A Blog By PJ Kellam – Firefighter/Photographer


Being Prepared – The Smallest Things Make The Biggest Difference

If you were to ask any of my friends, they would probably agree that I like to tell stories, and lots of them. I try my best (most of the time) to keep them to a minimum, but throughout my life I have been given the opportunity be a part of some amazing things and I can’t help but share my experiences from time to time. Once in a while, these experiences tend to lead to a lesson that I take to heart and in the business of the fire service, everyone can learn from the mistakes and successes of others.

Yesterday was another rainy day in Georgia. The 7th one in a row to be exact. I was working my full time job as a firefighter assigned to Truck Company 52. I was the second person of a crew of 2 (driver & firefighter). We responded early in the shift to a small fire at the Walmart SuperCenter next door and then later to a “wires down” call. Our third call of the day was an “assist” call. Now typically the truck companies in my city respond to Fire, BLS Medical, Assist, and Lockout type calls, so this call was a “routine” type of response. The call was for a patient at a nursing/assisted care facility who was locked in his room.

We arrived on scene and met with the staff who informed us that one of the patient rooms had accidentally become locked from the inside and the person with the patient room keys was not at work that day. Myself and the driver proceeded to the room and made verbal contact with the patient, who stated he was ok.

With any forcible entry scenario, the first task is the same as that of a fireground: Size-Up. I checked the door to make sure it was, in fact, locked (try before you pry) then pushed on it, tapped it with my hand, and looked at the lock, hinges, and jamb. It was an inward-swinging, metal-hinged, lock-in-handle type door found on the interior of most commercial occupancies. Though not always the most difficult to force, the damage would have been significant if a set of irons was used. My driver asked the staff if the room had a window, and when the yes answer was given I began to steer my thinking away from forcing the door.

When using forcible entry techniques, a knowledge of building construction can prove to be a VERY valuable tool to have. Knowing that this building was a 1 story, renovated and refinished, multi-occupant facility, I had a reason to believe that most of the patient rooms (at least on that end of the building or side of the hallway) were going to be similar in design. I counted the number of rooms between the locked one and the exit (1) and then looked in the next room (which was conveniently open) to see how many windows a room contained (also 1). I walked outside and counted windows to find the locked room. I again made verbal contact with the patient inside to ensure I was in the right spot, and then began the size-up process all over again.

The window was actually two windows side-by-side. They were double hung windows, similar to the picture here. The bottom

Double-Hung-Windowsportion was the panel that slides up and down to open the window, and it was located on the inside (meaning it slides upwards and to the inside of the top portion, reverse of the photo). There were locks present on both sliding panes, also similar to the photo here. I took a look at the locks and realized that they were both in different positions, meaning one was locked and one was not. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell right away which was which.

On the rig with my gear, I carry a personal hand tool. My tool of choice at the moment is a 26″ New York Roof Hook from Fire Hooks Unlimited. It has the NY Hook on one end and a Prying Head on the other. It’s small, light, and easy to stow in a harness loop or waist-strap. I had carried this tool with me off the rig on this call, thinking it might somehow come in handy. After sizing up the window, I took the prying end of the tool and placed it under the moving pane of the window directly under the lock and attempted to pry upwards. Nothing. I tried the other pane, and again nothing. I HAD to be missing something. My driver came up to me outside and asked if I had made any progress (he had been with the staff attempting to call a key holder). I said no and told him what I had found. He then went inside and into the room that was open and looked at and operated the window lock there. He came back and after another look at the locks on the window panes, it was easy to tell which one was unlocked. I tried again to pry the window with my tool, but came up short again. After pushing on the window a few times, I suddenly realized that the window sill and framing had been freshly painted in the not-so-distant past. I pushed the window once more and realized IT WAS PAINTED SHUT!

On my drivers suggestion, I placed the blade of the prying end of my tool on the seam of the window and applied a sharp force. The seal cracked about a third of the height of the window. After a few more similar movements, and applying the same technique to the other side of the window, I was then able to slide my tool under the window pane, pry the window open, and gain entry to unlock the door.

