16 FIRERESCUE MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017 FIREFIGHTERNATION.COM
Nozzlehead Ray in that but I promise you this: It was the kind
of fire Ray would have loved to fight. He was a 100
percent firefighter. Day and night, he was always a
firefighter … one of THOSE guys. Always wearing
fire department “colors,” always wanting to know
the latest, always wanting to train, always listening
to the radio, and he even owned his own rig. One of
“I am a lucky man,” he said. “No matter what happens, I had 14 more years than the people who died
that day.” Ray lived every moment, up until his last
breath, with the philosophy and attitude to do the
right thing, even when no one was looking.
Fire Commissioner Rick Stein from New Hyde
Park, New York: What Can I Do to Help?
Ricky recently completed his term as fire commis-
sioner of the New Hyde Park Fire District and was
also a past chief of department of the Fire Island
Pines Fire Department in Suffolk County (NY) and
a former chief inspector for the FDNY. He was also
former chief of the New Hyde Park Auxiliary Police
and a member of Elks Club Lodge 2107. He was
community involved. Teri and I met Rick many years
ago through some mutual fire service friends and,
While we had many visits and meals together, Ricky
always loved talking about being at Teri’s big 50th
birthday beach party in 2009 along with the other
130+ people! He was thrilled to hang out with so
many great folks—fire, family, and friends! Several
weeks later, Ricky sent her a beautiful photo album
complete with his commentary as a gift. He also gave
her a fire helmet signed by KISS! He was a great guy
and a wonderful, caring human being. Are you seeing
a common denominator here?
In the past few years, Ricky had some very serious
health problems but also lost some friends and some
immediate family members, which hit him very hard.
His whole life was about his family and his friends
and, quite frankly, after he lost his
beloved Mom not long ago, I’m not
sure he was able to recover.
DEALING WITH THE BAD STUFF
These friends I am writing to you about remind me
of the quote by “Ronald the Arsonist” in the movie
“Backdraft” when he said, “The funny thing about firemen is, night and day they are always firemen.” That›s
who these guys were, and still are, in many hearts and
minds—and maybe even yours now.
To be clear, the loss of these guys hurt so many
people and will continue to do so. It still hurts me a
lot, but how it hurts me may be very, very different than
how it hurts someone else. Keep reading.
So, what’s the secret to dealing with the bad stuff
we see, respond to, and deal with? What about the
so-called “regular” life stuff that challenges us? How
do we manage our mental health, emotional well-being, and behavioral health so we are “OK” when
dealing with either personal or response-related “bad
stuff”? How do we not drink ourselves, smoke ourselves, dope ourselves, drive ourselves, or whatever to
death—unintentionally or intentionally? How do we
not harm ourselves when the pain gets that bad?
To be clear, I am only qualified to give you my
highly unqualified opinion. I’m no doctor or behav-
ioral health specialist. No way. Not even close. I don’t
have a whole lot of alphabet letters after my name.
All I have is years of doing, watching, experiencing,
screwing up, learning, and keeping doing. And, I do
get to write about stuff and give my opinion, mostly
I think how each of us deals with the bad stuff is
similar to tuna fish. Some people LOVE tuna fish.
They can eat it all day, in sushi, in salad, on the
grill; they love tuna fish. Some people CANNOT
STAND tuna fish. Why?
Because we are different. (Enjoy this moment of Zen.
OK, now, back to us. Us is we and we all like, don’t
like, or simply hate different stuff. Some like Chinese
food, others do not. Some love Italian food. Others?
Fahgettaboutit. Some people are chilly
in a room and others are sweating.
Some love the smell of freshly cooked
cabbage, and most of us don’t. Some
like the only real kinds of music:
country and western, and some like
hard rock, jazz, ska (google it), or rap.
Some cry at movies while others are
What you as an officer may think isn’t
a big deal may be huge to that firefighter
or those firefighters under your command.
Size-up applies to the troops, too.
Fire Commissioner Rick Stein.