THE NEVADA COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT.  The Nevada Community Fire Department (NCFD), is located in Nevada, Iowa, the county seat for Story County.  Nevada is located approximately 30 miles north (on Interstate 35) and 7 miles east (on US Highway 30) of Des Moines, Iowa’s capital.  The department serves a suburban/rural fire district of approximately 144 square miles.  Within its boundaries are 12 miles of Interstate 35 (connecting Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN), 12 miles of US Highway 30 and the junction of Union Pacific Railroad’s former Rock Island North/South “Spine Line,” and its busy double-track, East/West “Overland Route” mainline, roughly 45 linear miles of the busiest rail line in Iowa.

NCFD is a subdivision of Nevada’s Department of Public Safety.  AND, NCFD, itself, is comprised of two divisions: the Fire Protection Division, responsible for fire suppression, technical rescue, hazardous materials first response, and initial response to environmental emergencies, and the EMS Division which performs medical first responder services.  It is staffed by a career Chief (Director of Fire and EMS) and approximately 30 volunteers, most of whom are cross-trained and serve in in both divisions. The agency responds to approximately 700 calls a year, roughly 70% of which are calls for emergency medical services.


CURRENT APPARATUS.  The department currently operates a Sutphen 70′ “Mini-Tower” and two Spartan engines– one a Spartan/Toyne engine-tank, the other a new Spartan/Toyne rescue engine.  Nevada also houses two tankers, two 4WD Ford wildland units, and a 4WD Ford rescue squad.

Nevada Apparatus

Nevada’s principal apparatus, counterclockwise from left center: Truck 110 (70′ Sutphen Tower), Rescue Engine 210 (1500/750 Spartan/Toyne), Engine 310 (1250/1000 Spartan Toyne), mutual aid provider Colo Fire & Rescue’s Rescue Pumper 904 (background).

EVOLUTION OF THE DEPARTMENT.  Iowa was designated as a separate territory in 1838 and became the 29th state in 1846.  Nevada was first platted in 1853. Its fire department was established in 1860, a year before the start of the American Civil War (as a point of reference, the Iowa City Fire Department– arguably the oldest in the state– was authorized in 1842).

A PROGRESSIVE VISION. From the beginning, Nevada followed a pattern of far-sighted fire protection.  After major fires in 1880 and 1882, the community adopted an ordinance prohibiting wood construction in major business district buildings.  One of the buildings erected afterward was a new 2-story, brick building housing city administration and quarters for the fire department.  A mutual aid agreement, of sorts, was already in existence in 1882, when Nevada’s firefighters and equipment were summoned to nearby Ames to help battle a central city fire (but, according to the local paper, “…before a train could be procured, better news came down and our boys were returned”).  The city was one of the first in the region, in 1888, to establish a municipal waterworks system and elevated water tank for enhanced fire protection.  By 1890, the city’s early hand-drawn, hand-pumped “enjine” (referred to as the “Squirt”) was augmented by 20 fire hydrants and 1350 feet of hose, transported on two hose carts.

Fire control innovations continued into the early 20th century with the purchase of a hand-drawn, 45 gallon Champion “Improved” chemical engine in 1911.  By this time, Nevada’s firefighters were formally divided into individual companies, assigned to specific pieces of apparatus.   In a 1913 fire department journal, reference is found to crews for hand-drawn “Hose Cart #1,” “Hose Cart #2,” and a “Chemical” cart, plus a 2-horse-drawn “Hook and Ladder Company.”  Each was led by a Captain and Lieutenant (except for chemical, which had only a Captain).  Each hose cart also had designated hose “coupler” and “hydrant” positions.  This method of formal assignment to companies continued until 1924.

NFD at Parade2

Nevada fire companies staging for a parade in 1915: Chief’s buggy, Hose Cart #1, Hose Cart #2, Chemical Engine, and Hook & Ladder (two horses to the left of the alignment).

Nevada’s first motorized apparatus, a 1-1/2 ton chemical truck, arrived in 1921.  It was specified to have “no polish (britework), all plain.” The greater mobility of this truck led to the first expansion of fire protection services (on a pay-per-call basis) into surrounding rural areas.