The lesson learned here is about preparedness.

ALWAYS be prepared for challenging calls, ALWAYS do a complete size up of every situation, ALWAYS bring applicable tools to the scene with you to avoid running back and forth, and take some time to study the less appealing subjects in the essentials book such as building construction. On this call, firefighters worked together as a team to accomplish a task. They put together a knowledge of resources at hand, a knowledge of the building, teamwork, and training in order to accomplish a task in a manner that caused no damage, no injury and a simple solution.

Being prepared isn’t a slogan or a catch phrase, but rather a necessary part of our jobs as firefighters and it is something that we owe to the community we serve and protect every day. You never know when a simple “assist” run will call upon the lesser used skills in your tool kit…


Knowledge – What REALLY Gets The Job Done

The last few weeks have been interesting, educational, and thought provoking.

Between working my normal 24 hours on/48 hours off shifts, I have had several opportunities to assist teaching a couple fire department classes and work with some firefighters who are new to the job, in an effort to help some of them (and myself) learn something new. I have also been asked by an unusually large number of people (outside the job) to explain some of the different aspects of my job and why I do it and how it works. Being a talkative person, I have had no problem with providing as much information as needed and more about the job that I truly love.

Aside from answering questions, teaching classes, and working shifts, I have been spending as much time as I can at my volunteer firehouse. The workload never seems to get any less, no matter which direction I go… but I can’t say I dislike it!

Through all of this, I have begun to think a lot about learning, knowledge, and pride in the job of a firefighter. I have thought about what I can do to instill more pride in myself and those around me, and about how much knowledge is required in order to perform effectively as a fireman. It wasn’t until yesterday that I truly realized how valuable this knowledge and love for the job were to me, and how extensive the knowledge known as “the basics” really is. My Mom has a friend who is a writer, and yesterday I was asked to help explain a few things about the fire service to her because she is in the beginning phases of a book about firefighters. I started to explain the basics, and next thing I knew we were watching videos, talking “firefighter slang” and telling stories about fire department related experiences. I again realized how much I love my job, and every single thing that is involved with it.

It has been said many times that firemen are, besides people who fight fire, highly trained handy men. I’ve heard it said that we are “Jacks of all Trades, Masters of None”, and I believe there is an incredible amount of truth to these statements. Now, I’m not just talking about the rescue squad guys, who have all the fancy tools to do all the special jobs, I’m talking about the regular suppression level firemen. Many times, we take for granted the amount of knowledge that is taught to us in our training, and as a result, we don’t truly know what we are capable of in terms of solving problems.

For example, we know that fire is hot, and we know that water cools a hot atmosphere and puts fire out. For the most part, this is general knowledge and an average person could probably come up with a statement very similar, if asked to explain how fire is put out. As FIREFIGHTERS, we are taught WHY water cools the atmosphere and the fire dies. Looking at the technical details, its actually very advanced chemistry mixed with a little physics.

Another example (to satisfy the truckies reading this article) is ladders go up against a building. They tend to be easier to climb and thus work better when placed at certain angles for certain tasks. The standard climbing angle for fire department ladders is 75 degrees, but we know this isn’t always how it happens “in real life”. If a person who is not a firefighter watches us throw ladders or place an aerial, they assume we “just know how to make it work” when in reality (again in the technical details) we are utilizing the study of geometry, mixed again with a tiny bit of physics.

Science applies in all aspects of our job, and if you stop and think just how much “stuff” us firefighters are involved in on a day-to-day basis, you’ll realize that the amount of knowledge required to be a backstep fireman is enormous. Physics, chemistry, geometry, building construction, engineering, plumbing, electricity & circuits, water flow, height & weight and units of measure… they all apply.

