If You’re a Married Firefighter or Married to a Firefighter…GET IN HERE!

flamefest 3

My wife and I forcing a door!

My wife and I forcing a door! Yeah…we don’t have on eye pro, but we should have. I made sure we had some on hand and most wore it!

My wife and I just got back from our 2nd annual FlameFest hosted by FirefighterWife.com a little over a week ago. Last year, we enjoyed Chicago…this year we enjoyed Glade Springs Resort in West Virginia. Next year, there are 4 events planned in NC, TX, CA, & CO. We already have plans to attend the California event and might have to visit the NC event as well! More info on this years event and next years events can be found here

Any chance I get to enjoy being with my wife away from our busy lives is a great time. The event is a laid back pseudo conference/marriage retreat created by Lori and Dan Mercer (FirefighterWife.com) to strengthen marriages within the fire service. But really, it ends up being a very well structured event where like minded firefighters and firefighter wives can enjoy the camaraderie as couples and learn some tools that will help them be better partners and better people. It has strengthened my marriage and I am grateful for it. What is also very unique is that you get all types of firefighters and all types of couples together for a shared experience.


Yes, I agree, FlameFest is not the best name for this event…Nor will any name likely do justice for what the weekend is all about. I am assured that the  name of the event will change next year! The truth is this event was created by a community for firefighters wives and has been well worth the hard work and dedication that community has put into establishing an excellent event. AND NOW, there is actually an online Facebook community for the Firefighters as well. Check it out here.

Read more about FlameFest
View all of the photos here (FB)

My wife and I

My wife and I

The weekend was filled with so many great opportunities and yet still offered plenty of time to hang out with other couples as well as enjoy some time alone with my wife. In the evening, many of us enjoyed the bonfires or sitting around having fun outside with a few drinks.

The weekend is all about strengthening marriages, which seemed to happen for everyone who attends. Along with that, many of the wives got to learn more about what being a firefighter is all about…likewise, the firefighters got to learn more about what it is like to be a firefighters wife!


Nadalet, Fleitz, Bevers Couples


While I had a small part in the planning process, all of the success of the event needs to be given to the following people…

Lori and Dan Mercer and the rest of the team behind FirefighterWife.com, 24/7 Commitment, and FireFamily.Life.

Speakers/Presenters: Chief Bobby Halton, Chief Ron Siarnicki (NFFF), John Proels (NFFF), Mark Young (NFFF), EGH Advocate Rick Best (NFFF), Captain Willie Wines Jr. (IronFiremen.com), Kristin & Joe Ponzi (Essence Body Works),  The members of the marriage panel: Shawn & Christine Sebo, Heather & AJ Isaacs, and Willie & Donna Wines. Photography was by Adam Schierberg and Jason Bostic.

rhett and willie

9Special thanks to the sponsors:



Much love to all of the couples we met this year and the many we got to hang out again after meeting last year. As always, we enjoyed the humor, love, support, and Brotherhood!

Thanks to Lauren Levin of GoodEventCo.com, the event planner

Andrew Stevens, the emcee, is an amazing guy with tremendous talent.

Steve Hensley our entertainment for Saturday evening

The Appalachian Mountain FOOLS who offered talented firefighters to help put on the Touch-A-Truck event along with the Beckley FD, Coal City FD, and Beaver FD. It wouldn’t have happened without you guys!

To Bryan and Peggy Trump…You guys rock!

This is not Rhett and Willie...this is actually Lori and Dan Mercer!

This is not Rhett and Willie…this is actually Lori and Dan Mercer!

5Larry & Chandra Manasco, it was great hanging out with you both!

To the Beves, Nadalets, CPV’s, Ford’s, Wagoner’s, Isaacs’, Ashmore’s, and all the other great couples for putting up with my dumb-witted humor throughout the weekend.

To Andrew, Lindsey, Willie, Donna, Michael, and Amanda…thanks for making the trip up and I hope you all enjoyed yourselves.

To Dan and Lori Mercer…thanks for the involvement in something so great. I am proud to have been able to help.

And to Becky…without you I wouldn’t be a firefighter…without me, you wouldn’t be a firefighter’s wife!

The FOOLS members who were in attendance including our Brothers from the Appalachian Mountain FOOLS!