THE “GOLDEN” ERA– THE MID-’50S.  Innovation has punctuated the Nevada department’s development throughout its history.  But, in terms of local, regional and national visibility, the mid-1950s were times of exceptional departmental change and prominence. During this time the department was staffed by an extraordinarily energetic, dedicated and knowledgeable group of firefighters, and the city’s first paid Fire Chief, 26-year-old Gerald “Garry” Mills.

Two factors seemed to set the stage for this period of rapid evolution.  The first was the emergence of Iowa State College’s Firemanship Training Program (later Fire Service Extension and now the Fire Service Training Bureau) as a leading institution of U.S. fire suppression education and research.  The second was Chief Mills’ exceptionally active work as an instructor and researcher in this program and his application of its theories and practices to the Nevada department.

The fiscal year 1954-1955 was particularly representative of this period, especially in terms of advances in the community’s system of rural fire protection.  In 1954, Iowa State College’s Firemanship Training Program was experimenting with an innovative system of rural fire addressing and dispatching. Nevada became one of the first departments to employ it. While there is evidence of innovation throughout its service was further expanded in 1953 with the formation of the Nevada Rural Fire Protection Association (NRFPA), which provided separate apparatus (staffed by the same personnel) for response to fires in the unincorporated areas surrounding Nevada.

In addition to the formation of the NRFPA, under the leadership of volunteer Fire Chief Gerald Mills, several events marked the ’50s as the “golden” era of the fire department.  Despite the previously mentioned tendency toward spare practicality, in 1954 Nevada purchased its first piece of “custom” apparatus, an open cab, 750 gpm,  Seagrave “Anniversary” series pumper.  It was piggybacked onto the order of an identical unit by the adjacent Ames (IA) Fire Department.

ScrapBook photo's Past 2 Present 025

1954 Seagrave– Nevada’s first “custom” apparatus.

During this time, the frequency and quality of departmental training were also greatly expanded.  Himself an active instructor for the Iowa State College Firemanship Program of the time, Mills invited in many of the state’s best instructors, frequently nationally noted authors and speakers. This, in turn, inspired the active involvement of other members of the department in local and state training initiatives.

Under Mills’ leadership, the department gained considerable state and national recognition, for its innovative fire prevention programs.  In 1955, Iowa State College recognized his personal achievements, stating that he “deserves commendation for his progressive efforts to make Nevada a fire-safe city.” The next year, the city received the National Fire Protection Association’s Certificate of Merit for its public fire education efforts.  Mills left the Nevada department in 1957 to join the staff of Iowa State University’s Fire Service Extension Program.  Recognizing the value of strong departmental leadership, all of Nevada’s subsequent Fire Chief’s have been paid employees of the city.

THE ’60S AND ’70S– THE “RATE-OF-FLOW” ERA.  From 1952 to 1959 Iowa State College’s Fire Service Extension Service (ISC) was heavily involved in a program of so-called “rate-of-flow” research spearheaded by staff members Bill Nelson and Keith Royer.  Former Chief Mills– by this time, himself a full-time ISC instructor– was a member of the Advisory Committee on the Application of Water Fog. He frequently assisted with project field tests, widely recognized as one of its more authoritative advocates. As might be expected, his department relies heavily upon use of water fog and utilizes every device to make its application most effective. of at Iowa State University from Due to his efforts at the local level, the Nevada department was an early adopter of project concepts, especially the so-called “indirect attack.” and other suppression methods addressed by Nelson and Royer’s research. Rightly or wrongly, this was interpreted as limiting the department’s tactics to exterior fire attack.

He is a member of the Advisory Committee on the Application of Water Fog, Iowa State College. As might be expected, his department relies heavily upon use of water fog and utilizes every device to make its application most effective.

MODERN INNOVATIONS.  But, the department’s exploration and adoption of technical innovations did not end with Mills’ departure.  In more recent times, the department has had a long record of “firsts.” It was the first department in Story County to replace an antiquated telephone-based alerting system with mobile radio pagers.   It was first in its region to employ large diameter supply line, positive pressure ventilation (Tempest), and chainsaws (Cutter’s Edge) for ventilation.  It was also among the first area fire departments to acquire thermal imaging cameras, automatic defibrillators, and multi-gas detection instrumentation.

