Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Must Read from the Wall Street Journal, by Peggy Noonan, July 13

This week the New York City Police Department buried one of its own, also one of our own. We should put aside a moment to mourn.

The murdered officer was Miosotis Familia, 48, reportedly the youngest of 10 children of Dominican immigrants and the first in her family to attend college. She had three children and cared for her own ailing mother.

She'd been a cop for 12 years. She was one of the people who keep my city of 8.5 million up and operating each day, in both its personal and public spheres. 

She was on the midnight shift in the Bronx on Wednesday, July 5. Her killer, 34-year-old Alexander Bonds, was a lowlife and prison parolee with untreated mental illness. He posted threatening anticop rants on Facebook. 

The night of the murder he walked up to her police vehicle and fired once through the window, shooting Officer Familia in the head. Police shot him dead soon after. Here is NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill at her funeral:

Regular people sign up to be cops. They sign up for this job of protecting strangers knowing the inherent risks. . . . But not one of us ever agreed to be murdered in an act of indefensible hate. Not one of us signed up to never return to our family or loved ones. So where are the demonstrations for this single mom who cared for her elderly mother and her own three children?"

The 4,000 mourners stood and burst into sustained applause. Mr. O'Neill continued: "There is anger and sorrow, but why is there no outrage? Because Miosotis was wearing a uniform? Because it was her job? I simply do not accept that. Miosotis was targeted, ambushed and assassinated. She wasn't given a chance to defend herself. That should matter to every single person who can hear my voice in New York City and beyond." 

It should.

Unnamed but a clear focus of Mr. O'Neill's remarks was the radicalism and rage of the Black Lives Matter movement, coupled with a national media too often willing to paint the police, in any given incident, as guilty until proven innocent. This sets a mood that both excites and inspires the unsteady and unstable.

Mr. O'Neill: "When we demonize a whole group of people, whether that group is defined by race, by religion or by occupation, this is the result. I don't know how else to say it. This was an act of hate, in this case against police officers—the very people who stepped forward and made a promise to protect you day and night." 

We are not paying enough attention to what is happening to the police throughout the country. As this was being written, Newsweek reported the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund claims that the number of officers killed in the line of duty was up 30% for the 12 months ending June 30, compared with the preceding year. 

That number doesn't include Miosotis Familia. The head of the Memorial Fund said: "Officers have been targeted for the job they do, shot and killed, or hit with vehicles." It should be a major, sustained national story when cops are killed for being cops. Yet each incident never gels into a theme. The media caravan moves on. Orwell spoke of forcing inconvenient stories down the memory hole. It is a feature of our age that we now force them down the hole before they've had a chance to become a memory.

Peter Vega, Genesis Villella and Delilah Vega mourn their mother, Officer  Miosotis Familia at the World Changers Church in the Bronx, July 11. Photo by Associated Press

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Former Challenge Staffer Sander Cohen LODD

Deputy Fire Marshal Sander Cohen

The Secret List

We regret to pass on that two Law Enforcement officers (Fire Officer and FBI Agent) were struck and killed in the Line of Duty while standing on the shoulder of I-270 in Montgomery County, Maryland as the first arriving to the scene of a traffic crash.

Around 2200 hours one of the officers stopped on I-270 near the single-vehicle crash. He requested assistance and used his car to block the damaged vehicle from oncoming traffic. Both men moved over to the shoulder of the fast lane when a southbound vehicle began to approach them.

The driver of that vehicle swerved to avoid hitting vehicles in one lane and ended up hitting the officers. Both men were thrown over the jersey wall to the northbound side of I-270, where it appears at least one of them was then struck by a northbound vehicle.

One officer died on the scene and the other was transported to Suburban Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver and one passenger in the vehicle that struck the men were taken to Suburban Hospital.

A second passenger in that car was taken to Shady Grove Hospital. The driver of the northbound vehicle that struck one of the men reported no injuries.

Montgomery County Fire PIO Pete Piringer said that a Deputy Chief fire marshal and an FBI agent were killed in the crash.

"Sadly, @mcfrs learned this morning of the untimely passing of Sander Cohen".  Cohen was a Lieutenant with the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department and a Deputy Chief with Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, Maryland State Police.

Police said there is no indication of alcohol involvement in these crashes. The causes of the initial crash remain under investigation. No charges have been filed at this time. Much more to follow.

Once again a tragic reminder of the risk we have when operating on roadways. Our condolences to
the Maryland State Police, the FBI, the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department and the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Department.

