Episode 039 - Optimism, Pessimism, and Reality


Do you consider yourself a glass half-full or half-empty person? What would others say about you?

In this episode we discuss the nature of optimism versus pessimism. We debate whether the fire service is an inherently optimistic occupation. Or is a pessimistic view of the world an unavoidable by-product of the line of work we do and the suffering we see? Can you be optimistic and still face the realities of a situation? How seductive is the allure of pessimism, and how hard it is to maintain optimism?

Episode 038 - Off The Hook with Mike Chester


For this episode, Mike Chester calls in with a question for the group. Chester asked, “What do you tell a good, and I mean good, Fireman/EMT who is so jaded with the departmental politics that it affects their passion for the job?” We all probably know someone on the job who fits that description, and each of the group has a suggestion for Chester on how to approach this particular problem. (In keeping with Combustible tradition we avoid offering anything that might resemble a clear-cut solution.)

Episode 037 - Off The Hook with Captain Rick Meyers


For this episode, Captain Rick Meyers (Ret.) calls in with a question for the group. Rick was actually one of our first guests back when we started the podcast, and that episode (Episode 004) is very worth a listen. Rick’s question was: “What departments have tool assignments and riding positions in their policies and procedures?” We tackle that question and give it some heavy consideration, as well as a bunch of other things Rick wants to talk about.

Episode 036 - Am I A Good Firefighter? (What Makes A Good Firefighter Part 2)


This episode wasn’t intended to be an episode, but sometimes we have private discussions and the “record” button gets pushed. This was the conversation that followed our previous episode, “What Makes A Good Firefighter.” When we ended that episode, we couldn’t stop talking about the subject. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, we suggest you start there.

Where in the previous episode we debated what makes a good firefighter, we now turn the magnifying glass and assess what we think about ourselves as firefighters. What follows is perhaps the most honest conversation we’ve put out yet. We admit some really uncomfortable stuff, but that’s what this whole thing is about, right? Combustible was started because we wanted to capture those honest discussions we have around the station kitchen table. This episode is the closest we’ve gotten to that goal so far. Let us know what you think.

Episode 035 - What Makes A Good Firefighter?

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It seems like a pretty simple question. If you were to ask the public what makes a good firefighter, they probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell you. But asking a group of firefighters is quite a bit more problematic.

On this episode, we explore what each of us thinks a good firefighter is. We get Lt. Danny Dwyer’s perspective and debate whether you can teach someone to be courageous. Then things get really interesting in what is one of our most contentious and lively debates. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Episode 034 - Listener Responses: It All Comes Down To...


We’ve recently started asking weekly fill-in-the-blank questions on our Facebook page, and the first question generated a lot of great responses. In this episode we talk about our listener responses to the question, “It all comes down to _____.” Sitting in for Hatch is one of those listeners, Payton Owens, who helps us discuss and theorize about what our listeners meant.

Episode 033 - Fast Track Or The Wrong Track?


Fast Tracking…Lateral Transfer…Whatever you want to call it…The idea of bringing persons into your organization who are already trained (and possibly experienced) can be pretty enticing. It eliminates the insecurity of putting someone through a lengthy academy (which you have no guarantee they will graduate.) It’s vastly cheaper than spending $50,000 per recruit to hire and certify a firefighter (one metro-Atlanta department’s estimate), and it takes a fraction of the time. So it’s a hands-down win, right? Not so fast.

The whole idea of fast tracking is predicated on the certification component. It gets considerably more messy when we start to consider the different types of certifications for firefighters that are out there, and to what extent we are willing to trust a piece of paper to tell us about a person’s abilities before we put them on a truck or by our side in a burning building.

For this episode, we explore the complexities of fast tracking: How do you verify skills that the holder of a certification supposedly has? To what extent do you go? Why do we accept some certifications at face value but not others? What are the legal and moral obligations of fast tracking someone? Is there an acceptable level of risk and uncertainty involved in fast track programs?

As per usual, we have more questions than answers, but we hope our discussion prompts discussion wherever you are. Please follow us on Facebook, leave us your comments there or on this page, and you can always email us at info@combustiblethepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.

Episode 032 - Connor's A Peach


Most of us probably have someone that we call a “mentor,” but that’s a really vague label for something that we probably haven’t thought enough about. If someone else considers you a mentor, are you living up to that person’s expectations of that relationship? Are you even aware that they consider you a mentor? And are you really mentoring, or are you coaching?

For this episode, we use a TedTalk (that Bill prepared as a class assignment) as a jumping off point for a discussion on mentoring and coaching. Most of us don’t have experience with formal mentoring programs, so we end up making it up as we go. Bill did that and got it all wrong. What if we’re all doing it wrong?

Episode 031 - When Does Hollywood Get Firefighting Right?

Some of us had never really considered that some of our listeners might not be firefighters, up until one of those listeners asked us to talk about the reality of fighting fire vs. what shows up on television and film.