Nevada returned to commercial apparatus for a short time with a fleet of Ford C-series apparatus– a collection of two engines and a rear-mount aerial.  However, it soon returned to custom apparatus for good, becoming the first of 13 volunteer departments in Story County to transition its entire front-line fleet to custom fire apparatus chassis.

CURRENT CHALLENGES.  Like most suburban fire departments, NCFD is a haz-mat, rescue, EMS and environmental emergency service that occasionally fights fires.  However, some of its most significant challenges for the future are likely to be fire-related.  Its first-due area includes one of the biggest corn-based ethanol refineries in Iowa.  It also includes one of the largest cellulosic ethanol refineries anywhere– and one of only a few in the U.S.  Besides the hazards posed by the refinery itself, the massive fields of stored baled corn stover have already proven to be formidable fire protection challenges.

Indirectly, the burgeoning alternative fuel industry has contributed to another challenging fire protection issue– the fire and rescue potential of liquid fuel transport.  With two of the Mid-West’s most active rail lines crossing in the populated center of its district, adequate preparation to deal with hazardous materials derailments will be a formidable and on-going task.

TOOL TIPS– UNIFORMITY OF HAND TOOLS & EQUIPMENT.  Nevada has, for many years, carried a generous inventory of hand tools on its front-line apparatus.  And, the equipment carried by major apparatus has tended to be fairly uniform in type, number, and mounting locations.  As shown in the photos below, a standard complement of tools is mounted in the rear riding compartments of Nevada’s major apparatus: one Hawk tool by itself, two Halligan bars– one mated with a flathead (the conventional “married set” fashion) and the other mated with a Hawk tool– each set secured in a PAC Irons-Lok.  On the opposite side of the riding-compartment are a pickhead axe and a “closet hook-length” Clemens hook.


Elsewhere, units carry a fairly uniform compliment of chainsaws, positive pressure ventilation blowers, additional forcible entry “married set(s),” a Pulaski axe, longer Clemens hooks, an Odd-Job hook (also called a Universal hook), wrecking bars, crowbars of varying lengths, and bolt cutters.  Various instrumentation– thermal imaging camera, infrared thermometer, electrical “hot stick,” and multi-gas meter– is mounted in front, next to the officer.



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A UNIQUE “TRUCK” HOUSE.  Everybody’s got special interests in the fire service.” If your’s happens to focus on interesting “Enjine’s,”you’ve got pretty fertile territory; there’s likely to be an engine in virtually every fire station you pass– there’s got to be an interesting one every once in a while?  But, those whose preferences stray a little farther afield– say, heavy rescues or squads, haz-mat units, trucks, etc.– have to be more patient, occasionally finding one mixed in with one of those ubiquitous pumpers.  For me, though, the real finds are those scarce single piece fire stations that house only a single, special services unit.

In this regard, it’s hard to imagine a better example than Baltimore’s former Truck 15.  I was introduced to the station by a then-member of the company, Firefighter Jerry Smith, Jr. Jerry is now assigned to Rescue 1 at the mega-Stedman station.  15’s old house was a long, single-bay, turn-of-the-century station, which was occupied by a single Seagrave tractor-drawn aerial– Truck 15.  On arrival, you found a wide street, populated by fairly spartan row-houses, a Baltimore staple.


Inside the single door of the two-story station was an equally spare daytime environment.  The truck was out when we first arrived.  The front 2/3rds of the station which would normally be occupied by the truck, was flanked by an array of old and older call-taking equipment (on the driver’s side of the truck) and rows of red-doored lockers, some of them with paneled wood doors, others the more modern louvered steel locker-room type. Hanging on the outside of many of the locker’s were the user’s personal day-to-day hand tool(s).

Behind the truck, at the back of the bay, was an informal, open-plan “day room” comprised of a mixed bag of lived in, “all-star” furniture.  And, along another outside wall, at the base of a spiral stair to the second floor was a one-wall kitchen with a suspended Pompier ladder forming a  very classyrack for pots and pans.


