Episode 015 - Professional Development with Lt. Colonel Bill Smith

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The fire service is a para-military organization. But what does that mean? Are there things the military does that we should be doing? For this episode, we sit down with Lt. Colonel Bill Smith (United States Air Force) to talk about a couple of things that the military does much better than the fire service: professional development and recognizing our own people for their great work.

Our military does an excellent job of setting the path for anyone within their ranks that wants to promote; "here's where you want to be and here's what you've got to do to get there." It's a pretty simple idea, so why do so many fire departments struggle with it? What lessons for the fire service are there in how the military fosters growth with their personnel?

We also speak with Lt. Colonel Bill Smith about the hesitance of most firefighters to accept the recognition for "doing their job." The military does a pretty good job of it. They wear their medals on their Class A's to tell the story of their career; where they served, and what they've done. What lessons are there in that approach for all of us?

Also with us is Capt. Tom Burrell who has known Lt. Colonel Bill Smith for a very long time, and who was instrumental in getting us this opportunity to sit down.

Episode 014 - Criticism, Condemnation, and Complaining

Is there a place for criticism in your fire station? It might seem like a somewhat silly question, and most of those of us who consider ourselves do-ers within our departments might reflexively say "Hell, yes!" But if we dig a little deeper and ask ourselves who gains by criticism, the answer to that question gets a little more muddy.

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is on 3 of 4 of the reading lists on our site. Mr. Carnegie advocates avoiding criticism at all costs. 75% of us like his book enough to recommend it. So how do you recommend a book telling you not to criticize, but also effectively operate around folks that you want to hold accountable? We've got some ideas about reconciling that. Give this episode a listen, sit down with a couple of peers, and then talk about what you all think.

And if you want to criticize us or this episode...email us at info@combustiblethepodcast.com.

Episode 013 - Why Data Should Matter To Firefighters with Matt Hinds-Aldrich and Tom Burrell

If you're a firefighter who thinks this episode sounds like it's going to be boring, then you're exactly who needs to listen to it. It's not a debate on the merits of a 2 1/2 handline, but it might be just as important to your longterm future in the fire service.

We're very aware that most firefighters while at work prefer a computer that is on fire as opposed to reporting on a fire (and they might just let it burn.) None of us signed up to do reports all day. And we here at Combustible have often joked that the firefighter recruitment posters today should show a firefighter hunched over a computer. But while those sentiments about data are born from some very real frustrations, the fact that data is now a part of the fire service is indisputable.

For this episode we sit down with Matt Hinds-Aldrich (NFPA) and Captain Tom Burrell (DeKalb County Fire Rescue) to talk about data; specifically why firefighters need to change how they view data in the fire service. We also talk about how fire rescue departments need to support their personnel with data, how data is shaping the fire service as we speak, and how to avoid when data is used as an enforcement tool.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and please take a moment to rate us on iTunes. Check us out on our website CombustibleThePodcast.com

Episode 008 - MAFFC Origins with Tom Hancock and Keith Schneider

Every good series has an origins episode. Our origins won't involve altering time or the story, but it may answer some questions about how this whole thing came to be.

Tom Hancock and Keith Schneider are two of MAFFC's founding members and they sit down with us to discuss just what it took to start a firefighter conference, what it takes to keep going, and where we hope the conference will go from here.

Episode 007 - Challenging The Conventional Wisdom with Steve Kerber and Dan Madrzykowski

Steve Kerber and Dan Madrzykowski of Underwriters Laboratories are the most famous guests we have had on Combustible. They both have been on the forefront of research into some of the fire service's most deeply held beliefs about how we fight fire. Wind driven fires. Positive pressure ventilation. Flow Path. Sound familiar?

During this episode we talk to them about

  • What you do when you don't get the results you were expecting

  • The nature of presenting "controversial" findings to a very traditional group of people

  • Why you go to Sweden or New Zealand to get a doctorate

  • Just what it means to be an Honorary Battalion Chief with FDNY

  • Why research matters to the fire service

And as always, we have a war story or two and then unleash our Pivot questions on them and get some truly surprising answers.

Episode 006 - #BecauseOfFrank with Frank Martinez


When we here at Combustible asked Frank Martinez why he didn't discuss his cancer during the last podcast episode, he answered in a very Frank manner, "Because you didn't ask!" Fair enough. With newly published figures on firefighter cancer putting our risk of developing cancer at 68%, we really wanted to talk with Frank about his diagnosis, his outlook, his work on HB 216, and his advice for all of the rest of us.

This podcast is a special edition. Special because it doesn't follow our normal format, and special because Frank opens up to us about what is understandably a very personal issue for him and his family. Admittedly, cancer is a subject most of us would rather not talk about, or for that matter even listen to others talk about. But do yourself a favor and listen to Frank.

During the episode, it is suggested that we start to encourage each other to get tested, screened, and checked for cancer. We should all be the example for those around us. And when you do get checked, encourage others by posting to social media with the tag: #BecauseOfFrank.

Do it for you and your family. And do it #BecauseOfFrank.

Episode 005 - Slayin' It with Frank Martinez


(This podcast has limited explicit language which some may find offensive.)

Frank Martinez is a to-the-core backstep firefighter. He has spent a large part of the last fifteen years on one of the southeast's busiest technical rescue teams. And as Frank says, he's been slayin' it.

For this episode of our podcast we talk to Frank about what he feels is most important about being a tailboard firefighter and whether spending a career perfecting your craft on the tailboard (and not promoting) is an acceptable goal.

