Jersey Guys: Recognizing a National Fire Service Icon, Friend

This blog entry was written by Robert Moran.

Change occurs on a daily basis within our organizations and our personal lives. During our careers John and I have been involved in many corporate and fire service changes that have personally affected us. Sometimes these changes were for the better, sometimes not (at least in our mind). In the long run whether we liked them or not it did not matter. We had to adapt to survive and so far we have been pretty fortunate. On Aug. 1 Firehouse magazine made a big change transitioning the editor-in-chief position at the magazine from national fire service legend Harvey Eisner to Tim Sendelbach, the former editor-in-chief of Fire Rescue Magazine. Now many of you may not have had the privilege of working with Harvey on the fireground as we have, reading his many articles and monthly editorials in Firehouse, or have knowledge of the contributions he has made to our profession so please indulge us as we take a look. 

Harvey started as a photographer Firehouse magazine in 1976 working his way up the ladder to become editor in 1982. In addition to the magazine he worked full time at the Bronx District Attorney’s office as a crime scene photographer and videographer. What does a firefighter who works in the Bronx photographing crime scenes do while waiting for the next crime? He buffs! Harvey’s photos have graced many a cover of Firehouse and hundreds of books that he and other authors have written. The time spent in the Bronx and other New York boroughs also allowed him to develop deep, long lasting friendships with many FDNY brothers. I am betting there is not a firehouse in New York that does not have a Harvey Eisner photo gracing its walls. During his time as editor he covered many of the most significant incidents in our profession including both World Trade Center attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, Hackensack Ford, Charleston, and Worcester. He has personally mentored hundreds of firefighters and fire officers while providing outstanding training opportunities to well over one hundred thousand firefighters across the country while serving as the conference coordinator of Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World. We owe him big time!

During his career in the Tenafly, N.J.,Volunteer Fire Department, Harvey served in many positions including chief of department for 12 years -- he must have been doing something right! During my 12 years as fire chief in Englewood, N.J.,  I was extremely fortunate to have the Tenafly Fire Department as my neighbor to the north who responded to every structure fire in the city. The experience the Tenafly firefighters got in Englewood made them pretty damn good at their job and having Chief Eisner as their boss who worked tirelessly to improve their department was another bonus reason they excelled. From my point of view nothing could be more comforting to me then to have Chief Eisner meet me at the command post during a job. His leadership skills, knowledge of strategy and tactics, and his ability to remain composed at a scene were assets that I capitalized on every chance I got and I am a better incident commander for it. In addition, he also worked closely (although out of the limelight) in developing improved mutual aid relationships, communication capabilities, and response protocols within two large mutual aid systems his department was involved with including making the 10 member (at the time) East Bergen Mutual Aid Association one of the leading mutual aid groups in New Jersey.        

On a personal side John and I were also extremely lucky to have worked with Harvey as part of his classroom staff and as instructors at Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World. He gave us and a number of other ragtag brother firefighters from our team (see Photo 1) the opportunity to attain national recognition and perfect our presentation skills in both classroom and hands-on training environments. He helped mold us into the firefighters we are today and we can’t thank him enough for having confidence in our abilities and for giving us the fortuity to train and network with the best of our Nation’s bravest. 

We spoke to Harvey in early August just after the announcement. He informed us he will be assuming the position of editor emeritus and working on several future projects for Firehouse. During the conversation he stated that his passion for the fire service, improving our work environment, and training the nation’s firefighters has never been more robust. This is good news for all of us!

Chief Eisner, John and I along with firefighters from across the country thank you for your past efforts to make our vocation a better and safer place to work and look forward to your future contributions to the world’s greatest profession.