TOOL TIPS– THE HAND MAUL.  As we walked by the lockers, Jerry (at the far right in the photo below) mentioned that, on those occasions when he was riding as acting officer, he carried a 3 pound rock hammer (small, short hand maul or sledge) in his pocket.  Later, as we were about to leave, my curiosity got the best of me– “Why would anyone carry that tool?”  The explanation actually made lots of sense; in Baltimore, truck officers customary perform forcible entry, by themselves.  Rather than awkwardly trying to strike and drive the Halligan bar with an axe, Jerry (and others?) did so with the rock hammer.


Nice idea.  I tried it out when I got back home.  A car fire and a separate motor vehicle collision were all it took to convince me that the hand maul and Halligan are a great combination: a) driving the Halligan, alone, with the hand maul is far more efficient– through a combination of kinesthetics ( “muscle memory?”)  and the maul’s short handle, you can nail the Halligan virtually every time, even in zero viz; that’s more than most teams can say for the Halligan and flat head axe combination, b) the combination is much lighter than its more conventional “married set” alternative.  It may not be superior to more conventional methods, but given the flathead/Halligan combo’s relative imprecision, on balance, I think its just as good.

For optimum use, you’ll need to do a little experimentation with the combo.  For one thing, while the maul is a good all-around striking tool, when working with a Halligan that has square shoulders at the claw end, for tight space striking, I personally prefer a 3.5#-4# flathead axe with a 12″ handle over the rock hammer or maul.  It works pretty well in general, but when sliding/striking, the squared shoulders of squared forks, most of its force is applied to the forks.  By contrast, much of the force of the rounder hand sledge, maul or rock hammer’s face will be applied off-center and deflected).


Of course, most small, short-handled  hammers, axes and mauls don’t exactly invite convenient nesting and/or carry with a Halligan.  Some additional experimentation is likely to be needed for your particular tool of choice.  Welding a steel stirrup on the end of the tool (as some producers do with their mauls and sledge hammers), is probably a pretty practical option [the example below is from Driver/Operator Chad Berg from Snohomish County, Washington Ladder Co. 72, who submitted it to the excellent vententersearch web site,].


Another approach is to secure the striking tool with a spring-loaded, threaded bolt in the gap of the Halligan forks.  A wingnut or knob-type nut is used to tighten the connection as needed.  The spring provides a little tension in the system, to simplify joining and separating the tools (and to take up slack when the Halligan is removed, so you don’t sound as muck like a kindergarten rhythm band).  If this method has any advantages over the stirrup (above), it is that it leaves a good deal of the gap in the Halligan forks exposed for nesting a third tool, as show in the photos.

Note that a “rubber band” of large diameter truck innertube is secured around the Halligan with a larks head knot.  A quick wrap around the tool its nested to and a hook over one of its projections provides a secure union (a loop of paracord through the loose end of the rubber band allows easy connect/disconnect with bulky fire gloves.

TOOL TIPS– A BREACHING PICKHEAD AXE FOR ROOF WORK.  With the truck back in quarters, Jerry showed me a few tweaks the company had made on their truck .  First, the tip of the 100′ stick was equipped with a very well-placed 500 Watt flood light, guaranteed to light up not only the contact area of the tip but also the entire roof area beyond.  The crew had also machined out a rounded somewhat sharpened cut in the adze of their Halligan for lock-pulling chores– the obvious advantage of their approach was that it left a very robust leading edge on the adz, rather than the pointed “Devil’s ears” A-tools you commonly see that get peened over so quickly and aren’t aligned when you need them.

To me, the simplest, but neatest, tweak was the very rounded “breaking” edge Truck 15 had formed on the blade of their pickhead axe.  Although this visit substantially pre-dated the Iron Fox’s popularization of the rounded edge, they were clearly using the same play book.

POSTSCRIPT.  I visited Truck 15 in February of 2012.  At the time, it was the busiest truck in Baltimore.  Nevertheless, as s budget saving measure, the city closed it and demobilized Truck 15, soon after my visit.  The most popular explanation for closing that house was that, since it was surrounded by so many other trucks, it had the territory that could be most easily divided up among other companies.  But the house wasn’t empty long.  It was reopened in July of 2012 by Engine 33 (formerly housed with Truck 5).

