Polk County “Leadership”

Below is by: Michael Horst

“I Stand With The Brothers & Sisters Of Polk County Fire & Rescue”…there I said it and I mean it with all of my heart. Some of you know I’ve just returned from a tremendous training event in Tampa Florida where I was invited to come and share Firefighter Survival & Hasty Rescue Techniques. This was at the First Annual Cigar City FOOLS Project Vacant. During my two days I was blessed to meet some of the most amazing Florida firemen. Project Vacant was an hard hittin two days of physical and emotional stress induced training and the takeaways were incredible. The Polk County fire fatality event was fresh and a frequent discussion point among us. Coincidentally the keynote speaker for the event was Fire Captain Stone, from Okaloosa County in North Florida, who by using Vent Enter Search rescued a homeless women from certain death on Valentine’s Day eve this year. During the second day as one of the groups rotated into my station I looked up and quickly noticed a soot stained white helmet and front which read ‘Polk County Fire Rescue’. I quickly stood up and shook his hand and welcomed him to the scenario. The scenario which I aptly named “So Others May Live” was designed as to make everyone aware that when life hangs in the balance, we must do everything possible to save human life whenever that opportunity presents itself. During the lunch break I made it a point to hang with the chief and listen. I just tried to be there for him however I could. Here was a leader who had just left a 96 straight hour work tour to come train with us. His face was tired, and not just work tired, it was painfully tired from everything his department has been through. He told me that there are over
100 vacancies on his job! I could tell the world weighed heavy on him. At the end of the day when we were having the ‘Hot Wash’…the chief pushed forward…and he needed to be heard. The raw details of what all he said to us will remain between us but in a nutshell he made an emotional plea with us to not blame all of the men and women of his department for the actions of one. He told us how grateful he was that we accepted him with such open arms…can you imagine that he thanked us? There is much we all don’t know that happened at that tragic fire. It will come out eventually and I think you’ll understand why they’re hurting over it. So I’m going to ask any of my FB fire friends to think before you comment on this fire. I believe in the end they’ll get it figured out but in the meantime know that when Polk County Fire & Rescue is dispatched on an alarm I feel certain the department gives a 150%. I Stand With The Brothers & Sisters of Polk County Fire & Rescue! I hugged the chief and gave him my card and asked that if he ever needed to talk…any hour night or day to call…I hope I hear from him soon. By: Michael Horst

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6 thoughts on “Polk County “Leadership”

  1. Chief I too stand with ALL my brothers and sisters not just with Polk across the country. Unfortunately there are some underlying issues at with this fire. The company officer stated that he was overwhelmed and yet found the time to take out his phone to video the fire and this poor woman dying. With the knowledge that there was someone inside. That behavior is unforgivable in my eyes and I’m not alone. We ALL put it on the line everyday that is what we are paid for it was what we do!!!! We save lives…. he allowed one to die that didn’t need to. Unfortunately this has left questions with the community that is served within Polk County and across the state. It is unfortunate that as a whole we, as a profession, as an industry, as professionals, we are now being judged by the actions of one. Due to those actions we are now faced with regaining the trust and confidence of the people we serve. A confidence that has taken decades to obtain and uphold!!!! Thank you for attention and consideration of my opinion. Please let’s all be safe

    • Sean…I believe that from what I’ve learned while training with this brother and listening to his plea it will work out for the best. He shared many of the yet to be public facts and the brotherhood there in the Tampa/Hillsborough region did some research of their own. It’s a mess…but you know if you work this business long enough you’ll learn we all have our problems, issues and weaknesses. I’m praying the victims loss won’t be in vain and much good will come from it. Keep the faith brother!

  2. There but for the grace of God go I….

    I retired from a metro Atlanta department that is, rightfully, seen as progressive and professional. I’m very proud to have worked there and humbled and honored to have worked with many of the past members and to have been able to watch some of today’s leaders there mature.

    I know full well that we have promoted people that didn’t need to be in the positions they assumed. Thankfully those were the exceptions to the rule. No promotional process or assessment center is perfect. And if/when subjectivity is allowed into any process there are naturally going to be favorite sons and daughters. It’s just human nature.

    We had fires that were ugly. I made tactical decisions that weren’t always the best. Thankfully good people picked up my slack when something got by me. I remember listening to a fatal house fire years ago in 7’s territory when I was assigned to our Station #2,…total cluster. I also remember a multiple fatality trailer fire on the north end of the county as well that forced a lieutenant to resign or retire early.

    I know that all it would take today is one fire, with the wrong folk(s) making decisions and my department would be Polk County. be careful when you throw rocks. Your house may be more glass than Lexan than you think.

    It’s sad that it takes a tragedy for leadership to make changes. Two person engine companies? Extended response times? Inexperienced officers? is that what it was? Inexperience? How long did the command staff tell the politicians they needed “more”? Or did they keep their mouths shut for the sake of their upward mobility saying over and over “everything is just fine.” Only they know.

    The log and radio traffic made me sick to my stomach. If anybody lied about the actions at the scene to cover things up they should be canned yesterday.

    But with all that said I hurt for the go getters and hard chargers in Polk County and I refuse to make a situation that is eating those guys and gals up inside worse. If they are my family I will not pour salt on their wounds but I’ll hope and pray that those who made the administrative, political, and tactical decisions on this fire are reckoned with appropriately.

    And if they aren’t that tells me a lot about Polk County government and fire administration.

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