The FOOLS members who were in attendance including our Brothers from the Appalachian Mountain FOOLS!

Looking great Ladies!

Looking great Ladies!

More on the weekend…

Willie and I had the opportunity to speak on Behavioral Health. It was a short talk, but from speaking with several afterwards…it hit home. The basic message is that it is ok to talk about our experiences at the firehouse, with our spouses, and with professionals if necessary. We cannot afford to bottle up our emotions about our experiences because it isn’t healthy and can lead to more serious problems over time.


The Fire Wife Touch a Truck event was on Saturday and is an event that allows the wives to gear up in turnout gear and give firefighting a go! This years event included a forcible entry door prop, a wall breach prop, and pulling a line and flowing some water.


An aerial shot of some of the Touch-A-Truck event.

Jennifer was proud of her work!

Jennifer was proud of her work!

The women had a blast! What is better, we decided to have the couples compete in a timed event through the course. Matthew and Megan Nadalet were the big winners. They won a prize package from FirefighterWife.com and an Iron Fox Axe from Fire Critic/Engine Co. Apparel.

I was put in charge of planning this event, and I was fortunate enough to have several great resources nearby to help. First of all, Bryan Trump and his wife Peggy immediately told me that he would have everything I need at location for the event. That was a weight off my shoulders. Captain Wines put together plans for the wall breach prop and it was built on site. The Appalachian Mountain F.O.O.L.S. showed up and took care of everything so that we could enjoy the event with our wives.

I have to thank the Appalachian Mountain FOOLS Cody Wilson, Scott Hale, Carl Allen, Allen Robinson, Derek Kincaid, Shane Wriston, and Bryan Trump. In addition, Kenny Clyburn from Coal City FD and Philip Utt, Kathy Pack, Richard Garten, Andrew Lefler, and Tiffany Robinson from Beaver FD.

Thank you all so much for your assistance.

After FlameFest was over, we stayed around on Sunday and enjoyed some lunch and the views of the New River Gorge Bridge with a few of the couples still in town. This was a great chance to unwind before heading home to normal life.


But Don’t Just Take My Word For it:

Below are some quotes/thoughts from others about their experience at FlameFest 2015.

swansonTo see this many people this passionate about their marriages outside of church is amazing. Bryan & Christine Swanson

RosencranceHotel and stay 400.00 +, friendships made and alone time to focus on commitment PRICELESS. Can’t wait for the next meet up. Jeff & Amanda Rosencrance Lancaster OH FF/ Paramedic

VlietstraA couple that works together, fights together, commits together, and believes together is a couple that makes it together. I cannot say enough about our group at firefighterwife.com. As this marks year two for us attending, I have a new found love, respect and dedication for my husband. Each year we learn to grow together to be stronger and better for eachother. I thank each and every one of the contributors for this event. When people with the same values, beliefs and goals get together and move mountains, anything is possible. I cannot wait for for the future of our group as we nurture and grow. This group is just what every couple in the fire service needs in their life. Thank you Firefighter Wife, QALO, The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, Chief Bobby Halton, American Addiction Centers, Captain Willie Wines Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen Blog, Beaver FD and Beckley FD and the many others who helped make this event possible. It is because of people like you, that we are able to better our firefighters, our marriages and understand a new found appreciation for the fire service! – Christina Vlietstra

nelsonFlame Fest helped my wife and I reconnect and realize that we need to make time for us. It also was a great place to connect with other couples which has built great friendships and a support system.  – Scott & Kellie Nelson

isaacsFlame Fest 2015 was an opportunity to continue to build relationships with our Sisterhood and their firefighters. It has by far been the best of all three. From the speakers to the massage session to the amazing touch-a-truck event and the late night chats, every moment was spent strengthening our love and connection with one another. My husband had an opportunity to connect with brothers from all over the country and discuss how the Sisterhood has impacted our marriage in a positive way. We have never been stronger and continue to look forward to how we can support one another throughout our remaining years in the fire service. A huge thank you to all the local F.O.O.L.S. For their hard work at the Touch-a-Truck event. It was the best yet and I am still amazed at how hot the gear is and how hard the job is and we didn’t even touch on the emotional aspect of it. – Heather Isaacs

