In the Jumpseat with FF/EMT & 5-Alarm Task Force Podcast Creator/Host Steve Greene

Name: Steve Greene

Department: Guilford College Fire Department (NC) (1977-1981) & DeWitt Fire Dept. (NY) (1981-1985)

Rank: Firefighter/EMT

Bio: I grew up the middle of 3 boys, outside Boston. Loved fire trucks but wanted to be a rabbi. Life changed. I moved to NC to work in a synagogue and a combo station was less than a mile away. I stopped in. I liked it. I walked out with an application. Never looked back until an injury knocked me off the line.


1. What made you join the fire service?

I had already passed every level of the Red Cross as a kid. I loved the show, “EMERGENCY.” This was my way to help someone.

2. What aspects of the job do you enjoy the most?

I loved it all. In 3 years, I qualified as a firefighter, driver-engineer, and high-level rescue. Had a spent a 4th summer in NC, I would have been an officer.

3. Who in the fire service do you look up to as a mentor?

My Chief, Bobby T. Wilson was my first mentor. He saw something in me that he wanted to cultivate. One of the three paid caretakers (24-on/48-off), Roger Brooks, was a former Air Force firefighter and he took me and my friend under his wing and taught us anything and everything he could, whenever the three of us got together at the firehouse. Roger is still a dear friend today.

4. How do you handle the stressors of the job?

I was relatively newly married, no kids. I worked 60 hours a week at my synagogue job. The fire service was my relief valve. And, I met another young man when we were voted in, who is still my best friend and a business partner today, 40 years later.

5. What book(s) are you currently reading?

I like mystery-thrillers by David Wood and military-style thrillers by Alex Lukeman.

6. If you could pick any career field outside of emergency/public service, what would it be?

Jewish education. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 13. Yes, I started teaching when I was thirteen!

7. What do you outside of work for fun?

I’m retired. I have one of our daughters getting married in the spring. I’m dedicating a lot to that! But I love to travel with my wife and my best friend and his wife. And of course, I love producing and hosting, the “5-Alarm Task Force” podcast!

8. What advice would you give young firefighters or men and women thinking of becoming part of the fire service?

Never, ever, give up your thirst for knowledge. And never, ever forget to pay it forward!

9. What is the driving force behind your success?

Success? Who me? I think I’m more lucky than successful. I’ve had more jobs of varying types, that have come and gone. I’ve made some terrible mistakes too. My success? I can look at our two daughters

In The Jumpseat with David Wiklanski

Where do you see the fire service in the next 5-10 years?

 In the next 5-10 years, the fire service will find itself tasked with even more evolving missions. The unfortunate part of the additional task loading is that our manpower will likely continue to decline and we will be forced to do much more, with less.

Of what you can see why has there been a decline in volunteers over the past decade?

In most areas, the cost of living is simply too high to be able to afford to have a family and live in some communities. As a result, the volunteer applicant pool for that area is often compromised. With the additional mission taskings we will require additional training. That training adds hours, which results in less time with families and more time at the firehouse. Many people have issues with Work/Life balance normally, and these additional hours tend to cause more problems. The increased demands due to their full-time employment, the commuting distances, increased hours per day don’t leave many hours left for all of their other roles and responsibilities.

Who in the fire service do you look up to as a mentor?

I have had many mentors in the past. I learn from everyone, including the students that I teach. My earliest mentors were the two most senior guys in my volunteer house. Known collectively as the two Charlies, Charles Flasser and Charles Kuenstner taught me a tremendous amount without needing a formal classroom setting. They taught me the value of the brotherhood, that it was never wrong to ask questions when you didn’t understand something and if you wanted to know something, Ask. Some of the lessons that they taught me, I will never forget and will continue to teach to the next generation of firefighters.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Due to my commuting distance to work, I have started dealing with audiobooks. As a result, I tend to burn through a book roughly every three or four days. The most recent one was called The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. While geared at parents of smaller children, it is easily applicable across the spectrum of emergency services. It addresses how we are afraid of failure and endangering our egos and self-esteem, yet without failure, we can’t accept winning. You have to be able to understand loss, in order to appreciate joy.

Looking at all the areas of the fire service (engine ops, truck co. ops, technical rescue, etc.), what area or areas do you tend to focus on the most? And why?

In an operational capacity, I love forcible entry. Between the conventional side of things and the through the lock side, I want to know everything that I can in order to ensure that we have access to our objective. In my city, as in many others, simply destroying someone’s property in the name of doing our job is unacceptable. By learning and teaching through the lock methods (TTL), I have been able to accomplish my goals with minimal damage to property and in the event that more damage is necessary, we often can work with the resident in an effort to get the damage restored properly and quickly.  In a professional capacity, my mission is to reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health emergencies on the provider/responder side. The Firefighter suicide numbers tend to overtake the Firefighter LODD numbers and that terrifies me. There are many resources available to providers who may be having difficulty in life, and I want them to know that calling for help is fine. We are willing to call a Mayday if we are physically trapped, but if we are psychologically in danger, we clam up. The culture of the fire service will need to adapt in an effort to address these issues and more.

If you were to leave the fire service today, what mark do you hope to leave on it?

If I were to leave, I would hope that there would be individuals that I have positively influenced, and that the lessons that I have taught them, either directly or indirectly, have enabled them to contribute to their own department or agency and lead by example. I worked for a Captain who did 30 years on the job. Lessons that he taught me starting from my very first day still carry over despite his retirement. I want to have that type of impact when I leave.

