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A fire service leadership podcast.

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Episode 027 - 16 Minutes Under a Collapse in a Structure Fire with Clark Glass

16 minutes doesn't sound like a long time, unless you're pinned under a collapse, unable to move, and running out of air. In that situation, every second becomes an eternity. And there were 960 of those agonizing seconds.In this episode, we sit down with Clark Glass and talk to him about his MAYDAY. A MAYDAY he was unable to declare for himself. A MAYDAY that he had absolutely no ability to self-rescue or aid in his rescue. A MAYDAY where all he could do was control the space between his nose and his facepiece.


26 Aug 2018

Rank #1

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Episode 041 - Two Phones (The Wives Part 2)

Often, the longer you are with an organization, the more your responsibilities increase. Get enough responsibility and this means you are now carrying a personal and work phone. And you’re required to be available by phone, text, and email 24/7, which basically means your spouse and family are also available.This episode with our wives covers a lot of ground. We get their opinions on whether we see ourselves as we are, or do we see ourselves as we want to be? We talk at length about how work impacts the home in ways that only our spouses might perceive. Not just stress or bad calls that we bring home with us, but how our decisions at work affect them. Did you ask your spouse before you put in for that promotion? For that new station assignment? Have you considered how it will affect him/her?


9 Oct 2019

Rank #2

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Episode 035 - What Makes A Good Firefighter?

It seems like a pretty simple question. If you were to ask the public what makes a good firefighter, they probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell you. But asking a group of firefighters is quite a bit more problematic.On this episode, we explore what each of us thinks a good firefighter is. We get Lt. Danny Dwyer’s perspective and debate whether you can teach someone to be courageous. Then things get really interesting in what is one of our most contentious and lively debates. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


30 Jun 2019

Rank #3

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Episode 063 - Talking Shop with Chief Chris Wessels

When we sat down to talk with Chief Chris Wessels, we had a specific topic in mind that we thought we would cover. But what happens so often with the best conversations happened here; the conversation itself led us to places where we didn’t think we were going to go. In this episode, we speak with Chief Wessels about respect inside the firehouse, millennials, mental health, what to do when you don’t get promoted, and a whole lot more. We certainly enjoyed ourselves, and some of what Chris said really got us thinking. We think it might have the same effect on you.

1hr 4mins

26 Nov 2019

Rank #4

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Episode 016 - Firefighter Perspective vs Chief Perspective with Cale Hamilton

Cale Hamilton was a self-described mediocre firefighter until a 2010 mayday incident prompted him to explore what it means to be more engaged in firefighting as a profession. Since that time he has become more "plugged in" within the department he works for, but he is still very much a firefighter's firefighter. So he was an obvious choice for us to sit down with and talk about some of the differences between how the firefighter sees the scene and how the chief sees it.

1hr 3mins

10 Dec 2017

Rank #5

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Audiobook: America Burning - Chapter Twenty: What Citizens Can Do

This audiobook was a project of Combustible to produce an audiobook version of one of the most important documents in fire service history.


21 Oct 2019

Rank #6

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Episode 071 - Sizing Up The Size-Up

We all should be doing a size-up as we approach any scene. And if you’ve got other units responding with you, someone is ultimately going to be required to give some of what you’re seeing and thinking over the radio. So how important is the size-up? How good are you at giving them? How important are the words you choose to describe what you’re seeing to everyone else that’s still enroute? And what’s the most important thing to say about a building on fire?


25 Apr 2020

Rank #7

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Episode 067 - Flippin' Firefighters with Todd Edwards Part 1

The illusion of a perfect fire is a tempting one, but it’s also just that: an illusion. In the first part of our discussion with Todd Edwards, we talk about the “perfect fire,” the nature of evaluating our performance at every fire, and Todd’s approach that there are at least three things on every fire that we did well. And when we turn our attention to those things we didn’t do well, Todd explains that we should always start with “Why?”We also talk to Todd about his desire to pass along realistic leadership to the fire service, and what Todd defines as The Leadership Stack Effect. Then we turn our attention to Todd’s ideas about firefighters who aren’t that engaged.


