Monthly Archives: May 2011
Memorial Day and it’s associated “weekend” means different things to different people. For me it has always been a combination of remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom as well as about remembering those that made an impact in our lives and have since passed on. My life has been blessed to have been dotted with many influential people who helped shape my ideals and my outlook on life. From a young age it was instilled in me the importance of the sacrifice of those from the past, I’m sure I used to freak my parents out when at 10 year old I would rather go to Gettysburg or out back with a medal detector then to a movie. As a new father I try to do my best to give my son those same experiences that he will hopefully draw strength from later in life. Our first stop this weekend was to the secret resting spot of the hero for which my son gets his middle name, to visit “Uncle Kirk”. To see Kirks memorial video CLICK HERE.
Our next stop was down to the always amazing “Rolling Thunder” to honor Americas MIA and KIA. My 3 year old was so impressed with the display that he waved steady for over an hour, not an easy feat for a son with an attention span like mine. Here is a great video showing what determination and discipline looks like.
Memorial day brought a celebration at the Land of Kent where I got the special treat of a phone call from Afghanistan. One of Kentlands lost sons, Scott Motley, was checking in from an ocean away. A few good lucks and keep your head lows and he was off to serve again along side the rest of his brothers. Off to protect our right to cook hot dogs and visit the beach on this Memorial Day “weekend”. We are thankful for Scott and the rest of his Devil Dogs.
From there is was back to the BBQ and talks of those who are no longer with us. One of which being Mark “Mick” McKenzie, the man who took me under his wing, taught me the ropes of the special service life style, and helped me see the error in my flare covered helmet ways. Here is a little video I made awhile ago in his memory. CLICK HERE.
Almost as if Mick was listening, Rescue Engine 33, with me in the seat, got put on a Capitol Heights house fire with fire showing from the rear of the home. STORY HERE. After an hour or so of work we got to slide on back to the Kentland BBQ to finish honoring the fallen.
Its funny how when your younger you don’t quite understand the importance of certain people or their roll until their gone. There are more than a handful of people I wish I would have had more time to sit and talk with, sit and learn with. To learn about all they had done in their lives and knowledge they had to offer. One such individual was my Great-grandfather Forest “Mike” Mills, who just recently passed away in 2006. I remember his stories of serving in the engine room of the USS Enterprise during World War II, about the sounds the ship would make when an enemy bomber crashed just feet from the great carrier. I listened as a child listens, for the story and not the meaning. Little did I know until several years later that this “ship” was not just any ship, but instead the Big “E” was the most decorated ship of the entire war, fighting in some of the most famous battles in history. Battles that shaped the future of our great Nation and ensured a bright future for those left behind. I wish I had paid a little closer attention to those story’s now that he is gone.
So for those we remember, and those we wish we had more memories of, happy Memorial Day.
An exercise in rhetoric inspired by the writings of Matt “Maine” Hall. His recent facebook descriptions of late night ramblings from the ghetto of our home in Landover has inspired me to try my hand. Here is a late night rambling from a memorial weekend spent in the back of Truck 17.
Our chariot comes to a stop just shy of the entrance to the apartment complex, the heroes of “The Heights” answer the never ending call for service, this time its the ever elusive activated CO detector. I watch as my crew makes their way up the hill towards the mountain of brick and mortar known as Benning Park Apartments. Heavy eyelids give way to an unrelenting stare as i catch myself gazing longingly through the dust covered window of my tillermans perch. The iridescent hue of a lone streetlight joins with the familiar reds and blues of a passing police cruiser, together they bring identity to the darken street sign. 4900 G st. SE. My temporary inhabitancy now has a name.
The air is cool and crisp as it recoils from the recently passed storm. The night is alive with activity, people pass but seldom wave, families and felons share the sidewalk together as they stroll into the emptiness of the East End night. My thoughts drift away from this place much the same as the dreams of the areas youth, away to a place far removed from the brutal realities of “The Heights”. Thoughts of a future with manageable hours, of nights with adequate sleep, of holidays at home with family and friends. The recurring thud of a car stereo gains strength as it closes on my position, the roar of exhaust from a passing donked-out caprice jerks me back to my observatory high atop 17 truck.
