Contributor Biographies

Todd Hurley joined the fire service in 1993. He is currently assigned to an Engine Company and holds the rank of Captain. Todd is a member of the Clay Fire Territory in South Bend, IN. He also serves as a Field Training Officer for his department. You can reach Todd at

John Shafer is an 18 year veteran of the fire service, and is currently a Lieutenant and the Training Officer for the Greencastle Fire Department. John is a recognized instructor on building construction, fireground search, and command management. John has taught nationally at FDIC and Firehouse Expo. He has also traveled throughout the United States and Canada delivering specialized training programs on building construction, fireground search, and firefighter safety. John is also the Indiana Homeland Security District 7 Fire Training Coordinator, and in this capacity coordinates and facilitates firefighter training courses for firefighters through much of the State. He builds training courses to suit the needs of his students and focuses those seminars on his specialties of building construction and fireground searches. He has served as an advisor to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for the state's development of the Fire Training System of Indiana and assisted with the development of the District 7 Training Council and the District 7 Response Task Force. In addition to his efforts to bring advanced training to District 7's members, he utilizes new technologies, and manages a social networking site Green Building Construction for the Fire Service on facebook. John is also Owner/Writer for Green Maltese LLC and is co owner of Fire Training

Chris Huston, with 7 years of service, is a Firefighter, EMT, Training Officer and Instructor. Chris has experience in suburban, rural and the industrial setting. Training Officer at Bertrand Twp. Fire, Firefighter at Cook Nuclear Plant, State Instructor and Advocate for Everyone Goes Home. Chris has shared his message at local, regional and state conferences about Firefighter training, safety and education. Chris has worked for a variety of organization types, with a strong foundation in small to medium sized volunteer and career departments. A third generation Firefighter, Chris has grown up around the firehouse and this can be seen through his passion for this calling. Chris is co-creator of Fire Training Toolbox. Learn more about Chris and his work at

Bryan Altman is a Lieutenant/Assistant Training Officer with Worth County (GA) Fire/Rescue. He is a 9-year veteran of the fire service. He spent 2011 serving as a full time instructor with the Georgia Fire Academy teaching the Basic Firefighter Program and assisted with live fire classes; he is still an adjunct instructor with GFA. He taught at the Metro Atlanta Firefighters Conference in 2012 and has written for Fire Engineering Magazine. Certified as a Firefighter 2, Acting Officer, Live Fire Instructor, Basic Firefighter Instructor and Fire Instructor 2.

Trevor Bertram is a second generation Fireman with the Monticello (KY) Fire Department and an EMT with Wayne County (KY) EMS. He is an advocate for firefighter health, training, and mental preparedness. Trevor can be reached at

Chris Sterricker, Lead Advisor for Fire Training Toolbox, has been in the fire service for 18-plus years, beginning in the far West Chicago suburbs as a Paid-on-call Firefighter/Paramedic. He has served in both combination and all full-time departments, in semi-rural, suburban and urban communities. He is currently a full-time Firefighter/Paramedic in DuPage County, Illinois and is a member of his departments Training Division. Chris is also the Editor and chief contributor to his web

Robert C. Owens Sr. is a Firefighter/NREMT-I with the Henrico County (Virginia) Division of Fire. He began his fire service career with the Mechanicsville Vol. Fire Dept. (Virginia). He previously served as a career firefighter in Stafford County (Virginia). He is a certified Instructor 2 and Fire Officer level 4 by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, and a Mass Casualty Incident Management Instructor for the Virginia Office of EMS He has his BS in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University. He has presented programs at FDIC and Firehouse EXPO, and runs the fire service blog


Ric Jorge is a Firefighter with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue since 1992 and is currently assigned to the 3rd Battalion. Ric is a National and State Certified Instructor teaching for his department and Palm Beach State College as well as instructing at conferences like the Orlando Fire Conference, The Great Florida Fire School, Fort Lauderdale Fire Expo, H.E.A.T. Conference, FDIC (Indiana), Firehouse (Baltimore), Fire Rescue East, Hawaiian Fire conference, and Cuenca Fire academy in Ecuador S.A. Teaching classes that he was influenced by personal mentors in the disciplines of ventilation, ladders, FF survival, Hose Management, Room Orientation, Air Management, Tricks of the Trade, Flashover Awareness, and Forcible Entry.