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TEAMWORK.  The emergency services are all team “sports.” And, one thing every successful team depends on is a well-defined understanding of the functions and tasks that need to be completed, and a clear definition of who is expected to complete them.  Not everybody gets to play the “starring” role.   Generally, part of the team is focused on the “primary mission”—but, the rest of the team has other work to do.  U.S. Army General John Pershing (himself, a long-time cavalry officer) once said, “the cavalry doesn’t win battles; the cavalry performs reconnaissance, softens-up the enemy and protects the foot soldiers– so they can win battles.”

TEAMWORK IN THE FIRE SERVICE. A similar analogy can be drawn in the fire service; generally, at every emergency work is divided into three categories of functions.  The first is incident “coordination”– one person, the incident commander (or a cohesive, integrated group) is calling the shots. The second function is “control”; this is performed by a group of people focused on handling (controlling) the primary threat. At fires, fire, itself, is the primary threat and one or more “engine” [or pumper] companies are assigned to deal with it.  The final function is operational “support,” which amounts to everything not assigned to coordination and control.  At fires, the “trucks” [ladders, towers, etc.] and other special units [like rescue and squad units] perform support operations.  Trucks, Rescues and Squads are the cavalry of the emergency services.

“TRUCK WORK”– LOVERS PLUS.   For many years the traditional definition of hook and ladder or “truck company” responsibilities was summarized by the acronym LOVERS:

  • Laddering (and Elevated Operations)
  • Overhaul
  • Ventilation
  • Entry
  • Rescue
  • Salvage (and General Property Conservation)

In more recent times, technological developments have added to the truck company’s duties.  In preparation for its original 1985 course on “Fireground Support Operations,” at the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute’s summer fire school, the Fire Safety Group, expanded on the acronym to include PLUS:

  • Power Supply
  • Lighting
  • Utility Control (and Control of Other Environmental Hazards and Systems)
  • Special Functions

FIREGROUND SUPPORT OPERATIONS (FSO).  In 1984, to say that there were some ladder trucks but few “truck companies” in the Midwest wasn’t much of an exaggeration.  In fact, nationally, truck companies seemed to have fallen on hard times; truck houses were being closed in major cities, the activity level in truck companies in suburban departments was sometimes so slow that they viewed (rightly or wrongly) as retirement homes.  Volunteer departments in some areas left the trucks in quarters claiming “we don’t have the manning”– the public, city administrators– even fire departments, themselves– had lost sight of the value of truck company operations and ladder trucks.

T-Shirts from the early days of FSO emphasized the connection between truck companies and the support operations role,

In this context, a group of firefighters in Iowa (yes, of all places), with strong truck company inclinations, formed what was called the Fire Safety Group– FSG:

  • Greg Mundy, Assistant Chief (Ret.), Irmo (SC) Fire District
  • Dean Hutt, Chief (Ret.), Indianola (IA) Fire Department
  • Phil Harris, Deputy Chief (Ret.), Ames (IA) Fire Department
  • Doug Baber, Former Chief, Hartford (IA) Fire Department
  • Fred Malven, Assistant Chief, Nevada (IA) Fire Department

Even though he only occasionally had the opportunity to teach the support operations class with the othersanother person (and spiritual leader) was the catalyst for the whole thing, creating opportunities and making contacts:

  • Andy Levy, North-Central Regional Coordinator, Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (Former Assistant Chief, Hyattsville (MD) Volunteer Fire Department)

H+L Originals w Andy.jpg

A rare photo of the original Fire Safety Group with Andy Levy [ckeverly “PhotoShopped”] in the back center, flanked from left to right by Phil Harris, Fred Malven, Dean Hutt and Greg Mundy. Andy was the inspiration for the whole thing, but was seldom able to participate in the out-of-state classes.

