Hook and Irons
The Flynn Effect April 22 2013, 3 Comments
Much has been written in the journals and periodicals about the new generation of firefighters and how they are different from previous generations--not as worthy, not as smart, and more self-centered. We bemoan how they 'should be' and don't spend enough time getting them where they need to be. Certainly, at MDFR we have seen our share of questionable employees pass through our house. But I won't categorize the younger firefighters by their worst examples as each generation has its share of 'less than motivated' employees. Instead, I find most of the probies to be intelligent in ways that often surprise and sometimes humble me. And I have no doubts that tomorrows firefighters will be smarter than I am. But I do occasionally find them to be lacking and disappointing in ways that I've come to understand is a result of today's society.
But first let's talk about how they're smarter:
James Flynn is a researcher from New Zealand who discovered and coined The Flynn Effect. The Flynn effect is an explanation for the steady rise in IQ scores from generation to generation. He contends that the rise in IQ scores proves that this generation is more intelligent than the generation before and so on and so on. The effect is caused by each generation growing up with the increased benefit of looking at the world with 'post-scientific' spectacles. We classify, we analyze and we think more abstractly. In general, according to Flynn the rise in IQ scores is largely due to increased reasoning skills. Those increased reasoning skills allow us to solve more complicated problems than the previous generations. Additionally, more time is spent on mental pursuits than ever before. Proof is in the internet, the video games, the tv, the fantasy leagues and so forth.
And I can buy all of this. I believe James Flynn and hope he is right. I want my son to be smarter than me and I want him to benefit from the research and work of my generation. In the station, what I observe from my young guys allows me to generally agree with the Flynn Effect although as a good Captain, I will never admit that any of them are smarter than I was at their age. I can say I honestly spend very little time explaining the ideas of fire growth or the incident command system. These concepts and the importance of understanding them seem clear to most of the young guys. In fact, these are the things that most of the young guys cling to and quickly understand. I can also say that most of them can reason through tactics and strategy scenarios as well as most of our experienced chiefs. These are the areas that truly impress me.
The problem in the fire service right now is something I'll call the 'Y Gap'. I call it the 'Y Gap' because this is the generation that seems to suffer the most from this problem. The 'Y Gap' is, the distance between intelligence and physical skills. If the distance is short, you probably have a good firefighter on your truck. The good firefighter is intelligent, shows good foresight and has good hands-on skills. They can swing an axe, work a saw and don't buckle with the fear of heights. Additionally, they know when to put these skills to use. The 'gap' that I see is an increase in intelligence and a decrease in physical ability. Many of our recruits have never mowed a lawn, changed their own oil, worked a chainsaw, or swung a hammer. Instead, they pay someone to mow their lawn, change their oil and if they need to nail something they use a nail gun instead. We receive these guys without the base knowledge of mechanics and form used to do so many things on the fire ground. This is the area that most of the new guys suffer and the area that the academies do not focus on. So we get guys who can tell us the phases of fire, but have no idea what a two stroke motor is.
The answer is to go back to the beginning--take your probie to the saws and teach them why it's a two stroke engine and how it works. Then, let them cut scrap metal until they look like their not scared of the saw anymore. After that, challenge them to make cuts of increasing skill and so on until they know the saw well enough to cut any material in any fashion you ask. None of this takes intelligence. None of it takes reasoning or analytical skills. What it takes is form and practice and with enough of it you gain muscle memory--and with muscle memory you gain skill. And that is why I will always respect the old guys like my dad, who, while driving to a fire years ago felt the truck die to an idle at his feet. He popped the cab, saw that the throttle spring was gone and replaced it with a piece of the elastic chinstrap on his helmet. He made it to the fire (was last in) but he made it. And he made it there because he has common sense and grew up working on cars and performing a lifetime worth of manual labor.
So, if you are one of these new guys, I suggest you start changing your oil, mowing your own lawn, digging out your own stumps even though your intelligence and reasoning skills might tell you that there is an easier way to get it done. You never know, it just might save your life one day.
101 Rules for the New Firefighter April 10 2013, 63 Comments
1. When working at a new house for the first time, shut-up, work hard, and pay attention. I can promise you that everyone is paying attention to you.
2. The young firefighter knows the rules, but the old one knows the exceptions.
3. Let the tool do the work.
4. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.
5. "Twenty-five years from now you will be more disappointed by the the things that you didn't do than the ones you did."
6. Don't make a scene and never disrespect your brother.
7. Never take the seat that faces the television when sitting at the dinner table.
8. When in doubt, take a halligan.
9. Two hands. Two tools.
10. Never claim to be what you're not. Time reveals all things.
11. If you don't know what you're doing, say so.
12. When approaching a fire scene, it is imperative to slow down three blocks before arrival.
13. Suck it up.
14. You shouldn't worry when the guys make fun of you. You should worry when they don't say anything at all.
15. Give Credit. Take the blame.
16. Never turn your back on the fire.
17. When things go wrong, don't go with them.
18. Always show up to work at least a half-hour early. There is no better gift you can give to guy or gal your relieving.