The point in all of this is not to try to say that we are accomplished physicists, highly regarded chemists, or certified construction contractors, but rather to enlighten you to the fact that whether you want to admit it or not, as a firefighter there is a HUGE amount of knowledge that is required to perform. There is a need for constant study, constant practice, and constant brain stimulation in order to maintain a competent proficiency level. You NEED TO KNOW that you have enough H2O to overcome the amount of BTU’s from the fire. YOU NEED TO KNOW you’ve got your ladder truck positioned in the right spot so that if the building collapses, your rig wont be underneath the rubble that used to be the outside wall… and so on and so on.

There is an infinite amount of applicable knowledge in the universe and almost all of it can relate to the fire service in some form or fashion. The lesson here is that you can always learn something. Every day you come into work, every time your engine or truck rolls out on a call, there is something to be learned about someone or something. The hunger for knowledge and the willingness to learn are what set the best firefighters apart from the rest. Regardless of rank, riding position, or number of calls your department runs, we are professionals and are expected to possess the knowledge to handle extreme situations and apply it when necessary.

NEVER forget the basics of firefighting: the simple things you were taught in Firefighter 1 such as the fire triangle and the proper climbing angle. ALWAYS strive to learn something new. DON’T be afraid to ask questions, even if you think you know about something already, and most importantly, BE THE SMARTEST, FASTEST, SAFEST, MOST PROFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE FIREFIGHTER YOU CAN BE. Use the knowledge you have as a tool on the fireground now, and as a tool to help gain more knowledge in the future.

On A Lighter Note: The Sound Of Inspiration From Within

“Till’ the roof comes off, till’ the lights go out, till’ my legs give out…”

These words might just seem like a simple phrase with some rhythm and rhyme thrown in. Some of you may even recognize them as lyrics from the song “Till’ I Collapse” by “Eminem”. In my mind, however, they explain, to a point, my attitude towards getting the job done. As a firefighter, I feel like I can relate to these words in that I see myself working until my legs give out, and then some, in order to help someone else.

Goofy thought? Possibly. But I feel like we can all find some inspiration from the music we enjoy.

There are hundreds of videos on the internet that feature photos and videos of firefighters doing work. As a huge advocate for video recording of training and incidents in order to help ourselves and others, I watch as many of them as I can, and I have noticed something. A good majority of these videos, especially the ones composed of mainly photos, are set to music. While most would simply pass this off as a “good song to break the silence of the slideshow”, I find a deeper meaning.


The music, while adding a catchy tune to a cool collection of photos, can hold the key to the little bit of inspiration and motivation that a fire crew needs to perform better. We’ve all watched a video at some point in our life that we can’t forget. Something that really catches our eye and makes our heart race. For a firefighter, maybe its a video of a good fire, a rescue, or a collection of images from a department that they are proud to be a member of.

I remember the first time I watched the original “Kentland 33” video. The song in the video was “Pride” by “Soil”. The video/photos showed a group of dedicated individuals voluntarily giving their all to help their community. Why did this video, like many others, get my heart racing? Because I could relate to it through the music. The loud lyrics and the up-beat rhythm really sunk in and had me wishing I was on a fire truck racing towards a working fire at that very moment so I too could give my 100%.

The point here is while we are all different individuals, we can all find some inspiration in the music we listen to, and sometimes after tough calls or during a busy shift, we could all use a little motivation. My challenge to firefighters everywhere is to go out, find a good song or two that really pumps you up, listen to it, and save it. Listening to it will help you get motivated right now, and saving it for later might just give you the boost you need next time you’re heading for a working fire. Need some help getting started? Check out the playlist I put together, with the help of some friends, just for this reason (below this post). Your inspiration might be hiding within the lyrics to one of these songs, or another one somewhere out there that we haven’t discovered yet.

A motivated firefighter will work harder than a firefighter who is just there. Being in the right mind frame when the bell sounds will rub off on your crew members like a bright smile in a dull crowd. A motivated crew will work harder together in order to better accomplish tasks on the fireground, and a motivated group of firefighters on a fireground will help ensure that everyone goes home. So go find some motivation and when the going gets tough, remember that song that you chose and keep it in your head as you fight to move forward and do your best!