HubbellKeep your marriage as full as your water tank, Jared Hubbell The love and commitment of two can change the lives of many, Jamie Hubbell

spaulding“It was hard work. That gear is heavy and HOT!! I’ve got a whole new appreciation for what these men and women do every day, that’s for sure!” –Joy Spaulding

Ryan McGiboneyLet me preface this with I am a guy’s kind of guy. With that being said, this all started almost a year ago with my wife joining the “sisterhood”. I had misconceptions of their goals, purpose, and objectives. We’ll leave it at that. I wasn’t exactly elated about the trip before hand. I wasn’t sure what to expect, probably something along the lines of being shanghai’d into a husband beat down session with my final words of “Mayday Mayday Mayday” falling dead in the mountain air. (Even the department gives us a bailout rope.) The first thing that I noticed upon our arrival, was that this was the first time I had entered a banquet hall and immediately felt at ease. Normally, at my wife’s work dinners I feel like an alien as I meet strangers that recognize the fact that, “Oh you’re a fireman.” As we both know this is followed by the cliche’ questions and statements. (We all know what those are.) But I recognized this was immediately different. We all (husbands & wives) shared something in common, a life-style. The connections were effortless. Friday changed my whole perception and appreciation for the sisterhood and what Mrs. Lori Mercer’s vision is. We sat through hours of invaluable information and learning. The NFFF presented ideas and tools that I had no clue were available. Our friend Captain Willie Wines brought about a communication of how this job affects our very soul and how critical it is that we be each other’s keeper. (By the way Captain Wines is one of the bravest men I’ve ever met, having the courage to do what he did that morning.) Extending an EAP card is what Corporate America does, we’re better than that, we need to be involved! And that’s what I believe this whole organization is about, being involved in our marriage and each other! I think the wive’s enjoyed taking their dusty, rustic firemen out, making them polish up, and dress up. Then they had the nerve to make them take their wives out dancing for the evening. Saturday presented a unique opportunity that many will never have. Wives were able to experience some of the hardships that we endure routinely. I heard many wives proclaim the new found respect they have for their husbands. Some of these had even been married to their firemen for years. In closing I would like to admit that I am onboard and a supporter of what the Mercers are doing. It’s pretty amazing! – Ryan McGiboney


This photo says it all….”Taking a breather after a great Touch A Truck experience. Smiles on our faces show the Love grew stronger as each day passed. We almost felt like we were dating again.” – Jerry Meddock Jr.

Felicia WagonerTwo things stand out from the weekend. As soon as I heard Willie say the words ‘I was in a very dark place’ I knew he’d been through a hell very similar to mine. He’s so very blessed to have a friend like you in his life. Also, we almost didn’t stay the extra day. I was right where I needed to be. No one has ever told me to let go of the guilt I’ve carried because Todd is a survivor. I needed to hear that from Julie, and more cancer support groups need to get the no guilt message out there. – Felicia Wagoner

SeboThis whole experience has been a godsend to our relationship, having a community where Christine can vent and counsel alike, has been great and has reduced a lot of stress that had snuck into our marriage and given her the solace to know its really not as bad as it seems. Likewise the friendships gained for both of us are priceless – Shawn Sebo

DevoeHad a great weekend of course, but my favorite quote went something like “oh yeah, let’s offer the cops some moonshine” after security dropped off more firewood. – Dennis Devoe

nadaletWhat pure joy looks like. This weekend was the perfect time away for Matt and I. We were able to reconnect and also relax. We were able to laugh, and laugh hard. And we were able to work together to accomplish a task. I love this picture because it shows just how much fun we had doing the competition. I want to remember this forever. This moment. The feeling of victory, and my soul being recharged by his encouragement and love. #flamefest15

Upon initial glance at this picture, you may think “oh that’s just the 4 crazy dudes who got up early to workout.” But when I look closer, I see much more. Those two on the left have been in the profession for a long time. They’re seasoned, they love what they do, and they like to pass along that love for their career. They’ve chosen to be fit, so they can do their job well and also live longer and be the husbands and fathers that they were created to be. The two on the right are young dudes, early in their career, ready to advance. They’re both going to be in paramedic school this fall (at least that’s the plan), and are in the hard early season of their career. They’re staying fit not only for the best jobs, but to also be healthy and live to have a long career. But all four have chosen to get away for this weekend to support their marriages. They choose to value their marriage in their careers, no matter what stage they are in. And they encourage one another. I’ve heard each one of these guys listen to and support each other. They remind each other what’s really at stake and why they love what they do. They may have only just met, or known each other a long time. But that’s what Flame Fest is all about. Building relationships with other brothers to better serve the fire service, to be a positive influence, and to be the best husbands they can be. #flamefest15 – Megan Nadalet