19. Never trust the hand lights on the truck. Buy your own.
20. Don't gloat. Don't brag. The guys will do it for you.
21. Take pictures often.
22. Seek out the busiest units and the best officers.
23. Drink coffee.
24. Don't tell war stories to non-firefighters. No one thinks its as exciting as you do.
25. Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
26. Don't be so eager to get off probation. The time you spend riding backwards will be the most fun you have in your career.
27. Never be the last one to the truck, or the sink.
28. Be the last one to bed.
29. Don't be afraid to fail
30. Drill. Drill. Drill
31. Never respond to criticism in an e-mail.
32. Surround yourself with smart people.
33. Maintain a healthy fear of this job.
34. Stay committed to being a life-long student of the fire service
35. Share your ideas and observations. You never know it could save someones life.
"I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."
36. Learn to cook at least two great meals.
37. Read John Norman's book, Fire Officers Handbook of Tactics
38. One fire sticker on your car is more than enough.
39. Don't complain about how many calls you had last night. No one cares. Least of all, the people that are working 9 to 5 jobs while you're napping.
40. Have pride in your department, but more for your station.
41. Be precise.
42. One of the best ways to learn is to teach--even if its teaching what you just learned.
43. Don't panic.
44. Befriend the driver. You won't get anywhere without him.
45. Go down fighting.
46. If you're carrying more than one knife, you're a moron.
47. Be careful what you put on paper or e-mails. You can't take it back.
48. Don't scribble in the logbook.
49. Learn how to swim. You don't want to be the guy that can't go near the water.
50. When you're a guest at a house (on overtime or just there for the day), follow their rules.
51. Offer to help before you are asked.
52. The phone and the doorbell are always for you.
53. Just because you have the uniform, that doesn't make you a firefighter. . .It just makes you a city, county, or government employee. Your peers will let you know if you're a firefighter or not.
54. When spending money, good quality leather boots are always worth the investment.
55. Never call out sick on a drill day.
56. If you don't have kids, Christmas is not as important to you. You should not be asking for the day off.
57. The one true measure of a successful shift is returning home safely.
58. Don't date a co-worker.
59. Carry two wedges and 20' of webbing.
60. You will find no better camaraderie than in a firehouse
61. Don't talk about the other department you worked for. No one cares.
62. Participate in a good practical joke.
63. Introduce yourself. Don't be offended when you're not remembered. You're not memorable--yet.
64. Treat your body well. You'll be glad you did.
65. Always have $20 in your wallet. No one wants to take you to the ATM.
66. Learn your territory. Know it like the back of your hand.
67. When you are out in public, never criticize your own department. You can make up for lost time on your next shift.
68. Take the stairs.
69. Don't show off. Impress.
70. When using a power saw, patience, form--not strength are needed to make the cut.
71. Choose the right blade.
72. Fire is always changing and you cannot be stationary in your attitude to something that is always changing.
73. Never criticize a fire or a call unless you were there yourself.
74. Don't wear your fire t-shirt to the gym unless you plan on giving mouth to mouth. Trust me, its never going to be the 18 year old co-ed with sweatpants that read, 'juicy' across her butt.
75. Be patient with the ER staff. They can't help that they chose such a miserable career.
76. Dorms are for sleeping. Turn the tv off and hang up the phone.
77. Don't go cheap on the ice cream and the coffee should be from Dunkin Donuts.
78. Courage is not the lack of fear, it is acting in spite of it.
79. You are what you do. Not what you say.
80. One of the most difficult and dangerous things to do on a fire scene is backing a truck up.
81. Pace yourself.
82. A fellow firefighter who is not willing to share their knowledge is suspect.
83. Avoid gossip
84. The common sense approach is usually the best way.
84. Stick to the plan. You haven't been at it as long as you think you have.
85. Follow instructions.
86. Read John Mittendorf's book Truck Company Operations.
87. Attend fire conferences. You'll see that your department is not the center of the universe and there are other guys that are already doing it smarter and better than you are.
88. Be the guy that everyone has to say, " take a break. You're making us look bad."
89. If your department allows it, invest in a leather helmet.
90. Always look up and around and read Brannigans book Building Construction For the Fire Service. If you can't make an educated guess as to how a building will perform under fire conditions, you are putting yourself in danger.