Cathy Wagner is an Assistant Chief with the Rochester Volunteer Fire Company (WI). She is a 22 year veteran of the fire service. She volunteers with three fire departments and also works part-time for two departments. She is a Certified firefighter III, certified MPO/Driver Operator, EMT-Intermediate Tech and just recently completed her Fire Instructor. She currently serves as a firefighter and EMT with Rochester Volunteer Fire Company, Waterford Fire and Rescue and an EMT with Tichigan Volunteer Fire Company. She has experience in fire investigation and is an advocate for fire prevention. She is currently pursuing her nursing degree at this time as well. She can be contacted at


Kris Hester has been a member of the Texas fire service since 1998. He is currently a Captain, training officer, and certification coordinator, a Public Information Officer and an Instructor 1. Kris worked as a Federal firefighter for the National Park Service specializing in Fire Aviation, and several seasons as a firefighter for the Texas Forest Service. He has been a "coordinating assistant" with the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stairclimb for '11 and 2012. Currently he is working as an ARFF trainee at the Abilene Regional Airport in Abilene, Texas.


Forest Reeder began his fire service career in 1978. He
currently serves as Division Chief / Training & Safety with the
Des Plaines (IL) Fire Department. Forest is the Fire Officer 1 & 2 coordinator for the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and also serves as the Eastern Regional Director of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Additionally, Forest is the author of the weekly drill feature at and at He was the co-editor and contributing author of Fire Service Instructor, Principles and Practices, 1st edition published by Jones and Bartlett. He has instructed at FDIC for over 10 years and trains both locally and nationally on fire service training, safety and officer development related topics. Several articles on these programs have been published in major trade publications.

Forest holds many Illinois fire service certifications and a Masters Degree in
Public Safety Administration from Lewis University. He was awarded the George
Post Instructor of the Year by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors
at FDIC in 2008.


Drew Smith is the Deputy Chief of the Prospect Heights (IL) Fire District, a full-service (Fire/Rescue/ALS Transport) organization with 50 members, both full time and part time. He is 35-year fire service veteran with 28 years officer experience, 23 as a chief officer. Past Lead HOT Instructor and 13-time classroom presenter at annual Fire Department Instructors Conference. Certified Fire Officer and Instructor. Licensed Paramedic since 1981. Attended National Fire Academy. Extensive experience in program development, management, leadership and supervision of personnel groups, development of policies and procedures, apparatus and equipment purchasing and maintenance, public fire safety education, media relations, and Emergency Medical Services system coordination and liaison. Experience in establishment of a new fire department and hiring of full-time and volunteer personnel. Command officer at numerous incidents including extra-alarm fires and multi-casualty situations. Founding member and current director of Regional Technical Rescue Team. Chairman, Illinois Technical Rescue Team Steering Committee. Member of several professional organizations. Director of full-time,regional entry-level firefighter academy serving northeastern Illinois.


Vicki Schmidt is a Maine Fire Services Instructor and a volunteer firefighter and Training Officer for the Buckfield Fire Department in Buckfield Maine. She is also the Governor's appointee to the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission as a representative for the Maine State Federation of Firefighters. Vicki also serves on the Technical Advisory Group for Life Safety for The Maine Bureau of Building Codes and Standards. In addition, Vicki is Training Program Coordinator for the Western Maine Fire Attack School and the Frandford Mutual Aid Fire Training Association. Along with being a popular instructor for Firefighter I and II classes, Vicki owns and manages a 100 acre working draft horse farm in Western Maine and works full time for the State of Maine as a Geographical Information Specialist (GIS). Her national and international fire instruction specialties include Large Animal Emergency Rescue programs, Modern Fuels in Modern Construction, and GIS for Preplanning and Emergency Response. Vicki can be contacted at


Ronald Van Meter is member with the Aurora Township Fire Department (ILLINOIS), and holds the rank of Captain and EMT-B. The last three years he has been Instructor for the recruit's class's and training program. Ronald joined the fire service in 1976. He was a Lieutenant, Paramedic with the Montgomery & Countryside Volunteer Fire Distract (ILLINOIS), for many years. Ronald also works full time as Plant Superintendent of Operations for the Gateway Company, where he handles all medical and fire training for employees. He can be reached at

The Penn Twp. Training Packets are contributed to us by BC Brian Kazmierzak of the Penn Twp. Fire Department, and These packets are results of years of collecting training material from many extremely intelligent instructors and great friends, such as Forest Reeder, Bob Muszynski, and Drew Smith from the Chicagoland Area, and re-packaged to fit his departments needs.  Brian distributes his packets to over 200 departments each month and it is all in the context of SHARING TO KEEP FIREFIGHTERS SAFE SO THAT EVERYONE GOES HOME!