29 Feb 2020

Rank #8

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Audiobook: America Burning - Chapter Three: Are There Other Ways?

This audiobook was a project of Combustible to produce an audiobook version of one of the most important documents in fire service history.


21 Oct 2019

Rank #9

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Episode 019 - Scott Stroup And The Catch Seen Round The World

It's a once in a career moment, and it actually happened twice on this one fire in DeKalb County GA. Two children, in desperation, were thrown from the third floor balcony into the arms of firefighters below. Only one of those catches was captured on a helmet cam, but the images were so striking they literally made it around the world.For this episode we sit down with Capt. Scott Stroup who made the catch caught on the video. He'll be the first to tell you that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that anyone else in his place would have done the same thing. But most of us in our careers won't be in his place just because the odds are against it. So we asked him to sit down and talk about that save; not the way you have to when you talk to the media, but the way you talk to other firefighters.We also talk about: The fire itself and how it and the scene evolved, situational awareness on such a dynamic scene, how you affect change, and, of course, Stroup gets the questions.

1hr 16mins

10 Feb 2018

Rank #10

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Episode 030 - How Close Is Too Close?

How well do you know the person above you in the chain of command? How about the person below you? When your buddy got promoted, did you think he changed? In this episode, we discuss how close you want to be with the people you work with in the department. It’s a sweet spot that is ridiculously hard to find, especially if you promote and end up supervising some of those people you are really close to. Will being too close affect your ability to supervise? We also discuss social media, free speech, and whether your boss actually “drank the Kool-Aid.” You know, easy non-controversial, the opposite-of-landmine topics.


23 Dec 2018

Rank #11

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Episode 014 - Criticism, Condemnation, and Complaining

Is there a place for criticism in your fire station? It might seem like a somewhat silly question, and most of those of us who consider ourselves do-ers within our departments might reflexively say "Hell, yes!" But if we dig a little deeper and ask ourselves who gains by criticism, the answer to that question gets a little more muddy.How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is on 3 of 4 of the reading lists on our site. Mr. Carnegie advocates avoiding criticism at all costs. 75% of us like his book enough to recommend it. So how do you recommend a book telling you not to criticize, but also effectively operate around folks that you want to hold accountable? We've got some ideas about reconciling that. Give this episode a listen, sit down with a couple of peers, and then talk about what you all think.And if you want to criticize us or this episode...email us at info@combustiblethepodcast.com.


24 Sep 2017

Rank #12

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Episode 033 - Fast Track Or The Wrong Track?

Fast Tracking…Lateral Transfer…Whatever you want to call it…The idea of bringing persons into your organization who are already trained (and possibly experienced) can be pretty enticing. It eliminates the insecurity of putting someone through a lengthy academy (which you have no guarantee they will graduate.) It’s vastly cheaper than spending $50,000 per recruit to hire and certify a firefighter (one metro-Atlanta department’s estimate), and it takes a fraction of the time. So it’s a hands-down win, right? Not so fast.The whole idea of fast tracking is predicated on the certification component. It gets considerably more messy when we start to consider the different types of certifications for firefighters that are out there, and to what extent we are willing to trust a piece of paper to tell us about a person’s abilities before we put them on a truck or by our side in a burning building.For this episode, we explore the complexities of fast tracking: How do you verify skills that the holder of a certification supposedly has? To what extent do you go? Why do we accept some certifications at face value but not others? What are the legal and moral obligations of fast tracking someone? Is there an acceptable level of risk and uncertainty involved in fast track programs?As per usual, we have more questions than answers, but we hope our discussion prompts discussion wherever you are. Please follow us on Facebook, leave us your comments there or on this page, and you can always email us at info@combustiblethepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.