Our jumping off point for our discussion with Frank is "What do new firefighters owe the fire service?" As is our normal mode of operation, the conversation flows wherever it wants to go after that. We talk about:

  • Why We Hesitate to call MAYDAY

  • The Benefits of an Informal Critique

  • The Best Advice Frank Ever Got

  • Proving Yourself and Being Worthy

  • Being Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself

Frank answers our Pivot questions and gives us, what we now consider to be, our favorite war story so far in the short history of this podcast: The No Mas Cantina Fire.

Episode 004 - Getting The Nod with Captain Rick Meyers

From the left: Hatch, Meyers, Dobson, and Voorhies

From the left: Hatch, Meyers, Dobson, and Voorhies

When Rick Meyers pounds his fist on an iron table, the table sits up and listens. And you should too. For this episode of Combustible, we sit down to talk to retired Captain Rick Meyers, who has taught Forcible Entry almost every year at MAFFC as a co-founder of East Coast Rescue Solutions. Captain Meyers, who may have retired from riding rigs, maintains his passion for the fire service by teaching firefighters at conferences across the country.

During our conversation (the longest yet for our young podcast) we talk with Rick about:

  • Being a Boss

  • Working Outside of Your Comfort Zone

  • The Importance of Having a Trade

  • Education vs. Experience

  • Credibility and Endorsements (Getting The Nod)

Episode 003 - 28 Years Of Daring The Fire Gods With Assistant Chief Marty Greene

For this episode, we sit down with recently retired Assistant Chief Marty Greene. In his 28 years he served on some of DeKalb's busiest engine companies eventually promoting to run an entire shift. Our jumping off point for this conversation is the question, "What would rookie firefighter Marty Greene think of Assistant Chief Marty Greene?" From there we talk about flipping the light switch, the political dangers of equipment testing for your department, the easiest decision for the incident commander, and daring the fire gods. We throw in a war story or two and end with our firefighter version of the Pivot Questions.

NOTE: This third episode also finds us with our first correction: during my introduction of Chief Greene I say that DeKalb is 170 square miles when it's actually just over 270. Not critical, but a mistake made due to me not being better prepared with a scripted introduction. We also can't seem to figure out why one of the audio tracks on every podcast comes out muffled. We're working on fixing that, but we hope you stick with us for the content; not the polish.


Episode 002 - Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Toughness with Pabel Troche

With a unscripted (and unedited) podcast like ours, you don't really know where the conversation is going to go. We always start our podcasts with a single question for our guest. Our "jumping off point" for this week's discussion with Captain Pabel Troche is, "How do you take the format and lessons of a non-firefighting class and turn them into a successful class for firefighters?"

A few years ago Captain Troche participated in a military style endurance challenge and from that saw an opportunity to make the fire service stronger by adapting it for firefighters. From that starting point we talk about the ideas of quality people, individual vs. team training, the fire service as a "forced marriage," firefighter addiction, PTSD, and the organic nature of a class. And like most good conversations, at the end you find yourself wondering how you ended up where you did.

Episode 001 - with Shane, Hatch, and Bill

We're proud to announce (again) the beginning of a new initiative to bring you even more in our efforts to build better firefighters. In the simplest of terms, MAFFC is firefighters training firefighters. So, now we're podcasting firefighters speaking to firefighters frankly about the fire service.

Our production is a little bare bones (the first was recorded in Shane's kitchen with iPhones,) but we promise the content is all there. In this first episode we ask Assistant Chief Shane Dobson and Battalion Chief Mike Hatcher if they could turn back the clock 24 years, "What would they tell themselves as a rookie firefighter?" The conversation takes off from there covering plugging people in, the nature of promotions, luck on the fireground, and many more topics.

At only 1 hour long, we're not asking you to make a huge investment of time. Download the podcast and give it a listen as you drive to work, mow the grass, etc. And then be on the lookout for our next episode which we're already working on bringing to you.

Episode 011 - Hatch Goes To Washington


This is the second part of our two part podcast detailing (our own) Mike Hatcher's involvement in the I-85 bridge collapse. As a result of the truly great job that Atlanta Fire Rescue did that day, a few members of the department were asked to be a part of a delegation of first responders from the incident who were invited to the White House.

It's not exactly a debate on the pros and cons of a 2 1/2, but you can't deny that it isn't everyday one of us gets invited to the White House to meet the President. And regardless of your politics, it's an invitation to the White House to meet the President. You probably aren't going to get one of those in your lifetime, so listen to Hatch.

Episode 009 - On Scene, Do The Ends Justify The Means?

On this episode we attempt to tackle the very prickly topic of breaking your department's rules for the sake of "doing what we took an oath to do." We're not sure we provide any real answers for our listeners here, but we hope that at the most basic level, we show that the simple act of discussing these topics is beneficial in itself. If a single listener takes something from this podcast and it prompts a kitchen table discussion at the firehouse, well, then we've done our job here. We originally had a guest lined up for this discussion, but that didn't work out. So what you get is a gathering of the usual suspects.

We also take time to answer two listener provided questions.

Episode 010 - Vertically Venting an Interstate

Sooner or later in your firefighting career, you come across an incident that you really didn't fully anticipate. You find yourself looking at the hellish reality in front of you and think, "Now what?"

On the evening of March 30, 2017, a stockpile of what the DOT called "non-combustible" material caught fire under a large elevated span of Interstate 85 approximately a mile north of the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta. As the fire rapidly unfolded on most Atlanta residents' televisions, those of us not on scene watched as a 100' long, five lane wide section of interstate pancaked to the ground below. One of our regular moderators, Hatch, just happened to have had a front row seat as the incident commander.

For this podcast, we sit down with Hatch and let him walk us through how he ended up on scene, what he was thinking, and how he processed what was going to have to be done.