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Code 3 - The Firefighters Podcast


The podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, in about 20 minutes. We take one subject, one guest, and get it done. We don't waste your time.


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The podcast for and about firefighters, "Code 3" covers topics of interest to those in the fire service, in about 20 minutes. We take one subject, one guest, and get it done. We don't waste your time.



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How to Set Standards for Probie Training with Jesse Marcotte

This week’s show is related to last week’s. If you haven’t heard episode 344 with Jennifer Stanislaw, go ahead and listen to it—it dovetails nicely with this one. On this episode, we’re talking about the importance of setting standards for probie training. Years ago, that training consisted of handing the probie a mop as often as a ladder. It was designed to “teach a solid work ethic.” But just as hazing has (mostly) faded away in the firehouse, new firefighters expect better training on the techniques they’ll need in the field. Their bosses expect them to know those tactics as well. That’s why today’s guest says it's important to set the bar for probies and keep raising it. He has some ideas of how to do that. Jesse Marcotte is the training chief for the Northville Township, Michigan Fire Department. He is a member of the UL FSRI Training Advisory Committee. And he served as a board member of the ISFSI. He also spoke on today’s topic at FDIC 2024.


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Two-In/Two-Out: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed with Sean Duffy

Firefighters around the country are looking at the possibility of a new OSHA ruling very carefully. I’m talking about the two-in/two-out rule, contained in NFPA 1500. There’s a new report written by five prominent members of the fire service that says two-in/two-out doesn’t make firefighters any safer. Instead, the time wasted waiting for a RIC crew to get ready makes it more likely that civilian victims will be killed. The report uses data from Project Mayday to support this claim. It points out that when firefighters die in the line of duty, it isn’t usually in a mayday situation. It also says that if a mayday is called, it’s more likely that another interior crew member will make the save. The rule is routinely circumvented by departments that need to get inside a building but don’t have enough people on the fireground to do it. An OSHA ruling would add some enforcement teeth to NFPA 1500. The report’s titled, “Removing Two-In/Two-Out: A Modern, Data-supported Defense of Our Core Mission." It was written by Bill Carey, Sean Duffy, Nick Ledin, Chris Thompson and Scott Thompson. Sean Duffy is acting as the PIO for the group and spoke to me about the report.


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Avoid Death by PowerPoint and Still Teach a Class with Jennifer Stanislaw

From Day One in the fire service, the lecture is the standard teaching method. Sometimes, it seems like fire departments must keep Microsoft in business, what with all the PowerPoint software they must be ordering. And you know the instruction -- notice I didn’t say “learning” – keeps going like this until you retire. Want to be a Battalion Chief? There’s a lecture and PowerPoint for that. An Engineer? Yep, got it covered. Captain? Of course. Now, I know the fire service doesn’t like change. As Chief Brunacini said, "Firefighters hate two things—change and the way things are now.” But maybe it is time to teach differently. If you’ve ever lectured to a room full of Millennials or Gen Z, you know they don’t get much out of it. They’re on their phones. Here to explore some fresh ideas for teaching is Jennifer Stanislaw. She heads up the West Salem, Oregon, High School Emergency Services Program. She also has over 25 years of experience as a paramedic and volunteer firefighter.


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Using a Halligan Hook as a RIT Tool with AB Turenne

Every firefighter who rides an engine has a favorite tool: The Halligan Bar. As nearly all young firefighters learn, it was invented in 1948 by an FDNY Deputy Chief named Hugh Halligan. Not long after that, he created the Halligan Hook. Sometimes it’s called a New York Roof Hook. This six-foot bar is a favorite of truckies who need to open up roofs. But there’s another way to use the Halligan Hook: as a rescue tool. It takes a little creativity to see a bar meant for ripping open a roof as a way to save a firefighter's life. Today’s guest is here to explain how to do it. AB Turenne is the captain of training and safety with a career department in Middlesex County, Connecticut. He’s got 25 years on the job and is a certified Level III Fire Service Instructor.


