Fire Yenta 7/19/02

By Diane Feldman, Managing Editor

A department in the Southeast had a working fire in a house owned by a “pack rat.” You have seen this type of house-newspapers piled to the ceiling; old mail, circulars, and catalogs on every surface; items saved over the years “just in case they come back in fashion.” (I have a friend like that, and I always say, “If she ever had a fire in her house ….”) According to a captain at this house fire, the owner came out of the house, and his face and neck were black-the firefighters thought he’d been burned by the fire. Turns out, he was covered with palmetto bugs (you Northeasterners read: BIG cockroaches) that had nested in one of his numerous piles of newspapers and had been disturbed by the fire.

After more than four years of work and two previous attempts, it looks as if the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue will finally receive “Accredited Department” status at the August 22 meeting of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) in Kansas City.
Toledo has received “deferred” status after its first two site visits. Deputy Chief John “Skip” Coleman, chief of fire prevention for the department, says that both visits were fair: “We were shown areas where we were deficient and we worked very hard to correct those deficiencies. We are a much better department for the effort.” Chief Michael Bell told the Commission in August 2001 in New Orleans: “We are not quitters! We will give it another shot and be back next year!” After receiving the final vote in Kansas City, the department must verify that it can still meet the criteria for being accredited.

One department had a deputy chief who was bragging about his diet. “I’m losing like crazy” is all the members ever heard from this guy. He was losing, but not like crazy! The members switched the deputy’s bunker pants with another member’s who was two sizes larger than him. At the very next fire, the deputy put the pants on and was holding the waistband out with his thumbs, exclaiming, “See, I’m losing like crazy!” (He was wearing a size 46 pants and he was a 42!) The members all knew, but he didn’t. They just encouraged him to keep losing. Even funnier was watching the 46-inch-waisted deputy trying to get in to the 42s!

Fire Engineering is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, making it the oldest fire service publication. The November issue will have special coverage of this historic event. If any old departments would like to contribute information to our anniversary coverage, please e-mail me (

There are lots of fire chiefs around the world, but only a select few can qualify to be designated as a “Chief Fire Officer” (CFO) by the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. Those who are have demonstrated through their education, leadership, and management skills that they possess the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities required of a fire department professional. It is a rigorous selection process but a great honor if it is bestowed. Good luck, Chief Wallace. You deserve it.

If you have a tidbit for this column, email Diane Feldman

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