91. Demand more from your officer.
92. It is a good idea to carry a multi-tool.
93. Never defend the liar, the cheat, or the thief.
94. When your officer tells you to take a nap, it's not a joke or a trick. He wants you to be worth a damn at 3am.
95. You don't clean a seasoned cast iron skillet with soap and water.
96. Shaving your arms is not cool. It's a good way to contract MRSA.
97. I'll take the chubby firefighter that can work all day over Mr. February who has to eat six meals, drink three protein shakes, and is no good to me after one tank.
98. Always eat dinner with your crew. Your diet is not as important as family.
99. Never ask the guys to lie to your spouse when he or she calls the station.
100. When it's your time to drive, always remember that you're now responsible for all the lives in the truck.
101. The day you show up to work hungover, or sleep deprived is the day everyone is going to need you.
I've actually got more than 101, but I thought I'd like to see if anyone has anymore. That's all for now.
The Decisive Moment April 05 2013, 2 Comments
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.
In photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson used to speak of the decisive moment. The moment when all things come together within the frame of a viewfinder to make the perfect photo. That same moment, if not acted upon that passes and is gone. Afterwards, the geometry, the expressions, the light never come together in the same way again. The decisive moment refers to the single critical split second in which an event or experience culminates. The term also seems to define photography itself as a medium. It is the pause button to life around us. One frame equals one moment.
In the fire service, every fireman throughout their career will receive at least one chance to act--one chance to make a life changing difference in someone's life. The decisive moment will come and no one will be able to say when or where that moment will come. You can work the slowest truck and pray to be left alone, but over the course of twenty-five years rest assured the decisive moment will find you.
After the moment passes, you will remember it in one of three ways:
First, that you captured the moment because you had spent your whole career preparing for it--that there was nothing more you could have done. The concepts and the skills required to act in that moment had been rehearsed so many times that you didn't even have to think on that day.
The second way you will remember the decisive moment is to feel fortunate that you were able to guess and choose the appropriate thing to do and luckily everything turned out alright. Perhaps you were fortunate to be with someone who knew how to act during that moment.
Finally, the way I hope none of you remember their 'decisive moment' is with shame and regret, pushing it to the farthest confines of your mind hoping to forget it because you had not done all you could to prepare for that day. You dreaded drill time. You hid from the busy houses and chose to bid the slowest trucks regardless of who the officer was.
Our Lady of Angels School Fire
In the end though, we can't always control the outcome and sometimes our best preparations and efforts go unrewarded and unnoticed. But when the decisive moment comes and your mind captures that one image that will live with you forever, what will you think when you look back on it?
I hope you will say, 'I was there, I was present and I did all I could have done to prepare for that day.'
Chris Dilley, Airman, Photographer, Firefighter March 25 2013, 0 Comments
I'm constantly trying to find the positives in our, 'have it now', 'everything is news,' electronic world that we all live in. The negatives of our virtual world are glaringly obvious. Posts of the dinner you shared with your girlfriend and the endless recounts of the daily workouts are certainly the most mundane and negative outgrowths of Facebook and Instagram. The electronic monitoring of our friends and acquaintances seems excessive and at times obsessive, but there are positives and here is one opportunity I would never have had without Facebook.
Shortly, after Brian and I launched our company, we got a shout out from Chris Dilley, a Florida firefighter and a veteran who was deployed with the 165th Airlift Wing out of Savannah, GA--working overseas in support of the troops. Being friends with Chris on Facebook, I was able to see his occasional status updates and his stunning photos. I've still never met Chris in person, but those posts helped me to feel and see, even if only partially, what he was doing overseas. We kept in touch and when he returned I asked him if he would share a few photos with Hook & Irons Co. documenting his time there. The attached photo essay is a revealing glimpse at one of the cogs that make the military machine run. Chris, thank you for the photos.
I am assigned to the 165th Airlift Wing in Savannah Ga, part of the Georgia Air Guard, but we were there with Reno, Nevada Air Guard and active duty & Air Force reserve from Wyoming & Colorado.
Maintenance. Fixing an issue as troops board the aircraft to move around the war zone.
A very low shot of a Reno C-130.
Myself & MSgt Tim Kraus flying to Iraq.
Tim and I, Baghdad airport control tower in the background.
Baghdad International Airport, Iraq.
Destroyed armored vehicle. We believe that this was a Iraqi BMP vehicle that was destroyed during the first Gulf War circa 1991.
Shop photo of the electricians.
Photo of me inside one of our C-130's. I volunteer with the Orange Park Fire Dept (they are a 1 station dept in the middle of Clay County). The fellas sent me some stuff while I was deployed and a few dept stickers, which I placed in random places. If you look on the overhead you can see the dept sticker.
The USO tour brought the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders out for a visit before Christmas.
This is what a empty cargo bay of a C-130 looks like. I took this one at night with a long shutter exposure.
What its all about. Loading supplies for the war effort. This is a typical day for us, a few pallets of gear and some passengers to move into & around the war zone.