My attention shifts to a conveniently placed pair of “Air Jordans” dangling from the electric line above my head, swaying gingerly in the evening breeze, beckoning to this spot those in search of a quick high to lift them from this place. My band of brothers makes their way back down the hill from the building entrance, laughing and jostling, bonded together by the experiences and the tragedies they’ve shared, forged into friends at trail by fire. They know how quickly the song can change, how that next call for service might find them staring the red devil and his fiery minions square in the face, daring my brothers to enter in protection of these same families and felons that call East End their home. This fire forcing them to rise up to their best when DC citizens are at their worst. These men, these firemen, know that only the bond of brotherhood will bring them through the flames and back alive.
I chuckle to myself as a new thought creeps into mind. These moments i will miss, this ghetto i will miss, these brothers I will miss…
Well after 2 months of long nights surrounded by friends and a hard fought healing process, Firefighter Chucky Ryan has finally returned home from the burn center. Chucky was burned along with 4 other firefighters searching for victims during a house fire in Truck 17’s first due. His first stop? Rescue 3 to see the brothers of course. Here’s to a great guy who’s love for the job infects all those around him. Welcome Home Chucky, see you inside a burning southeast rowhome soon.
Here is a repost from our blog over at Patriot LWM:
A few years ago, Patriot Land and Wildlife was fortunate to be involved with an innovative water quailty improvement project in Washington, DC on the Anacostia River. Teamed with Bluewing Environmental Solutions and Technologies, Patriot LWM helped install several BioHaven Floating Treatment Wetlands at Diamond Teague Park in DC, with the intention of providing much-needed water quality improvement. These BioHaven islands are capable of removing as many nutrients from the waterbody as 6 acres of natural wetlands.
Diamond Teague is just across the street from the Washington Nationals baseball stadium and is a popular riverside destination for ballpark patrons, among others. The dual functionaility of water quality stewardship and ornamental landscaping allowed for a great project to occur, and lots of attention drawn to the problems suffered by our waterways. Author Mike Cronin of “The Daily” spotlights the project.
The Kanias founded their company in 2005. Today they have seven manufacturers worldwide and 4,000 islands in use around the globe. Customers pay roughly $27 per square foot and may order any shape or size of floating island, which can be used in rivers, ponds, lakes and even the ocean.
Kevin Hedge, a wetland scientist and partner at Blue Wing, sees the synthetic islands as more than just a savior to an ailing environment.
“The floating islands are an ecological-restoration tool that also can be an economic-recovery tool,” he said.
Lanshing Hwang, the Maryland landscape architect who designed the island park in Washington, called it “an innovative approach — particularly for places that don’t have wetlands.
Now that I have this blog to put out some cool info to those that care, I wanted to put up a great documentary from Anderson Cooper 360 about the battle for Falluja that also features my best friend and hero, Cpl. Kirk Bosselmann and his good friend from Baltimore, Cpl. Nicholas Ziolkowski. Kirks mother gave me a copy of the report and I turned around and put it on Youtube. Hope you enjoy.
This is a cross post I wrote from our PatriotLWM Blog:
It has long been known that an overpopulation of deer has negative effects on your vehicle when they wander into the roadway infront of you, or your flowers when the deer make their way to your yard, but a study from the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute is pinning a new victim on this overpopulation, our forests. Biologists looked at the effects of deer overpopulation on forest regeneration and how that relates to the growth of invasive species of plants. What they found is sure to be a wake up call for the ecological community who must now look at wildlife management as another tool to protect and ensure the health of their natural community.
Story from WAMU.org:
DEER OVERPOPULATION YIELDS DISASTROUS RESULTS FOR FORESTS
May 23, 2011 – As an ever-rising population of white-tailed deer have bumped up against their human neighbors in the D.C. area, the results haven’t been pretty. There were an estimated 88,000 deer-vehicle collisions in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware last year.
But beyond the roads, experts say the deer are also having a major impact on forests, which are unable to replenish themselves to nurture the next generation due to the deer population’s eating habits.
