If you were stranded on an island and you could pick one individual from the annals of the history of the American Fire Service to accompany you, whom would be your choice? This question was posed to some of FDIC International 2018 instructors. Here are their responses…
Mike McEvoy EMS coordinator for Saratoga County, NY: Dave McGrail, Denver (CO) Fire Department, with me. In my mind, he exemplifies all the characteristics that would help me survive. He’s a critical thinker, infinitely resourceful, a calm voice of reason, a person who does the right thing even when no one is looking, and one of the best brothers and friends I have had the privilege of knowing in the entire fire service.
Mike Gagliano, Seattle (WA) Fire Department and U.S. Air Force: Alan Brunacini. It is selfish, but I simply want to spend more time learning from this brilliant man. I want to soak in the truths that he came to know from so many years of getting things done–and done in the right way. We were carrying on a deeply stimulating conversation on the reasons fire service leadership forgets what is important in the streets and how to counteract the problem. That conversation had a long way to go, and I would so love to see it to its conclusion. I would engage the chief on how to practically pursue ideas while always ensuring that the people mattered more than any one process or procedure. He’d likely tire of my wanting to hear how he developed his unique leadership style and where some of that might fit into my approach. Finally, I would so enjoy the humor and thoughtful encouragement that so easily flowed from this once-in-a-generation leader. Laughing again with my friend and mentor would be an indescribable blessing. Getting rescued from the island would truly be bittersweet.
Cynthia Ross Tustin, chief, Essa Fire Department in Gilford, Ontario, Canada: Mike McEvoy. I might be stranded on the island; but he probably already had been there once or twice before and established hoards of local adoring fans. Clearly, I’d be stressed; but he’d totally have that covered as a psychologist and his book “Straight Talk About Stress.” If I’m injured—well, he is after all a nurse and a paramedic! How sick could I possibly get? And let’s face it, if he weren’t handy enough from all those jobs, he is also a firefighter. So, he’s basically MacGyver. Finally, he’s funny; entertaining; and, quite frankly, he’s great company!
Chief (Ret.) Rick Lasky, Lewisville (TX) Fire Department: Edward F. Croker, Fire Department of New York Chief of Department from 1899-1911. He was an innovator and a leader who had a passion for the fire service like no one else (“I have no ambition in the world but one, and that is to be a fireman”). His push for fire codes and his belief that fire prevention is where it all starts still rings true today. He’s a fighter and a survivalist and would get us off the island. If not, we’d be living there in a high-rise island hotel that was fully sprinklered, talking shop!
Deputy Chief Rudy Horist, McHenry (IL) Township Fire Protection District: Tom Brennan. He was the consummate truck officer; and as a good truckie, he would be able to help us figure a way out of anything we came across. I also think of how much I would be able to learn from him while we waited to get rescued!
Deputy Chief (Ret.) Anthony Avillo, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire & Rescue: A good-looking, smart, and able female firefighter. She would be good company, and we could take care of each other and share the survival tasks. And if we never get off the island, our mutual respect would get us through.
But seriously, Benjamin Franklin, the “founding father” of the American fire service and of the United States. An inventor and Brainiac, he would probably a figure a way off the island.
District Chief Michael Barakey, Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department: Retired Chief Harry Diezel, Virginia Beach Fire Department. He came to Virginia Beach from Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1974 and led the Virginia Beach Fire Department until 1997. During his tenure, he instituted a culture of training and prevention and supported Virginia Beach in becoming the sponsoring agency of VA-TF2, one of the nation’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s urban search and rescue teams in 1993. Chief Diezel was a visionary and dedicated himself to the nation’s fire service by working with other chiefs in the nation, including partnering with the late Chief Alan Brunacini to allow the Phoenix Fire Department and the Virginia Beach Fire Department share technical rescue training and techniques and command training. I would love to capture Chief Diezel’s ideas and thoughts while stranded on the island.
Assistant Chief Ron Spadafora, Fire Department of New York: Chief Ray Downey of the Fire Department of New York. I worked with him when I was a firefighter and he was the captain of Squad 1. He was a tremendous leader, firefighter, and mentor. He would find a way to get both of us off the island safely.