Preventing Fires as a Mission

As part of our mission to build awareness of the causes and dangers of chimney fires, we recently opened the doors of our Technology Center to provide free classroom training, consisting of a modified Chimney Physics course, to fire departments in and around Indianapolis. The CSIA’s positive relationship with the firefighting industry is crucial to our goal of reaching as many homeowners as possible with our chimney and dryer fire prevention messaging, because when it comes to fire safety tips, no one is more trusted than your local Fire Marshall.

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To me, this relationship is also personal…

As the son of a (former) volunteer firefighter, I quite literally grew up in the Decatur Township (southwest corner of Indianapolis) fire houses. Some of my earliest memories include flipping on the blue light in my dad’s pick-up truck, crawling around on the bed of hoses in the back of a fire engine, and watching, from a safe distance, as my dad would risk his life charging into a burning residence, hose or axe in-hand.

This lifestyle of helping others in their time of greatest need had such a profound affect on my brother and I that there was no question firefighting would be in both our futures.

Back in the 80s and 90s, the Decatur Township Fire Department had a Fire Cadet program for teenagers aged 14-18, and both my brother and I, who is six years older than me, were not only members, but we both held the elected position of Cadet Chief for multiple years. As a teenager, I had my own fire gear, I was riding firetrucks to emergencies, I was helping firefighters change out their air tanks during fires, and I was rolling lots of hose. I was so heavily involved that by the time I graduated high school, I was already a state certified firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician.

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Just for the record:  here I am at 18 — after  one of my first fires as a volunteer firefighter.

At this point, it’s likely you’re wondering why, unlike my Battalion Chief brother, I’m not putting out fires for a living instead of typing this blog post and preaching about the dangers of chimney and dryer fires to the general public. In short, a heart condition I had unknowingly developed prevented me from landing a career firefighting position after graduating from college. I will say, however, I did put in almost a decade of part time firefighting/safety crew work at Lucas Oil Raceway (during NHRA drag races, NASCAR Bush and Craftsman Truck races, etc) before landing my first real job in the business world, so there is that.

The reason I’m going to the trouble of mentioning all this, is that I want people to realize that helping people prevent dangerous situations in their homes is more than just a job for me, it’s also a calling that I take very seriously — which is what led me to sit down a few months ago and write personal letters to fire chiefs and training captains across the region inviting them for free training at our Tech Center … and now we’ve come full circle.

Now that you’ve heard my story about why this job is more “than just a job” to me, I’d love to hear YOUR stories about why you’ve chosen your own career path. Post them in the comments section below — don’t be shy!

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About the author: Jordan Whitt is the current Director of Communications and Marketing for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.  Outside of the CSIA, you’ll occasionally find him doing some public affairs work for the American Red Cross or Indiana Department of Homeland Security. You can email him directly at jwhitt@csia.org.


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