To illustrate this decline in forests during the past several years, a group of scientists blocked off a chunk of woods to the deer more than two decades ago.
A SLICE OF UNTOUCHED, AND UNEATEN, WOODS
It’s called an exclosure, and it’s a place where no deer have trod for decades. Back in 1990, scientists at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., closed off 10 acres of forest with 8-foot high fences to see how the land would evolve without its furry friends.
“So we’re comparing inside the fence to the outside the fence,” says Bill McShea, a wildlife ecologist at SCBI. “And there’s two things of note. One is, it’s green on both sides of the fence but in here it’s a lot more diverse than out there.”
That is an understatement. The deer side of the fence has a carpet of grass, a shrubby looking thing and some large trees — things that are either too big for deer to eat or among the very few plants they don’t like to eat.
Inside is practically a jungle, with dozens of different almost exotic looking plants are tumbling over one another, many of them young trees.
“In here I can see white ash and hickory and red maples and white maples and serviceberry,” McShea says. “A whole bunch of under story and canopy trees that are all now three or four feet tall. We are looking at 20, 30 species. There’s a lot of diversity in here. You look out there, and it’s a much simpler world.”
DEER-EATEN FORESTS RISK DYING
That simpler world is an aging world. Really, it’s a dying world as far as forests go.
“The future is not good. There are no teenagers, there’s no young adults,” McShea says of the trees and other foliage. “Everybody’s a mature individual. Whereas, inside this fence you have the complete profile of ages. You have youngsters, you have teenagers, you have middle-aged adults, you have the old trees.
“And when the old trees go — and they’re going to go, because that’s what happens with old trees, they fall over — there is something here to take its place,” McShea says. “Out there, I don’t see anything out there that’s a small tree.”
These results of the exclosure, although striking, are what scientists could have predicted. One of the surprising things they found, however, is that deer allow invasive species to flourish.
“The Japanese stilt grass is just coming up now as a highly invasive annual grass,” says Norm Bourg, a plant ecologist with SCBI.
The Japanese-origin grass carpets the floor outside the exclosure, but inside, there are many more native species present.
“There’s a lot of native species like horse balm,” Bourg says, gesturing to the plants beneath his feet. “This is black cohosh, which is a native medicinal plant that you hardly ever see out there.”
With fewer native plants outside the exclosure, there are fewer birds there that depend on them for nests and food, and there are also fewer mice and chipmunks when they have to compete with deer.
DEER POPULATION IS RESULT OF RE-POPULATION
But it wasn’t always this way. One hundred years ago, deer were nearly extinct in Maryland and extremely rare in Virginia.
“By that time, you couldn’t find a deer or a turkey or a bear in the state,” McShea says. “Both the habitat changes and the restaurant trade eliminated most of those animals.”
Today’s ubiquitous food trend of “buying local” was the norm back then, and hunting was an industry, says McShea.
“They weren’t going to put a cow on a train in Texas and ship it to Virginia,” McShea says. “If you were going to go to a restaurant, order yourself a steak, for the most part that was a venison steak.”
In the early part of the 1900’s, newly minted state game departments rushed to the rescue, banning or regulating hunting and setting up parks.
“When they made the Shenandoah Park in the 1930s, they went and got deer from Arkansas and brought them back here to repopulate that area,” says McShea. “So growing the deer population was intentional. It’s a conservation story and it went just like they planned.”
A CONSERVATION EFFORT’S UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
The result is that today, there are several million deer, and, as McShea puts it, “the flip side has happened.
“They’re hitting too many cars, there’s too much gardens being eaten, the forest succession is changing,” he continues. “We’ve got to dial that back a little bit.
Deer aren’t evil, McShea is quick to emphasize, but they have no predators now and they need to be managed. States currently rely primarily on scheduled hunts, where the public is allowed to come in and take out deer.
That works well on parkland to some extent, but it doesn’t work on private property or in federal parks, which have been slower to adopt aggressive management.
“We have time for that, we don’t have to make a decision this year,” he says. But we don’t have decades, he adds. Trees don’t live forever.
