On the Road Again

With apologies to famed country singer Willie Nelson, I am here to announce that come June of 2010, I will be on the road again. Yes, once again it is time to announce another Harry Carter Road Trip. It is my intention to hit the road on or about June 1, 2010. June is normally my quiet month between band seasons. However, it is my desire to be back in time for the outdoor summer band season with famed Ocean Grove Summer Band, in Ocean Grove, NJ.

My mission will be similar to the theme of my highly successful 2006 version. I want to meet the real members of the American Fire Service and speak with you about your concerns, your successes, as well as your failures. However, things will be a bit different in 2010.

This time around, my sidekick Jack Peltier of Massachusetts and I will be joined by a long-time buddy from the great state of Delaware. We are going to be joined by Ken McMahon, a Delaware State Fire Commissioner and long-time friend. It is our intention to meet with members of the American Fire Service who can share a story of success based upon a grant received from the FIRE Act program. Ken is an past-chief and life member of the Christiana, DE, Fire Department.

Let me assure you that Jack and I learned a great many lessons from the manner in which we conducted our last soiree. It is our desire to begin our journey in Denver and then move along a circular route which will include the states listed below. Therefore we would want to close out our journey in Denver so that we can return our rented SUV to the same location. The "Gray-Ghost II," my 2007 Yukon XL will be resting in the driveway back in Adelphia. Let me assure you that the three of us have no intention of traveling in one of those little "clowns cars" which pose as a modern full-sized (Ha, ha, ha) vehicle.

We want to travel through our nation's midsection. I already have a couple of tentative visits lined up at county and state events in Nebraska and Kansas. I look forward to meeting with Steve Hirsh in Kansas and George Teixeira in Nebraska. Given the greater distances between cities and towns out in the Midwest, we intend to set up fewer stops, but we want to meet more people at each location.

As I review the map, it looks like we would like to visit the following states.

  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Idaho
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas

There a few folks in my regrets file from the 2006 trip that I would like to hear from. There was also an invitation from Jed Head at the Neosho Township Fire Department in Kansas. In addition, I have received an invitation from Steve Weis at the West Peculiar Fire Department in Kansas. There were also invitations to a fire academy in Colorado and a department in Idaho. If you recall making these invitations in 2006, please let me know if the welcome mat is still out.

My many friends in the fire apparatus and equipment manufacturing world are once again stepping up to the plate to take a crack at helping us meet the costs of this journey. We will raise the necessary funds to make this trip happen. However, why am I doing this, you might ask? Why are Ken and Jack and me taking a month out of our collective lives to travel and meet with you?

The answer is simple. I believe in the worth of the FIRE Act. I have seen its impact up close and personal. I am well aware of the importance of this legislation. However, there are those who want to see it go away. There are also those who want to see it changed so that nameless and faceless bureaucrats are allowed to make the decision on who gets what. As one who was in the mix at the very beginning of this program 10 years ago, I know what was agreed to. I was a party to the development of the program, and while I am no longer on the inside, I like to think that I have a handle on what is happening.

Jack and I saw people whose fortunes have changed seeking to carve up the FIRE Act money to suit their needs. I am not happy with several of the moves which are being made at the national level, but am really powerless to do much other than write about them. Let me also make you aware of the fact that there are also those people who have said the program should not have been created in the first place. Apparently these folks do not get around much. Let me assure you that I have taken a certain amount of flack for my support and promotion of the FIRE Act program.

However, my friend Jack Peltier and I saw the results of this outstanding program at the grassroots level. We saw people who were sharing turnout gear and driving vehicles that should have been in the junkyard a long time ago. We saw others who did not have a sufficient number of self-contained breathing apparatus units to mount any sort of an interior fire attack. We saw units who were able to provide a better level of training thanks to the programs and devices which were funded by the FIRE Act.

Sad to say, but our fire service is taken for granted by the vast majority of the citizens in our nation. Oh, people will praise the daylights out of us on the surveys which ask for people's opinions of their fire department. Unfortunately, when we ask them to fund our operations, or volunteer to join with us in the delivery of our critical infrastructure protective service, we get an overwhelmingly cold shoulder. Worse yet, when they need us, they are all over us like a cheap suit if we fail to be on location in 45 seconds.

The problem here is that when I write for Firehouse.com, I am in fact engaging in that ancient and honorable art known in religious circles as "preaching to the choir." Except that many within the choir are not reading off the same sheet of music that you and I are using. I promised that I will keep writing to direct us all to a common ground for this battle.

There you have it. I believe in the value of the FIRE Act and it is my intention to travel out to the middle of great nation to meet with fire departments who have achieved success through the receipt of a FIRE Act grant or grants. If you would like to meet, please with our traveling circus, please let me know. I am working on planning this trip a lot sooner than the last one. We threw that one together in about 45 days. This time around, I want to plan things a little bit better.

If you want me to visit with you, just contact me. We are also looking for support from you and your organizations whenever possible. I can assure you that any help which you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. He recently published Leadership: A View from the Trenches and Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a Firehouse.com blog To read Harry's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Harry by e-mail at drharrycarter@optonline.net.