Remembering 16552

January 26, 2007

I was awakened at about 530 in the morning by my father. It was a school day so I assumed it was the usual wakeup signaling the time to drag myself out of bed and get ready for another day. As I closed my eyes in an attempt to catch a few minutes of extra sleep and delay the inevitable, another sharp shake hit me and my dads voice filled the room “Patrick. Get Up. Listen To Me.” I sat straight up and stared into his eyes. He was fully dressed in winter weather clothing (he still had his gloves on inside). The fire radio scanner was plugged into headphones that were stuck in his ears. He looked exhausted.

“What’s Wrong Dad?” I asked.

I’ll never forget his words: “Highway 58 Lost A Firefighter In A Fire Last Night. I’ve Been Out All Night And I’m About To Leave Again. I Thought You Should Know.”

The conversation that followed was mostly me begging him not to make me go to school and his promptly denying my request. As soon as I left school that day I did not return until the following week (one of the only times in my entire life I’ve missed school).

I remember walking in the firehouse. I remember there being so many people there you couldn’t hardly move. People crying, people standing in corners, silent as the night sky. I saw the Chief fighting tears while fearlessly doing what he does best: making sure people are on task. Getting things done. One of the assistant chiefs passed me in the hallway and said “I’m glad you’re here”. There were firemen from many different departments there and I would later find out that Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department did not respond to a single call in their district for 4 days, due to the number of outside companies covering the territory (all 112 square miles of it).

Over the next few days, I saw the brotherhood come together. Firemen from different departments from two different states standing side by side responding to emergency calls in honor of a fallen brother.

The funeral was on a Monday. It was bright, sunny, and about 30 degrees with a wind chill in the teens. I had my camera (as usual) and myself and another photographer had teamed up to photograph the funeral. I sat quietly in the church, speaking only to say hello to those I knew who were in attendance.

That’s when I saw it.

The projectors in the church were playing a slideshow of photos of the fallen hero. It scrolled through pausing at each slide to reflect on a memory. The memory that hit me was a photo of me and him in the bucket of an aerial ladder

Shane and I

at a training exercise a couple years prior. He had offered to take me up for a ride in the ladder so I could get some overhead photos of the training ground. While we were up

there, he said “Look this way, it’s time for me to take your picture for a change.” He held out his hand and snapped a picture of the two of us, a picture that until that moment I had not seen. I lost it, but my dad was right there with me and helped me pull myself back together long enough to finish the service.


As the ceremony was over, we proceeded outside. Hundreds of firefighters lined the walkway, driveway, and yard of the church. The procession of emergency vehicles alone was over 1 mile long with hundreds of passenger cars behind that. Another moment of time that

Shane Funeral 3

is frozen in my mind: The doors of the church opened and through the silence of the crowd the Chiefs voice rang out “Highway 58 Fire Department, ATTENTION!” The crowd of firefighters snapped to attention and the midday silence was deafening. Firefighters carried the flag draped casket outside and loaded it onto the back of engine 1642… his engine. Two firefighters rode atop the engine dressed in full turnouts as the procession proceeded down Highway 58. After the casket passed underneath the American Flag hung between the

tips of Fort Oglethrope Ladder 1 and Catoosa County Ladder 1, the engine turned and made one last drive through the empty apparatus bay at Highway 58 VFD Station 2 before proceeding to the cemetery. At the gravesite, the cold wind did not ease the pain of the several hundred firefighters and family members in attendance. The owner of the local Firehouse Subs franchise, who happened to be a good friend of mine, offered me free lunch if I let him borrow a winter hat to cover his bald head, which was shining in the midday sun.

In one final pass of the casket, attendees of the funeral had the chance to pay their respects to the family. I walked past and the widow of the fallen firefighter greeted me with a hug. “He loved your photos” she said “the first thing he did when he got home from a fire was check your website for pictures. He was a big fan of yours and wanted to see you succeed in the fire service.”