FSG’s sole reason for being was to develop and deliver courses at regional and state fire schools titled (and focusing on) Fireground Support Operations (FSO).  The implied sub-title was “Truck Company Operations for Departments With and Without a Ladder Truck.”  While some dedicated truck companies might take exception to descriptions of their work as “support operations,” here it is used with great respect.  Virtually every fire department imagines itself delivering the most “aggressive” fire attack anywhere.  Maybe; maybe not.  But, be that as it may, few departments can claim the kind of comprehensive truck and squad work (support operations) that turn such self-perceptions into reality.  The ideas that develop around discussions of support operations– emphasizing the importance of training and practice with hand tools, power tools, new technology, and creative problem-solving (all long-standing truck company traditions)– are the real stuff of which safe, efficient fire departments are formed.
OTHER EARLY INFLUENCES.  Iowa is not broadly viewed as the epicenter of fire service leadership and innovation.  However, that perception would be clearly justified for anyone who met Mark Farren, until recently the Chief of Colo (Iowa) Fire and Rescue.  He was a far-sighted, progressive leader with an innate ability to transform adversity into opportunity, people into teams (in the best and fullest sense of the word), and the ordinary into the exceptional and memorable.  And, he put a smile on every project he visited, including this one.
H+L Trio + Mark PM

Another rare, priceless photo of FSG’s early years– the group’s 65′ American LaFrance aerial working at a live fire truck operations class.  One of the few times we captured Colo (IA) Fire Chief, and very close friend, Mark Farren, on film, at one of our operations. He was an innovative advocate for “truck work” at every fire, regardless of whether you had a ladder truck available.

Besides Andy, Mark and FSG colleagues, [too] infrequent visits with one last person were influential in shaping early beliefs concerning truck operations, fire service leadership and the whole field (as it should be):

  • Donald “Doc” Moltrup, Chief (Ret.), Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department

Doc served the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department as the kind of leader one imagines every Chief to be (but, seldom finds to be the case); he has always seemed to have a significant influence on everything without ever being obtrusive.  Thanks, for everything, Doc.

Of course, on a broader front, dedicated fire instructors had been doing truck company classes for years, and these helped inspire many of FSG’s contributions.  Particularly noteworthy as an early influence was Harold Richman and his “Truck Company Fireground Operations” book, based on his long, active career in the Maryland fire service.  In the early years, Richman and his book provided the start-up instructions for FSO.

Even in its own time, the FSO class wasn’t unique.  Several individuals and groups were trying to expand attention to ladder company operations.  LAFD’s John Mittendorf was a great example.  He and Chief  R.R. Ramirez were key figures in popularizing positive pressure ventilation and attack (PPV and PPA) tactics.   Mittendorf, himself, has done hundreds of detailed truck company classes and authored his “Truck Company Operations” book.  There were always plenty of courses on individual LOVERS PLUS functions, as well.  Among others, David Moltrup and John McNeese, from Montgomery County Maryland, traveled widely with a broadly-based course on forcible entry methods– their hands-on approach had a significant impact on FSG’s course.  And, in the late 80s and 90s, several journal authors were concurrently writing new articles spotlighting the cruciality of effective truck work and cautioning that the ladder company might be headed for obscurity.

THE NEW MOVEMENT; NEW INFLUENCES.  Most recently, a new generation of dedicated, inventive young troops continue the tradition, focusing on one, several, or all of the traditional LOVERS PLUS functions. As time permits, some examples of their activities and influences on this author will, hopefully, be summarized here.  For now, a few deserve at least name reference for having been sources of new energy and insight.

  • Tim Nemmers, Engineer (now Captain), Fire Station 3, Des Moines (IA) Fire Department
  • Jerry Smith, Firefighter, Rescue 1, Baltimore (MD) Fire Department
  • Tim Brozowski, Engineer, Rescue 1, Baltimore (MD) Fire Department
  • Randy Jones, Lieutenant (now Captain), Fire Station 1, Des Moines (IA), Fire Department
  • Robert James, Firefighter, Squad 3 (now Squad 2), Frederick City (MD) Fire Department

