Saturday, October 21, 2017

Battalion Chief and Firefighter Combat Challenge Competitor B/C Bill Kocur

Oct. 17--SARASOTA COUNTY, FL-- When Sarasota County Battalion Chief William "Billy" Kocur was at a fire, nothing could go wrong. He was always on top of making sure everyone knew their jobs, according to Assistant Chief and longtime friend Rod VanOrsdol.

"He was a supporter of his line personnel and an extremely confident firefighter," VanOrsdol said. "He could run a structure fire call to the ninth degree of perfection."

Kocur, 63, a lifelong Sarasota resident, served the Sarasota County Fire Department for 25 years before his death this weekend in a motorcycle accident in Georgia.

Kocur was visiting his family's cabin. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Riding motorcycles was his passion, VanOrsdol explained.

"It's tough to even think about," VanOrsdol said. "We all kind of think of ourselves as being Teflon -- those kinds of things don't happen to us. They happen to other people and we go and we take care of them."

Kocur and his wife were members of a motorcycle club and were often at events such as Thunder by the Bay. They had a son and a daughter and one grandchild.

About 10 years ago, Kocur started to teach himself the bagpipes, according to his daughter Hally Kocur.

"He actually got pretty good at them," she said. "He was in great shape and very active."

Kocur enjoyed boating, as well, and he was a Mason. He was a member of the Widow's Sons Masonic Riders Association.

"He's helped countless people," Hally Kocur said. "He was an amazing man. He had a great sense of humor. He was a loving husband, father, a wonderful grandfather."

He was Sarasota Memorial Hospital's New Year's baby of 1954.

Kocur first joined the Bradenton Fire Department, but in April 1992 he was hired by the Sarasota County Metro Fire Department -- an agency that existed before the city and county merged.

Kocur was the lieutenant at Station No. 1 beginning in 2005 and was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2013. He served as the Battalion Chief for Stations No. 3, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 23. He was also heavily involved in training personnel and supervision.

VanOrsdol said Kocur's sudden death is affecting the entire Sarasota County fire service "family" as news of his death is passed along.

"Twenty-five years is a pinnacle," VanOrsdol said. "He reached that and to be that you become one of the rocks -- this community lost a rock and a stable base of the fire department."

Kocur had planned to retire in March.

"Everybody will miss his mustache," he said. "The guy had the best mustache in the whole department and the smirk that went beneath it. ... That's classic Billy Kocur."

A celebration of Kocur's life will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at Sahib Shrine Temple, 600 N. Beneva Road. The family has asked, in lieu of flowers or anything else, that donations be made to the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

___ (c)2017 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Visit Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Remembering Allen “Bruno” Brunacini

I first met Bruno when he was the assistant fire chief at Phoenix. We were attending a conference in College Park, sponsored by the US Fire Administration. I believe that the year was around 1977. He was the heir-apparent and asked me about coming to Phoenix to consult on a fitness program. Bruno would go on to achieve near heroic proportions as a mover and shaker in the North American fire service.

Our paths would routinely cross over the decades. His list of accomplishments would extend far beyond the limitations of this Blog. A huge tree on the horizon has fallen. The changes in thinking about everything from Customer Service, Accountability, Incident Command and more, as result of his creativity are epic. I’m not sure that there’s another sole that can fill his boots.
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Chief Allen “Bruno” Brunacini

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The “Cal Ripken” of the Firefighter Combat Challenge Streak Continues

I first met Walt White back in the last century when he was a firefighter with the American River Fire Protection District. It would have been around 1990 and we had just launched the On•Target fitness initiative. Our mobile teaching teams roamed the nation, conducting 40-hour certification programs, largely based on the learning objectives of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Walt was one of the first to avail himself of this program. As soon as the Firefighter Combat Challenge was launched, Walt was a member of the American River team.

This past week in Tyler, Walt, now the Chief of the Sacramento FD was there, keeping his streak alive. His time was faster than his original run some 26 years ago!

Chief Walter White, Sacramento FD and Dr. Paul Davis

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Underwater Recovery Efforts in Carlsbad

CFD Dive Team Members recover the Challenge’s Shipping Container
Well, this is a new one. We’re packing up and one of our Keiser-fabricated roller storage boxes is missing. These shipping containers weigh north of 400 pounds (181kg). They’re eight feet long, four feet wide and 2 feet tall.

It’s highly unlikely that someone put it in the back of their pickup truck and made off with it.

So, what do you do? Call the fire department. The event in Carlsbad is adjacent to a widened area of the Pecos River. There’s a dam that’s created a lake and the very real possibility is that the box is at the bottom.

With sonar equipment, the box is located in 2 feet of silt. This is going to take some serious recovery equipment. Equipment that CFD has. Their underwater recovery team brings in the airbags.

The crew of 9 brought the box to the top; no worse for wear, the box was quickly loaded and restored to its rightful place in the back of the semi.

