Firemen, dalmations, a pole, and one silly Santorum. How i got it all wrong.

Did i learn a lesson last week.

That’s a question with a period, i know.

The story:

I was trying to arrange for a team of us at NIKE to go to a fire station to get some inspiration around the idea of “everyday heroes.”

So after cold calling a station near our house, i was put in touch with a super cool woman named Cassandra to work out the details.

Here’s how it went down:

Cassandra:  So what exactly are you looking for in this visit?

Me: Well, our crew would like to see what a day in the life of a fireman is like.  You know, what tools they use to keep them (and us) alive when called to a fire.

Cassandra:  Ok, and how long do you think you’ll be?

Me: we’d love to hang out for a couple hours.  It’s not often you can sit down with firemen and talk to them in depth!  It will be super inspiring for our design team as we think about how to address durability, lightweight, and moisture management.

Cassandra:  I think we can totally arrange that.  But i have to ask you one favor.  Could you please address us as “Firefighters?”  As a woman and a firefighter myself, we would really appreciate that.

Andrea:  Yes, i can totally do that once i pull this humble flavored firefighter boot out of my esophagus.

So i learned.  I thought maybe they were still called firemen, even the females, because maybe it was like female actors that didn’t like to be called actresses?  Then i thought about it more and that became a completely stupid and irrelevant analogy.

Anywho, Cassandra hooked us up with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station #60, and what went down was beyond awesome so i just had to share the story, and since this a photography blog, folks, i’ll share some edited (along with the non-edited original) photos because i kind of think they turned out amazing.

The day before we went, i looked up the station online, because the internets have all sorts of information, i recently found out.  I wanted to find pictures of what we might expect, so i could prep our team for a great experience.

Was there a pole?  If so, i wanted to call the station to see if we had to bring in a release to slide down the pole.

Did they have a dalmation?  if so, how many spots did it have?  Was it named Spot?

You see?  these questions needed answers!

But i didn’t get much online.  All i found was a picture of their community room:

I felt kind of bummed for TVFR station #60 because of this community room.  I thought if THAT was their community room, what did the rest of the station offer?  I mean, there’s not even a pole.

Wrong, again.

We got there at 10:30 am Tuesday morning, Valentine’s Day.

We met four of the most incredible human beings imaginable.

Not just because they were firefighters, but because they LOVED being firefighters.

You could hear it in every part of our tour.  They OWNED that damn community room.  They slathered their refrigerators with pictures of their family.  They took PRIDE in their office space, where every minute detail of every incident is documented.

And then, and THEN, after we hammered them with questions about their workouts (mandatory once a day, often doubles), their shifts (24 hours, 7am-7am), the weight of their suits (60 lbs with oxygen), how they keep from getting killed in a fire (multiple answers, we listened intently with jaws on the floor), and what the one innovation would be that they would give everything else up to have (weight reduction in their gear)…came the magic words from Captain Mike K.

“Would you all like to try on our gear?”

Here’s where it gets awesomer.

We all dressed up in the gear.  What takes them 60 seconds to put on, took each of us a minimum of 4 minutes.  Each and every one of you would be dead if you were relying on us to save you if your brain had stopped receiving oxygen and we were called.  But Mike, Brad, Laurie, and Malik?  60 seconds flat.  They could be to you in 7 minutes.  which means you got to live.

And Laurie.

Ok, bear with me.  Laurie is a woman.  A woman firefighter.  Now, this next thought has been a LOT on my mind lately ever since that silly Santorum guy made a remark about how women in combat could create a “compromising situation” because of “emotions.” I know Laurie is not fighting on the frontlines of Afghanistan right now.  But spend 15 minutes with Laurie, and the following is clear:

Observation 1:  There is no way the guys treat her any differently because she is a female when that unit is in the midst of a scorching fire that could blow at any time.

Observation 2:  She could draw upon her super human strength if needed. One could just see it in her eyes, feel it in the woven bond of their unit.

Observation 3:  i would put my daughter’s life, every single one of her 10 years, in Laurie’s hands.