Jay Fainer - Serving for Fifteen years with the Ansonia Fire Department as a Lieutenant, Fire Instructor III, Fire Officer I and EMT. Currently serves as first lieutenant in charge of training. Jay is licensed electrical contractor with 15 years in the business, currently a high voltage cable splicer. As an instructor for the Valley fire Chiefs Regional fire school that serves 9 departments. The lead instructor and program coordinator for his departments Hazmat and 2Q (Ct's emergency apparatus driving endorsement) deliveries. Jay along with his departments 1st Assistant Chief are developing a rope resuce program for the Ansonia Fire Department.

Jonathan Addler, with 11 years of service is a basic EMT and Safety officer for Putnam County Operation Life who is the sole 911 EMS provider for rural Putnam County, Indiana. Jonathan has previously served as chief of a volunteer ambulance service and held several ranks in the fire service from firefighter to captain and safety officer. Jonathan is currently a member of Madison Township Volunteer Fire Department outside Greencastle, Indiana  where is currently a Lieutenant and EMS officer. Jonathan as a member of Indiana District Task Force 7 was deployed with an EMS strike team from Indiana to the New Jersey coast to assist with hurricane sandy relief efforts. Jonathan has since his childhood wanted to help people and serve his community. 

Ben Peetz has served nearly 20 years with the Napoleon (IN) Volunteer Fire Department, including roles as a firefighter, officer and instructor. He has earned professional designation as a Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) from National Fire Protection Association, as well as an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. He works full-time as a Senior Loss Prevention Specialist for a property insurance carrier that specializes in forest products, as well as other manufacturing industries. In this role, he travels a large part of the US providing inspection and technical analysis of commercial and industrial properties for underwriting and fire protection, as well as developing engineering solutions and training programs for the prevention of fire and other property losses. Using this unique background in non-residential fire prevention, protection and suppression, he founded the fire service resource website NotJustAnotherFire.Net.
Ben has earned degrees in agriculture communications and agrisystems management from Purdue University, where he worked several years for the university’s world-renowned agricultural safety and health program. In addition to his fire and safety experience, he has worked as a legislative communications specialist for the Indiana General Assembly, as well as having been a county-level elected official and member of his county’s E-911 communications advisory board. He resides with his wife and daughter on his family’s century-old southeastern Indiana grain farm, which they still operate.

Jeff Green is currently a Driver/Engineer with Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue. I have been in the fire service since 2001. I am currently working on completing my AS degree in Fire Science Technology at Indian River State College. I am an adjunct instructor for Palm Beach State College. My certifications include Pro Board FF-1 & 2; Pro Board Fire Officer-1 & 2; Fire Service Instructor 1; RIC Operations; Aerial Operations; numerous NIMS certifications; DOF national Red Card; Rope Rescue 1 & 2; State of FL EMT; and NREMT-P. I hold instructor certifications in ACLS, PALS, and BLS healthcare provider.

Karen Owens is the Emergency Operations Acting Manager for the Virginia Office of EMS, where she has worked since 2001. She is a National Registry Intermediate and Firefighter. Karen began her career as a volunteer at East Hanover Volunteer Rescue Squad. She has also held positions as a paid transport EMS provider and volunteer firefighter. In her current position Karen oversees statewide EMS emergency management operations and training courses including Mass Casualty Incident Management, Vehicle Rescue, Terrorism Awareness, and Disaster Management. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Masters in Public Safety Leadership from Christopher Newport University. Karen is also an EMT-Basic instructor. Karen is the author of Incident Command for EMS by Fire Engineering Books and has presented at FDIC and the Virginia EMS Symposium. Karen can be reached at or on twitter: @stickysidedwn

Joe Pronesti is a 25 year veteran of the City of Elyria, Ohio Fire Department  where he currently serves as a shift Captain, he is a graduate of the Ohio Fire Chiefs' Executive Officer program and is an instructor at Cuyahoga Community College's Fire Academy