Monday, September 25, 2017

“Organic” in the Context of What’s a Legitimate Team

The barriers to entry for the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge are manifold and steep. I greatly appreciate the dedication and investment in time and resources (read: money) that are made each year to field a team and play in multiple locales.

For starters, it takes a spark plug to ignite the excitement and recruitment of other similarly situated firefighters. Scheduling workouts, time off and other logistics are not insignificant. Just making that first step in commitment is a major decision point. This not pickup softball on a Sunday morning. 

This is an amateur sport, with no way to recover the costs for fielding a team. What we have by way of rewards are some Firefighter Combat Challenge bling, recognition within the small circle of other fitness affectionadoes and, perhaps the citizens in the community in which you serve. 

To allow smaller departments the opportunity to field a team, we broadened the description of what constitutes a “Team” for the purpose of recognizing medal stand finishes. The debate has been on-going, for almost as long as our two-plus decades. 

We’ve had teams from the biggest FD (FDNY) to some single house, volunteer departments. At one point, it was proffered that every member of a team would have to show their pay stub to demonstrate homogeneity. 

The Mutual Aid concept took hold but quickly began to spiral out of control. Case in point: Missoula, a pretty small department, but bigger than most that had a member from the Missoula Rural FPD was what was in mind within in the definition. 

But, let’s take the greater Washington, DC area. After 9-11, we now have a mutual aid agreement that encompasses a firefighter population that’s north of 5,000. Think of the talent pool that could be mined for the production of an all-star team. Clearly, this is not what was intended under the strict interpretation of Mutual Aid. 

To get out ahead of this thing, if you’re thinking of gerrymandering to get some super-star that’s not in your zip code, you’re probably not playing within the spirit of the rules. If in doubt, check first to avoid embarrassment.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Your Cell Phone Is 10 Times Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat. Here's What to Do About It

Aug 23, 2017

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Abigail Abrams
Time Magazine, Health Section

Most people don’t give a second thought to using their cell phone everywhere, from their morning commute to the dinner table to the doctor’s office. But research shows that cell phones are far dirtier than most people think, and the more germs they collect, the more germs you touch.

In fact, your own hand is the biggest culprit when it comes to putting filth on your phone. Americans check their phones about 47 times per day, according to a survey by Deloitte, which affords plenty of opportunities for microorganisms to move from your fingers to your phone.

“Because people are always carrying their cell phones even in situations where they would normally wash their hands before doing anything, cell phones do tend to get pretty gross,” says Emily Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Research has varied on just how many germs are crawling on the average cell phone, but a recent study found more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies on the phones of high school students. Scientists at the University of Arizona have found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

Human skin is naturally covered in microbes that don’t usually have any negative health consequences, and that natural bacteria, plus the oils on your hands, get passed on to your phone every time you check a text or send an email. It follows that most of the organisms found on phones are not pathogens that will make you sick, Martin says. Staphylococcus might be present, for example, but it’s not typically the kind that will give you a staph infection.

But some bacteria should concern you. “We’re not walking through a sterile environment, so if you touch a surface there could be something on that," says Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center. "There are lots of environmental contaminants."

Studies have found serious pathogens on cell phones, including Streptococcus, MRSA, and even E. coli. Just having these microbes on your phone won’t automatically make you sick, Whittier says, but you still don't want to let them enter your system. Viruses can also spread on phones if one person is sick with strep throat or influenza and coughs on their cell phone before handing it off to a friend.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to avoid some germs. One of the worst places to use your phone is in the bathroom, Martin and Whittier both agree. When toilets flush, they spread germs everywhere, which is how phones end up with fecal bacteria like E. coli. “Taking a cell phone into the bathroom and then leaving with it is kind of like going in, not washing your hands and then coming back out," Martin says. "It’s the same level of concern."

Keeping your phone out of the bathroom will help, but if you want to clean your phone, a few different methods will work. Many people just wipe their phones with a soft microfiber cloth, which will remove many of the germs. For a deeper clean, Whittier recommends using a combination of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. Mix the ingredients together, and then dip a cloth in the solution before wiping it gently across your phone. Unless you’re sick, doing this a few times each month is plenty, Whittier says. Stay away from liquid or spray cleaners, which can damage your phone.

Still, the best advice has more to do with you than the phone. Wash your hands several times a day, the experts say, and you’ll likely be just fine.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reflections on the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge®

Here you go Paul – thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts! Jim
Dr. Paul Davis, Conor Pietrangelo and B/C Jim Pietrangelo, Pouder Fire Authority, Ft. Collins, CO
Boy how the years fly by while working in the fire service. For those of you that have been around for awhile, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not sure it’s the 24-hour shift schedule, or the amazing things we get to do and see, or the camaraderie we experience with our brothers and sisters that create that perception. It was painfully obvious to my senses when I recently attended a regional Firefighter Combat Challenge (FCC) in Longmont, Colorado. The piercing sound of the warble starting horn, the distinct “clank” of the mallet hitting a Keiser beam, and most notably, the rapid rise of my heartbeat when I saw the SCBA staging tent; you know what I mean by that!