Sander was an employee of On•Target 10 years ago and a good friend of my daughter, Brittany.

Monday, December 4, 2017

John Paul II’s Prescient 1995 Letter to Women

From Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal 
© November 30, 2017

He wrote of ‘the long and degrading history . . . of violence against women in the area of sexuality.

Here is something to ground us in the good: Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women, sent to the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. 

As a document, it has more or less fallen through history’s cracks. But it’s deeply pertinent to this moment and was written with pronounced warmth by a man who before he became a priest hoped to be a playwright. Here is what he said:

You would never be so low as to abuse women if you knew what they are and have been in the history of humanity: “Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage” in education and opportunity. 

Women have been “underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions.” Only a small part of their achievements have been documented, and yet humanity knows that it “owes a debt” to the “great, immense, feminine ‘tradition.’ ” But, John Paul exclaimed, “how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!”

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Annual Survey Monkey Results: Part 1

You’ve probably noticed that seemingly every webpage comes with a survey. And, maybe we’re suffering from survey fatigue. Or, maybe everyone was joyously pleased with the event in Louisville. Well, not everyone.

Twenty-six people returned the survey. And, yes, I’m aware that we can’t please everyone. Believe me, they’ll let you know. For example, on the subject of the Lion’s Den Dinner, one attendee said that the food was the worst ever, counterbalanced by another who said it was the best. Were they at the same place?

Since the survey is anonymous, I have no way of reaching out for clarification. So, with the hope that you who did make your thoughts known, this is the best forum to say that we read every comment.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll address the wide range of positive suggestions. Some were downright excellent. That’s why we ask. We can’t think of everything.

The biggest challenge is attempting to get the word out to everyone on site, or on their way. The Daily Briefing will return. You may recall in the past that during or Wild Card Eliminations, we’d ask all Competitors to sit in the bleachers. Getting everyone’s undivided attention was the best method of ensuring that you knew that there were goody bags that contained the Program Guide. These, we never ran out of; you just needed to know that they were available.

And, yes, we did screw up the sizes of the Lion Competitor Tees. But, despite our announcements, some never got the word that Thursday, they all showed up. And your ticket stub could be used for redemption.

Seating in the Lion’s Den was limited to 400. As was announced, you need to show up on time if you wanted to sit as a group. The wait staff did attempt to accommodate the small number who arrived too late to claim a table. In a few short weeks, I’ll be doing an advance to Sacramento with the hopes that we can find a venue large enough for perhaps 500.

Topics coming up will be Rule changes, Competition Categories, and a few other housekeeping items. There’s always a forum for getting your thoughts known. Calling the office or sending an email works as well.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Jeff Ellis, former Firefighter Combat Challenge World Champion

From Martha Ellis, Jeff’s wife

Jeff was in a serious motorcycle accident last night. (Nov 15) He was rushed into surgery to control internal bleeding. They are keeping him in a medically induced coma, cycling him out every hour to test motor function and command response. If they feel he's stable enough tomorrow, they will be putting in a rib plate to stabilize the multiple broken ribs he has. If all indicators are good, they will also sew up his abdomen, which they left open in case there was additional internal bleeding. They are closely monitoring his head injury with CT scans every 6 hours. Several surgeries still to come. All indicators are that he will remain in the ICU for at least 2 weeks, then on to rehab. Thank you for all the calls, texts and posts. Long road ahead. 

No visitors or phone calls at this time. 

I’ll update Jeff’s progress as details become available. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Muscles recover better after exhausting exercise if they are warmed than if they are chilled, a helpful new study finds.

© 2017, New York Times
By Gretchen Reynolds
Nov. 1, 2017

Muscles recover better after exhausting exercise if they are warmed than if they are chilled, a helpful new study finds.

The results should bring succor to participants in this weekend’s New York City Marathon and other strenuous events this fall who, like me, would rather ease afterward into a sybaritic hot tub than an ice bath. Science is with us.

Athletes and others involved in sports training have long debated how best to help tired muscles recover after draining workouts and competitions. Some experts tout icing. Others prefer ibuprofen tablets. Still, others swear by TENS machines, which use a mild electrical current to stimulate nerves and supposedly reduce soreness.

Little, if any, scientific evidence supports these methods, however. In fact, a number of recent studies have indicated that many of these techniques, especially the use of anti-inflammatory painkillers, can slow muscles’ recovery after harsh exercise and do not reduce soreness.
Other research has shown that icing, which remains the most popular way to treat overworked muscles, does not reduce inflammation in the tired tissues, although it remains a popular choice for many athletes.