This is a shot of some night maintenance on the #4 engine. Portable light carts used everywhere for night lighting. The guy in the far left of the image is MSgt Tim Kraus, a full time guardsman and a volunteer firefighter buddy of mine. He volunteers with Bulloch County, Ga.
This C-130 is from Wyoming. It's one of the MAFFS modified Hercules that is tasked in the summer with aerial firefighting out west. This aircraft was airborne on 9-11 and flew blood and other medical supplies from the west coast to NY after the terrorist attacks. It's nose art is slightly weathered, but it's still pretty moving.
A rare creative moment that I shot of a worn prop with the state markings in the background.
I bummed some USAF bunker gear and went into the burn building for a round of interior fire photos during a training burn. Felt like a baked potato. The photo next to it is not a typical sky. I had to capture that rarity.
On the Importance of Following March 03 2013, 4 Comments
"Every hour spent on the Caine was a great hour in all our lives-if you don't think so now you will later on, more and more."
-Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny
On New Years Eve when my wife asked me what I resolved to do in 2013, I could only reply with a shrug of my shoulders and silence. You see, any statement made to my wife would be remembered. She is that uncommon person who actually keeps her resolutions, working at them doggedly until she succeeds at them--all of them. So, when she asked me, I knew I would be held accountable. She would remind me later, if only in a joke, how quickly I had forgotten my resolution.
So the New Year came and went and I hadn't resolved to do a damn thing. Sure, I want to lose weight, work on my fitness level, strive to be a better Captain, but I do that constantly (not always successfully). I thought about leadership and my constant struggle with it. When you become an officer in the fire service, you are constantly judged, but if you care about the job, there is no harsher critic than yourself. Without fail, I spend most of my first day off analyzing the previous shift and questioning where and how I could have done better.
Leadership is key. There have been volumes written on the subject. There are thousands of inspiring quotes and there are hundreds of pages in the fire journals written by men that are masters of their craft and there are examples everywhere of heroes who have led men under the most trying circumstances.
I thought about this on my drive to work throughout January and into February (still no resolution). 'Maybe I'll truly focus on my leadership skills.' I thought about this as I listened to The Caine Mutiny, an audio book Christmas gift from my family. The book is gripping and powerful. It is no wonder that it is considered one of the best novels of the twentieth century. The Caine Mutiny is the story of four Captains of the USS Caine as they steam through WWII sweeping for mines and protecting larger, more important and newer ships in the fleet.
To be certain, as the title suggests, there is a mutiny. But by the end of the book it seemed to me that this was not simply a book on leadership styles—it’s key qualities and it’s shortcomings, it was a book about following. It was a book about lack of faith and lack of discipline.
The book and some uninspiring events and fires in the recent months have led me to think about this idea—the discipline to follow, that most unglamorous trait that seems to be endangered and near extinction in our society. The discipline to follow even when you don’t agree is dying and nearly dead. In the past we could subvert our disagreements because we believed in the greater good and we believed in the machine that kept us safe and prospering. This discipline is what wins wars and builds businesses and empires.
Firemen are filled with ideas, better ways of doing a job, and we are fantastic critics with the hindsight of prophets and the logic and common sense of arm chair quarterbacks.
I am no less guilty.
I have muttered curses and gone on tirades that are worse than the ones I have witnessed by my peers. I have thought, ‘we should’ve done it this way,’ or, ‘this would have made more sense,' but at the end of the day I am not in the Chief’s position. I do not have the view from the mountain top and I am not aware of all the things that led to the decision they made at any particular moment.
Therefore, the best I can do in moments like these, is simply, shut-up. Close my mouth and do my job. Trust that even if the mechanics of the thing, and even if the outcome are not as I would have done it, that our bosses are working with the same goal that I am. And that is, to help as many as possible and to bring home safely those for whom I’m responsible.
So, going into March, a whole three months late on my resolution, I resolve to have more faith in those that are charged with my care. Even if I believe they are misguided. Even if they are unmotivated and they display all the traits of Captain Queeg. I resolve to do that most difficult of things: I will have faith that even if they may not be the ‘right man for the job,’ they are in that position now and at the root of it all we both share the same goal. And that is to keep each other safe and to bring a successful conclusion to each and every tour.
Our Lady of Angels Fire December 01 2012, 1 Comment
Today marks the 54th anniversary of Our Lady of Angels Fire that devastated so many lives and marked one of the most tragic fires in American History. The fire occurred at Our Lady of Angels School on the west side of Chicago and killed 92 children and 3 nuns. Here is an excerpt from a previous Chicago Tribune story about the fire:
"Max Stachura stood outside the burning building, begging his little
boy, Mark, 9, to jump into his arms. Children were falling all about the
father and he caught or stopped the fall of 12 of them. But little Mark
was too frightened or he didn't understand his father. Mark didn't
Fifty years later, Mark's mother has the day in crisp focus, and adds a missing detail.