As the General Manager for the DC Generals, I get the blessed opportunity to work with great guys outside of the DC Fire Department and even outside of the fire department as a whole. Here is an article from the Gazette about the game we put together to honor the fallen police officers from around the DC Metro area for National Police Week. The event was not without its speed bumps, as is often the case with the word “charity”, but the families of the fallen were happy, so we were happy.
Entry from the DC Generals Website:
Wheaton’s Ayala among many honored at game
by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer
The third quarter was winding down Saturday night in a scoreless tie between the DC Generals and the Atlanta Defenders as Generals quarterback Russell Jackson lined up behind center, his eyes fixed on the end zone not 5 yards away.
A light rain began to fall on the Generals’ home field at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Va., as Jackson took the snap, feinted, and then sprinted for the end zone … straight into the waiting arms of an Atlanta linebacker.
The crowd roared, and a flurry of whistles rang out as the referees scrambled to break apart the mountain of players that had piled on top of the others. A single arm struck through the midst of the chaos; the ball still clutched firmly in Jackson’s hand as the referee signaled for a touchdown.
The Generals went on to win on Jackson’s touchdown, 7-0.
The score could not have come in a bigger game: the annual Police Week Memorial Game, which marks the end of National Police Week â€” May 8 through 15, this year â€” said Generals President Tom Dufek, who also is a Montgomery police detective.
Every year teams from around the National Public Safety Football League send in their requests to play in the memorial game. It’s hosted by the Generals, the home team for police, firefighters and other public safety officials in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
“Guys that come here want to be able to go down to D.C. to visit the memorial, take part in the festivities and bring their families into town, because it’s a way to honor those who you have lost,” Dufek said of the memorial game. “As far as the league goes, this game is pretty much the pinnacle.”
Everything about the game was designed to honor the police officers whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in D.C. earlier this week, even down to a pair of stickers placed on the backs of each of the players’ helmets that bore the initials of Montgomery County Police Sgt. Hector I. Ayala and Prince George’s County Cpl. Thomas P. Jensen, both of whom died in car accidents in the line of duty in 2010.
Formed from a rag-tag, seven-man squad on a rainy Saturday in spring of 2006, the Generals entered the league in 2007 and have grown exponentially each year, boasting a roster of about 60 players, Dufek said. Players come from all around Maryland, Virginia and the District, added Vice President Matt Newman, a Maryland State Trooper who plays tight end.
“I’ve made maybe 30 or 40 friends [on the team] who I otherwise would never have met,” Newman said, adding his friendships also have helped him professionally. “I can call them up anytime, for anything, like if we’re looking for somebody I can call someone up in another jurisdiction and say, â€˜Hey, do you know who this guy is?'”
Beyond friendship â€” and of course, the love of the game â€” many players joined the team out of dedication to their fallen comrades, said Jackson, a Prince George’s County police officer who works in the District 3 Palmer Park station.
“We’ve lost a lot of officers since I’ve been on [the force], three that I can remember within [Prince George’s] County, so for me I can’t explain how exciting it is for me to be able to put on this uniform and play just for that reason alone,” Jackson said at the team’s Friday practice.
All of the team’s revenue from ticket sales, money raised from concessions and outside fundraisers goes toward one of two charities: Concerns of Police Survivors and the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation, Dufek said. Last year, the team raised $2,500 for each charity, and this year the team hopes to continue raising money past the end of the regular season in June by hosting a youth football camp, Dufek added.
At halftime of the game Saturday, representatives from each area police agency that lost an officer in 2010 received team helmets from Dufek, including Kristelle Jensen, the wife of the late Cpl. Jensen.
“It’s a very huge honor, because I am doing everything possible to keep [my husband’s] memory going, so for them to recognize me and recognize any officer’s family, spouse, children, sisters, bothers, anybody, it’s a huge honor,” she said after presiding over the opening coin toss at Saturday’s game. “My husband was actually going to play on the team. … I’m going to be coming out to all the games from now on.”