Several years down the road, I joined this department as a volunteer. I would later find out that there were more similarities between he and I than just a burning love for the fire service. My instructor in firefighter 1 class enlightened me to the fact that I sat in the same seat in class as he did (unknowingly). He and I also won the same awards (Rookie of the Year and Firefighter of the Year). And we were both fans and followers of the same fire companies in the “famous big city departments”. There have been many times where I have been told “thats exactly what he would have said”. I could not think of a greater honor than being compared to someone who was willing to lay down his life in an attempt to save others.

I will close this remembrance article with a quoted phrase. It is a phrase that the fallen firefighter coined, and had said so many times it was eventually adopted as the motto of the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department:


Go home, and may you rest in peace. We’ve got it from here and we will never forget you…




History, Not Just A Graduation Requirement


It was probably the class in school that I avoided the most. Every time someone started talking about the history of our country or the history of ancient civilizations, I would immediately involve myself… in something completely unrelated. It did not seem to interest me at all because it already happened. I felt I couldn’t gain anything from it because I’m not the president, I’m not a mighty warrior, and I’m not a mad scientist or astrophysicist.

It wasn’t until my involvement in the fire service became the primary focus in my life that history really hit home for me.

Sure, there are all the famous stories like the Great Chicago Fire (started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow) and the stuff “from the old days” portrayed in the hit TV series “Emergency” (Can You Hear Me RAMPART?) but what about actual history? Facts. Events. Advancements. All of that information is the basis for the modern fire service, and as proficient firefighters, we have to recognize the happenings of the past and learn from the history.

This article is inspired by the anniversary that occurs today. Known in the history books as “Black Sunday”, January 23, 2005 was one of the most influential days in “recent” firefighting history. To make a long story short, six FDNY firefighters were forced to jump from a number of 4th floor windows when conditions became unbearable for them. Two of them died as a result of their injuries and the other 4 were never the same. At a separate incident on the same day, two more FDNY firefighters were lost in the Line of Duty.

When I was a young child, my interests were focused on the fire service. I was always pointing out fire trucks as we passed them in the car and visiting firehouses everywhere we went. The encouragement I received from the firefighters I met in my travels was tremendous. The list of pieces of advice I was given was long but it’s roots were firmly held within several key points:

Get An Education
Work Hard
Never Stop Training
Know The History Of The Job
Remember Where You Came From

I took an huge interest in fire service history when I became an explorer (junior firefighter) at a combination department in 2006. I was 14 years old so I was not allowed to fight fire, but I was allowed to train, respond to calls, and act in a support role for suppression personnel. My job on the fireground was to bridge the gap between the door and the rigs. Pull hose, grab tools, relay messages when the radios wouldn’t work, etc. It was a rule in our department the explorers had to pass a written test as well as a practical test before they were allowed to ride on the trucks. The practice test included several skills, one of which was being able to know where every piece of equipment on the first out rigs was without opening any compartment doors. While studying for this test, I found myself browsing not only the first out rigs, but the antiques and reserves as well. If I came across a tool I wasn’t familiar with, I would ask about it.

It was in these moments where I learned such things as the history of SCBAs, forcible entry tools, ladders, and other tools as well as different strategies and tactics to go along with each one.

Over time I found myself studying fire department history and learning about where the modern fire service came from. So what’s the point?

The point is in the business of fighting fires and responding to emergency incidents, it is important to know why we do what we do and how it is to be done because every bit of it is for a reason. Every single firefighter in the Fire Department of New York City wears a harness and carries a hook, rope, and descent device in order to give them a chance to escape a hostile environment so they don’t end up facing the same fate as their brothers did 8 years ago. When new probies complain about the added weight, I’d imagine they’re given a history lesson in hopes of eliminating their complaints with a dose of reality. Along the same history lines, Why is FDNY written with the “NY” last vs. NYPD or NYPA? It’s because the Fire Department had it’s roots BEFORE the city of New York was officially incorporated. (another bit of history I picked up once).