There is not one part of me that can fathom that she couldn’t handle the frontlines, nor that the men next to her would take issue with it.

Had to digress, because this issue is just, in my humble opinion, a non-issue.

And now we’re back.

Below are just a handful of the hundreds of photos i shot.  I thought it would be great to include the originals, to have a sense of the editing and cropping i chose before posting.

take note:  if the photo is of someone in a firefighter suit, it’s one of us, living a fantasy.  The Unit 60 firefighters are the ones in blue.

All of them, the Captain with his years of experience, supremely confident to make the calls that will hopefully save lives, Laurie, with soaring confidence and strength, Brad, the one that took my call in the first place and led the tour of the station, and Malik, the driver, and the guy who geeked out on all their gadgetry, gave us an unforgettable experience, a glimpse into what it means to save lives on a regular basis.

What it means to be a firefighter.

So here we go.  in pictures.

(this is bobby, ex professional snowboarder and current sports marketing guru, who yes, actually rubbed dirt on his face to get the authentic look)

60 seconds from this…

to this.  Seems impossible, but they do it.

 Bobby took this a little too seriously.  Makes for great photos.  He should also act.

So really, these pictures are for them.  So the four of them can appreciate that they really changed our lives this Valentine’s Day.  Maybe they’ll hang a couple in their community room :).

So to Captain Mike,

Malik,

Laurie,

and Brad,

Thank you for an amazing experience,

and thank you for being firefighters.

Peace,

AC (and the NIKE Action Crew)

Postscript:  I wanted to get a group photo of the 4 firefighters, but as we approached the end of our visit, when i had intended to snap it, they were called by dispatch.  As they ran to the truck, they looked back, waved, and said, i swear, “could you lock up on your way out?”

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13 Responses to Firemen, dalmations, a pole, and one silly Santorum. How i got it all wrong.

  1. Denise says:

    I really liked the content, the story and the writing but what I liked best was the pictures…including the edited and unedited shots was a great way to do this! Thanks for sharing them like that!

  2. Joanne walton says:

    Awesome Andrea! We had our local firefighters come to a girl scout first aid jamboree… Two women and four men. Wonderful experience for all of us! Glad you got a chance to do it!

  3. The Bipolar Diva says:

    I think I want you life.

  4. Nicki Gregg says:

    Thank you for this really awesome story, Andrea. I have a personal interest because my husband is a lieutenant on A shift at Station 60 (Brad’s regular shift). You included a photo of my husband’s helmet and the drawing of the fire truck on the refrigerator is one my daughters did a few years ago (and she feels famous now, by the way….so thank you!). I just really wanted to say thank you for this well written, true glimpse of the firehouse, the pride, the family, the gear, the strength both physical and emotional and the love they all have of their job. I am always amazed when we take family or friends on a tour of the firehouse how impressed and wowed they are by what the job entails. It’s hard to know until you see it and experience some of it for yourself. Thank you for sharing that…
    Nicki Gregg

  5. Gary J Toll says:

    As a retired member of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (retired Dec 1996), I want to thank you for capturing not only the excitment of the job of being in the fire service, but of the love each and every one of us, that has ever served, had for the job. Kudo’s to you and your crew for doing this, learning about the job, that emergency personnel do no matter what their function, and for providing a peek for the public at large. I began in Sept of 1969 and finished my professional career in 1996, but even to this day I still remember so much and the internal rewards it brings for helping others in differing situations. Todays personnel feel the same, and tomorrows personnel in the future will feel the same. It has been an honor to service in the fire service and each person that has served and will serve, do it out to help humanity. Again thank you for sharing.

  6. David Filler, says:

    I’ve only worked one other job that gave me some degree of satisfaction but when I went to work for TRFD (later to become TVF&R ) and spent 25 years there I found it to be a most satisfying job and cannot ever remember a time of not wanting to be at work. Everyday was an event waiting to happen. I can assure you that no matter which station you would have been steered to you would have had exactly the same experience. Different people, same mindset. Glad you got to experience it.
    Dave Filler, TVF&R retired

  7. David Briedwell says:

    Great article, I am a retired Lt/Pm from TVFR and worked in the Cornell station when it was in the house & opened the new station. You nailed it on the head and I appreciate your great words and am glad but not surprised you had a wonderful experience. Being a firefighter is something you are, not something you do.

