Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service
My name is Jesse Marcotte and I am the Training Coordinator for the Northville Township Fire Department. Our department is a suburb of Detroit, MI and I have been fortunate to serve the community since 2002. I also worked for the fire department in my hometown prior to being hired in Northville Township. I am blessed to be married to an incredibly supportive wife and we currently have one incredible son (Aidan) with another one due in February of 2021.
I became a firefighter out of sheer luck and I will always be grateful for the person who introduced me to this occupation. One of our neighbors when I was growing up was a Battalion Chief at our local fire department. He also was the coordinator of their fire cadet program which introduced high school students to the fire service. He knocked on our door and suggested that I check it out. Reluctantly, I went to the next training and was instantly hooked. Everything I did from that moment my sophomore year of high school to now has been geared towards being the best firefighter I can be.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
Many wonderful people and several events have inspired me over the years with respect to being a fire instructor. Perhaps the biggest influence was a near-miss that occurred on a fire scene in 2006. We were dispatched to a basement fire in a very large home in the middle of the night. My partner and I arrived on scene first due to the fact we just returned from a previous incident. I was the senior member on the unit and this was my partner’s first major fire. After the engine arrived, we stretched a handline and attempted to access the basement using the interior stairs. We experienced extreme heat and fire conditions upon locating the staircase and the Incident Commander ordered us out of the structure.
Upon exiting the structure, the entire foyer area we were just operating in collapsed into the basement. I immediately realized that we could have very well been in the structure when it collapsed and that there was little-to-no chance we would have made it out. A lot of feelings and emotions ran through my head. Most of all, I felt a sense of guilt that I led one of my partners into harm’s way because I lacked fundamental knowledge of building construction and fire behavior. From this point on, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about both so I could share the information with everyone on our department.
Our shift built an SCBA confidence course to replicate various hazards and construction features to develop and maintain all of our skills. I also completed my graduate degree in 2010 and my capstone research project was titled, “Building a Framework for Firefighter Safety: Lightweight Building Construction”. To this day, I still do everything I can to learn more about building construction and fire dynamics. This includes pointing out every construction feature possible when on a date with my wife, haha.
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?
We are currently working on several projects including the development of a professional development model that is focused on providing every member of our department with the resources they need to be successful in each position/rank. This includes not only the creation of position-specific task books, but also the expansion of our mentoring program into our officer ranks. This, more than anything is focused on the outcome. Our intended outcome is to equip every member with the right amount of competence and confidence they need to be successful. The big takeaway for us is that formal mentoring and coaching should not cease with the completion of your probationary firefighter training program. Members of the fire service are committed, life-long learners and our professional development model should reflect that.
Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I would say the development of our Probationary Firefighter Training Program has been the most significant training accomplishment so far. We were able to implement a mentor-based training program several years ago that is based on developing proficiency with all required knowledge, skills, and abilities. This program was significant because it created a foundation for skills development while providing continuous coaching and mentoring through a one-on-one relationship with a senior member. While this program has been successful, it is always subject to continuous improvement. We are currently re-tooling the program in its entirety to further enhance its effectiveness.
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?
I have been fortunate to work with an incredible group of professionals. My mission is to provide them with any and every resource they need to be successful, from a training and education perspective. This means doing my best to arm them with the requisite skills and information to make a difference as fire and EMS professionals. I simply want to be remembered as a team player who did their best to support the people and the mission of the organization.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
I would say the biggest difference I have noticed is the acceptance of evidence-based, scientific research. This is especially so with respect to fire dynamics. Organizations such as NIST and UL have given all of us in the fire service a tremendous gift. A gift that we should all be thankful for and we should do our absolute best to understand how that information applies to each one of our organizations. One of my core philosophies is to “be smart”. The fire service has far too many risks to simply “be safe”. The professionalism and servant leadership of the organizations providing us with the information we need helps us all to “be smart”.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I absolutely love spicy food, the hotter the better. It really doesn’t matter what I’m eating as long as I have some way to add a little heat to it. Credit to my wife for her willingness to add a jar of ghost pepper salsa to our chicken tortilla soup.
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?
I would have to go with Research & Development Specialist. Our work as fire and EMS providers is so vast and ever-evolving, especially with today’s challenges. I thoroughly appreciate the research process because we can learn so much from the endless amount of information that is readily available at our fingertips. Taking this information and using it to develop a resource that meets the needs of our organization is something that I really enjoy.
And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
Have humility and don’t be afraid to exercise it. As instructors, we typically find ourselves in front of a group of people. One of the biggest elements of credibility is admitting and acknowledging that you don’t know everything. This is what it means to be a student of the game. Continuously listen and learn from those around you, while supporting their needs. That is truly what we are here for as instructors and training personnel. It is the core of what we do.