In this episode, the crew goes over what they think about some of the better-known firefighting films and discusses how those films might negatively affect the non-firefighting public. We also talk about the irony of Hollywood exaggerating aspects of the job for the sake of entertainment, when most firefighters already find the job entertaining.

Episode 030 - How Close Is Too Close?


How well do you know the person above you in the chain of command? How about the person below you? When your buddy got promoted, did you think he changed? In this episode, we discuss how close you want to be with the people you work with in the department. It’s a sweet spot that is ridiculously hard to find, especially if you promote and end up supervising some of those people you are really close to. Will being too close affect your ability to supervise?

We also discuss social media, free speech, and whether your boss actually “drank the Kool-Aid.” You know, easy non-controversial, the opposite-of-landmine topics.

Episode 029 - Wives Hang In The Balance


We’ve joked that this was possibly the most dangerous podcast we’ve ever recorded. Turning the microphones on and encouraging our wives to turn the filters off was a little bit of a risk, since we didn’t know what they would say, but it’s a risk we’re really glad we took.

Our wives, Shannon (Shane), Robin (Hatch), Nicole (Pabel), and Paula (Bill) tackle how they’ve dealt with us, our careers, and the effects it has had on life. Holidays celebrated at the fire station. Missed birthdays and anniversaries. Multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. Stress bleeding over into the home. These wives have seen a lot of it, and are speaking candidly about the things they did right, and the things they did wrong trying to negotiate those challenges.

We hope that our firefighter listeners take this opportunity to hear a different perspective from spouses who have been part of the fire service for going on two decades and definitely have insight on how to survive. We also hope some of our regular listeners take the opportunity to encourage their spouses to listen in and realize that a lot of the stresses they are feeling aren’t theirs alone.

And a big thank you to our wives. Without them, this life we’ve chosen and this very podcast would never have been possible.

Episode 028 - Shane's Mulligan

Our Mulligan Series continues with Shane’s tale of regret about an apartment fire that probably should have gone a little better. But like all of our mulligans, we let bad early decisions, shortcuts when we know better, and our own egos get in the way of doing a great job. It happens to the best of us. What also happens to the best of us is that we learn from our mistakes and become better firefighters. Learn from this one.

Episode 027 - 16 Minutes Under a Collapse in a Structure Fire with Clark Glass


16 minutes doesn't sound like a long time, unless you're pinned under a collapse, unable to move, and running out of air. In that situation, every second becomes an eternity. And there were 960 of those agonizing seconds.

In this episode, we sit down with Clark Glass and talk to him about his MAYDAY. A MAYDAY he was unable to declare for himself. A MAYDAY that he had absolutely no ability to self-rescue or aid in his rescue. A MAYDAY where all he could do was control the space between his nose and his facepiece.

Episode 024 - House Dues And Don'ts


We've never heard of a station that doesn't have some form of house dues, and most of us have been at a station where someone questioned whether or not they should have to pay them. Some don't drink coffee. Some don't use salad dressing. Some watch television more than others.

On this episode we use the issue of house dues as a starting point to discuss what it means to be part of a station. Does separating yourself over house dues do harm to your role on the team? And are there other ways you might be separating yourself that are harmful?

Episode 023 - What Motivates Someone To Be Unmotivated?

A listener wrote to us about some senior firefighters being disengaged with less experienced firefighters in the station and basically asked why won't they share their knowledge? Is it deliberate or just lazy? Are they holding their knowledge hostage as a means to retain power? Or are they simply at a point where they just don't care about the newer firefighters? D) All of the above.

Episode 022 - Bill's Mulligan

Yes, that’s Shane in the red helmet. And yes, that’s the second and third floor in the garage he was in.

Yes, that’s Shane in the red helmet. And yes, that’s the second and third floor in the garage he was in.

Mistakes. We all make them. And if you've been a firefighter long enough you probably have a few fires in your mental rolodex that you wish you could go back in time and do again. There's a clinical term for it: regret. And while none of us have that ability to relive the past, we do have the ability to try and ensure that other firefighters don't make the same mistake we did.

This episode features Bill's mulligan, and it's the first in the series. We hope you learn a few things from our discussion, and we hope you are sharing your own mulligans with the guys and gals at the station.

Episode 021 - Lessons From 30,000 Feet


In this episode, we explore the lessons that can be gleaned from Captain Tammie Jo Shults' radio traffic after her Boeing 737 lost an engine on April 17, 2018, killing one passenger and endangering the remaining 148 souls on board. Her radio traffic has been held up as an example of how to remain calm in truly desperate circumstances. So what lessons in that radio traffic are there for the fireground? Clear and concise communication is a must, right? Well, if you know our podcast, you know it probably won't be that easy. We don't always agree, and sometimes we end up surprising each other. Maybe there's a surprise in here for you.