As Mark stood at that second-floor window, fire to his back, he held a
small statue in his hand and waved it proudly through the black smoke,
hoping his father would notice. Mark had won the statue that day a
figure of an infant Jesus for being first to answer a quiz question.
The fire began at the foot of a stairwell in the basement of the school about an hour before school was scheduled to let out for the day. The fire which started in a trash barrel went unnoticed for 10-20 minutes filling the stairwell and the 2nd floor (which did not have a fire door) with smoke. Fire department units arrived within four minutes of being called, but
by then the fire had been smoldering unchecked for possibly 40 minutes.
It was now fully out of control. The fire department was also hampered
because they had been incorrectly directed to the rectory address around
the corner on West Iowa Street and lost valuable minutes repositioning fire trucks and hose lines. Additional firefighting equipment was summoned
rapidly, but by then it was already too late for most that were trapped on the second floor. Stories from the firemen and victims from that day are truly horrific.
Our Lady of Angels fire brought sweeping changes in school fire safety regulations which were enacted nationwide, including mandatory sprinkler systems, fire doors, and requirements for specific building materials for the construction of new schools. Some 16,500 older school buildings in the United States were brought up to code within a year of the incident. We've attached a short docu-film about the fire and if you're interested in reading more about the fire, its cause and the investigation afterward, you can click here.
Hugh Halligan's Masterpiece Revisited November 28 2012, 5 Comments
When we created Hook & Irons Co. we came up with the Signature Line as way to pay homage to the parts of the fire service that are historically significant-- the parts of the fire service that so many of us feel passionately about. We brainstormed over so many things during those first days, but always, and without question, we were certain that we wanted to create a shirt honoring every fireman's favorite tool, the Halligan bar.
Hugh Halligan on right
Hugh Halligan is an icon of the fire service. With FDNY, he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief and is remembered as a 'fireman's fireman' working on many of the busiest companies in the city. But, he is known best for the tool he invented that is still carried on nearly every fire truck in America. While today's versions may have been refined a bit, and are now built by different manufacturers, they are very nearly the same exact tool that Halligan invented in the 1940's.
The original Halligan tool was made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ lbs. This was a great improvement in strength and weight over its predecessors, The Claw and Kelly tool. The standard bar was approximately 30” in length, with a 15/16” shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork was a minimum of 6” long tapered into two well beveled tines. Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. And stamped into the steel of the forks of the original Halligan tool was Hugh's signature and the letters AM + DG. Chief Halligan was a very religious man and it is widely believed the letters stood for the Latin phrase , Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or “for the greater glory of God.” This phrase was a favorite of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Pope John Paul II routinely used it in his writings. He would print AMDG in the top left of every page he wrote. The + sign is widely believed to represent a cross.
When creating the shirt, it was important to us to include these elements into the design. We used the original advertisements as inspiration and we picked colors that we thought were as hard-looking as the drop-forged steel of the Halligan tool. The typography is chosen and inspired from the ad, as well as the slogan, "Yes! It is an Ugly Bar." The ribbon at the bottom of the shirt (also taken from the ad) represents the Boston Fire Department who was the first to recognize the genius of the tool and put one on every single truck in Boston.
The genius of the Halligan tool becomes apparent in the hands of a skilled operator and when properly used – provide protection to the arms, hands, and body of the holder during forcible entry operations. Pound for pound, it is the best tool on any rig and paired with a flat-headed axe, the Irons are a Truckie's best friend.
To this day, there are fire companies who still carry and use an original Halligan tool on their rigs. Tools that are nearly 70 years old and still working to this day. Yes, it is an UGLY tool! and yes we are very proud to offer Hook & Irons second Signature Tee--The Halligan Tee.
*All the research for this blog and the t-shirt were done on-line. Information was gathered from a wealth of stories and articles, conversations and forum posts. Thanks to Rob Fisher, Irons and Ladders, and Hugh Halligan's own article entitled, "The Halligan Tool" which appeared in a 1950 issue of WNYF for which most of this research was taken.
Random Gift Ideas --- Independant and American Brands November 26 2012, 0 Comments
This is our first year open for the holidays and since launching our company, we've met and developed relationships with one great indie brand after another. So we thought we'd highlight a few of the companies we think are making quality products into one blog entry. By supporting these companies, you're not only buying American, but in most of them you're supporting firefighter run companies. Best of all, these are original, well-thought out gifts that most firefighters would love.
Leatherhead Concepts is a great little outfit out of California. They're making custom helmet shields, radio holsters, suspenders, straps, and other leather goods. Ordering a gift from Leatherhead ensures that you'll be giving a truly original gift. Most of the items they make can be customized with initials or engine company designations. Customized orders take extra time. So get on it quick if you want something from these guys for Christmas.