isaacssThis was my third FlameFest. And I was excited to attend this one as I was my first. Even more excited to hear they will not be called FlameFest anymore (feel free to edit that last part out Rhett). I like to think I know a lot about a lot of stuff. We fireman tend to be that way. There is no 912…it’s us, then the Army. We are the jack of all trades. If I don’t know what to do, give me a couple minutes and I will probably solve the problem. At least good enough. In a marriage however, that is not usually the answer. Each time I go to these I am renewed and the fact that a good marriage takes hard work, dedication and most of all, attention. It’s not just a 24-7 commitment. For me, it’s a 24-48 commitment. I need to be the same “Dudley do right” leader I am at work, as I am at home. I sometimes forget that. I love these weekends for a lot of different reasons. Mostly the people…but importantly, the fact that my wife is paying attention and interested in me. Not just because I’m her husband. She’s interested in what I do, why I do it and how… This fascinates me, makes me look at her and wonder what I could do to be the man that she deserves. It makes me want to be a better husband. It always makes me pay attention more. Thank you for another great experience. – AJ Isaacs

kate scottI am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to reconnect with my husband, myself and my fire community. I learned so much about my relationship, our needs and our responsibilities. The information and friendships I gained are priceless and impressive for such a short time. I can’t say how fulfilled this weekend has made me or thank you quite enough.
Kate Scott, Buffalo, NY

bosticI loved getting to spend uninterrupted time with my spouse. The break from the pager was amazing. During Touch A Truck, I got to see an amazing side to my firefighter. I got to see his passion and dedication as he took the time to explain the techniques that I could use to do each obstacle. Then I got to see his pride after I completed the skills. If he took teaching me that seriously, I can only imagine his interactions with the newer firefighters at the station. I still keep going back to two quotes that sum some things up- Never leave your partner behind and My cup runneth over. Thanks for all you do for the firefighting community. Jennifer Bostic

spaulding“The automatic connection between brothers that I have never met before was touching.” Matthew Spaulding

We were so blessed to attend #FlameFest15. Thank you so much Firefighter Wife and the great people that made that happen. This event could not have been timed better, when we needed it most. What an awesome time to get away and focus on just you and your spouse, and to attend workshops with your spouse about topics relevant to you and your spouse. – Lisa Carney Thomas Clements and I are already making plans for #FlameFest16 in Asheville, NC.

Firefighter Husbands, Wives, or even those want to be husband/wife, go to www.firefighterwife.com, firefamily.life, or 247commitment.org and sign-up today!!! #BestDecisionEver

bostic2Flamefest was truly a blessing to attend. In 16 years of firefighting I have been to many conferences, conventions, and gatherings of all sorts. I have seen our Brotherhood fired up about the job, but never seen a venue with spouses and significant others that were so fired up, supportive of their firefighter, and willing to dedicate the time.

I was beyond excitement to see my wife fully gear up and tackle a few of the challenges that we get to work with. I felt extremely proud to see her pumped up forcing a door in eight seconds, chopping a hole through a wall, and stretching a hose line with a partner. Even more encouraging was when I looked around and saw the other men just looking just as proud as they helped gear their wives up and show them more about what we do.

Flamefest brought a message that couples need to hear, more importantly it’s a message and a way that we need to share. Can you imagine how our firehouses would work if more couples could, “get this.”

Rank, location, and size or type of department don’t matter. We’re all firefighters; the message at Flamefest is universal. The bonds made this past weekend are already at work in our communities. Jason Bostic Fredericktown Community Fire District Fredericktown, Ohio

Mylina DillardFlamefest15 was an opportunity to meet face to face those people you have connected with through the sisterhood. It was also a learning time through different experiences that brought us closer to our spouses. Lori and Dan Mercer have such a passion and blessed ministry for seeing marriages thrive and push past problems. The weekend experience is so rewarding and uplifting and everyone is focused on the same goal…making marriage work. Mylina Dillard