Monday, June 29, 2015

An Extraordinary Life Well Lived

Fourth of July, 2014, Debbie Davis and Jeannie Allen
It’s slightly past midnight and I can’t sleep until I write something about how I feel at the loss of Jeanie. 

So, where to start? How do I capture the essence of what was Jeanie Allen? 

The first time that I can recall Jeanie was in Akron 2007. I was impressed that this transplanted Canadian volunteer firefighter had traveled to Ohio on her own dime to compete in “The Toughest Two Minutes in Sports.” Hearing of the hoops that she had jumped through to make this happen, I suggested that she take over the occupancy of my hotel room as I was headed to my next gig, thereby saving her at least one night’s lodging cost. 

Jeanie quickly found a friend in Cheri Ardoin- a racing partner for what would become the infamous Swamp Tatters female tandem team - a regular fixture on the tour. What a delight to be in their presence. They became honorary members of the Firefighter Combat Challenge Road Crew and made significant contributions to packing up at many venues.   The energy level climbed precipitously every time they joined our ranks. 

When I first heard that Jeanie had cancer, I was stunned. But reports of her surgical outcome seemed to be optimistic. She returned in full form and was once again back in the mix. But the cancer, one of the rarest and most aggressive came back. Jeanie was determined to beat the odds. At or about this time, I was working on a medical standards package for the NY Transit Authority. My physician cohorts were well-informed about the bleak prospects of a cure or even a remission. I thought, if anyone can pull this off, it’s Jeanie. 

When Jeanie mentioned that she had been accepted into a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health, the medical Mecca of the world, Debbie, my wife and I were hopeful and delighted that the close proximity of our house to Bethesda would allow us to provide local support. We would have the honor of lodging Jeanie and her effervescent company for dinners as time would permit. A highlight was last year’s Fourth of July. We had arranged for a late dinner and viewing of the fireworks from the roof of the restaurant that overlooked the White House. 

I read and circulated every blog written by this incredibly buoyant personality; Jeanie was like Velcro. She gathered admirers as she traveled through all of the poking, prodding, stabbing and puncturing. Seemingly, by virtue of her radiance, she was going to beat this thing. The more people that we could expose to Jeanie, the greater the force field for helping her overcome clear cell sarcoma. 

We had tried so hard to bring the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge to the Idaho State Fair. The negotiations had seemed so positive since they had reached out to us very early in the season. The idea that we could hold an event in her home state would be yet another brick in the wall of success. For reasons still unknown, the Fair backed out. But, when Jeanie found out that Bellevue was a possibility, since she would be on one of her several trips to a new clinical trial, she was thrilled, as were we. 

Just a week ago, I confirmed in a text that we would be delighted to see that she got a ride to Sea-Tac airport with us after the event. Debbie and I were so looking forward to see her. The last Blog on Caring Bridge seemed to take the tack of resignation. A whole different tone, but still that determination to have that one last hurrah in the Bahamas. 

Jeanie (in the center) with the Firefighter Combat Challenge
Road Crew on the Snake River
When Cheri’s text hit my iPhone yesterday, I can only say that I was crushed. The last chance to say good bye had been snatched away. All last week, Daniel, Brent and I had been at Keiser’s working in the 106°F heat when we got the link to Jeanie’s last blog. I had started a letter over the weekend that I was going to send in anticipation of seeing her that one last time. 

So, my title to this BlogSpot was going to be something to the effect that Jeanie had lost her final battle; but no. Hell No! She beat cancer by years. She went out with an embolism, in the arms of her BFF, Cheri, at a place of her choosing. If you have to go, setting the time and place is not too bad. The entire Firefighter Combat Challenge community will soon know of her departure. But the grit, determination, the whole ethos of what made Jeanie Jeanie will never be forgotten. Everyone who knew Jeanie was improved by the experience. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Paladin Joins Sponsorship Ranks

Sara Coon of Austin Fire proudly displays her certificate for a generator,
generously donated by Paladin, our newest sponsor; on the right is
Brocke Addison, the Public Safety Marketing Manager. 
We're pleased to announce that Paladin, the manufactures of LED scene lights and portable generators has joined our ranks. The first random drawing for a 2KW generator was in Tyler (TX) last week. Sara Coon from the Austin Fire Department is our winner.

The rules are simple. All individuals and team members are eligible to win. A random number is matched against the total number of races.

You must be present to win, and can only win once over the 2015 season. The drawing takes place at the conclusion of the awards for individuals and teams.

A dedicated page will be created with photos of all the Paladin winners.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Made in America

The Globe Footwear Factory, Auburn, Maine.
I greatly enjoy visiting the manufacturing facilities of our sponsors. This past week, it was my pleasure to see how Globe creates a pair of boots, or actually, many pairs every hour. Their plant is located in Auburn, Maine.

From it’s inception 9 years ago, Globe now dominates the leather boot sector in the fire service. And, for good reason. We have a trial wear program for our Challenge competitors, and attempt to stock enough sizes to meet the demand. This season, in Lexington, Kentucky, we’ll take delivery of 12 more pairs in the most popular sizes.

I can personally attest to the fit of the boots, having worn them during the torrential downpour at Clayton County, Georgia, several years ago. They do have that “athletic shoe” feel. And, there’s a reason since the boots are built on a last, like a sport shoe.

Mark Mordecai shows a marked up hide, prior to cutting.
In the photo array below, I’ll walk you through some of the many steps and processes whereby 50 individual pieces and parts are assembled into an NFPA compliant structural boot. It all starts with tanned cow leather. The leather is of different thicknesses, depending upon where on the cow you’re measuring. Defects need to be identified and marked prior to making the cuts.

It takes a lot of skill and experience to identify how to maximize the amount of leather from a single hide. Computer scanning identifies the unusable parts and creates a template for the cutting machine.
The Gerber Vacuum Table ensures that the hide stays in
position during cutting.
A cutting table, with an x-y-style plotter/knife is used to cut the boot parts. A vacuum draws the hide flat against the table. A scanner will mark the un-usuable parts and a computer screen will show the parts that will result from the scan, prior to the knife doing its job.

Computer display of yield from a single hide.
Heat sealing labels on liners.
The software program operator can manipulate the area to the best benefit, but choosing from a menu a wide array of parts to maximize the yield.

Other parts of the boot are cut using a dye. Every boot size has its own dye. A hydraulic press is used to make the cuts.
Dies are needed in every size.

The first part of the sewing process.

Some of the sewing is automated, other
operations require highly skilled stitchers.
As the components are completed, they’re sent on to the next stage in the assembly process. Every step of the fabrication is inspected to ensure quality control
The liners are stitched together.
The bootie is composed of a number of products, including W.L. Gore’s Crosstech material, a breathable membrane that is waterproof. 

The sewing of the cuff to the main part of the boot.
A critical part of the process is preparation
of the boot for affixing to the sole.
The boot, on a last is smoothed prior to gluing to the sole.
One of many hydraulic presses designed explicitly for footwear.

This “Stress Tester” measures the
binding force of the glues that
hold the soles to the boots.
Flexion testing looks for wear-points
in the toe assembly.
Not many fire boot manufacturers have
their own Arens-Fox antique engine.
Boot sizes are critical. Every boot manufacturer has their own set of lasts. You can be assured that if you wear a 10, you will never have an issue with a Globe boot fitting. There is no inventory of boots at Globe. Everything is made to order. 

While I did not ask, if I had, the factory could have turned out a pair for me in one hour! Impressive. My visit lasted for five hours.