Tell us about yourself.
I currently serve as a career Firefighter/Paramedic and Fire Instructor for the City of Troy, Ohio where I grew up. Prior to that my first career fire job was with the City of Memphis in Tennessee. I gained a lot of good experience and training with some of the finest crews in Memphis but felt a calling to return home with my wife Tiffany and our daughter Bailey to plant our roots. I’m a second-generation firefighter with 2 brothers who also serve in the fire service. Recently I’ve been focusing on furthering my education in preparation for promotion and enhancing my teaching skills. In addition to my fire career I am also an adjunct faculty member at a local college where I teach EMS.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
The first time I attended classes at FDIC I was amazed by the vast amount of fire service knowledge that was out there and how charismatically and intently it could be passed on. I was captivated by some of the lectures I sat in on and knew that this was a skillset I wanted to add to my professional toolbox. I found myself not being able to satisfy my hunger for more classes and wanted to join the movement of current and first-rate fire service training sweeping the industry. My department was gracious in sending me to become a fire instructor and it has been a fulfilling experience ever since.
Why did you decide to become a member of ISFSI?
I knew the ISFSI was out there but was unsure of what they were all about. That was until I attended the “Understanding and Fighting Basement Fires” lecture presented by an ISFSI instructor. The degree of professionalism, experience, and caliber of the content provided for one of the best training experiences I had ever had. After the class I spoke with the instructor and he informed me of the outstanding benefits of joining the ISFSI. A few weeks later I stopped by their booth at FDIC and they made me feel right at home. With the support of my department, I made the decision to take my career to the next level by joining an organization that provides first class benefits to its members. Being affiliated with the ISFSI has bolstered my professional image among peers and colleagues and allows me to take advantage of the many fire service training benefits they offer.
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?
I’ve taken an interest in writing grants and drafting policies where we see gaps in our organization. If I see something that works for another department or institution, I try to adapt it to our needs or formulate a better way. As an educator, I can use that influence to be the driving force behind positive change. My department is extremely supportive of these efforts and together great strides have been made to shape the culture of our organization. I hope others see that these tactics are not limited to those with administrative powers. Everyone has a responsibility to take part in the progressive evolvement of their department.
Also, in recent months I’ve worked toward promoting a positive atmosphere among crews. Carrying a positive attitude backed up with quality training provides for an environment where mentorship can flourish. We try to train on something every shift whether it be a simple discussion or large-scale scenario and drill. This allows us to sharpen our knowledge and work together to expose individual talents. Byproducts of this practice are a boost in confidence and camaraderie among the crews. Others have taken on the same perspective and friendly competition has bloomed. At the end of the day toxic negativity gets pushed aside in favor of a better understanding of each other, our individual capabilities, and it strengthens everyone’s skill-sets.
Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
During my time with the Memphis fire department I was fortunate to have been able to serve in the role of a Field Training Officer for probationary firefighters and paramedics coming out of the academy. I was honored to have been asked to perform in such a capacity. This was my first taste of mentorship and it ignited a fire inside me. I greatly admired the ability to impart knowledge to others for the betterment of our profession. I consider this time in my career to be a significant accomplishment because it’s what initiated my passion for being an instructor. It’s what brought me to where I am today. Because of that opportunity I found a dedication to strive to be a positive role model, mentor, and aspiring leader.
What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?
My goal is simple and well understood among many fire service instructors. I strive to be a steward of the fire service by leaving it better than I found it. Even if I am only able to transform the lives and well-being of a small number of people during my career, it will have been worth it to me. My hopes on the other hand are much larger. I plan to continue this path of leadership development and education in hopes that it leads to a grander stage for me. I aspire to one day have my name listed among the fire service greats that came before me and be known for my accomplishments as a fire instructor.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
Scientific data, research, and tactical implementation have been a pivotal change in our fire service. The way we think and do things are changing and they are changing fast. I was able to see first-hand the outstanding work being done on the ground when I was involved in the live burns performed by the UL-FSRI. This eye-opening experience highlighted the fact that we are rapidly de-bunking firefighting myths that were being taught not so very long ago. We have made great strides in our quest for a cultural shift toward safety, but we are far from where need to be. With the promotion of programs such as the sixteen life safety initiatives and the emergence scientific research, we are on the right path. We must continue to train and inspire each other to be better while perpetuating this positive shift in our fire service culture.
What advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
Find your passion and never let others derail your momentum. Periodically step out of your comfort zone. Strive to be better every day and never stop seeking education because the day you think you have nothing left to learn is the day you become a detriment to our profession. Know why you want to be a fire service instructor and selflessly pass on what knowledge others have given to you. Be transparent and always do the right thing even when others try to detract you. Take every opportunity to be a positive mentor for those you see struggling and never ridicule someone for their lack of knowledge. Lastly, honor the past, but don’t live in it. Be the beacon of positive change in your organization.