Meet 5 Everyday Heroes
April 19, 2017
To honor their courage, Honeywell, a leading provider of firefighter turnout gear, co-funds scholarships for 20 firefighters to attend the national Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC) April 24-29, where they receive advanced training in the latest techniques for fighting fires so they can share that learning with their colleagues.
Here are a few of this year’s scholarship recipients:
Dan Gatz, Lieutenant-EMS
De Pere Fire Rescue, DePere, Wisconsin
Years as a responder: 15
Scariest experience (so far): Being the first on-scene at a 100-car pile-up. It was an extremely foggy morning with zero visibility on the roadways. While on the scene, accidents were actively occurring behind us and in the opposite lanes of traffic while we were performing an initial assessment and triage. Two people were killed, and 54 were transported to area hospitals.
Most important protective gear: Our turnout gear and SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus). Structural firefighting is a low-volume, but high-risk situation. With the recent data showing a number of responders getting cancer or other career-ending medical conditions, our protective gear is imperative.
Toni Russell, Lieutenant/Training officer
Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado
Years as a responder: 6
Best instructor: My first instructor in the fire service was tough, and I didn't care for him in the beginning. However, he motivated me to become the best I could be. His statement on the first day of class: "You all have now lost the right to be unfit. Your brothers and sisters depend on you being in shape to do this job." That really hit home for me. I lost 40 pounds and quit smoking because of him. He is now a good friend, and still a mentor. My other has to be my husband Tom. He is also a firefighter, and always had my back.
How you reduce your team’s risk: Always mask up! Even during overhaul. Keep gear, especially hoods, clean. Training, training, training. “Train like you work.”
Bradley Roy Davidson, Supervisor of Protection Services
Hudbay Minerals Fire Department, Flin Flon, Manitoba
Years as a responder: 35
Scariest experience (so far): My coldest-temperature battle with fire was when it was about 42 degrees below zero. While fighting the fire, my chief had a bystander take my partner and me back to the hall, because we "did not look very good." I was almost offended as I did not want to leave. But it turned out that we were each big frozen pieces of ice. We could not bend our arms or legs. We were frozen in the position we were in when we were holding the fire hose. They slid us into the back of the pickup like cordwood. And we went back to the fire hall on our backs with our arms frozen — extended as if we were still holding the hose.
Jeff Gavlik, Deputy Chief
Illinois Valley Fire District, Cave Junction, Oregon
Years as a responder: 22
Coolest experience (so far): Having a young child that I had helped extricate from a head-on vehicle crash months earlier say to me, "Thank you, I want to be a firefighter to save others when I get older."
Your most important protective gear: All of [it]. However, having gear that allows for effective freedom of movement and dexterity is really important. Personally, I like a good pair of structural gloves that allows for fine-motor dexterity use.
Brittany Bishop, Firefighter/paramedic
Tampa Fire Rescue, Tampa, Florida
Years as a responder: 6
Coolest experience (so far): My coolest moments have happened during the everyday business of being a firefighter or instructor. For example, hanging upside down on a rope seven stories in the air. Sitting in a flashover container and getting to watch the progression of a fire and how it works. Driving a ladder truck down the road, thinking about when I was a kid driving a little “Model T” go-kart and never imagining I'd be in the driver’s seat of a million-dollar vehicle. These are moments I know I would not have been afforded if I had chosen a different career.
Scariest experience (so far): When I had a year in, we were working at a structure fire, and me and a brand-new guy -- his very first day on the job -- were instructed to go into a residential structure. The fire was in the attic and the hose team went to the right so they could put water on the fire. Me and the new guy went left to start pulling ceiling, trying to see how far the fire had progressed. He was five or 10 feet away from me — when the ceiling collapsed on us. Everything went black. My first thought was "Crap, I killed the rookie!" Worst feeling ever. But he was fine and was able to follow the beam of my flashlight back to me.