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A Call to Arms with David Rhodes

If you were among those fortunate enough to be in the audience at the opening of FDIC 2024, you heard something special. I’d say it was a call to arms… a call to take revolutionary action. Chief David Rhodes spoke for about a half-hour, laying out a case for change in the fire service. His main argument: that the fire service has become too risk-averse. That the leaders of departments are so afraid of injuries—and of course, lawsuits—that they don’t want firefighters to take any risks on the fireground. Or even in training. He said that puts citizens in danger. And he said that change needs to happen, from the bottom up. It sure won’t come from the top down. Here to discuss that with me is David Rhodes. Chief Rhodes had nearly four decades in the fire service when he retired from the Atlanta, Georgia Fire Department. He currently serves as the Editor in Chief of Fire Engineering magazine. He’s also the Educational Director for FDIC.


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Why Are So Many Firefighters Ready to Leave the Profession? with Dr. Reggie Freeman

Fire departments around the U.S. are approaching a tipping point. At the same time career departments are seeing a drop in applicants, they’re also losing existing firefighters. This is a problem. Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was tough to get a job in the fire department. But now, fewer people line up for those spots. Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s just a natural cycle and it’ll change. Or maybe it’s something more. Here to discuss that with me is Dr. Reggie Freeman. He’s the chief risk officer for the HAI Group, based in Cheshire, Connecticut. He’s served as the fire chief of three departments: Oakland, California, Hartfort, Connecticut and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He’s also a member of the board of directors of the NFPA.


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How to Combine Safety and Aggressive Firefighting with Ryan Scellick

There’s a constant battle between firefighters who believe that safety on the fireground precludes aggressive tactics. The opposite is also true. What’s the compromise between the two? It seems as if firefighters don’t believe that it’s possible to be both aggressive and safe. It is, of course, and my guest today is here to offer some suggestions about how you can implement both. He’s no wimp—he puts Mrs. Smith first, his crew second, and his own personal safety third. Ryan Scellick is a Captain at the City of Pasco Fire Department, in Washington State. He is the co-owner of Young Officers on Fire which puts on annual conferences, trainings, and manages a national non-profit mentorship group.


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Storage Unit Fires: Look for "Residents" with Tim Thompson

What’s potentially harder to locate victims in than a hoarder house? A stuffed-full self-storage locker. But that’s exactly what can happen. And even if the victim’s not inside at the time of the fire, their activities may have caused it. Those storage spaces are frequently climate-controlled, and they’re cheap…maybe $100 a month for a small one. That makes them seem like a great place to live for someone who can’t afford to rent an apartment. They aren’t, of course, and occupants who choose to try living in one can become the victim of a fire they can’t escape. This week, my guest tells us about his experiences with homeless people who tried to make a storage unit home…and regretted it. Tim Thompson is chief of the Georgetown, Kentucky Fire Department. He’s worked his way up over 19 years of service from firefighter to the boss. He’s also a member of the Kentucky Association of Fire Chiefs.


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Fighting fires can also damage your hearing (with Brian Daboul)

Are you ready for this? There’s a whole class of hazardous chemicals that can damage your hearing, and they’re by-products of your average structure fire. Yes, that’s right: When you burn home furnishings, you don’t just get carcinogens. You get “ototoxic” chemicals. Now, the PPE you wear routinely for firefighting protects against this. But—just like the stuff in smoke that causes cancer—ototoxic chemicals are a threat when you least expect them: during overhaul and even standing outside a burning structure. And when you combine exposure to ototoxins with screaming sirens and fireground noise, well, it’s no surprise that firefighters are often retiring with substantial hearing loss. Here to tell you what you need to know is Brian Daboul. He’s chief of the Mine Hill Fire Department in New Jersey. That’s a volunteer department, and Brian’s paid job is in occupational safety strategy and program development. He is also the owner of BGD Safety and Compliance, LLC, which serves industry and fire departments.