History can teach us many valuable lessons. It is an important thing to study no matter what profession you’re into. A lawyer should have a basic understanding of why the laws were made just as a fireman should have a basic understanding of why he is wearing that big heavy cylinder on his back. While we cannot change the fate of those who have perished in the Line Of Duty, we can learn from there stories, as well as the stories of those who continue to serve in order to make the foundation of what we do make sense…

…because if that little kid comes into the firehouse and asks “why are fire trucks red?” or if the probie asks “why are they called ‘The Irons’?” you better be able to tell them that red is a tradition color in the fire service that makes the trucks easier to see, and that firefighters who responded to a fire in a bank following a break in decided that the IRON tool used to break in could work to their advantage if it was good enough to break into a bank.

You never know whose life you’re going to change by sharing a bit of history.

Small Lens, Big Picture – The Power Of A Firefighters Helmet Camera

In my recent adventures on my favorite list of sites, I have seen more and more videos taken by people with a camera mounted to their head in some form or fashion. Personally, I think this is some of the best video I’ve ever seen when it comes to covering certain topics because it gives you the real-life point of view of someone that was actually there. You see what actually happened and what the scene really looked like.

When it comes to the fire service, the small cameras, usually mounted to one or more firefighters helmets, give you an “up-close and personal” view of some of the most dramatic moments at emergency scenes.

When I first started watching helmet cam footage, a firefighter in a department that I volunteered at had a cheap camera mounted to his helmet. He used it on a few fires before he melted it completely off of his lid. The video quality was fairly good for the new technology and the footage was used a couple times for “in-house” training sessions. Since then, the technology has been developed to allow cameras to be smaller, lighter, and surrounded by a better quality heat- resistant covering. The helmet cameras of today have proven themselves in the heat of battle and their footage now resides on the internet with other popular videos for the world to see.

As I am an advocate for learning from my experiences and the experiences of others, I enjoy watching as much “on scene” fire footage as possible. I’m not there to critique, I’m not there to say “we don’t do it that way” or any of that stuff, but rather to try to learn to read building conditions, learn how to better size-up a scene, and to see how emergency scenes play out when different tactics are used. The new trend of firefighters mounting small cameras to their helmets to give their point of view has allowed me to learn a great deal about the way different departments operate and how different situations play out. I have seen several videos where the wearer of the camera enters a heated, dark atmosphere and emerges with a victim. One particular video (below) shows the officer of a rescue company entering the apartment above the fire apartment and rescuing a child while his crew simultaneously rescues another.


Another video, one that I recently discovered, shows a montage of clips from a year in the life of a Metro Detroit firefighter. It features footage of responses, arrivals, size-ups, line pulling, firefighting, forcible entry, etc. ALL FOOTAGE THAT SOMETHING CAN BE LEARNED FROM.



So what is the benefit overall?

The benefit I see from helmet cameras is simple. Whether we agree with the tactics, the PPE usage,or the skill level of the firefighters in the videos or not, we can learn something for ourselves from their actions. Regardless of if your department does after action meetings after fires or just kitchen table discussions amongst the guys, a point-of-view look at the incident can be beneficial. If you find a video that has some good or bad points in it, bring it up. You’re looking through the eyes of that firefighter, now put yourself in their shoes and say “How would this be happening if this was me on one of my fire scenes?”.

The point isn’t to criticize or talk smack, but rather to learn something from the experiences of others. Take yourself away from the powerpoints and the forcible entry simulator for a minute and put yourself in a real world scenario through the eyes of a helmet cam. If you have a helmet cam, USE IT. Share the footage with other members of your department and beyond. Use it when doing walkthroughs of a building or when inspecting target hazard properties. The footage you share just might save the life of someone who watches it and remembers “that interesting video training the other day”.