Faced with these largely disappointing experimental results, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and other universities began to wonder recently about heat. Might warming muscles after hard exercise help them to regain strength and power?

To find out, they invited five fit, young men and women to a human performance lab and sat them in front of arm-pedaling machines. Then they asked each volunteer to spin the pedals through a series of brief but grueling intervals, followed by 20 minutes of easier but almost nonstop exercise, while the researchers tracked their heart rates and power output.

This routine was designed to exhaust the volunteers’ arm muscles. Many processes are involved in muscular exhaustion, but the one that is best understood is the depletion of the muscles’ glycogen, which is the name for their stored carbohydrates. Once the muscles burn through most of this fuel source, they become weak, tired and cranky, like toddlers in need of a snack.

The Swedish scientists suspected that finding ways to rapidly replenish these stores might help the muscles to recover relatively rapidly from their fatigue.

So they asked their volunteers to consume large amounts of carbohydrates in the two hours after their session of hard pedaling but not to otherwise coddle their muscles.

Then on subsequent visits to the lab, they had the young people repeat the pedaling workout twice more, and immediately afterward, slip long cuffs over their arms that could be heated or chilled with water coils. The cuffs were warmed during one session to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and chilled during another to about 5 degrees. The volunteers wore the cuffs for two hours while also downing carbohydrates.

Finally, at the end of each session, the men and women repeated the interval portion of their original pedaling, since it was the most tiring.

And each of them could pedal hardest at that point if their arm muscles had been warmed beforehand. Their power output then was “markedly better” than after the other two sessions, the scientists write in their paper, suggesting that their muscles had better-regained strength. Their power was worst after their muscles had been cooled.

But these results, while interesting, could not explain why heat might be goosing recovery, so the inquisitive scientists next turned to individual leg-muscle fibers obtained from mice. They attached the fibers to a mechanism that could record the strength of contractions and then zapped the fibers with electricity so that they contracted, over and over. The researchers noted when these contractions slowed, indicating the fibers had grown pooped.

They then tired other fibers before dousing some of them with glycogen and subsequently warming or cooling all of the fibers and restimulating them a final time.

They also examined whether warming or cooling had affected how much glycogen the muscle tissue absorbed.

As with the young men’s and women’s arms, the muscle fibers turned out to have recovered best after being heated — but only if they also had been exposed to glycogen. When the fibers had not received any refueling after their exercise, they did not regain their original power, even after pleasant warming.

The lesson of these findings, published in the Journal of Physiology, seems to be that “warming muscles probably aids in recovery by augmenting the muscles’ uptake of carbohydrates,” says Arthur Cheng, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, who led the study.

This study looked only at one aspect of recovery after exercise, however, concentrating on how tired muscles might best regain their ability to generate power. It cannot tell us whether warm baths might lessen muscle pain after long, hard exercise. (Unfortunately, most recent studies suggest that nothing substantially reduces this soreness, except time.)

But the study does provide a rationale for filling your bathtub with warm water after a marathon or other hard exertion, grabbing a sports bar or chocolate milk to replace lost carbohydrates, and settling in for a long, revivifying soak.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Seth Godin and the Real Law of Averages

The real law of averages 

If you want to raise the standards of any group, improving the top of the heap isn't nearly as effective as focusing your effort on the base instead.
Simple example: Getting a Prius to go from 50 miles per gallon to 55 miles per gallon isn't nearly as important as getting SUVs to go from 10 miles per gallon to 15. There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are a lot more SUVs than Priuses. The second is that they use far more gallons, so a percentage increase has far more yield. (You can't average averages).
If you care about health and a culture of performance, it's tempting to push Olympic athletes to go just a tenth of a second faster. It's far more effective, though, if you can get 3,000,000 kids to each spend five more minutes a day walking instead of sitting.
Organizations pamper and challenge the few in the executive suite, imagining that one more good decision in the biz dev group could pay off. The thing is, if every one of the 10,000 customer-facing employees was more engaged and kind, it would have a far bigger impact on the company and those it serves.
I think the reason we focus on the few is that it feels more dramatic, seems more controllable and is ultimately easier. But the effective, just and important thing to do is to help the back of the line catch up.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

PPE manufacturer refutes 'false' claims about turnout gear hazards

LION president Stephen Schwartz said the elevated cancer risk "derives from the hazardous substances produced by the fire, not the turnout gear that protects firefighters"