In article after article and blog post after blog post I gaze with soft eyes at the material being placed into the hearts and minds of this Nations very young and ultimately often inexperienced fire service. Amazing catch phrases and profound statements like “risk little to save little”, “big fire – big water”, “risk vs. reward” more often than not from guys and gals with resumes as long as this blog entry. Resumes so long that if you’re like me, you get bored just reading them. Class after class, one accreditation flowing seamlessly into another; your eyes stare in awe at the seemingly endless stream of knowledge that these “authors” must possess behind those magical finger tips that typed such thought provoking words as “survivability profiling”. Yes! That’s it; these are the innovative people that will guide our young fire service into the future, teach us right from wrong. These innovative people who rely on their lessons learned from their infinite battle proven firefighting experience to make broad generalizations about the state of the service and….hold on…did you say “infinite battle proven firefighting experience?”
Hmmm, let me go back and check that resume again…instructor 1 thru 1000 – check, Master’s Degree in fire science – check, Command Level Officer in bum “f” anywhere – check, beat up the red devil in his living room and pulled little babies from deaths grasp in defense of his neighbors life and property – che….hey wait a minute, I don’t see that anywhere in this resume! In my haste to read what glorious mind nuggets were hidden in the article of this published “author” it appears I forgot to check their qualification to tell me anything relating to fighting fires. But the article was about “survivability profiling during FIREFIGHTING operations” was it not? (Now before you all flip a lid I pulled that title out of my a%$ so don’t get bent, and if you do, suck it up).
This concept of “checking that resume” before I read an article or watch a video about anything professional (in any field) is something I learned somewhere around 3rd grade. That’s when I realized that the bitchy, unwed, childless, cat infested 40 something year old woman down the street really had no leg to stand on when informing my mother on how to raise her bad-ass 8 year old boy. The same seems to be true in today’s fire service, except someone forgot to tell the new kids the deal. Someone forgot to tell youngins that are new to the game that these so called “experts” can leave their shoes on when counting how many times they have even been in a burning building. Yet we continue to accept these broad generalizations that are shaping the future of tomorrow’s fire service from people who have never really been in today’s fire service. Have we really allowed our brains to get in the way of our ability to protect the public and even ourselves?
Case in point:
So there I was, typing away on the old office computer when I get a call from my buddy. “Where are you?” he asks. “My office” I reply. “Well there is a house right down the street on fire and…click” that was the end of that conversation. You see, I do not discriminate, I am an equal opportunity firefighter, I will fight the red devil wherever he may be and as such I tend to allow my name and certifications to appear on the rolls of more than one volunteer fire department. This particular event and jurisdiction will remain nameless to protect (for now) the incompetent and will only be used for demonstration purposes. So up the street I go and sure enough, a 2 story single family home with fire showing from the rear and second floor, “cake” I thought. So I dress up in my fireman costume and survey the scene. Soon enough down the hill comes the 1st engine into this non-hydranted area, followed by the tanker, and comes to a stop. Time for me to play their game… “Hello officer sir, I’m such and such here is my Personal Accountability Tag, I will be attaching myself to your crew, shall I help you pull a handline?” as I look at their crew of three counting the driver.
“No son, pull the Blitz Fire (500 gpm)” (you did read me say non-hydranted did you not?)
“Ah, be advised sir there is a report of a 4th grader missing” I replied as communications and I both tried to will them into an offensive attack.
“There is too much fire, we have to knock it down from out here and then we will go in”…and as is often the case in this area, the calamity of errors continues for the next hour or so. A truck company that brings no ladders to the house, a CAFS bubble party in the front yard, a chiefs buggy stuck in the 3 day rain soaked field next door, a work-free smoke walking contest once finally allowed to attack and even an eventual evacuation once someone decided that the Rapid Intervention Team was not in place (the 2 out was, but they had been redirected to spray water into a rear window). Huh? Yeah that’s what I said. If you’re like me, then you’re probably amazed the tax payers even bother to pay their fire taxes anymore, with such superb service and all.
How did this happen?
How did it come to be this way? Is this truly the future of the fire service, to not fight fires at all? It’s hard to be called out for being wrong when you stand on the side of over-cautiousness with a second helping of safety. And alas that is where the nation’s authors have gone to avoid confrontation, a catch phrase contest on who can be the safest.
