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Every firefighter is a leader, said retired FDNY fire chief

Fire Chief John J. Salka, Jr. spoke to a few Morris Fire Department members on fire tactics and strategy at the Morris Fire Station after the Five Alarm Leadership Class on Saturday, May 18. (Submitted Photo)

MORRIS -- The Morris Fire Department hosted a Fire Training seminar on May 18 for firefighters from throughout the region.

The keynote speaker for the event was Fire Chief John J. Salka, Jr.  Salka is retired after 33 years with the Fire Department of New York. He frequently speaks at fire department conferences around the nation, as well as corporate leadership seminars.

Leadership was the focus for one of Salka’s sessions and he said that it’s one of the most requested areas of training throughout the country.

“Sometimes firefighters have to be leaders even if they’re not officers. Two or three firefighters are sent to a roof and one of them has to lead. Every firefighter is a potential leader.”

Salka said problems that happen in fire service often grow out of a lack of leadership. Fire departments can do a better job by having better leadership.

“Everywhere I go, I hear a lot about a disconnect between the chief and the fire fighters. It’s not unlike corporate situations, where employees complain that the CEO has no idea what they’re doing on the street.” Salka encourages department leaders to focus on managing their time well so they can stay in touch with everyone in the department.

Salka also talked about safety and survival, which he said can’t be talked about enough.

“One of the problems with firefighting is that you can just make one little mistake, it’s sort of like being a soldier, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, or your gun doesn’t go off, or you have your bullet-proof vest on backwards, you could get killed or seriously injured.”

Salka said he enjoys visiting firefighters around the nation and sharing lessons learned in the aftermath of 9/11.

"Everywhere you go, everybody knows each other, and we have a lot of things in common, whatever size the department is," he said.

The Morris Fire Department received a Grant from the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education to provide the training seminar.