Oct 31, 2017

By FireRescue1 Staff
DAYTON, Ohio — In a letter to the editor, the president of an Ohio-based PPE manufacturer is refuting claims that firefighter turnout gear may be hazardous for those donning it for protection.
LION president Stephen Schwartz sent the letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch, which published an article entitled "Firefighters' gear may be hazardous" on Oct. 29 based on a claim by Cincinnati lawyer Robert A. Bilott.
Schwartz added that their gear is tested to meet the NFPA 1971 standard, and that it's "irresponsible to publish false statements." (Photo/Dover AFB)
Schwartz added that their gear is tested to meet the NFPA 1971 standard, and that it's "irresponsible to publish false statements." (Photo/Dover AFB)
In the letter, Schwartz said the article "appears to be based solely on one class action attorney's false statement that firefighter gear is treated or made with chemicals known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfanic acid (PFOS), and suggestion that firefighter cancers may be attributable to their turnout gear."
Schwartz said LION turnout gear is not treated or made with such chemicals.
"PFOAs and PFOSs have never been components of Lion's turnout gear, either as a coating or as a textile," he writes.
He added that Bilott’s confusion may stem from the industry's past use of PFOA as a "processing aid in the complex process used to manufacture PTFE moisture barrier films and durable water repellent finishes used in many types of water repellent clothing."
PFOA manufacture and use has declined due to an EPA initiative, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters Division of Occupational Health Safety and Medicine. In 2006, the EPA and eight major U.S. companies that manufacture PFOA launched a program to reduce emissions of PFOA by 95 percent in 2010 and to have it phased out in production by 2015.
The IAFF said it may be possible for firefighters to encounter PFOA in fire suppression activities, but "the data to address this are limited and as PFOA is increasingly less common, this is a decreasing concern."
In 2012, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment reviewed several studies and found that even if a person has "direct skin contact with such finishes over the entire skin surface for 12 hours each day, 365 days a year," the maximum exposure is "far lower than the values which are assumed as threshold values for toxicological effects."
Schwartz added that their gear is tested to meet the NFPA 1971 standard, and that it's "irresponsible to publish false statements implying that turnout gear is unsafe because it is allegedly made with PFOA or PFOS." He said that he was "concerned and saddened" by the article and that the elevated cancer risk "derives from the hazardous substances produced by the fire, not the turnout gear that protects firefighters."
The IAFF said they do not recommend that legacy turnout gear be replaced outside of its lifecycle.
"Firefighters wishing to minimize PFOA exposure should continue to wear their PPE, including SCBA, and regularly decontaminate their turnout gear," IAFF officials said.
You can read Schwartz's full letter below.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

World Challenge XXVI Wrap: Let’s Hear it for the Ladies

Right now, my head is ready to explode. If you were here in Louisville, you’ll know what I mean. Over the next several days, I’m going to hit the highlights of what has been a fantastic week.

First, the ladies. Or, ladies first. Depending upon your source, women occupy 3.5% of the career firefighter positions. And, the numbers are reflected in the census in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. But disproportionate to their numbers, their influence has been huge. You’ve never met a more energetic and impressive group of athletes. Anywhere.

I’m going to request posts here from some of our women but in the meantime, here’s a photo of all the women who attended this year’s Lion’s Den Induction Dinner.

They organized and obtained the photo below.

Women Competitors, World Challenge XXVI, 2017, Lion’s Den

Friday, October 27, 2017

Chief Walt White Makes it Official: Sacramento

At the Lion’s Den Induction Ceremony, Walt White, Challenge legend and fire chief of Sacramento on a Skype Connection told the 400 attendees that the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championships for 2018 will be hosted by Sacramento, October 22-27.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Only The Brave: A Review from the Wall Street Journal

Today, October 23, the Fire Chief of Jeffersontown, KY secured 165 tickets for Only the Brave. For those of you who took advantage of the generosity of the AMC Stoneybrook, I believe that I speak for all that this is a “must see” movie. 

Below, is the Wall Street Journal’s review by Joe Morganstern. 

‘Only the Brave” could hardly be more timely, since its larger subject is the wildfires that have been bringing grief and devastation to vast areas of the nation with what seems to be increasing frequency. To dramatize the courage and dedication of the crews that fight these conflagrations, the film celebrates the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of firefighters that faced its greatest challenge on a hill near Yarnell, Ariz., in the summer of 2013. Their homegrown spirit is so appealing, athe nd their history so affecting, that you want to overlook the shortcomings of a dutiful, derivative script, with its several inspirational strands and dearth of essential details.

