Steve Skipton: You Live and You Learn

By Chris Mc Loone
Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editor

I first met Steve Skipton in 1987 when we were freshmen in high school. Although he wasn’t taking many pictures back then, he had more pictures of cars than I had ever seen and he could tell you anything about any of them. He loved cars. Steve changed schools during our freshmen year, and it wouldn’t be until the following year at the Philadelphia Auto Show that our paths crossed again. How fitting I found it that we met up at a show on cars. We caught up quickly, and then our paths took us separate ways again until 2003 when I noticed his name come across a local Web site covering fire incidents in the Philadelphia, PA, area. The pictures he was taking of working fires were photos we could all learn from, and he took a lot of them. I figured there couldn’t be more than one Steve Skipton, so I contacted him, asked if he had attended our high school, and once I got past the, “Yeah, why?” we were catching up and learning about our new connection, the fire service.

Steve’s enthusiasm for the fire service and as an EMT was contagious. He couldn’t get enough of it. And, his love fast cars, and fire apparatus, was manifested in the pictures he took beyond fire scenes. He loved Seagrave fire apparatus. His dream was to work for Seagrave, and he recently fulfilled that dream when he accepted a job as a sales representative. Another dream was to be a career firefighter, which he also fulfilled when he was appointed a firefighter in the Goose Creek (SC) Fire Department.

We were supposed to catch up at FDIC 2014, but recent health problems kept him in South Carolina. Little did we know at that time that these issues were the result of cancer.

We lost Steve on August 23, 2014. I recall when I was first catching up with him in 2003 that we were talking about where our lives had taken us. He summed up one life experience of his with the line, “You live and you learn.”

I like to think that all who knew Steve learned something from him. Whether it was his enthusiasm for the fire service and his place in it, his zeal for life, or his love for his family—immediate and the fire service family to which he belonged—we have all taken cues from a man who was larger than life to us. Godspeed, Steve. We know you’ll be looking down on us during our next run.

Steve was a contributing photographer to Fire Engineering (FE) and Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazines. Below you'll find some of his covers for FE.

Fire Engineereing, January 2008: Steve Skipton cover

Members of the Camden (NJ) Fire Department Engine 10 advance a 2½-inch handline onto the first floor of this two-story duplex home. The fire attack was coordinated with the members of Ladder 2, who were tasked with venting and searching the building. The open interior staircase of a private dwelling allows products of combustion to climb rapidly into the sleeping areas. Position the first hoseline to protect the interior stairs; this buys time for trapped civilians and the firefighters attempting to rescue them.

This photo of a fire in Camden, New Jersey, is a near-perfect example of well-coordinated fireground operations, as members perform several essential tasks simultaneously.

This photo of a fire in Camden, New Jersey, is a near-perfect example of well-coordinated fireground operations, as members perform several essential tasks simultaneously. Personnel perform vent-enter-search on the second-floor porch roof; from that location, they will enter the windows to conduct a primary search. An engine company advances on the fire, assisted by that same ventilation. Some firefighters raise additional portable ladders for access and egress while others stretch additional hoselines. As you can see in the photo, electrical wires in the front of the building may hinder the placement of an aerial ladder to the roof of the fire building.

Companies in Camden, New Jersey, arrived to find a heavy fire condition on the first floor of this two-story row house. As companies stretched the attack line, they encountered heavy fire at the front door. They began an aggressive interior attack that they coordinated with aggressive ladder company operations. Members performed vertical and horizontal ventilation, began searches, and proactively removed several window bars to prevent a Mayday.

Companies in Camden, New Jersey, arrived to find a heavy fire condition on the first floor of this two-story row house.

Members of the Bellmawr (NJ) Fire Department faced a very heavy fire condition in a daytime private-dwelling fire. The actions of the Bellmawr Police Department and an aggressive interior search by the fire department resulted in the removal of 16 occupants, triggering a large EMS response. The aggressive actions of these first responders despite a heavy fire condition resulted in multiple civilians being alive today. Calling for additional EMS support early and using all available resources on scene effectively often result from well-managed interagency training and good interagency relationships.

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