14 Apr 2019

Rank #13

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Episode 034 - Listener Responses: It All Comes Down To...

We’ve recently started asking weekly fill-in-the-blank questions on our Facebook page, and the first question generated a lot of great responses. In this episode we talk about our listener responses to the question, “It all comes down to _____.” Sitting in for Hatch is one of those listeners, Payton Owens, who helps us discuss and theorize about what our listeners meant.


1 Jun 2019

Rank #14

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Episode 020 - Moneyballing It: Leadership Lessons Of The Film Moneyball

Moneyball is the story of the Oakland Athletics' 2002 season; a season in which General Manager Billy Beane used the unconventional theory of "Sabrmetrics" to field a competitive team. It's a compelling sports film filled with drama, humor, and suspenseful moments that was nominated for Best Picture. But we also think it's a really good movie for the fire service.On the surface, the team's situation at the beginning of the film is quite similar to many of our own departments: you are expected to field a winning team while being challenged by a lack of staffing, equipment, support, etc. But if you watch the film with your leadership lenses on, you start to realize there are real leadership lessons in this film. Billy Beane does a lot right and a little bit wrong as he tries to get everyone to buy in to his new idea.Through this discussion, we take our favorite leadership moments in the film and talk about what we think, how the lessons can be applied, and how we (like Billy Beane) fall short in our execution from time to time.

1hr 27mins

2 Mar 2018

Rank #15

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Audiobook: America Burning - Chapter Nine: The Hazards Created Through Materials

This audiobook was a project of Combustible to produce an audiobook version of one of the most important documents in fire service history.


21 Oct 2019

Rank #16

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Audiobook: America Burning - Chapter Six: A National Fire Academy

This audiobook was a project of Combustible to produce an audiobook version of one of the most important documents in fire service history.


21 Oct 2019

Rank #17

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Episode 069 - The Boots on the Ground

There is a central concept that runs throughout Pete Blaber’s The Mission, The Men, and Me: that you should always listen to the boots on the ground. We really like that idea. Colin Powell said something similar when he described his “bias was toward the guys in the field.” But we also recognize some wiggle room within the concept, which prompted us to send out a survey to see where our listeners were on this idea.In this episode, we talk about those survey results, where we think that wiggle room leaves us, the 1986 “boots on the ground movie” Aliens, and what happens when the left boot doesn’t match the right.


27 Mar 2020

Rank #18

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Episode 013 - Why Data Should Matter To Firefighters with Matt Hinds-Aldrich and Tom Burrell

If you're a firefighter who thinks this episode sounds like it's going to be boring, then you're exactly who needs to listen to it. It's not a debate on the merits of a 2 1/2 handline, but it might be just as important to your longterm future in the fire service.We're very aware that most firefighters while at work prefer a computer that is on fire as opposed to reporting on a fire (and they might just let it burn.) None of us signed up to do reports all day. And we here at Combustible have often joked that the firefighter recruitment posters today should show a firefighter hunched over a computer. But while those sentiments about data are born from some very real frustrations, the fact that data is now a part of the fire service is indisputable.For this episode we sit down with Matt Hinds-Aldrich (NFPA) and Captain Tom Burrell (DeKalb County Fire Rescue) to talk about data; specifically why firefighters need to change how they view data in the fire service. We also talk about how fire rescue departments need to support their personnel with data, how data is shaping the fire service as we speak, and how to avoid when data is used as an enforcement tool.Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and please take a moment to rate us on iTunes. Check us out on our website CombustibleThePodcast.com

1hr 9mins

3 Sep 2017

Rank #19

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Episode 023 - What Motivates Someone To Be Unmotivated?

A listener wrote to us about some senior firefighters being disengaged with less experienced firefighters in the station and basically asked why won't they share their knowledge? Is it deliberate or just lazy? Are they holding their knowledge hostage as a means to retain power? Or are they simply at a point where they just don't care about the newer firefighters? D) All of the above.


27 Jun 2018

Rank #20