I really enjoy watching helmet cam footage from fire scenes. If you have any videos that might be worth sharing, please feel free to post links to the comments below. For more of my favorites, check out my “Helmet Cam Videos” playlist on my YouTube Channel BY CLICKING HERE

Cloudland Canyon Photo Adventure

I traveled home today.

That sounds like it takes more effort than it really does. It’s an hour drive.

Anyway, I came home to Mom & Dad’s today. Dad came up with the idea that he and I spend the day together and go on another photo adventure. The destination this time was Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northern Georgia. I have heard about this place from many people who like to camp there and go there to take pictures. I’ve seen pictures of the larger waterfalls in the past and it has been on my list of “places to go” for a long time.

So after waiting on my camera batteries and my GoPro Hero2 camera to charge for over an hour, we headed out. After a quick stop at Wendy’s (a long time favorite) we were on our way to what would turn out to be a great day.

After traveling through nowhere down a few old country roads, we entered the park. Having no clue where we were going from there, we followed the signs to the parking area and located a sign that said “Waterfall Trail”. We started to follow it. We didn’t get far before we ran into a nice young couple who asked us to take their picture at one of the overlooks. Dad took their picture and then inquired about the trek to the waterfalls. Their only response was “it’s worth it but there are a LOT of stairs”. They were NOT kidding.

We descended staircase after staircase after staircase of stairs (I lost count at 200 and that was nowhere close to 1/4 the way down). We eventually made our way to two different waterfalls. I shot almost 200 photos and about 17 different short video clips overall.

The worst part of the day was, of course, climbing the endless sets of stairs back up the gorge to the parking lot. A few stops and a few muffled laughs about some of the people we passed on the way made it a little easier. We FINALLY made it and after a quick stop at the Coke Machine we headed home.

It really was a great time. We laughed, we smiled, we joked, we hiked stairs, and we got to spend some great time together.

If you want to see all of the pictures, you can check out the ENTIRE GALLERY HERE on my website. The videos will be posted at another time in another place. ENJOY!


Just thought I’d let everyone know that there is now a Facebook Page for Facing Backwards. Please take a second and “like” the page if you would like to receive updates via Facebook.


Thank you Everyone!

Deeply Saddened

“We as firefighters have been described many ways…rough, tough, heroes, and even saints to many…yesterday, we were just fathers and mothers.”
-Assistant Chief Gary McGhee – Fort Oglethorpe, GA Fire & Rescue

December 14, 2012

11 Days before Christmas

I was at work on Engine Company 54 as the Firefighter in a crew of three. I had just finished mopping the floor, the last of the house duties for the day. My phone buzzed in my pocket: one of the firefighters I network with was wishing me a safe shift. After replying back with similar words (we work the same schedule), a post on my twitter feed titled BREAKING NEWS caught my eye. After reading the short post, I turned on the TV in the firehouse and myself and my crew watched in disbelief as the death toll in a Connecticut school shooting climbed. The first reports were saying two or three dead, several injured. By the end of the day, the Connecticut State Police would announce that almost 30 had died, many of them elementary school children.

I received a message from my father shortly after I read the news and began to watch the coverage. The message was to inform me of the situation, to tell me to be safe, and to tell me he loved me… something many parents that day could not ever tell their children again.

I continued to watch the coverage throughout the day. We had 4 calls, we cleaned the engine (it was engine day), we cleaned and serviced the ladders, and we discussed many things, as a normal fire crew does. At shift change, the mood in the firehouse was one of sadness, disbelief, and amazement. Quiet conversations and hot coffee filled the gaps created by television commercials. At the end of the 24 hour shift, I went home. My crew went home. Safe and sound.