Declaration Clothing is not a firefighter run company, but they are all American--an indie t-shirt company that only makes shirts that celebrate our country's history. If that's not enough. They make some pretty dope designs that follow the H&I moniker, "put some meaning behind what you wear." Check em' out.
Another great idea for the chef in your life is Code 3 Spices. Code 3 is co-owned by a St. Louis Area fireman and police officer. Both are grill masters and after years of competing they decided to put out their own special blend of bar-b-que rubs. These guys just launched their business. You could be the first to say you discovered em' before they made it big. Check em' out here.
They are not an indie brand, but I'm digging Leatherman's new OHT. OHT stands for One Handed Tool. This is Leatherman's first tool like this and perfect for the guy that wears gloves when he works. The OHT is an industry-first tool featuring spring-loaded pliers and wire-cutters
so you don't tire your hand adjusting and readjusting your grip. Leatherman tools are made in America and backed by a meaty 25 year warranty. You can pick it up here.
Finally, another firefighter that has come out with a truly original idea for the holiday season. Gerald Little, a firefighter from Miami-Dade has written a children's book called The Key to a Magical Christmas. This book is for families that don't have a chimney in their house or apartment and want to answer the question of how Santa gets in your house on Christmas eve. The story book comes with a 'Christmas Key' that you can hang on your door for Santa. Best of all, the key has a voice recorder so your children can record a message for St. Nick, and he can leave a message for them on Christmas morning. You can learn more about the book and order one here.
These are just a few of the products you can buy this Christmas that support American made products and the independent spirit. Happy Holidays from H&I.
Where We Stand October 25 2012, 0 Comments
Today, just over a month after the launch of Hook & Irons we have been overwhelmed by the support received from the firefighting community. We've made connections and friends in ways we would've never suspected, and received help in the most unlikely places.
Most surprising though is the support we've received from non-firefighters, friends of firefighters, and people who just appreciate the fire service. The thing about firefighters is we are a tight bunch and can be pretty exclusionary. Once we become firefighters and join the brotherhood those around us that we love often find themselves on the outside of our war stories and inside jokes. They get a glimpse into our lives and our passion, but they don't necessarily get the 'invite' to be a member.
What we're discovering is that Hook & Irons Co. is for everyone who loves the fire service. It's for everyone who respects the best of who we are and what our profession represents. And when Digital Arts magazine interviewed Tom Lane about our brand we were blown away. It's not just the firefighters that are H&I company members, but graphic artists, history lovers and people who just dig the designs, the brand, and what we all stand for.
And that is what makes us most proud. If you'd like to read the article in Digital Arts, you can click here.
Close the Book October 11 2012, 10 Comments
This week, my department released a very short, simple memo. It stated that on Monday October 8, 2012 Miami-Dade Fire Rescue would no longer maintain a hand written logbook. Perfunctory and to the point, the e-mail was sent to every firefighter in our department.
There wasn't a pause, a moment of silence, a last alarm, or even a mention of the tradition we killed in the name of efficiency. No one said a eulogy and no one rang a bell for the thousands of officers that had carefully documented everything that had happened on their watch at their station on any given day in Dade County. To think about the millions of calls our department has run in almost a hundred years is one thing. To see the volumes of logbooks that document every one of them is another.
Why was I so bothered by this change? Every other officer I talked to seemed thankful that this extra bit of work was being lifted from our shoulders. Don't get me wrong, at three o'clock in the morning there is no higher form of drudgery than sitting down and documenting some call that was anything but an emergency. Why, after five day, does this change still bother me? This was something that I had a hard time putting my head around. I'm certainly not a technology hater or a doomsday prepper. I have my iphone in my pocket. I'm on Facebook. I love having the TIC at my side going into a fire. And I'm sure the department has all of our documents secured on servers in fireproof rooms and virtual iclouds. Then it hit me.
Those logbooks--those documents written in so many different handwriting styles, are the only substantive evidence of the daily work we do. Those books are the only thing that you can pick up, feel, read, and see what that day--any day cost us. You can see it in the chicken scratch of tired officers or the careful letters of men who are not used to writing much more than their name. But most of all, you could walk in before your tour, run your finger down the column of calls and see if your brothers had a fire, a rough night, or if the gods were kind and let them sleep.
So this blog is not so much about blasting technology. It is more a warning to consider the things you leave behind in the name of efficiency.
What was lost today? Today I lost that moment in the morning when I sit with my coffee and write the names of each member of my company--that moment where I sit and consider their strengths and weaknesses and how I will use them in different situations. Sure I will still do this. I'll just have to find another way. And for me, writing these names was a reminder to myself, a contract that I am beholden to that states that I'm responsible for the safety of each firefighter at my station. If you don't believe me you can look for yourself and see it written in black and white on the page.
