1. Where do you work and what company? Ladder, Engine, or Squad?
OJ - Birmingham Fire and Rescue T-1
2. What’s your current rank? And how long have you been at that rank?
OJ - A ma a Lieutenant and have been for 5 years.
3. How man personnel are on your apparatus? How do you split the work at an incident?
OJ - I can run from a 3-4 on the Truck depending on staffing. My crew is very good at what they do. Many times they will see if something needs done and get after it. So, I don't keep a thumb on them, I let them work.
4. What got you into the fire service?
OJ - Haha. Very long story. Short version is I actually wanted to be a Chicago Police Officer. However, I grew up not far from E108 - TL23 in Chicago. I knew I was either going to be a Cop or a Firefighter at a very young age.
5. What job did you have before being a firefighter?
OJ - Before I got hired I rode a skateboard. HA!
6. Who were some of your mentors in the beginning and now?
OJ - Mentors.... I had two people that made a massive impact on me and my career. Captain James M. Tingle and Chieff Matt Russell. Right now, my biggest mentors are Brian Mattson and Shawn Donovan.
7. What’s your balance between family and career?
OJ - Family is #1. Period! The good thing for me is my family knows that this is not a job but a lifestyle. They are all about it. They will get to travel with me at certain times when I get invited to teach or lecture, which's always fun. The balance must be there.
8. What do you think the best thing about the fire service is? What is the most negative?
OJ - In my honest opinion, I think the best thing right now in the fire service is how many people are going outside of their departments, cities, and states looking at different skills from different people. Local firefighting is great, but sometimes getting just one nugget you didn't know makes a difference.
The bad side to the fire service is social media. It's both good and bad however.
9. Do you have any formal education? What are your thoughts about formal education versus on the job training in the fire service?
OJ - I have a Bachelors in Fire Administration. There's nothing wrong with having a formal education in the fire service. However, you can't act like you know everything just because you have a degree. The craft is still a blue collar profession that requires a lot of time and dedication to learn.
10. What’s your favorite ladder package and why?
OJ - I love the roof ladder. If everyone knew the capabilities that a roof ladder has, the world would be a great place.
11. Stick or Tower? Why?
OJ - I have been assigned to both a stick and a tower (Bronto). They both have their place in the fire service. If I had to pick one, I would say the tower. For me, the tower is just more versatile.
12. Do you run with a training organization? If so, tell us about it and what you do for that organization.
OJ - I am the owner of Magic City Truck Academy, LLC. Our training is mainly focused on truck company operations and tasks.
13. What are you and your groups goals for the training organization?
OJ - Our goal is to ensure that the art of truck work is never lost. Many fear truck company operations because the protection of a hoseline is not there. However, the truck company tasks have to be completed on any fireground no matter if you have a truck or an all engine department.
14. How many classes do you offer and what are their names?
OJ - We currently have four classes that we offer.
- The Truck Company Officer
- The Dark Side of Ladders
- Boom! You're on the Truck.... But I Ride an Engine!
- First Due Truck Ops
15. What was the inspiration for the Deep South Fire Conference?
OJ - Deep South... Man, there was a lot of talk that we didn't have a conference just for firefighters in the state of Alabama. So, then we just decided to do it. You have to take that leap as scary as it is, you have to take it. I did know from the start that this was going to be a not for profit conference. So, we decided to donate the proceeds to our state pediatric burn camp, which's Camp Conquest of Alabama.
16. Who all assists you with the Conference?
OJ - My right hand man in this is Clay MaGee. He is all over social media getting the word out. He also collects all the instructors information and puts all the posts and flyers together. I really don't know how he does it... We also have Anthony Rowett and Chris Groban. The Alabama Fire College and City of Mountain Brook Fire Department really stepped up and stepped out to help get this conference off the ground.
17. Would you rather do small one day classes or teach at multiple conferences? Why?
OJ - Small one day classes every time. Max students set at 25. The students get so many sets and reps this way. Also, the instructors really can take their time with each individual and make sure that they understand what they are learning, not just going through the motions.
18. What would you say is the biggest geographical difference in the US when it comes to truck work?
OJ - It's all local. You have to look at so many different sides of it. Culture, training, staffing, budgets, and we can go on and on. With our classes, we address all of that. We have actually help departments build their SOP's off of our training, which in turn helps start a culture of truck work, even if there isn't a truck.
19. What’s your favorite hand tool for ventilation?
OJ - Haha.... Being the officer my tool is a Pro Bar. My job for vent operations is to keep an eye on everything that's happening. Fortunate for me, my crew is very tuned in and sharp. So... They make my job very easy.
20. Who in your opinion is one of the best people in today’s fire service trying to make others better? Why?
OJ - Man, there's so many... Local guys in my state besides my crew - Chase Smith, Dustin Simmions, Anthony Rowett, Brent Cooper, and Justin Baker. Nationally - Brian Mattson, Shan Donovan, Cody Trestrail, Justin McWilliams, William Knight, Jeff Bryant Jr., Mike Torres, Julio Ramos, and Chris Tobin. That's just a couple, I could go on for a long time.
These dudes truly love the fire service! You can see their passion just pour out of them anytime you get around them. That's the type of person you want to be around, all passion with no ego.
Thank you for reading, post below what you think about the interview and who you recommend next!
- Fire Factory Staff