Director of Emergency Services for 1-800-BOARDUP of El Paso and Las Cruces; Captain (RET) of El Paso Fire Department; Founding President of Fire Power 40, Inc.; Announcer for the Firefighter Combat Challenge
How and why did you become a Director of Emergency Services with 1-800-BOARDUP?
My sister saw the job online and referred me to it. At that time, I was looking for an opportunity that aligned with everything I was doing with Fire Power 40, a youth-based leadership organization I founded a few years ago. I interviewed with 1-800-BOARDUP and was hired. It took some time to pair me with a local service partner, but it’s proven to be worth the wait, as I strongly believe the home-grown owners of 1-800-BOARDUP have the people of El Paso’s best interest at heart, as well as a system of service-based values leading their mission.
Overall, the mission of 1-800-BOARDUP resonates with my values and what I stand for. As firefighters, we all have the obligation to put that big red truck back in service as quickly as possible, so we can’t spend a lot of time at the scene after a fire. I think all firefighters want to know what happens with the victim – the other side of the story. As an incident commander in my latter years of service, I often had the opportunity to step back from the immediate action and focus on customer service for the victims.
1-800-BOARDUP also supplements nicely with what I do with Fire Power 40 – my new fire. At Fire Power 40, we work with children who are going through troubles and hard times. 1-800-BOARDUP gives me the opportunity to meet people who have overcome the worst day of their life, and ultimately, their testimonies will help save lives in the schools across our country as I endeavor to expand the outreach of the program.
What did you do prior to becoming a director?
I served with the El Paso Fire Department for 21 years and retired as a Captain in 2015. When I joined the department in 1994, I created the first Firefighter Combat Challenge team in El Paso and have competed ever since. This year I’m hoping to place among the top 3 competitors in the world in the 50 and over category.
As mentioned above, I am the founding President of Fire Power 40, Inc. a leadership program for at-risk-youth and those that serve them. In 2000, alongside my friend and teammate, Kip Hall, we took the challenges from the obstacle course and brought them to schools to teach children how to navigate through the challenges of their lives. Things really caught fire and built momentum soon after the attacks of September 11.
In June of 2007, Kip underwent invasive surgery to remove a brain tumor. After two months of chemotherapy and radiation, Kip traveled with the team to compete in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, in Tyler, TX. This is, without a doubt, the most courageous single act I’ve witnessed in the 21 years of fire service. One month following that event, Kip was overdosed with a treatment of chemotherapy, and three weeks later the people of El Paso, TX lost a loyal ambassador and servant leader, and I lost a very good friend and brother.
This really lit a fire in my heart to continue doing what Kip and I were doing at a deeper level. And I had Kip’s story, a great example of what happens when everything inside a man is challenged by the hottest fire he’ll ever face. I’m no different than every firefighter on the planet who knows; to put the fires out in your life, you’ve gotta stay connected to your lifeline and you’ve gotta stay in the room. My purpose is to bring this message in schools across the country on a platform of trust, which they recognize as that big red truck.
What is the most important thing your career has taught you?
Servants are indeed the greatest among us. It is a great thing to be given an opportunity to serve without prejudice. My career has also taught me that the greatest servants are those that can guard their heart. There are many opportunities to be offended in the fire service – offended by the same caller in the middle of the night, by our brother/sister for whom we have a high regard and expectation, or by the leadership under whom we serve. Offense is like kryptonite. I’ve witnessed great leaders fall because they’ve taken offense, become bitter, and stopped serving to the degree they raised their right hand and swore to do. When we guard our heart above all things, we can have grace under fire, and remain in phase one.
We’re talking about camaraderie in this month’s Maltese Cross. If you could say one thing about the importance of camaraderie in the fire service, what would it be?
It’s service before self. I think of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. At the top of the pyramid is inattention to results. We’re a team and it’s important to always understand that you raised your right hand for team results. It really takes camaraderie to achieve this. Cohesiveness on the fire ground equates to efficiency, which in the end, equates to completing the mission together the best that we can.
Can you provide an example from your own experience of how camaraderie has benefited you or the victims in an emergency?
Our department in El Paso was very efficient, as we are both accredited and rated ISO 1. There were many calls where we worked together for a successful outcome. One incident where I was Incident Commander, there was hazardous material and mass casualties. It was one of my first calls in this battalion and I also had a lot of new guys I didn’t know very well. I ended up assigning them to manage different parts of the emergency. There were more experienced team members that arrived at the scene after positions were already assigned, and they helped me and the other new guys. I was open to their input, and in the long run, I credit the culture of camaraderie and cohesiveness to the firefighters there on the scene for the successful outcome.
What is your favorite quote or saying you live by and why?
Above all things, guard your heart. It’s wisdom that comes from my manufacturer and Creator. It’s a call to action – for our world to be less judgmental, less offended, and more graceful. When you look at the world and how divided we are – in our country, our workplaces, our homes and especially all of the things that we as firefighters have seen – by guarding our hearts we can be better employees, family members, fathers, mothers, brothers. Ultimately, we all could be better servants, and this would be a more joyful place to be.
Dave would love to lock arms in your community! For more information about Fire Power 40, Inc. visit firepower40.org.