Kevin Kuntz and sons, William and Robert Kuntz, are located in Gettysburg, PA. However, their shared last names and location are not the only thing they have in common; they are also members of ISFSI.
Question 1: Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service
My interest in the fire service goes back as far as I can remember. In the mid 1960’s, a family friend who was an FDNY ladder company lieutenant, took me to his station for a visit and that just enhanced my interest. After reading Dennis Smith’s “Report from Engine Company 82”, I realized that I wanted to make the fire service a central part of my life. My local volunteer fire department in New Jersey did not have a junior program so I had to wait until 1975 to join at the age of 18. Shortly after joining my department, I headed off to college in New Orleans to obtain my engineering degree. This led to four years of counting the days when I would be able to return home during holiday or summer breaks to get back to the fire department. Once I graduated, I continued my volunteer fire department journey on more of a full-time basis and became a lieutenant. This led to 13 years as a fire officer as I progressed through the ranks to serve as Chief of Department. I remain a member of my original fire department with 48 years of service.
Upon graduation from college, I decided to pursue a career as a fire protection and risk control engineer in the insurance industry while continuing my volunteer fire service. I started my insurance career and spent seven years as a fire protection engineer with a company that insured highly protected and complex risks before I moved to a large insurance broker and became the practice leader for Oil & Chemical risks. In 2007, I joined ISO in my current position as their Chief Engineer and the head of their risk control and training teams.
My volunteer fire service also evolved. In 2002 having relocated to another nearby New Jersey community and joined a second fire department as an active member until 2018. At that point I relocated to south-central Pennsylvania and joined the local volunteer fire department.
I am a second-generation firefighter, in a whole family of firefighters. My father, and all three of my brothers are also firefighters. I am currently a Fire Lieutenant and Firefighter/Paramedic for two separate volunteer fire departments. I am also employed as a Paramedic in the county I reside in. I acquired an interest in the fire service when I was a young child, as I spend most of my early years around my father’s two firehouses. I eventually learned to check equipment and participate in station duties as early as twelve years old. Since then, I have not stopped being involved.
I started my fire service career at age 16 when I joined my local volunteer fire department as a Junior Firefighter. I currently serve as a firefighter/Paramedic in both Pennsylvania and Maryland departments. As a second-generation firefighter, I have been around the fire service and fire stations my whole life. Over the years, it slowly became an integral part of my life, and I can’t see myself having pursued any other career.
Question 2: Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor
I have been blessed by having a long list of instructors that have inspired me. My initial training in the volunteer fire service was not formal. We had no academies or structured curriculum; it was mostly drills and skills training and a lot of listening to my volunteer fire officers and senior firefighters sharing their knowledge and experience. My lead instructor for the first insurance company job was Larry Davis. He was active in the fire service as a responder and author. He made we aware of the ISFSI and urged me to join which I did in the early 1980’s. As I began to get heavily involved with the training of my volunteer department the ISFSI material, especially the “Instruct – o – Grams” were a core resource for our efforts. They were a life saver in the pre-internet world.
The most influential instructor to me in my career was Alan Brunacini. His leadership on incident command, staffing and deployment, firefighter safety and customer service provide the basis of much of what we teach today. In some of those areas, Chief Brunacini pushed back against outdated traditions and practices and showed true courage in standing up for his beliefs to drive needed change. He also influenced me to be a better listener and to treat everyone, regardless of rank, with respect. These to me are key attributes instructors should possess. It was a great honor for me that later in my career I was able to meet and work with Chief Brunacini regularly.
Another inspirational instructor is Frank Leeb from the FDNY and the East Farmingdale (NY) Volunteer Fire Company. Like Chief Brunacini before him, Chief Leeb is a leading voice to ensure emerging issues of his day like the exposure to cancer, hazards of lithium batteries and strategies and tactics based modern fire dynamics are integrated into today’s training programs within FDNY and far beyond. His inspirational keynote speech at the 2022 Firehouse Expo that eloquently stressed the key to success for the fire service is training, teamwork, and mentorship, and that we are obligated to make sure we are doing everything we can to be ready. Frank’s story of receiving guidance from his first captain on the job at FDNY to do two things; learn something from everyone you meet and to read something fire-related every day is advice we should all heed.