Lloyd Mitchell - I have been a fan of the fire service since I was a little kid. I lived behind Hook and Ladder 147 which is a hook and ladder company. I am a photojournalism student, I currently go to school in Buffalo. I have been documenting firefighters work environments for three years. I view the fire ground as a place where I can create my artistic visions. My main goal is to document training, structure fires and firefighters work environment. I want everyone to learn from photographers and videographers work including myself. We are here to help you guys get better at the art of firefighting. You can view my work at

Christopher J. Naum - SFPE Chief of Training, Command Institute, Washington, DC Contributing Editor, Firehouse Magazine and Executive Producer and on PennWell's FireEMSblogs Consultant, NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention

Robert Shaw - Robert "Bob" Shaw, Chief Du Quoin Fire Department, Hired in Sept. 1983, F.O. IV, enrolled in Bachelors program @ SIU, and director of Fire Science at Rend Lake College.

Scott A. Conn, BA, CFI, is a second generation fire service member with 27 years in the service. He is a career employee of the City of Uniontown Fire Department, a combination department in Southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as serving on the Executive Board of I.A.F.F. Local L-0955. He also is a Pennsylvania State Fire Academy Local Level Instructor, an Instructor for the Butler County Community College's Continuing Education – Fire Training Programs, and serves as a Western Region Director for the Keystone Chapter of Fire Service Instructors, an organization representing Pennsylvania's Accredited Fire Service Instructors. He is on the Board of Directors for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Fire Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs Association Fire School at California University of Pennsylvania, where he also teaches. He has previously served as a Chief officer and Company Officer as well with the Hopwood Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. Conn studied in the Fire Service A.A.S. program at Westmoreland County Community College, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California University of Pennsylvania. He also holds a number of fire and emergency service certifications, including certifications from the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board). Mr. Conn is also the Administrator for the Facebook group - Fire Training Instructors.

Ryan Sparks is a 14 veteran of the fire service.  Starting his career at age 16 with the Eastern Volunteer Fire Department.  He served 10 years with Eastern Fire Department working his way up to Assistant Chief before leaving for the Zionsville Fire Department in August of 2009.  Ryan currently serves as a Lieutenant and a Paramedic with the Zionsville Fire Department.  Ryan has taught for District 5, 7 and 8 training districts in Indiana.  He has taught several classes at Zionsville and has encouraged his crew to begin teaching monthly trainings, which all members now participate in.  Ryan holds several state certifications in Indiana including Instructor 2/3, Fire Officer 1, 2 and 3, Driver Operator, Vehicle/ Machinery Extrication Technician along with several others. 

Matt Hinkle was born and raised in Jackson, MS and upon
completion of high school attended the University of
Mississippi where he received a Bachelors Degree in
Exercise Science and also lettered as a football player.
During his time at Ole Miss, Matt became heavily involved
in the Volunteer Fire Department. This is what kickstarted
his career and still drives him today. Matt has been a firefighter for over 10 years and served in many positions including: Firefighter, Driver/Operator, Lieutenant, Captain, Instructor and Training Officer. Matt is currently assigned as a Lieutenant with the Oxford Fire Department, Training Officer for the Lafayette County Fire
Department, Adjunct Instructor with the Mississippi State Fire Academy and serves as the Lead State Advocate for Everyone Goes Home in Mississippi. Matt has developed many courses for firefighters of all levels. He has designed local and state training curriculums, coordinated regional training events, and assisted in the development of national training programs. During his service Matt has received several awards including: Firefighter of the Year (Lafayette County Fire Dept.), Fire Officer of the Year Finalist (MS Burn Association), Medal of Valor (MS Burn Association), and a Letter of Commendation (City of Oxford). Matt has received over one thousand hours of technical training in many different disciplines including: NFPA 1001-I-II (Firefighter I-II), NFPA 1002 (Driver/Operator), NFPA 1041-I (Instructor), Hazardous Materials Technician I-II, Rope Rescue Technician I-II, Confined Space Rescue Technician, Trench Rescue Technician, Vehicle Extrication I-II, Search and Rescue Technician I-II-III, EMT-B, and Cave Rescue I-II. In 2010 Matt created a YouTube channel in order to provide accessible training videos for firefighters. With the channel gaining popularity Matt decided to expand on the channel and create a website and training business. You can now visit his website at for additional training resources and videos.

Erik Wood is a Captain at Shawnee County Fire District #2.