There isn't a blinking screen in the world that can provide that same feeling.
Red Snow - Remebering the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 October 08 2012, 0 Comments
“It was like a snow storm only the flakes were red instead of white”
At 9 p.m October 8, 1871, a small fire that started in a barn would quickly become one of the most historical events in
Fires at that time were common throughout the city.
The fire burned for three days and was finally snuffed when a light rain washed over the city. In that time, the deadly path of the fire had destroyed an area about four miles long and 3/4 mile wide, encompassing more than 2,000 acres. Lost to the inferno, were more than 73 miles of roads, 120 miles of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property (about 3 billion dollars in today's economy). The final sum turned to ash about a third of the city's valuation. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 100,000 were left homeless.
After the fire, the city recovered 125 bodies. Final estimates of the fatalities range from 200–300, considered a small number for such a devastating fire. In later years, other disasters would claim many more lives, but The Great Chicago Fire remains
Pay It Forward September 20 2012, 0 Comments
Hook and Irons Co. was born with one philosophy, pay it forward. Our idea was simple; we would help the fire service reconnect with its history using the tenets of early American craftsmanship to build our apparel line. Through meaningful, simple designs, we are creating shirts that are more than shirts, they are historical threads and conversation pieces. Whether you are active, retired, volunteer or just someone who loves the spirit of the American fire service, we want you to feel proud wearing our clothing. Firefighter or not, being a part of the brotherhood is as simple as knowing where we, as Americans come from and honoring that feeling everyday of our lives.
Recently, we received an e-mail that made us proud and re-affirmed our belief in the Hook & Irons project:
" Thank you for making something that makes me feel like I'm still part of the brotherhood. I spent 10 years as a volunteer helping other people because of things I witnessed in my youth. I was not motivated by the paycheck but doing my part of being a responsible human being.
When my time with the fire service was done, I felt like I was on the outside. Sometimes hearing the comments from active firefighters has been very disheartening.
Then one day something happened. I was walking through a store and a young man walked up to me and said, " You don't remember me but you saved my life. At that moment every sore muscle and sleepless night I had on the job was worth it. I do remember you Eddie! I told him. Never in my life did I ever feel so humbled. God saved Eddie that day, I was the tool he used.
-PaulPaul served on Engine 7474 as a firefighter / EMT at Coloma Lotus Volunteer Fire Department California
Richie Stewart and the Social Club September 08 2012, 3 Comments
In the early 1800's middle class Gentlemens Clubs were popular in most major cities. These were later referred to as Social Clubs. It was a place where people would escape everyday life and could meet, drink and tell stories. It wasn't uncommon to see patrons playing bar games, listening to live music or enjoying a fine rolled cigar. Modern day social clubs have evolved over the years.The original concept has slowly become what we know today as our favorite watering hole. After a long tour of duty, these bars are commonly filled with firemen telling war stories or laughing over the pranks they played on the new guy. These are the times when we celebrate the brotherhood of the fire service.
While researching photos and the history of the fire service we came up with the idea to create our own Social Club. We wanted to have an outlet where our fans could come together to celebrate the fire service and it's traditions. A band of brothers who cherish the history of the fire service and want to carry on its legacy. We want the Hook and Irons Social Club to be there when the bag pipes are filling the streets and when the bartender rings the bell for the last call.
When we set out to create the Social Club, we had one artist in mind. Richie Stewart.
We pitched him the idea and he immediately jumped on board. You see, Richie lives in Boston,one of the epicenters of early American Social Clubs, where he is no stranger to a tall glass of golden goodness. We looked through his logos and agreed on a concept; simple, clean and bold. He took his inspiration from catalogs of old Americana union logos, and a few weeks later he sent us this gem.
The bold typography and his artistic renderings of a drop of water and a lick fire represent "firewater" perfectly. We love the double meaning. Finally, Richie rounded out the design with a smoldering cigar. Richie Stewart's art is unmistakable and timeless, if your interested in seeing more of his retro inspired work, click here.
With the logo complete, the Hook and Irons Social Club has come to life. We invite you to proudly wear the seal of what Hook and Irons Co. represents. There is a lot more to come from the Social Club. Until then, like us on Facebook so you can share a pint with us at our next gathering.
Ben Franklin Was Here September 08 2012, 0 Comments
When creating the Signature Line, we decided to begin at the beginning of the American fire service. We wanted to create a shirt that honored Benjamin Franklin; the man whose ideas and articles envisioned and called for what would become the fire service that we know today. On December 7th, 1736, he and four friends founded the Union Fire Company. This was the first fire department that was started independently to serve anyone who needed fire protection. Prior to the Union Fire Co. fire brigades were run by large insurance companies to protect their own clients.