The story the movie tells, at a leisurely pace over the course of 133 minutes, is one of hardworking, hard-partying young men finding a sense of family, discipline and purpose in a firefighting crew created by the city of Prescott, Ariz. The unit is supervised by Eric Marsh, a veteran firefighter in his early 40s; he’s a man with a checkered past, played with laconic resolve by Josh Brolin. Other members of the team are played by James Badge Dale and Taylor Kitsch.

As the narrative begins, Marsh is struggling to upgrade his crew from Type 2 status—unsung grunts doing dirty work—to Type 1, meaning hotshots in ability as well as in name and attitude, who fight wildfires on the front lines. (That he succeeded was a signal achievement. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were the first such group in the nation to grow out of a municipal fire department.) A lot of the early action borrows from films about World War II: rookies going through the hell and hazing of basic training. The main rookie, Brendan McDonough, has been doing drugs and is bound for no glory until Marsh takes him in and mentors him. He’s played by Miles Teller, who gives a fine, understated performance that’s all the more moving because McDonough, in fact, emerged from Yarnell Hill with a singular distinction he never sought. (“A skunker down in Yarnell” is how someone first describes the fire. “It’s no big deal.”)

Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) and Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) in ‘Only the Brave’ PHOTO: COLUMBIA PICTURES

The cast as a whole, under the direction of Joseph Kosinski, brings gleeful energy to a group portrait of good souls in the American heartland, working one fire after another and living it up in between. Jeff Bridges is Duane Steinbrink, an elder lawman who helps Marsh achieve his ambitions for the group, gets to sing and strum a few bars of Johnny Cash’s “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” and has one moment of heart-rending anguish. Jennifer Connelly, as Amanda Marsh, Eric’s veterinarian wife who must share him with a succession of fires, sweeps aside the clichés of her role with marvelous ferocity.

Yet the screenplay, by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, keeps strumming the same chords, as if the studio were afraid the audience wouldn’t understand that “Only the Brave” was about the crew as a surrogate family, and the heroism of its members. (“You’re all heroes,” a nurse says helpfully when McDonough, who’s been bitten by a rattlesnake, is brought by his buddies to a hospital for treatment.)

Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin PHOTO: COLUMBIA PICTURES

What’s missing is density of detail. Early in the film there’s a striking shot—the cinematographer was Claudio Miranda —of a huge hose descending from the top of the screen. Soon we see that it’s being lowered from a helicopter to gulp water from someone’s swimming pool before the chopper flies off to help smother a menacing blaze. I kept looking for similar specifics of how hotshot teams operate on the ground. Some information is dispensed, but it’s rushed, perfunctory and not very edifying. During the evolution of the climactic fire, we know where the Granite Mountain Hotshots are, more or less, but not what’s happening around them in real time.

Little is known, even now, about the essential mystery of the event—why a well-trained crew with a deeply experienced leader made the decisions they did. All the same, “Only the Brave” might have expanded our understanding by framing that mystery with greater precision since the supposed skunker down in Yarnell proved to be the biggest deal of all.

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.
Image result for alan brunacini
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

Image result for iphone 7

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Parting Note from a Challenge Legend

Image result for Bill Pietrantonio

Hey Doc,

I will not be competing anymore and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for you have done for me and the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

It has been a special part of my life. I have met a tremendous number of fantastic firefighters who truly appreciate what it means to be a firefighter.

I wish you, the crew and all the competitors all best this year and in the future.

Thanks again.

Bill Pietrantonio
P.S. keep up the great work and dedication.

Here’s a “rant” that Bill sent me some time back:
I thought I would get a jump on this topic with an old guys view. First and foremost, I believe that no limitations should be imposed other than running together prior to nationals and worlds. We can debate counties, states, mutual aid districts, paychecks and whatever else we can come up with forever. The fact remains that there is no common denominator between fire departments. The size of the departments are different- counties are 5 square miles to 20,000 sq miles, and different populations. No one thing is equal except the firefighter. He is, and will always be not only the equal component but most importantly the DECIDING FACTOR.

I have never seen a STACKED TEAM. What I have seen are teams with more resources... such as an entire course to train on, sponsorships, dept. support and the desire to compete. These are significant advantages that are never factored into a race. The military teams frequently have everything at their disposal to train with. Yet does anyone bitch? No. Why? Because it is a non-issue. We all run against the course and the clock. If you want a better time, you work and train harder with the resources you have available.