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PFAS in Turnout Gear May Be Hard to Replace with Bryan Ormond

A recent study done at North Carolina State University took a look at PFAS chemicals used in turnout gear and came to some interesting conclusions. PFS layers are what give current turnout coats and pants their oil and water repellency. They're also a known carcinogen, so donning PPE made with PFAS is dangerous even before you step onto your engine or truck. Unfortunately, when the study looked at alternatives, it found that all oil repellents can also repel water, but all water repellents don’t necessarily repel oil. My guest on this show is Bryan Ormond, an assistant professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science at NC State. He also wrote up the results of the study.


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Last Man Out with Jeremiah King

One of the best ways to learn anything is by experience. A better way, though, is to learn from others’ experiences. That’s why we’re talking with today’s guest—to get some insight from someone who learned the hard way. Captain Jeremiah King has been with the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority for more than 20 years. But the story of this response takes place when he was about four years into his career. And as you’ll hear, that career—not to mention, his life—nearly came to an end one night on a structure fire in a large home. One of the best ways to learn anything is by experience. A better way, though, is to learn from others’ experiences. That’s why we’re talking with today’s guest—to get some insight from someone who learned the hard way. Captain Jeremiah King has been with the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority for more than 20 years. But the story of this response takes place when he was about four years into his career. And as you’ll hear, that career—not to mention, his life—nearly came to an end one night on a structure fire in a large home.


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HyperSight Vehicle-Mounted TICs with Stan Cannata

Anyone who has ever fought a wildland fire knows situational awareness is critical to safety and effectiveness on the fireground. But visibility, a key part of that awareness, is often limited by thick smoke in the wildland fire environment. Call it the fog of war, if you like. No matter what you call it, it’s tough to fight a fire when you can’t see through the smoke. That lack of visibility can lead to all kinds of trouble—especially vehicle accidents. Today, in this special edition of Code 3, we’ll explore one commercial product that can make the wildland environment safer for firefighters. It’s called Hypersight, built by RPX Technologies. It’s a tough, vehicle-mounted thermal imaging camera. It allows the crew in the cab to see through smoke as they drive. But it can show more than that, and as you’ll hear, it also has applications in urban firefighting settings. And joining me is Stan Cannata, to explain how the HyperSight system gives fire crews an advantage in dangerous situations.


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NFPA: Is it Doing the Job? with Bobby Eckert

The National Fire Protection Association seems like a pretty important organization. For example, Its reports are routinely used by fire departments to justify staffing requests. But not everyone is satisfied with how the NFPA operates. Some members of the fire service believe the standards for equipment service life are too inflexible. And there’s the question of who writes the standards in the first place. One of the NFPA’s loudest critics on social media is Bobby Eckert. He’s a Captain with the City of Camden Fire Department in New Jersey. Bobby also owns and operates Eckert Fire Tactics. We decided to ask Bobby to explain his concerns about the NFPA. We initially asked the NFPA to participate in a debate-style format with Bobby, but they declined the offer. Instead, they offered a representative who would do a one-on-one interview. We agreed to that, and I was able to ask questions of the NFPA’s Responder Technical Lead, Curt Floyd. Then we matched up Curt’s answers with Bobby’s questions.


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Firefighter mental health in small bites with Sheena Glover

If you’ve ever known a firefighter who committed suicide, you know how it can change your life. It may have come as a complete surprise to you. Or maybe you had been worried about the firefighter’s state of mind. There’s been a lot said and written about what we can do for ourselves to prevent suicide. But today, we’re going to talk about a program designed to help you intervene in another firefighter’s emotional crisis before it becomes a fatal one. It's called “Small Bites.” Because that’s how you fix an elephant-size problem…one small bite at a time. The program was developed by Sheena Glover. She is a captain with the Omaha, Nebraska Fire Department. She’s a 15-year veteran and holds several specialty ratings. Sheena is just the fourth Black female in the history of the department.


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10 Years Gone: The LODD of the Granite Mountain Hotshots (with Todd Able)

Friday, June 30, 2023, is the 10th anniversary of the deaths of 19 wildland firefighters in Arizona. They were hotshots, the kind of people who really do fight fire with fire. Led by a consummate professional, the team made a move that no one expected and no one can explain. That move caused the deaths of the entire crew except for a lookout, who was stationed some distance away. To help me tell their story today, I’ve enlisted the help of Todd Able. He’s a battalion chief with the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority. He is also an experienced Type I Operations Section Chief for wildland fires. And that’s where he was assigned on the Yarnell Hill fire.