Lastly, I am inspired by many of the students. Watching them demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have obtained being applied in the field to successfully complete the mission is uplifting.
I have benefited from instruction from numerous fire service leaders and instructors have collectively distributed knowledge and wisdom which I have absorbed and shared with my peers in the fire service. One instructor I would single out is Ray McCormack. The content that he delivers is a combination of science and experience-based, easy to understand and practical.
I can’t name a particular person that has inspired me but rather several people such as Alan Brunacini, Mike Dugan, Frank Leeb and Charlie Hendry. I have had the pleasure of working with numerous phenomenal instructors over the years that have shaped me into the firefighter I am today. This has inspired me to try and make those same influences on others just as they influenced me.
Question 3: What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that
I currently serve on my departments training committee and am heavily involved in mentoring young firefighters. There are significant challenges in becoming an effective firefighter. The training requirements are significant and complex. Having the ability to reach out to someone to provide a helping hand or guidance can make a difference for a firefighter trying to progress. Many people helped me along the way, the least I can go is return the favor.
In my department, I am working on educating individuals to learn, or continue to be, educated, yet aggressive firefighters, with a strong emphasis on frequent fundamentals training pertinent to both high and low-risk events.
I am currently trying to share the knowledge and skills that I learned at the recent NFPA 1700 training held by the ISFSI at Randall’s Island. I think it’s important that we as a department know not just what to do when fighting fires but why we do it.
Question 4: Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career
One accomplishment I am particularly proud of was in the mid 1980’s, prior to the availability of external training academies or other significant resources, I worked with another member of my volunteer fire department, and we developed and implemented a training program for new members based on NFPA 1001 training curriculum. It was a large effort but helped plug a gap until Firefighter I and II training programs were accessible externally.
One of the most significant training milestones of my career, was the facilitation, and implementation of assigned riding positions for suppression apparatus in my volunteer fire company. In my experience, volunteer fire departments do not always utilize a pre-designated template of riding assignments, but I believe it has perpetuated efficiency and effectiveness on the fireground for our organization.
I am still early in my fire service career so I don’t have any single great accomplishment to show for my time. I am proud of the amount of training and the number of certifications I have. I have numerous certifications covering areas such as fire suppression, EMS, Fire Officer and technical rescue. I am currently in the process of obtaining Fire Officer III.
Question 5: What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started
Much has changed. Most notably the changing fire environment, primarily in the fire load and the built environment, that have influenced changes in fire dynamics that make fires more unpredictable and less forgivable and drive the need for increased understanding and changes to our strategies and tactics. Technology has also changed. PPE has evolved, new equipment and tools such as thermal imagers are available. Health and wellness are now justifiably a focus with concerns related to cancer, cardiac health and behavioral health. These changing and evolving issues reinforce the need for us to constantly reevaluate the training that is needed and provided.
The biggest change I have noticed in the fire service since joining was the evidence-based education of fire behavior in correlation with building construction and contents. I believe the content distributed by Underwriter’s Laboratories and NIST have given the scientific answers many firefighters have been searching for, quantifying effective modern-day tactics on the fireground.
I think the biggest change I have seen since joining the fire service is the understanding and awareness of fire dynamics and how it affects us as firefighters. Implementation of best practices through evidence-based research will form the development of future strategies and tactics.
Question 6: What advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor
Strive for excellence, be prepared, know and ensure the relevance of your subject matter, develop the necessary communication skills and be respectful.
As I am a young instructor, I would give this advice to new instructors: Do your best to learn the experience level and perspective of those you are instructing. Do not treat students as learning robots, be personable, and try to meet on common ground when conveying information. Also, I believe you should always revert to the fundamentals when instructing. Perfection of the basics goes very far by providing the best foundation that you could ever ask for. As I always say, you can learn something from every situation. Be humble, be an advocate for those you teach, and lead by example.
I would tell them to never stop being a student, every day is a learning opportunity. As an instructor, it is your responsibility to teach the most current and best practices of the fire service. If you don’t continuously learn yourself and stay up to date with the ever-evolving world that is the fire service, you’ll be doing your students a disservice. It is also your responsibility to motivate your students and encourage them to continue the learning process.
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