I am old school... one man does not make a TEAM. Hard work and trust in our guys make a TEAM better than limitations on who can be on your team. That is school yard bull. These guys do not go to an incident and say, “I can't handle this because I do not have so-and-so from the next county because he is the best roof man in the state.” No; they adapt and overcome. The foundation of firefighting which the challenge imitates is to test our skills. Part of the test is to use your resources to the best of your ability to accomplish the goal.

Sorry about the rant, but it seems that some people want to stack the deck by limiting the competition instead of working hard. Two examples of how hard work makes a difference... John McGee..aka "Next time better time." The man never complained even after by pass surgery. He always worked hard to be better. Roy Davis: Roy was an average runner until about the age 57. He then went on a workout program that some of the young guns could not do. That made him a superstar. Dedication, determination and hard work put Roy in a category of his own. I’m sure that you know more guys that have similar stories.

Keep the tradition; let guys work and earn the not give it away.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Protecting the Southern Border

A few years ago, I was part of an 8-member team consisting of Border Patrol Agents and Occupational Health Physiologists that would study job-related injuries in the Border Patrol. Over the span of this one-year project, I spent one month walking the border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas with Agents.

At the time the Workers' Comp rate for Agents was worse than the US Marine Corps. I wondered why? That is, until I actually saw the environment in which Agents worked.

This is not traditional law enforcement; it's more like foot-based infantry in some of the world's most inhospitable environment. Everything out there can hurt you. Poisonous snakes that bite. Plant life that will cut, poke, scrape and irritate. And, of course, insects.

There's a lot of talk about building a wall. The estimated cost is huge. This video provides a perspective that I doubt most Americans are aware of.

This is a video shot on the Southern Border in California. Read the description for more information. A 360° View of the Mexico-US Border

The U.S.-Mexico Border, Then and Now

I don't have much to add to the commentary; these Agents tell it pretty much like it is.

A section of the wall near El Paso

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Commentary from a Rookie

Ed Lyell and new-found friend and Coach: Ken Helgerson
Dr Paul,

I have been working full time in Fire and Emergency Medical Service for 29 Years and this January I came to a point in my Career where I no longer felt much Brotherhood in the Fire Service and felt like I no longer mattered within My Fire Department. Physically I was completing multiple 100 Mile Ultramarathons and Triathlons along with Open Water Swimming. I found this was not much help with the specific skills we do and I was in terrible Fire Service Shape. Also, I saw that Internally my body was fighting early stages of Heart Disease and Pre Diabetes. All of these together I knew I needed to do something drastic to be able to make it to Retirement and Beyond.

So at 47, I decided to train and compete in my first Firefighter Combat Challenge at FDIC.

In training, I found little or no support from My Brother Firefighters some of who were former competitors. Troy Brown at My Department helped me transform my workouts to build the strength needed to complete the event. The first time I actually ran the whole course was at FDIC.

At FDIC I was overwhelmed by the Pride and Brotherhood that I and my wife Rieko felt. Immediately at warm ups, Brothers were pulling me aside and giving me suggestions and walking me through the course.

When I lined up to start, little did I know that the Brother standing next to me would become my Mentor and Guide through this journey.

While I was trying to survive my first time out Ken Helgerson finished in Personal Record time joining the Lion’s Den. The next thing I know is Ken is by my side every step of the way and as I fell at the end I could hear Ken and Mike Word yelling "Pull, Pull, Pull!" and somehow Rescue Randy and I made it across the line. In that moment my Life has changed forever!

Since FDIC Ken has been in constant contact and I had the honor to compete with him as part of a Tandem Team in Longmont, Colorado. The Lessons he gave me has got me hooked on the Tandem event in addition to the Individual. Though I learned my lesson at Sulphur Springs, Texas that three Tandems in a day can be tough.

Social Media has been a fantastic place to exchange training suggestions and critique. Matt Baca has been my online and in-person mentor along with so many others.

I have completed Seven events this Year and to memorialize my Lucky 7 I got the Firefighter Combat Challenge Tattoo as a constant Reminder of the Pride and Brotherhood that the challenge celebrates.

Over the last Seven events I have truly discovered the Jacobs Ladder of Learning that Ken Helgerson described. Each time I compete I learn something new to improve my performance and I look forward to one day Joining the Lions Den!

Thank You, Dr. Paul for creating this life changing event. I truly appreciate it.

Kind Regards,

Edward Lyell
Federal Fire San Diego

The Japanese characters are “Firefighter”