The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Editor’s Note: The Firehouse staff wanted to share some of long-time Editor in Chief Harvey Eisner’s work. Harvey, a fixture on New York City firegrounds and at major events and conferences since the 1970s, passed away on Oct. 23. He was 59. He has worked with Firehouse since its inception in 1976. He began serving with the Tenafly, N.J., Fire Department in 1975 and served as chief for 12 years. 

Firefighters think about joining or being hired by some of the 30,000 fire department across the country every week. Veteran members retire and move on. Some join other departments, others never return and still others keep in touch and reminisce as though they were still crawling down a smoky hallway. Some retired officers are hired as instructors or chiefs in smaller departments, while many chiefs serve about five years before they move on to greener pastures.

Recently, while I was in one California county discussing the current state of affairs with fire service budgets and politics, the president of the county chiefs association told me three chiefs had just retired or left, two others were leaving and one large metro department was about to select a new chief. In this county, with 30-plus departments, the senior fire chief has seven years of service. The age-old issue appeared as a Firehouse® cover story as far back as September 1981: “Hiring the Outside Chief.” The discussion still goes on today.

In the FDNY, retired Chief of Department Daniel A. Nigro has been sworn in as the 33rd fire commissioner. Nigro was appointed to the department in 1969, rising to chief of operations before he replaced Chief of Department Peter Ganci on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after Ganci was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Nigro replaces Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, who retired after 45 years with the department. Nigro is only the sixth individual to hold every rank in the department. In Boston, Deputy Chief Joseph E. Finn was sworn in as the new fire commissioner. Finn was credited with saving many lives during a fire in the Back Bay section of the city that claimed the lives of two firefighters in March. Good luck to all.

I was fortunate to meet the flight medic from Los Angeles last month who was pictured on our June cover carrying an infant for a medi-vac. His son had told his father he was on the cover of Firehouse®, but the father did not believe him. I personally delivered a copy of the June issue to him. I was given a tour of Los Angeles Fire Department Flight Ops at Station 114, just two days after a memorial service was held for 25-year veteran LAFD Pilot/Paramedic Brian Lee, who was killed in a plane crash while he was off duty. Colleagues who witnessed the crash came to his aid and that of an 8-year-old who was also killed.

Firefighters attending wakes and funerals – it never stops. As I write this, services were being held for FDNY Lieutenant Gordon Ambelas, working in Tower Ladder 119, who died in a high-rise fire in Brooklyn on July 5. Thousands of firefighters attended his funeral. He and his crew were honored on June 26 for rescuing a 7-year-old boy trapped in a roll-down security gate in May. Despite all we do to send everyone home, we still suffer the worst day of our lives.

Congratulations to longtime Firehouse® Contributing Editor Kevin Roche, who retired from the Phoenix Fire Department as assistant to the fire chief after 24 years of service. Kevin facilitates our National Run Survey and will work in the fire service as a consultant.