aspect of the profession for a minimum of two to three hours each day/seven days a week. A good instructor has to know his/her profession!
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that? Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career
As the current special operations chief, I am working in conjunction with my colleague in the training division on the department’s special operations and training plan for 2021. This will be the department’s first time ever drafting a comprehensive strategic plan that revolves around all things “training and education.” We as two passionate individuals realize what we do today will set the tone for current and future generations of Oakland firefighters. More importantly, there is a direct correlation between firefighter safety/well-being and relevant ongoing training/education.
When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by?
When I finally leave the profession 27 years from now, I want individuals to simply say “Demond” cared about the profession as a whole and remained active in shaping the 21st century fire service.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Most people who know me will unequivocally agree that I have an enormous respect for the profession. Most would never guess that my other interests outside of firefighting include interior design and contemporary architecture. When I travel, I almost never visit fire stations; however, I will take pictures of buildings incessantly and marvel over interior design schemes.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
The responsibilities of firefighters today are tremendous. The biggest change I have noticed since I entered the profession is that the young men/women coming in the profession today are smarter and more inquisitive than firefighters from preceding generations—that is both important and definitely a good thing. I have full confidence that the sophistication and capabilities of the future workforce will continue on a trajectory that keeps us relevant for years to come.
And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
Technology and pandemics will continue to alter many aspects of both our personal and professional livelihoods. Instructors—embrace the opportunity to alter/modify how you deliver training and education! We know that the “training” part of our profession will always include hands on manipulation of equipment/tools in order to complete one or more tasks. Let’s continue to be innovative in how we delivery on the education side. Embrace best practices from other professions and those in the academic community who are truly revolutionary in how they satisfy learning for their intended audience. With the right “mix” of instructional tools, we as instructors can mold most young men/women into becoming fine public servants!