Monday , 28 May 2018

Stuart J. Pearlman: My Life at the Citizens Fire Academy, Checkpoint #3, 77 Steps

By Stuart J. Pearlman, TSB Staff


It has been very busy for the Citizens Fire Academy Class of 2013. I wouldn’t say we’ve been ‘putting out fires’ but our mental and physical education is being put to the test every week.

The Bottom Line

Assistant Chief Neil Howard is in charge of Administrative Services for the McKinney Fire Department and he is the guy to turn to whenever money or personnel is the topic. The second largest line item in the City of McKinney budget, (McKinney Police is the largest), MFD expenditures are projected at $19.4M annually. Howard points out that this figure has been lower in recent years due to overall city budget decreases and is only now returning levels equal to 2008/2009. Approximately 89% of MFD budget goes to salaries and benefits.

Howard also explained the extensive hiring process at MFD. It begins with an entrance exam and ultimately includes additional written tests, physical ability tests, a comprehensive background check, a credit check, a psychological examination and multiple personal interviews, ultimately with the Fire Chief.

  • Each year, MFD offers an entrance exam one time.
  • Last year 300 people signed up for the basic entrance exam, 280 took the test and 80% passed. All applicants were required to hold either/or Basic EMT, Basic Firefighter, Paramedic certification.
  • The application pool is expected to be larger this year because prequalification has been expanded to individuals who have served in other fire departments or in the military for at least two years.
  • At present, MFD expects to hire for only two open positions.

Not Simply Fire Fighters

Battalion Chief Kyle Easley is the man in charge when it comes to Emergency Medical Services (EMS). With the exception of two individuals, every MFD firefighter is a Certified Paramedic.

Easley is quick to point out that the vast majority (70%) of MFD activity is EMS related. While these calls vary in degree of severity MFD Paramedics are prepared to handle virtually any medical emergency at the mobile level. Examples include:

  • Spinal Injury management
  • Fracture management
  • Obstetrics
  • Burn management
  • Advanced airway management
  • Mass casualty triage

The future of EMS is an area Easley spends a lot of time contemplating.

“As the future of health care changes, the EMS service delivery model must also change,” said Easley.


Because of the proximity of McKinney Fire Station #4 to the Collin County Regional Airport, this station has a special ARFF designation. ARFF is the acronym for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting. Wikipedia defines AARF as, ‘a special category of firefighting that involves the response, hazard mitigation, evacuation and possible rescue of passengers and crew of an aircraft involved in (typically) an airport ground emergency.

Because of the unique nature of aircraft emergencies, the McKinney ARFF unit requires specific training on special equipment. The ARFF crew even has special bunker gear that can withstand greater than normal heat protection.

According to the crew at #4, over the course of a year they get a lot of calls for the ARFF team but (fortunately) relatively few are actual incidents requiring the specialized equipment.

“We have probably gotten called on nine or so serious incidents over the past year,” said Driver Barney Tucker.

PHI Air Medical

The generic term these days tends to be CareFlight but in McKinney first at bat for emergency air transportation is PHI Air Medical. Based at the Collin County Regional Airport, PHI helicopters cost about $5.5M and are as completely equipped as any EMS unit.

Each shift has one lead pilot and two flight nurses and can be off the ground and on the way to an accident scene within minutes. As they tend to monitor the emergency airwaves, more often than not the PHI helicopter is ready to take off before they actually receive the call. In emergency situations they will typically be transporting victims to Dallas area hospitals such as Parkland.

The CFA Games 2013

If you have ever heard of The X Games I would suggest they were inspired by many of the drills and activities our fire fighters perform and practice regularly. As previously reported, the CFA Class of 2013 has already gone through the ‘Search and Rescue’ drill but the next leg of our training offered challenges a bit more physical.

Our activities included ‘hammering the Keiser sled’ to give us an idea of what yielding an axe is like, ‘squirting some water’ to help us understand the power behind a fire hose, ‘dragging the dummie’ to get a sense of the strength required to pull a lifeless victim out of harm’s way, and ‘climbing the ladder.’

When I signed up for the McKinney Citizens Fire Academy I knew one of the task I would potentially experience was climbing a 100-foot ladder. This is the drill I dreaded the most due to a small fear of heights I have developed in my advanced age.

As I waited patiently, watching my fellow CFA classmates bravely disappear into the clouds, I thought of one simple and potentially ‘stupid’ question: How many steps does one have to take to climb to the top of a 100-foot ladder?

So, as I ascended the mobile stairway I thought not of the ladder getting narrower as I got higher, or of the gentle breeze whizzing against my cheek, or of my heart racing, or of the pain in my thighs similar to that caused by the first stair-master I ever conquered 30 years ago. No, my thoughts were entirely focused on counting the number of steps to the top.

And then I made it.

And I knew the number.


And then I started counting backwards because I knew that was the only way I was going to get down!

Watch the video if you have a few minutes. This stuff is fun!

Giving Thanks

MFD Public Information Officer Stacie Durham is the leader of our band but this program would not be possible without help and assistance from countless other members of MFD. This round’s props go to the following:

McKinney Fire Station #1

Captain Mark Latham

Carey Elder

Logan Davis

Jonathon Duncan

Joel Hutson

McKinney Fire Station #2

Captain Michael Stiltz

Quincy Blount

Justin Corwin

Micah Maxon

Brice Purdom

McKinney Fire Station #4/ARFF Unit

Barney Tucker

Austin Hendricks

Dennis Cobb

Corey Jones

PHI Air Medical

Kandy Fleming

Chris Oliver

Snapper Pierce

About the Author

Stuart J. Pearlman is a Marketing and Communications Consultant living in McKinney. His video column, Stuart J’s Lens can be seen weekly on Follow Stuart on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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