  8. gene livingston says:

    What a great article about the best job and the best people to work with . I retired 10 years ago , seems like a life time ago but after reading this article seems like yesterday . Thanks for the wonderful memories to all at T.V.F.& R. You guys and girls have ALWAYS been my heroes . I love you guys !

    Gene Livingston

  9. brownie says:

    the heroes that live amongst us everyday.
    Thank you Andrea for exposing the ones we take for granted.

  10. Russell Chapman says:

    Thank you for sharing your look into our world. I retired 3 years ago as a firefighter from TVF&R. During my career I gave more station tours than I could ever remember. Two of your questions always came up. Where is the Dalmatian and do you have a fire pole? When you see old fire photos of horse drawn fire equipment the Dalmatian is sitting on the bench with the “firemen.” Back then they were called “firemen” and that Dalmatian had a job to do at the station. When the bell would ring for a fire the Dalmatian would herd the horses to their spot in front of the wagons under their harnesses. As for the fire pole, a lot of Fire Stations are single story so no pole but TVF&R does have some two story Fire Stations that have a pole. I always enjoyed giving station tours and seeing how surprised people were about what they thought our job entailed. I know that like you they came away with a better appreciation of what it means to be a Firefighter.

  11. Doug Hormann says:

    AC, I’m not a firefighter, but am incredibly priveledged to work at TVF&Rs North Operations Center as an Emergency Management Coordinator (I’m a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on assignment and a search and rescue coordinator). You captured, I believe, a bit of the essence of what it is to be a firefighter for one of the greatest fire agencies in the county – and I don’t believe that’s a bunch of hyperbole. I’ve gotten to know many of the folks here from the very top to the newest recruit, to the dedicated support staff that keeps the ship afloat. Everyone here understands the commitment and constant dedication required to protect our community. I know it’s sort of cliche, but for the folks of TVF&R, it’s not just a job – it’s a calling.

  12. Mike Thorne says:

    Andrea, thank you for such a heart felt story. I have a good friend who is a design manager for Nike’s NFL uniforms. His name is Drake and I wished he could have gone on your tour. I am currently a Lieutenant Paramedic at TVF&R and also on the Water Rescue Team here at station 59 in Willamette in West Linn where I began my career as a firefighter in 1994. And yes, we do have a pole. Infact two. It just so happens that my first job as a firefighter was with the City of West Linn Fire Department, and yes we did have a dalmation. His name was “Sparky”. Capatain Mike K. remembers him well, as do I. Captain Mike was my first boss, mentor and peer in the fire sevice. I consider him one of my best friends; we’ve been through alot on and off the job. We had a program we used to have in West Linn before merging with TVF&R and it was our famous puppet show. Mike, you remember Fireman Gus, Dewy the Detector and of course Sparky the fire dog. If you saw our show, you’d remember it. Mike and I and others put on quite a show. We played rummy (cards) in the morning to see who had to be the MC and if you lossed like Reuben did alot, LOOK OUT. You were in for quite a grillin from Gus and Sparky. That’s what makes the fire service such a great career. You get to work with great people and great friends. You get to do what you love and that is helping people in need when thay can’t help themselves. It is such a rewarding job and every firefighter you talk too will tell you the same thing. I love what I do. I love being a firefighter….And I do. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Mike Thorne

  13. Ryan T. says:

    Andrea, your post reminded me of when I was doing the exact same exercise in 2002 as we gave the Everyday Heroes concept an honest try then. I even got to attend two training burns and go on 2 days worth of ride-alongs with TVF&R. Those are experiences I’ll never forget. I’m glad that the EH concept hasn’t died. Great ideas never do. Keep it up!! – Ryan T.

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