The Union Fire Co., which survives today as Engine 8 of the Philadelphia Fire Department is one of the oldest organized fire brigades in the United States. When the Union was formed it saw its ranks quickly filled to the agreed-upon maximum of 30 members. After that, latecomers were urged to start their own fire brigades thereby increasing the fire protection and coverage throughout the city. Within a short amount of time many new brigades sprung up with names like Heart-in-Hand, the Britannia, and the Fellowship. To belong to one of these companies was a mark of honor and sign of devotion to your fellow man and community. George Washington, for example, was a member of his local volunteer fire company in Alexandria, Virginia.
It was with this thought that we wanted to pay homage to Ben Franklin and his thought that, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Without his activism, the fire service might look very different than it does today.
This is our first offering in our Signature Line. We hope you like it. We put a lot of thought and research into creating this limited edition shirt. Our goal was to make something we think Ben Franklin himself would've worn. Put some meaning into what you wear and come celebrate our history.
This shirt was farmed, milled, manufactured and printed in the USA.
The Eagle Has Landed September 08 2012, 2 Comments
When we sat down with Tom Lane to come up with the Hook & Irons symbol, we threw around a bunch of ideas for our version of the 'Nike Swoosh', but nothing ever beat out the eagle--that proud iconic presence that sits atop most of our helmets. After doing some research on the eagle's history, we took some photographs of the eagles on our own helmets and turned them over to Tom.
The origin of the eagle on the modern fire helmet can be traced to around 1825 when an unknown sculptor created a commemorative figure for the grave of a volunteer firefighter. The figure on the grave was that of a firefighter, emerging from flames holding a sleeping child in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The figure wore a helmet with an eagle on it, which soon became part of the helmets worn by firefighters to this day.
Even though the eagle's practicality is often questioned and technology has devised better ways of affixing a firefighters unit designation to their helmet, this is one battle that time and technology has not won--yet. And we love that.
The Hook & Irons eagle was hand-drawn, painstakingly sketched and then inked. Our design was built by hand, embodying everything that is great about the fire service--everything we fear that time and technology might one day change.
Til then, wear it with pride.
Bill Noonan - Hook & Irons Featured Photographer July 20 2012, 0 Comments
Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.
We Are Hook & Irons July 18 2012, 0 Comments
Well, if you're here reading this right now, then you are proof that a couple of firemen, given enough time, determination and help can get anything done. To put it plainly, we have no experience with web design, graphic design, clothing design or any other thing you might need to get a business off the ground. What we had was an idea and the desire to make Hook & Irons happen. The idea is simple. We want to create clothing and accessories that truly honor the history and tradition of the fire service with designs that are simple, clean, and meaningful. We thought that if we found the right people to help us create fashion-forward designs we could build a clothing line with timeless designs that we would be proud to wear.
We have been motivated by certain truths. The first being that there are thousands of other firefighters out there that love the fire service at least as much as us, thousands that live the lifestyle every day, thousands that are proud of the tradition that they were hired into. The other truth that gave us the confidence to 'put our money where our mouth is', is that we were both curious and dumb enough to see if we could pull this thing off.
A benefit we didn't realize when we incorporated and started down this path was that Hook and Irons would give us a chance to throw a spotlight on artists, craftsman, firefighters and companies that we respect. The first person that we found as much by coincidence as anything else was Tom Lane, our graphic designer.
As we started looking through old fire ads and catalogs, pictures of antique fire trucks and monochrome photos of the 'old days' we knew that we'd have to find someone who studied and loved the hand drawn typography of the early 1900's. Easier said than done. Why should anyone hand draw their letters when Photoshop has thousands of fonts to choose from. And with a few mouse clicks you can manipulate, stretch and warp those fonts in any way you want. That's not what we wanted. We wanted a logo with the personality of a hand drawn sign on a cobble stone street and the beauty of a hand built fire truck from the early 1900's. We had gathered hundreds of photos and vintage ads and no one. . . .I mean no one got it. Everyone wanted quick and easy, flashy and fast. Then we found Tom.
From our first conversation with Tom we knew we had found a true artist who was already doing exactly what we needed. We gave him access to our photos, our motto, and the style we were shooting for. A few days later, he sent us this photo directly from his sketch pad.
He had used that early 'gaslight style' that we like so much and to put it over the top, he had incorporated pike poles and the fork of the halligan right into the logo. Needless to say we were more than a little happy--and impressed. He had captured the essence of what we were hoping for on his very first draft.
Things progressed quickly from there and within a week, he had created our mark and the other pieces needed to visually capture a brand.
From these sketches, a brand was born. We are proud of the look and feel of Hook & Irons Co. We think the imagery represents everything great about the fire service, and even though we are still in our infancy it is our hope that you come along with us for the ride. Keep updated on Facebook with everything Hook & Irons by clicking here.