CURRENT COURSES–HOOK + LADDER UNIVERSITY.  Several of the old crew have shifted their interests in other directions.  However, among other “truck company”-related classes, updated (and, frequently, more focused, specialized) versions of the original Fireground Support Operations class are still being delivered by teams including founding FSG members. In South Carolina, retired Irmo Fire District Assistant Chief (now Lexington County, SC Training Captain) Greg Mundy and his associates still present courses evolved from the initial support operations concept. And, in Iowa, Assistant Chief Fred Malven and other members of the Nevada Community Fire Department deliver a variety of one and two-day courses emphasizing the LOVERS PLUS functions, including:

  • Tracy Tope, EMT Captain
  • Dean Tope, Assistant Chief
  • Joe Mousel, Captain
  • Jason Corbin, Firefighter
  • David Donnelly, Lieutenant (now Captain)
  • Noah Reyman, Firefighter (now Lieutenant)
  • Gary Howard, Firefighter (now with Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau)
  • Dennis Pratt, Lieutenant
  • Brad Melton, Lieutenant (now Captain)
  • Bob Jensen, Firefighter
H+L Original NFD AM.png

Instructors for the first Fireground Support Operations class presented by an all-Nevada Fire Department crew– the first of many. Seems to have been a slow news day for the Times.

H+L New Crew

A representative of group of instructors currently working with the Fireground Support Operations class(members of the Nevada (IA) Community Fire Department)) are (from left to right): Captain, David Donnelly, Firefighter Jason Corbin, Lieutenant Noah Reyman, and former Assistant Chief Dean Tope.

HOOK + LADDER UNIVERSITY. Operating under the team designation “Hook and Ladder University.” Classes continue to be delivered in the Midwest.  Hook + Ladder University? A bit pretentious?  Maybe.  But, if you think of universities not as sources of wisdom, but rather as places to share, debate, refine and apply insight, it seems appropriate to the goals of this site.

Go Team!


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THE HOOK + LADDER UNIVERSITY “CAMPUS.”  Hook + Ladder University isn’t a typical college and it doesn’t have a typical campus.  Its campus is the street and training ground– the fire departments and people who do “truck work,” whether they operate from a ladder truck or just rob tools off the engine to get the job done.

H+LU’S MISSION.  But, H+LU does have a mission, modeled after the writings of Dr. Ernest L. Boyer.  In 1990, he wrote the book, “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate.”** It [certainly] targeted at the firefighter.  But, his most significant contribution was applicable to the fire service.  He defined four important types or research or scholarship, which are interesting to think about in terms of fire protection issues:

  • Discovery: Spotlighting new, original exploration and ideas that advance the knowledge of a field.
  • Integration: Tying together existing information (often from different disciplines) in ways that amplify its value.
  • Application: Refining information in ways that enhances its relevancy and practicality
  • Teaching: Exploring methods of maximizing and authenticating the communication and retention of knowledge and skill.

In its simplicity, Boyer’s model provides a useful goal structure for any one-room university of truck company operations:

  • Document and interpret the history and theory of fire service [truck, rescue and squad-related] “support operations” in the U.S. and elsewhere.
  • Make a few new discoveries and generate some new ideas here and there.

Here, H+LU will try to:

  • Find ways that existing information and new developments– from both inside and outside of the fire service– can be reinterpreted to provide new insight.
  • Seek out and attempt to disseminate the leading edge thinking of regional and national agencies, institutions, publications and author/scholars.
  • Pass along a wide range of information from raw ideas to time-tested knowledge, tools, and methods as studied in some of the most prestigious schools of Trucknology in the world– American firehouses. 
  • Finally, contribute to the growing body of literature and ideas aimed at enhancing commitment to and the effectiveness of training on hook and ladder functions and their safe, efficient delivery on the emergency scene.
  • It won’t offer any of the benefits of a, well-groomed brick and mortar campus.  But, if you count passing along the knowledge invested in the training rooms, standard operating guidelines and day-to-day practices of of fire stations everywhere as educational, it will make its contribution to the field of emergency support operations.

Every effort will be made to give fair and accurate credit to the original sources of the concepts discussed.  Corrections and alternative points of view will always be welcomed.  From time-to-time, the merits of contrasting ideas or methods will be compared.

KEEP THE FAITH. “Truck work” (support operations, in general) is a religion, of sorts; keep the faith.

**Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, N.J: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

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