The first day of the Andy Fredericks Training Days was a great success! The largest group ever to attend the annual three-day conference arrived at the communal breakfast buzzing with energy and brotherhood despite the early hour. As promised, the events kicked off right around 8am with some very touching opening remarks from several firefighters who knew Andy personally. From his hilarious antics around the firehouse, to his steadfast dedication to the job, the crowd was reminded of the sort of fellow he was—especially, why he would have been overjoyed to see everyone here learning these topics he held so dear. "Andy in a nutshell" was presented to us via a speech he made at FDIC in 2000, revealing his traditional, bread-and-butter approach to firefighting that he sought to inspire in everyone he met.
Carrying a rich history of America's earliest presidents and great thinkers, the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA, provided a gorgeous venue for the event. Groundbreaking for this memorial took place in 1922—stoneworkers completed the structure ten years later, undeterred by the Great Depression.
Presenting to the largest group ever to attend the event, organizers and speakers were happy to see so many hands go up when the crowd was asked who among them is a "first timer."
The opening presentation was provided by Robert Morris, the current Captain of FDNY's Rescue Company 1 (located in midtown Manhattan). A true veteran, and lifelong student of the fire service, Captain Morris has been one of New York's Bravest for over thirty years.
All firefighters are taught that a Halligan bar is one of the most useful and versatile tools in the fire service; however, a morning spent listening to an instructor with decades of first-hand experience provides a new respect for a tool that many new firefighters are never taught to use properly.
"When I started in the fire department, we didn't have fancy hydraulic tools or these new gadgets. All we had was an axe and a halligan bar, so we were taught how to make it work. When the Rabbit Tool [a hydraulic forcible entry tool] showed up, it pushed forcible entry training back by, I don't know, ten years. Guys were coming on with no knowledge of how to use the irons, because they thought they didn't need to."
As Captain Morris clearly shows, even verbally teaching forcible entry tactics is not a stationary activity.
Organizers and instructors stand amid a pile of goodies while selecting the winning raffle tickets. Prizes included a collection of Andy's writings, coffee mugs, and even a brand-new forcible entry tool for one lucky attendee.
Alexandria's fire safety mascot dog slides across the stage, much to the crowd's enjoyment. [Note: I felt it only appropriate to capture this hilarious, action-packed moment in the same style that won me the promotional poster contest. Thanks again! /RL]
FDNY Battalion Chief Thomas Dunne presents a new way to work your brain on a fireground; "Think Like an Incident Commander" aimed to keep everyone involved in an incident looking at the same big picture on the very same page.
Another multi-decade veteran of the FDNY, Batt. Chief Dunne has an easygoing manner that lends itself well to teaching. Practicing what he preaches, some of his first words to the crowd were about a person's presence and demeanor.
"The way you carry yourself, the way you act, the way you communicate, and the way you project yourself, are all going to affect everyone else. In life, in a fire… whatever you're doing, most of us have to take it down a couple notches."
Participants return from a short break rested, well-fed, and eager to continue. The Training Days will continue through Wednesday, covering additional topics such as high-rise fires and Rapid Intervention Team tactics (taught by Lt. Tony Carroll, of DCFD Rescue Company 2).
Everyone in attendance seemed to be excited for more of the top-notch instruction afforded by the speakers; there will certainly be more to come soon, as I take in more of this invaluable knowledge! I will unfortunately be unable to attend tomorrow's session, as I'm back at work. I will, however, be attending on Wednesday; follow the live Twitter updates from @AndyFredericks to keep up with what's going on as-it-happens, or check out the schedule to discover what topics are being discussed.
*** UPDATE: DAY 3 ***
Attendees participate in a donut-eating competition for the last of two highly-sought-after items; a Training Days challenge coin, and a bound collection of Andy's numerous firefighting articles.
Captain Dave Barlow of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department begins his presentation on attic and basement fires. The increasingly prevalent use of lightweight construction poses a hazard not only to Barlow and his crew, but to all firefighters in rapidly-developing areas.
A clip from the 1991 movie "Backdraft," a scene well-known to most firefighters. One character's monologue was loosely utilized by Barlow to explain that crews must understand how fire behaves in different situations in order to effectively extinguish it quickly and safely.
"Small spans, smaller compartments, smaller rooms. Access the attic from [these places] and exploit what you know about trusses to attack it safely… the important thing is to understand the principle of firefighting, not just the procedure. Don't be a cookbook firefighter!"
Captain Barlow stresses using hoselines in the right places as one of the key factors in firefighting.
"The problem isn't getting in there; we can do that. It's mis-application of water. See this house? We burned the roof off of it with two inch-and-three-quarter handlines already inside."
Lieutenant Fred Ill of the FDNY explains one of the funnier stories from the seminar; a very active storyteller, his body language is outdone only by his New York accent.
"So a buddy of mine and I are visiting the firehouse, about to head over to Rescue 1's company picnic. We're late, we've got all the beer, they're waiting… we find out from the guys that there's a job up the street; I grabbed my gear, but he didn't have his. He grabs the first thing he sees… and it's the Chaplain's turnout gear. I mean, this stuff is pristine. So we got over there and went in… it was a good one. He came outta this fire, and this gear looks like it's had thirty years on the job."
Lieutenant Ill and Lieutenant Chris Reynolds (pictured, also of the FDNY) presented a basic approach to garden apartment fires. These low-rise, multiple-dwelling buildings present their own unique complications from a firefighting perspective, especially since the quality of their building construction has been diminishing with each passing year.
"These things are built with math now, not mass. Used to be when you had to hold up a heavy load, you used a heavy piece of lumber beneath it. Now, they use protractors and compasses to hold these buildings up. They're just not as strong, and they fail on ya faster."
Just a couple of wiseguys.
Unfortunately, I was unable to finish out the rest of the day, and so missed two of the presentations. I wish to thank all the coordinators and instructors of the Training Days for putting on such a wonderful three-day event (which I will certainly be attending next year!)