The Secret List Isn’t Really a Secret At All

The Secret List is an email list that began in 1998, but has roots even deeper than that. This article is a look into how The Secret List began and what it is all about.

The information below was gathered from a phone interview with Chief Billy Goldfeder and maybe a little bit of research online.

The Secret List or TSL technically began in 1998 as an email back and forth from Chief Billy Goldfeder and many of his friends and other fire service leaders.

However, prior to the email version of TSL, Chief Jack McElfish (currently in Sandy Springs, Georgia), used to mail out information in a manila envelope. The news was stuff he found or that others found and mailed to him. Whether it was written correspondence or copies of articles, the information was sent to several others and the list began growing. Word spread and peoples addresses were added to the list and McElfish made more copies and spent more money on stamps. For you young bucks, google what we used to do prior to email!

Fast forward to 1998, Billy Goldfeder bought his first computer and found the internet. Al Gore’s invention had grown and Goldfeder put it to work. The email version of TSL was born. TSL was the same as before, but now with typed information and links to stories on news sites around the World.

They original email list went to notable fire service leaders and others. The list grew as more found out about the list and asked to be on it.

The name “The Secret List” was originally just a gag among some veteran firefighters

That’s right, the name “The Secret List” originated from a little humor. Not the purpose, the name. People started asking who was on the list and Goldfeder would simply tell them it was a secret…A Secret List…THE Secret List. In order to keep everyone from asking who was on the list, Goldfeder soon began adding “The Secret List” in the subject line along with the subject of each email.

I asked Goldfeder how many people were on the list now and for each of their names and email addresses. Would you believe that he told me it was still a secret! Actually, he told me that it is several hundred thousand direct subscribers in addition to the over 160,000 who read it on Facebook.. This includes members from all over the World including the UK, Canada, Australia, France, the Middle East, and countries ending in “vakia” and “thania”. Many US Soldiers are also members.

You can “like” TSL on as well!

So what is The Secret List exactly?

TSL is based on firefighter survival. It is mission focused. It isn’t the latest news and politics, however some are included because some politics ARE about firefighter survival.

Ever since it’s inception, TSL has remained on point and focused on firefighter survival. Nothing more and nothing less.


Maybe you have heard the name Gordon Graham (GordonGraham.Com). Maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, you should immediately crawl out from under that rock in which you live.

Gordon Graham asked Goldfeder about creating a web site to share the information on TSL. The idea was simple, Goldfeder would produce the information and Graham would fund it. – The Home of The Secret List was born. The site is advertisement free and not for sale, although it is probably one of the most valuable fire service web sites in existence today. It is ad free because it is mission focused. Goldfeder and Graham do not want any business politics entering into the equation and want to retain the ability to say whatever they want whenever they want to say it. They make no money directly from the web site.

Read their mission statement here has grown since its inception.

The site is led by:

  • Retired Highway Patrol Commander Gordon Graham J.D.
  • Chief Billy Goldfeder, EFO
  • Chief Forest Reeder
  • Chief Brian P. Kazmierzak, EFO
  • Chief Rudy Horist
  • Retired Fire Marshal Ignatius Kapalczynski
  • Retired Chief Chris Shimer
  • Chief Patrick Kenny
  • Director Barry Furey

The site now includes various sections like:

  • The Secret List
  • Close Calls
  • EMS Close Calls
  • Personal Survival
  • Training and Safety
  • Weekly Fire Drills
  • Videos
  • Communications
  • Fire Reports
  • Firefighters Killed at War
  • Non-Traumatic Firefighter Deaths
  • Firefighter Staffing

They even have a “sites we like” section…Maybe I will make the list some day! (cough, cough). Although, Statter isn’t on their either. Just don’t tell Dave that. It would crush him!

The Secret List is sent out when there is important information to share. There is no frequency to their emails. The guys behind the list/site monitor the news 24/7 for information they think should be shared.

One final note is that Goldfeder said that TSL is about giving back to the fire service. You might think of it as paying it forward, Goldfeder says he is blessed with what the fire service has given him and he wants to be able to give back for others to learn. Additionally, he has been in the unique position of being directly involved with numerous LODD’s over the last nearly 40 years as a fireman, company officer, and Chief. From investigations, to working with Chiefs and Locals in preventing recurrences’s as well as losing firefighters he was personally very close to over the years, The site is not about “SAFETY-ING” out the fires service.

Goldfeder further stated:

“Some visitors to the site or readers of TSL think that we are trying to eliminate risk. That’s ridiculous. This is a risky job and some risks must absolutely be taken. Additionally, some LODD”s are not avoidable and those who perform those are as heroic as anyone can get. That’s not the ones we are talking about. We are talking about the unnecessary risks, the ones where firefighters and officers did things that resulted in nothing other than to get themselves hurt or killed…Actions that were predictable from the start and initial and on-going size up. In those cases, the lack of training, leadership, experience, etc. lead to the tragic but unnecessary deaths. Who determines what is an unnecessary LODD? Rad the reports and speak to those who were on scene. The LODD families can often provide some “shut up and listen” insight on how their loved one died and didn’t have to. Our focus is to simply help firefighters learn from some bad stuff, close calls as well as LODD’s – so they just don’t get repeated.”

Oh, and if you ever wondered what “WTF” stood for, I am assured that it means “Well Trained Firefighter”. When I asked him if he was ABSOLUTELY sure it didn’t mean “What The Fuck” his reply was “WTF are you trying to say Rhett?”

Keep up the great work Billy, Gordon, Forest, Brian, Rudy, Ignatius, Chris, and Pat!

If you would like to subscribe to The Secret List via email click here, otherwise click on over to and check it out!