About 65 firefighters from Juneau and across the state gathered at the University of Alaska Southeast on Saturday to hear a guest motivational speaker and author lecture on values-based leadership training in firefighting.
Rick Lasky, a 30 year veteran to the fire service and author of “Pride & Ownership: A firefighter’s love of the job,” spoke about the integrity, honor and pride it takes to be a firefighter, and how those values should be instilled in every firefighter, rookies and veterans alike.
“Firefighting isn’t just a job,” Lasky told the group, who nodded in agreement. “It’s a calling, it’s a passion.”
Lasky gave advice on how to combat the trap of just going through the motions, and the disconnect between the public and firefighters. For example, he stressed the importance of treating each person whom firefighters help on the job like a member of their own family.
Once that happens, “It changes everything,” Lasky said, and gives reason to train harder, be better and stop complaining.
“It’s service above self, it’s about family,” Lasky said in an interview.
Capital City Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said he saw Lasky speak about three or four years ago when he was in Kenai, and has been trying to get him to speak to his fire department since.
To pay for Lasky to come to Juneau to speak for two days (Saturday and Sunday), CCFR applied for a federal grant from the U.S. Fire Administration. The grant was accepted and covered the cost in full, Etheridge was happy to announce.
Firefighters from Nome, North Pole, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Sitka, to name a few, turned out for the event free of charge, which CCFR hosted.
“Basically, it’s just trying to reignite why they joined the fire department, and it was just kind of a little energy booster to get them fired-up about and excited about what they’re doing again,” Etheridge said. “We’ve been on such an upswing, it just kind of helps that momentum going.”
Lasky challenged each firefighter in attendance to be a leader themselves, to train hard and often, to take a rookie under their wing and to be proud of the uniform.
“It takes someone very special to do what you do, and it’s OK to say that,” Lasky said before listing some of the intense scenarios firefighters do routinely — crawling into burning buildings, saving people from car crashes, breathing life back into a baby. “There’s nothing pompous, conceited or arrogant about telling (rookies) that. Otherwise, they won’t get it.”
Just before the audience broke for lunch on Saturday, he left them with this thought: “The next time the dust settles, you’ll still see the members of the armed forces, law enforcement and firefighters. We’ll be standing there.”
Lasky was most recently the fire chief of the Lewisville, Texas, fire department for the past 12 years, where he still resides. He retired in 2011 after 30 years in the fire service, according to his biography online. He’s been a highly sought out public speaker since 2001 and published “Pride & Ownership” in 2006.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.