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Wildland Firefighting Decision-Making with Chad Costa

It’s getting hotter outside, and that traditionally signals the start of wildland fire season in the U.S. Nowadays, of course, there’s no real “season” when wildland fires burn. The season can be all year long in some parts of the country. We won’t argue about the reasons why—suffice it to say, wildland fires are growing bigger and more frequent than in the past. And, as residents of the northeast U.S. can attest, they are starting to burn in less fire-prone regions. With that in mind, and considering that this month is the 10th anniversary of the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in Arizona, we’re talking wildland fires. This time, it’s a sort of primer on decision-making for those fighting fires in the backcountry. And some lessons learned from a guest who’s familiar to those who have listened to Code 3 for a while. Chad Costa is Assistant Fire Chief for the city of Petaluma, California. He’s had 24 years of experience working in both urban and wildland firefighting environments. That includes time at Cal Fire and as an Operations Branch Director for California Interagency Team 1.


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Are You (Still) In Shape For This Job? with Aaron Zamzow

How fit are you? If you’re newer to the fire service, say two or three years in, you’re probably still in reasonably good shape. After all, you had to meet minimum standards at the fire academy. But unless you’ve kept up with the physical fitness regimen, you may be getting a little soft around the middle. Or losing endurance. My guest today says it’s time to do something about that. Aaron Zamzow is a firefighter/training officer at the Madison, Wisconsin, Fire Department. He has 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer, for athletes and others. He created Fire Rescue Fitness and lectures everywhere. And he has a podcast, too, called Better Every Shift, on


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More on Reading Smoke with Phil Jose

On this episode, we’re talking with Phil Jose, the expert on reading smoke. As you may know—and as Phil likes to remind us—smoke is fuel. In most cases, it’s just waiting for the right conditions to ignite. We’ll discuss how to keep that from happening. Also on the agenda is a little talk about the relative merits of vertical ventilation. When do you go to the roof and start opening it up? It’s all about coordination. And finally, we’ll talk about when it’s time to change how things are done on your fireground. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Phil Jose retired from Seattle Fire Department as the Deputy Chief of Operations/Shift Commander after 31 years of service. He’s had the opportunity to work in the training division as a Lieutenant, Captain, and Deputy Chief. Phil is a popular seminar speaker around the country, a published author, and he also runs Ignition Point Training.


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"The Call We Carry" with Cody Shea

We’ve talked several times on this show about PTSD and its effects on firefighters. It’s a serious problem, one that affects nearly 40 percent of first responders. On this edition of Code 3, we’re going to talk about a documentary available on YouTube that brings the problem home in a very impactful way. It's titled, “The Call We Carry: Confronting PTSD in the Fire Service.” It’s quite a good documentary, packing a lot into just over an hour of screen time, and winning some prestigious film festival awards. The film was produced and directed by firefighter-paramedic Cody Shea. He’s been with the Tacoma, Washington Fire Department since 2018.


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SLICE-RS, Risk, and Saving Lives with Robert Avsec

This week, we’re going to make some people angry. We’re talking structure fires, risk, and SLICE-RS. If you’re a probie, that’s an acronym for Size-up, Locate the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish, Rescue and Salvage at any time in the process. Today’s guest says that, by following those steps in that order, you’ll have a less risky fireground. But what about those who advocate for RECEO-VS? That’s Rescue, Exposure, Confine, Extinguish, Overhaul and Ventilate, Salvage. That puts “rescue” first, which, while it may not be as safe for the firefighter, suggests that saving lives is the priority in a structure fire. But can using SLICE-RS result in more lives saved? How is that possible? I’ll ask that of Robert Avsec. He retired as a Battalion Chief with the Chesterfield, Virginia Fire & EMS Department after 26 years of service. He’s instructed fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, including 10 years with the National Fire Academy. He writes a blog and is a published author.