FDIC International 2018: If You Were Stranded on an Island…

Pipes and drums at FDIC

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…

Gregory G. Noll, CSP, CEM; GGN Technical Resources, LLC; Lancaster, PA: Tom Brennan. I miss his humor, his wit, and his dedication to the fire service. He would make me smarter while we laughed our way through every conversation!

Here’s another thought. Instead of just one person, how about a Fire Service Station version of “Field of Dreams” staffing an engine, a truck, and a rescue squad–the “Station of Dreams?”

            My Engine Company:

  • Bob McLeod Sarasota (FL) Fire Department and longtime International Society of Fire Service Instructors officer
  • Keith Royer, ISU Fire Service Extension and ‘Father of the Iowa Formula’ and key training resources in the 1960s
  • Leo Stapleton, Boston (MA) Fire Department
  • Alan Brunacini, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department

            My Truck Company:

  • Tom Brennan, Fire Department of New York
  • Robert Quinn, Chicago (IL) Fire Department Commissioner and ‘Father of the Snorkel.’
  • John Mittendorf, Los Angeles (CA) Fire Department
  • Francis Brannigan, U.S. Navy, and Building Construction author

            Rescue/Special Operations:

  • John Norman, Fire Department of New York
  • Fred Endrikat, Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department
  • John Eversole, Chicago (IL) Fire Department
  • Ray Downey, Fire Department of New York

Captain Bill Gustin, Miami-Dade (FL) Fire/Rescue Department: Among the living, I would choose Deputy Assistant Chief (Ret.) John Norman, Fire Department of New York, because I am a huge student and follower of his. I’ve read every edition of his tactics book and attend his classes at FDIC International every year. He has an uncanny ability to explain complicated concepts in a way that can be easily understood. His knowledge and experience go far beyond the FDNY; he studied fire protection at Oklahoma State University, designed sprinkler systems, and was a member of a small volunteer fire department. Despite all of his experience and his stellar reputation, Chief Norman is a humble man with great humility. He loves firefighters and the fire service. I would take a note pad and a pen with me and pick his brain cleaner than a chicken’s neck. He is a man I truly look up to.

My other choice is my Dad, Bill Gustin. Not only because he is my father but also because of his extensive knowledge and experience as a fire officer. After serving in the Navy in the South Pacific in World War II, he began his fire service career with the Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol. The Patrol was financed by the Fire Insurance Board of Underwriters; its mission was to reduce claims caused by water damage. As firefighters were fighting a fire, the Patrol would spread salvage covers to protect merchandise, configure water chutes to divert the flow of water, drain a building’s pipes to keep them from freezing, and cover holes in roofs cut by firefighters. In 1948, he became a proud member of Squad Co. 2, in the “skid row” area just west of downtown, of the Chicago Fire Department. During the 1950s, this area had one of the highest rates of civilian fatalities per square mile in the world. When my Dad was promoted to lieutenant, he was assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau, where he acquired a vast knowledge of fire and building codes, alarm and fire-suppression systems, and building construction. After his time in the “Bureau,” he was assigned to Engine 77 on Chicago’s West side. The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were times of intense fire activity in Chicago. His company, Engine 77, was second only to Engine 45 in number of runs and working fires. In 1962, he was transferred to Snorkel 1; the first articulating boom apparatus in the fire service. While on Snorkel 1, my Dad almost lost his life when he was caught in a building collapse. It took firefighters almost an hour to rescue my dad, who was buried in bricks, electric service wires, and electrical transformers while he stood at the turntable of the snorkel; he was not expected to live. The man operated at elevated train wrecks, building collapses, confined space rescues, machinery entrapments, ammonia refrigerant leaks, gasoline tanker fires, massive fires in grain elevators, high-rise fires, and airplane crashes. He was a man ahead of his time; he taught me early in my career: “Bill, don’t be afraid to give a fire a “dash” from the outside if your interior attack is delayed, whatever the reason.” Today we call that “dash from the outside” a transitional attack. I thank God every day to have been the son of such a tough, smart, experienced, and respected fire officer. I truly believe that I will see my Dad again when it is my turn to go to heaven; we’ll have a lot to talk about.

Read Part 3

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