Doing the Right Thing: Brotherhood & Sisterhood

As part of an ongoing, multi-faceted effort to present the best training and education at our conferences, I recently attended meetings in California of San Diego-area and Los Angeles County-area fire chiefs. A few hours after the San Diego meeting, I was invited to attend a San Diego Burn Institute awards banquet. Several firefighters, police officers, military personnel and civilians were honored for rescuing people trapped in vehicle fires or accidents or from building fires. These people jumped into action even though, in some cases, many other people just stood by and watched and did nothing to help. The honorees, most of whom were alone in performing their life-saving acts, all emphatically heaped praise on the fire service for what we respond to every day. The honorees all said they were at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. You can’t plan for it.

When someone in the fire service or their family needs help for whatever reason, usually there is someone to help. These acts of kindness occur every day across the country and take many forms, including driving someone to the hospital, helping to renovate a house, putting on a new roof, moving from one house to another, building a house for those severely handicapped, raising money or donating blood.

Firefighters help in many other ways including memorial softball tournaments, helping cancer patients, supporting our troops, helping special-needs kids, collecting for the national charities, pediatric cancer patients and even donating a portion of their Lotto winnings to a firefighter in need of brain surgery. The wife and the daughter of career Lieutenant Jim Kirsch of Bergenfield, NJ, who is a frequent speaker at Firehouse Expo, were injured in an accident while they were moving Jim’s son from college in upstate New York recently. One was seriously injured and they were removed to separate hospitals.

Jim told me, “Chief Tom Parsons of the Ithaca Fire Department and the IAFF Local did a tremendous job supporting me by taking care of my wife, who was transported to the local hospital in Ithaca, allowing me to go straight to the trauma hospital in Syracuse to be with my daughter. The Local agreed to make arrangements to transport my wife to Syracuse if an ambulance was not available. Chief Parsons stayed with my wife until 2 A.M. until she was loaded into an ambulance and sent to Upstate University Medical Center, where my daughter was being treated. He even called me the next morning to check on their progress. It really brought home the brotherhood we speak of in this job.”


In this issue, we present Part 2 of the National Run Survey, featuring total calls, fire calls, EMS calls and false alarms in addition to the busiest engine and ladder companies. San Francisco, CA, Engine 1 logged an astonishing 10,367 runs in 2011. This unit is averaging more than 28 calls every day. Most of the runs are medical in the area south of Market Street in the Tenderloin District. The compact response area has a dense population with new and old high-rises, a convention center, flophouses, low-income residences and four- and five-star hotels. Once in the past year, they responded to 60 runs within 24 hours. They average six to 10 runs after midnight alone.


Special note: To enhance the attendee experience at this year’s Firehouse Expo, we are presenting an exclusive one-night-only screening of the documentary “Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit”; see pages 122-123.

HARVEY EISNER is editor-in-chief of Firehouse® and a retired assistant chief of the Tenafly, NJ, Fire Department, which he joined in 1975 and served as chief of department for 12 years. He also was a firefighter in the Stillwater, OK, Fire Department for three years while attending Oklahoma State University. Eisner is an honorary assistant chief of the FDNY and program director for the Firehouse Expo, Firehouse World and Firehouse Central conferences. He has covered many major fires and disasters and interviewed numerous fire service leaders for Firehouse®. He edited the book WTC – In Their Own Words, published by Cygnus.