Tell us about yourself.
I live in Lancaster, PA with my wife Kelly and daughter Lucy. In my spare time I enjoy hiking and working on my house.
I began my fire service career in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with the West Earl Fire Company and Eden Fire Company, serving as a Line Officer for both including leading Eden’s Training Division for two years. I remain a Local Level Instructor for the PA State Fire Academy.
I’ve been with Howard County DFRS for 11 years where I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a Firefighter, Firefighter/Heavy Vehicle Operator, and now a Lieutenant assigned to the Bureau of Education & Training. I’m currently tasked with Officer Development Training.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
Watching the progression of students during programs is a constant inspiration. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a student successfully push beyond where they believed their boundaries existed.
Talking to students and hearing the impact they’ve had is incredibly satisfying. A student out of my first Firefighter I class reached out to share a story where his work as the nozzleman on the first line that allowed the rescue of a victim from a bedroom. Aside from saving a life yourself, having even some small part in influencing such an operation is a privilege.
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?
Our department faces a number of upcoming changes including a large number of retirements due to a DROP program that will result in a significantly younger response force. The loss of this experience necessitates increased instruction for both the line firefighter and preparation for the number of newly promoted company officers. This is in addition to running Trainee classes more frequently to compensate for the retirements.
As part of our Officer Candidate School, we will roll out a new Building Construction program this Spring. It will be mandatory as part of the OCS but also offered to the remaining department. The program will hold a prerequisite of the NFA Online program and center around a short research project, one day of lecture, and a day of construction site visits. The program is being developed in partnership with our County Engineers who handle the plans review and permitting processes in the county. The deliverable of the research project will include a summary sheet that can be utilized in the stations to discuss a relevant building construction topic whether at the kitchen table or hanging it in a strategic study location. Our goal is for the education that occurs at the Academy to feed directly into and support field training whenever possible.
Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
While I’ve had personal projects I’ve been proud of, my participation on the Technical Panel for the UL “Hose Stream Study” was by far the most significant. The scope and reach of that project is much larger than anything I will probably ever do again in my career. More importantly, it was a reignition of my learning in the fire service, having the honor to serve with many instructors whose work I’ve followed for years.
What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?
I don’t even know at this point. This question by nature leads you to think big, but the big things come through incremental steps. Beyond wanting to help leave the fire service better, I’ve never had a singular goal in mind at any point in my career. I’ve already had some opportunities that I never thought were possible. With my current assignment, I’m looking to play a part in training three classes of firefighters that will serve our county for the next twenty plus years, and someday become the leadership foundation for the department. At my level of influence it doesn’t get much bigger than that. If we push out a student that shows competence from day one, a willingness to work hard, and an appreciation for how much they have yet to learn, then we’re well on our way to that goal.
When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by?
That I was a great husband, supportive and loving father, honest, fair, and excelled at my job.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
There have been so many changes to the fire service, even its recent history, with many being cyclical, but I think the greatest change has come in availability of information to firefighters. Looking back, we had definitive subject matter experts that were the amplified voices in the service. That’s not saying there weren’t plenty of other intelligent people out there, but there was a level of vetting that occurred. It weeded out some of the voices and that just isn’t the case anymore. Removing those processes has been a double edge sword where legitimate voices remain, but also strong messaging from well-intended but ignorant individuals. Whether writing or commenting/critiquing after the fact, this equalizes the opinions when it just shouldn’t be the case.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
How introverted I am. Although I’m perfectly comfortable standing in front of a classroom and instructing, at the end of the day that takes a ton of effort socially.
And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
Make your own judgements….
When you have a student in a class, take any concerns that other instructors may have into consideration as they may represent safety concerns, but assess the student for yourself. You’re a new set of eyes that may have a new insight into the student’s progress.
When a tool or tactic is discussed, modified, or proposed, evaluate the merits of it and do some research on the topic so you have some context outside of what your personal experience may be.