Firefighters, Police Officers, Emergency Medical Workers, and all other public safety personnel go through rigorous training, sometimes for months on end before they’re allowed to respond to assist the citizens of their communities. The training involves classroom style learning, testing, physical training, simulated situations, decision making, and many other skills. While on the job, training continues and experience is gained from the situations that are presented. There are many tough challenges that are faced by emergency workers on a daily basis. They see the worst days of peoples lives. They see the worst conditions people have ever been in and the worst mental states they have ever experienced, and are tasked with making some good come of any situation they are exposed to. It is not an easy task and they are not always successful.

Nothing can prepare anyone to respond to, mitigate, or deal with tragedy. In the wake of the second worst school shooting in United Sates history, it is the job of the emergency responders to put together the pieces of the puzzle, figure out what happened, treat the wounds that have been left behind (both physical and mental) and be ready to respond to the next one when the bell rings.

As a firefighter, I have been exposed to many though situations. Having said that I cannot even imagine what the emergency responders in Newtown, Connecticut are facing. Nothing can prepare anyone to respond to something like that. I commend each and every one of them for responding quickly and professionally and doing the best they could with the situation presented to them.

To the emergency responders reading this: I challenge each and every one of you to go out, train, and be the best that you can be so that one day, when called to duty in the face of the worst tragedies, you too are able to respond professionally, handle the situation, and provide a positive outcome. I support you, your community supports you.

Many things have been said, many opinions have been formulated and expressed, but even the President of the United States had to wipe away tears when addressing the nation. It is not the time for politics, but rather a time for mourning.

Be safe out there everyone. Hug your kids, hug your parents, and let everyone you care about know it.

If you missed the President’s speech, you can find it HERE

Wait…! What Do You Call It?!


The root of all evil.

I am becoming more and more convinced every day.

Anyways I was browsing Facebook earlier and saw a post from one of my friends that got me thinking (what else is new?). The post was a picture of him standing next to a big city (not mentioning names) engine company sitting in quarters. He is a on a road trip up north to the city and is visiting firehouses while he is there.

So what’s the issue? I was reading through the comments (trying to think of something smart or funny to say as usual) and I came upon one that read something like “look at my son, visiting firehalls no matter where he goes.”

I began to ponder and realized that the members of most big city fire departments NEVER call it a “fire HALL”, but rather a fire HOUSE. I, for one, believe it should be called a fire HOUSE because you live there while on shift. You clean it, you watch TV in it, you work in it, and you eat in it. It is a place with open doors where people can feel safe and most of all it is a place that contains a FAMILY. No matter what shape or size, how many floors or apparatus, or how many personnel are stationed there, career or volunteer, it is still a place you can call home in some way.

So I posted a thing to my Facebook wall that said “It’s called a fire HOUSE not a station or a hall.”


I immediately met resistance. SHOCKER.
But the resistance ended up sparking a great conversation that turned into a history lesson/opinion match. The following points were brought up:The term “Fire Hall” comes from the old departments that had one building for fire department that was also used as a city hall and public meeting point because the people that were a part of one were usually a part of all of the above. Some places still do it today and it works well for them.

The term “Fire House” comes from the old lingo of the early days of big city fire departments. The places where pieces of apparatus and/or horses were kept were called “engine houses”. Some departments still use the terms “Engine House” or “Wagon House” and it has been that way due to tradition.The term “Fire House” is now a commonly used term to describe a fire station of any sort in any area.

The term “Fire Station” comes from the early days of “Fire Wardens” (see the history of the FDNY to learn more about fire wardens) and evolved into more modern use with wild land firefighting and “Fire Towers” used for spotting forest fires. These towers or other locations are where the fire watch personnel are “stationed” to look for fires.Station1So what’s the right term? After a few lines of discussion and teaching on Facebook, we came to an agreement that you can use any term. The term used should reflect the tradition of the fire service that relates to the particular location and its history. The major idea behind it all is to preserve that tradition, and display the awesome sense of pride and ownership that (theoretically) flows through the air when you walk into a firehouse.

So what do you call it? Post some comments and share what you call yours and why you call it that.

And don’t forget to jump into this and many more conversations with the Views Crew on twitter @PJ_Kellam.

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