I know you have all heard the same stories, “when I started we didn’t need SCBA” or “we use to ride tailboard, not sit in an air conditioned cab”. In 1983 I wore a metal helmet (hangs on my office wall), rubber coat, orange rubber gloves, and hip boots. My first real live fire training was the Hartford County Fire School in Bloomfield Connecticut. The ironic part was the class was called ‘SCBA & Firefighting’. The very first evolution was to put on your gear and head to the basement of the burn house, while the instructors started a smudge pot fire. This was a barrel of heating oil, in a windowless basement; it was very hot and smoky. Did I mention we left the SCBA outside? That’s right, in an SCBA class we made 2 entries without them on!
In my 31 years I have seen many changes in the fire service and for the most part they have been for the better. I don’t believe in change for change sake but I do believe we need to constantly evaluate new methods and equipment to find better and safer ways of doing business.
One of my favorite areas of improvement is with fire ground rehab and monitoring of our firefighters. My very first fire was a 6-acre brush fire. Rehab consisted of water from a hose or Coke for the young guys and beer for the older guys. In cold weather, we were told to stand next to the vehicle exhaust to warm up before heading back into the fire, most likely without an SCBA on. As I write this I can’t help but think how many brave men and women’s lives were or will be shortened by these actions.
Our vehicles are designed for firefighter safety and comfort; our PPE is better than ever, and provides a very good layer of protection if things go wrong. Thermal imagers, MDT’s, tablets, CAFS and real time video feeds to name a few have that have drastically changed the way we do business. Technology has made its way into the fire service despite us despite our stubbornness to change. How many of you old timers remember the old wet cell Wheat Lights? You can’t argue that they were better than a Survivor!
Change is always coming at us in the fire service and we should give it a good look before we dismiss it. Keep an open mind and look at both positive and negative impacts it will have before making a decision.
As always, everyone goes home.
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Dave Mottor began his fire service journey in 1983 as a member of the Bondsville Fire Department. In 1984 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a Fire Protection Specialist. After basic firefighting school he was assigned to the 21st Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Protection Flight in Anchorage Alaska where he remained until March of 1988. Dave returned to Western Mass and the Bondsville Fire Department until 1990 when he moved to Easthampton. He was hired as a civilian firefighter at Westover ARB in March of 1988 and remained there until March 1994. In June of 1990 he returned to the military as a member of the 439th Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Protection Flight until retirement in 2009 at the rank of E-9, as the military fire chief at Westover. During his reserve career he had many deployments with the highlight being deploying to Kuwait following the terrorist attacks in 2001. Dave served as the Deputy Fire Chief overseeing 2 fire stations and 33 firefighters. Chief Mottor joined the Easthampton Fire Department in 1990 as a call firefighter and was appointed full time in 1994. He was appointed fire chief in 2009. Dave is a member of the Board of Directors for the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts as well as the current Vice President of the Hampshire County Fire Defense Association.