FRI Wrapup – A Great Time in Atlanta

This is from my continued coverage of Fire Rescue International last week. You can read more posts related to FRI 2011 here.

By now you should have figured out that I had a blast at Fire Rescue International 2011. Willie Wines Jr. and Jeff Harkey enjoyed the trip with me this year and we accomplished a lot. We got to hang out with a ton of people, some new friends, and some we have known for a while. We had a lot of laughs, had some time to reflect, and were able to continue telling people about

FRI was a success. Each conference we travel to has been a better and better time than the last. Each one offering its own new adventure. This time was no different.

Willie and I started out the trip with a visit to my sister, Valicia’s, house in Atlanta. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year. It was only the second time since I had seen my nephew Sebastian. What a cute little guy! Willie and I took my sister, her husband Carlos, and Sebastian out to the Front Page News restaurant.

After spending the evening with them we settled in early because we would be up early for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in the morning.

Our team at FRI. Cheryl Horvath, Martha Ellis, Rhett Fleitz, Mark Nugent, Chris Riley, Willie Wines Jr., and Matt Tobia. Sorry for any spelling mistakes.

Wednesday morning began early. We go to the Westin Peachtree Plaza early for the stair climb. We saw some familiar faces from the NFFF at the climb including Victor Stagnaro, Cathy Hedricks, and Billy Hinton. We ended up climbing with Matt Tobia and other Chiefs from across the Nation. Willie and I were surprised by the number of firefighters climbing in gear. We were impressed with the turnout, but figured that the majority would be travelling and not bring their gear. We were wrong. There were many local firefighters climbing and it was great to see so many in gear.

You can read my account of the climb here and Willie’s account here.

Dinner with the crew from MN8 Products and Fire Rescue TV

Willie and I are doing our 3rd climb this weekend in Greenbelt, MD. The climb will be in the 28 story Maryland Trade Center. I will be climbing with Willie Wines Jr., Willie Wines Sr., Thomas Warshaw, and Bill Carey. We look forward to the event on September 11, 2011. This will be a fitting tribute for the 10th anniversary.

On Wednesday, we also went out and enjoyed dinner with the A-shift crew at station #63 in John’s Creek. Great dinner, great comradarie, great times. Thanks to the entire crew: Captain Akins, Lt. Eddie Lee, FAO Phil Pirkle, FAO Kevin Castleberry, Sgt Tom Johnson, FF Jost Cater, FF Brandon Kingrey, and FF Grant Eckard.

On Thursday, Willie and I headed over to Atlanta Firehouse #11 to check out Motorola’s $1 million donation to the NFFF and for Atlanta FD’s announcement of 100% participation in the Seat Belt Pledge.

Friday and Saturday kinda all ran together. We did enjoy a great meal at a Mexican joint courtesy of Zach Green from MN8 Products. We were there with his crew and the crew from Fire Rescue TV including Martin Grube and Mariah Leavitt.

During the expo, Jeff and I made our rounds and spoke with numerous businesses who are excieted about Daily911Deals. Look for some of those deals coming up. I also met up with two women I know via the internet. My face is not as recognizable as Willie’s, but some people have hear my name before…ok, actually more people know me as the Fire Critic, but it doesn’t hurt having an uncommon name. I was speaking with these two women for about 10 minutes before I handed them my card and they instantly realized who I was.

Me with the ladies of Industrial Fire Journal. Beth Lee Kershner on the left and Kelly Francis on the right. Follow them on twitter @thefiregirls

 Willie, Jeff, and I also helped stow away the better angels exhibit. Read about that here.

Willie getting frisky with Rhett

Saturday night was a memorable one. Willie wrote about it in a post titled “FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR RHETT FLEITZ AND JEFF HARKEY“. Let me just say that his account was not exactly 100% truthful. He was right on point with the account of Jeff Harkey though. Jeff led us down a path that Willie and I had not been in before. Where he started stretching the truth was about how Willie felt about being in that establishment. First of all, Willie signed up for drag night. He will be escorted by some great looking men. He will be right at home.

The “guys” wouldn’t stop buying him drinks and before Jeff and I knew it Willie was sucking face with 5 other guys. We told him we didn’t take any photos. We did, but you can’t see them yet. Willie still has to make several trips to Atlanta to go shopping with the only 3 females who were at the restaurant. When we left, Willie had them chanting BROKEBACK, BROKEBACK, BROKEBACK. They still think he was in the movie. Everyone kept asking us if we knew of any other “alternative lifestyle men” other than Willie. We told him he was the only one we knew and that he had won a night out with us two handsome and happily married straight men. Willie couldn’t get enough of it!

On Sunday, we headed home. Although we still had plenty to do. We had two stops before getting home. We stopped by Charlotte FD Station #1 and met up with Captain Blake Redden and 911 Dispatcher Jeff Williams. Jeff sat us down and showed us the dispatch center which is located inside Station #1. This station was huge. The dispatch center seemed to be top of the line. Jeff had some great stories for us about the recent earthquake, how they do business, and some war stories about some of the busier times inside the center. Blake showed us around the station and answered all of our questions. Thanks for the tour guys!

I still can’t get over the fact that you guys don’t use crosslays!

L-R Charlotte Fire Captain Blake Redden,'s Captain Wines, Charlotte Dispatch Supervisor Jeff Williams and The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz

After Charlotte, we stopped by Davidson County Fire Station #1 and got to chat with several of the firefighters there. We got a tour of the station and their apparatus. The fire station is combination volunteer/paid part-time. Ryan Monteith, Julia, and Bill Shick showed us around. Willie and I always have a great time visiting other stations.

Ryan Monteith, The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz, Captain Wines of and Bill Shick

Also read “LOOKING BACK ON ATLANTA” by Willie Wines Jr. on his recap of Atlanta.