I have a new catch phrase for you, “Return to Effectiveness”. Effective actions combined with appropriate timing to achieve a positive outcome. Effectiveness = fires go out, people get rescued, the fire department does it’s job. Instead of having front yard arguments about the friction loss of a 2in handline or the gallons-per-minute requirements for fire load in 3 rooms instead of 2, how about we just do what works, what is effective, and we put the fire out in the quickest most efficient way possible?
I will not argue the point of GPM numbers with you as apparently it is science; proven fact. But can someone please tell me how many GPM’s from a 2in handline make it to the seat of the fire when the 2-man crew that pulled it can’t get it up the front steps, let alone to the second floor. But they said big fire-big water didn’t they? Ah yes they did, it was right after the article about the shrinking staffing numbers across the country. So let me get this straight, apparently as the average size of an initial attack crew gets smaller the lines we choose to maneuver with less man power should get bigger?…Sorry I don’t follow. How about the 10’s of thousands of gallons of water we lob into second floor windows from the outside of single family homes and then wonder why the floors collapse when we finally go in to do overhaul. Maybe I can get an explanation on how across the country Compressed Air Foam Systems, which are supposed to be the savior of the fire service, are being used as initial attack lines when even a 3rd grader can tell you that fire needs “air” to grow. How several of my associates have been burned because of it yet in many jurisdictions it remains in initial attack use because a report says it puts out fires better than water alone.
Perhaps someone else smarter than me can explain the concept of allowing a fire that doubles in size every 30 seconds wasted minute after wasted minute as marginally trained crews struggle to get their line in service, waiting for the full complement of the alarm to arrive and ensure their “safety”. How much more dangerous is that home now with 10 minutes of free burn time then when we first arrived? Maybe someone can help me understand how National headlines more often read “body found after fire” then “firefighters make daring rescue” although firefighter fatalities don’t decline.
Now don’t get it twisted, I support educated decision making. Things like circle and basement checks, information gathering, back up lines, etc. All important things when walking that fine line between duty and stupidity. However what I do not support is the use of the phrase “firefighter safety” and others like it in defense of the coward and cowardous actions. We do the job we were asked to do by our neighbors and our friends, to serve and protect their lives and property with all that we have. If not us, if not the fire department, then who is going to do it?
The fact that I am trying to bring to your attention is our new age “phrases” are killing as many fire fighters and civilians as ever before because of the lack of effectiveness that goes along with them. Is there merit to some of these concepts? Yes of course there is, but if you don’t link them with common sense, the ability to adjust to each situation and the skill to be effective with them then you’re using these concepts as a crutch to hide behind. Fires have been going out for hundreds of years under the same concept; water on fire makes fire go out. Anyone that tells you they have invented an innovative approach that hasn’t been invented in the last 100 years all while going to historically less fires now than ever before is probably just trying to cash in on the naïve (or make an industry name for themselves without actually going to fires to do it).
I challenge each of you to pull yourself above the latest catch phrase and concept, reexamine your ability to do your job, to be honest in your abilities and ask yourself “am I being effective in my efforts or am I merely showing up in my fireman costume to watch a house burn down?” Do not accept a concept just because it was written by someone with a 10 page resume. Examine where these concepts come from, ask yourself if they make sense, step back into the shoes of the public we protect and look at your tactics from their perspective. Don’t let equations and catch phrases get in your way of your ability to be effective on the fireground. Be honest, let common sense prevail, and let’s help America’s fire service make a “Return to Effectiveness”.
Video I made from the Patriot LWM Outdoors Blog:
So sitting around the office on a rainy day catching up on work, it occurred to us that we were a few trail cams short after the season. After scratching our heads for some time we remembered where we put one. This is what we found when we checked the card…6 months and still going strong. If nothing else its a cool way to kill 3 minutes, ENJOY!
It’s been a long but fun struggle to get all our entities looking sharp and like a family, so here is the next step.
From the Patriot LWM Blog:
The full transformation of the Patriot Land and Wildlife Management Services, Inc. social media to a fresh new look is nearly complete. Check out the all new look for www.PatriotLWM.com!