The last time I set foot on the sight of a Firefighter Combat Challenge event was 14 years ago in Ottawa. It was the world championships and I was interviewing competitors on the course for the television broadcast. Prior to firefighting, I worked in the television news business. I started competing in the FCC as a rookie with the Poudre Fire Authority (PFA) in Fort Collins in 1994. My first competition was at Rocks Community College in Denver, Colorado. The top individual times in the world then were near the lower 2- minute range. The stairs and tower were constructed from scaffolding by volunteers and were really steep! The Keiser Sled took 10-15 hits to move the beam the required distance. A warmed up mallet head helped move the beam faster along with a clean track (no bead dust from the mallet head). Running around the cones was not allowed. It kind of sounds like the old sob story our parents would tell us about their youth; walking 3 miles to school, uphill, while wading through 3 feet of snow and blizzards, etc., etc.! The course was truly more difficult back then and it took a couple of years to learn how to prepare for the “toughest two-minutes in sports”. I competed up until 2003 when injuries from a motorcycle wreck ended my run. That was a tough time for me as I somehow knew I would no longer be able to physically do the things I often took for granted.

The recent visit in Longmont brought back a lot of memories for me. The best memories will always center on the people I met and competed against. It was great to see Dr. Paul Davis again and to see that his vision for a world class competition is still going strong. He’s been a big supporter of the fire service for many years and has not aged a bit since the last time I saw him in Ottawa. Paul’s vision and drive to create something that showcased the fire service has helped strengthen relationships between firefighters and their communities. I’ll never forget the “senior” competitors like the friendly and funny Larry Vandenberg and the first 60-year-old world record holder, Roy Davis.

Watching them compete was simply inspiring. Competing against some of the best in the world was an honor. I ran against 3-time world champion Brian Spalding from Casper, Wyoming. I finally beat him in 1998 at a regional competition and most of the credit goes to him, Mike Vogt and the rest of the Casper team that mentored us back then. We had a great relationship with Casper because of PFA firefighter and one-time world champion, Dave Minchow. Dave used to work at Casper in the 1980s. I met Dave shortly after I graduated from the fire academy. I’ll never forget the phone call I received from him my rookie year, a week after I had graduated from the fire academy. He called me “Peter D’ Angelo” and challenged me to do the FCC with him that summer. I took him up on his offer and never regretted it.

Some other memories and people that come to mind during my challenge tenure; Mark Millward from Delta, BC “Men in Black”, drinking a beer prior to his run against me (and wouldn’t you know, he beat me) and kissing everyone on the cheek; beating Kevin Voyles in a 1998 regional only to find out after I crossed the finish line that I was penalized 2-seconds and had to settle for second place; watching Vince Rafferty from Colorado pick up Rescue Randy and carry it across the finish line; witnessing Juliet Draper’s world record run; the incredibly fast teams from Missoula and Overland Park; running into Ken Griffey Jr. in the elevator at the Vegas world championships in the MGM and mistaking him for a basketball player at UNLV; drinking with competitors at the Irish bar in Ybor City and introducing my teammates to the Hare Krishna on the street corner; hanging with Doug Hall and Bobby Russell from Overland Park; and finally, standing in that damn SCBA tent waiting to start my run against my competitor with my resting heartrate at 160! 

There were some difficult memories as well. The Line of Duty Death of Houston firefighter and FCC competitor Kimberly Smith, who was killed during a fire at a MacDonald’s restaurant in 2000. And Division Chief and two-time champion Brent Cooper of North Las Vegas who lost his battle with cancer in 2000, just a few months prior to the world championships in Las Vegas. 

The most profound memories for me will always surround the relationships that we made with our fellow firefighters and competitors. These were special friendships that were built through sharing the agony of training and competing for one of the toughest competitions around. Similar to the way we build relationships as a team when solving the most difficult emergency incidents we respond to. Unfortunately, as time passes by, we lose touch with those folks who’ve helped build those fond memories. For those of you still competing, hang on to those memories through documentation, photographs and phone calls to one another. Maybe Paul could host an “alumni” event of which would bring back some of the original competitors.

Every year I continue to mull over the possibility of coming back to compete again. Injuries and limited time to train for the FCC continue to push back on that dream. It seems my mid-life crisis rears its ugly head from time to time, wanting to show my 13-year old son, Connor, that with hard work comes success. He wasn’t born when I last competed, so I recently dug out some old VHS tapes that contained a number of my challenge runs. He asked if I would do it again and if I could win the 50-year old competition. I told him it wasn’t so much about wanting to win, but more about the journey it takes to cross the finish line; and sharing that feeling with others who have gone through a similar path of arduous training and focus to be the best that they can be.

Jim Pietrangelo
Battalion Chief
Poudre Fire Authority
Fort Collins, Colorado
FCC Competitor 1994-2003