What advice would you give young firefighters or men and women thinking of becoming part of the fire service?

As with any decision, ensure you do due diligence. Ask yourself, what are my expectations and intentions? Once you establish what your expectations are, then find out if this field meets those expectations. If you have seen shows like Chicago Fire, Rescue Me, or even Third Watch, that’s not the real fire service. If you are expecting to be non-stop busy, going to fires several times a day and never having a “slow” day, you are likely mistaken. The “routine” days will outnumber the busy days, and the anticipated excitement might not exist. Find yourself an agency that has senior members that are willing to talk about their careers. See if their experiences across their years match your expectations of what you want from this profession.

What is the driving force behind your success?

I have to give credit to my family, as they have supported me through everything. They are the impetus for why I train as hard as I do, and my motivation to come home at the end of every shift. The mentors and leaders that I have had the privilege to work for, who have all taught me lessons, both good and bad. The men and women that I get to work alongside that constantly motivate me to be better, and to continue striving in my career. 

And that's a wrap for our fifth installment of Station Talk. In our next segment we will sit down with Sidney Lucas and learn about what areas of the fire service he has the most passion for, education and his driving force behind his successful career in the fire service. 

Until Next Time; Work Hard, Stay Safe & Live Inspired.

In The Jumpseat with Sean Walsh

Where do you see the fire service in the next 5-10 years?

I see the Fire/EMS service being strained in the next 5 to 10 years. With the ever evolving world there are alot more pressures and responsibilities being placed on an already fairly taxed system. Pretty much gone are the days of mom/pop shops in towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone is a happy go lucky kind of person. Now we have to constantly be on the look out for attacks, foreign and domestic that all spread the service thinly. I see a greater change coming in the Fire/EMS world in the near future that I don't think we have seen in a long time.

Of what you can see why has there been a decline in volunteers over the past decade?

It goes hand in hand with number 1. The busier the system the more taxed the members get and they burn out. Add to that the fact that training requirements are getting more and more, instead of maybe 1 or 2 nights a week being away from the family they are now gone 4 to 5 nights a week between training classes, drills, meetings, and actually taking calls. That adds the stress factor of family/personal relationships on the members. Also this is not a world in that people can wait around all day and night for calls, people have to work. Bills unfortunately just don't go away and work doesn't always just stop because theres a fire or squad call. 

Who in the fire service do you look up to as a mentor?

This is hard, and as a matter of fact I can't answer it with a single name, or even a few names. As I was moving up in my career I looked at everyone around me and asked questions, listened to their experiences, learned from their successes and failures. I tried to take the best parts (or what I thought were the best parts) of each of them and mold myself to that. Trying to learn from everyone and gain the experience is crucial to being well rounded. And while having 1 mentor is good, I felt not tieing myself down to just 1 was better. 

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Well, as most people know I just recently switched career fields. So all pleasure reading is suspended and has been taken over by Manuals, SOPs, maps, and other new job related material.

Looking at all the areas of the fire service (engine ops, truck co. ops, technical rescue, etc.), what area or areas do you tend to focus on the most? And why?

Since I am not a firefighter, None of the above! Haha, but to change the question slightly and gear it towards EMS, I would say Fire Rehab. Granted, all the other medical/Trauma related aspects of EMS are super important and I do focus on those as well. In my opinion, however, fire rehab is probably the most under-taught, unappreciated, and most misunderstood aspect of EMS. There are so many risk factors that play into the Fire Service especially when there us a large (or sometimes even small) scale event. Depending on the environmental conditions, the scene conditions, the event itself, the human factors, and countless other things, all make a difference in rehab. I could go on forever and bring up cases and first hand accounts and endless other things, but I won't get into that here. I just tend to focus on Fire rehab so that more people understand it and understand why it is so important. 

If you were to leave the fire service today, what mark do you hope to leave on it?

I actually kind of already left temporarily. I'm not sure what kind of mark I left on it. I would hope that it was good in terms of my department and the membership. However, that doesn't phase me all that much because the mark of my time can be seen in the countless number of people I have had positice interactions with while treating them or a loved one. 

What advice would you give young firefighters or men and women thinking of becoming part of the fire service?

First of all, if you make the commitment stuck to it. Don't half ass it and skim by just to say you were a part of it. Get involved, learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. Learn the sense of pride in your equipment and your work. Never turn down an opportunity to train or work with a piece of equipment. Understand that it is a family and always be there for people who need a helping hand. Don't get upset when asked to do little tasks (clean, take out trash, mop, etc) they are all jobs that need to get done and guess what? Everyone at the stayion did the same thing when they first started. It is just how it goes. Take it seriously, understand that your actions while in ANY type of uniform or department clothing reflect not only on you but also the department and the entire service, you will be held to a higher standard, be ready to live up to that.

What is the driving force behind your success?

The deep down burning desire to help people. I get such a rush when I can go out and help someone. It could be doing training at the station, going out on a call, answering questions, anything. I just love helping people. I also enjoy being a leader and trying to always keep the ship going forward, upgrading technology, upgrading equipment to make things work better, having pride in my department knowing we are the best we can be. Also, my grandmother was a RN for years and I grew up as a little kid listening to her stories of life in the OR and on the floors and I have always wanted to live up to that. 

Any that's a wrap for our fourth installment of Station Talk. In our next segment we will sit down with David Wiklanski and learn more about his vision for the fire service and what drives him to be an educator and student of the fire service each and every day. 

 Until Next Time; Work Hard, Stay Safe & Live Inspired.