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What you liked in 2009. The most popular stories of last year from Plus, our contest winner.

We have a winner! The very first entry into our top stories contest for 2009 correctly guessed the top story of the year. Even though the rest of that person’s top five weren’t on target, it gave me hope for you people and this contest. Once again, Statter was wrong.

Many of you were blinded by our extensive coverage of PGFD and one man in particular, who at last look was still in the Prince George’s County Detention Center. You will have to scroll way done to number 14 to find his picture on this page. Other entries, including one from a person who should know better, focused way too much on our coverage of the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department. Only one DC story made the list (but it was a big one at number two).  In fact, only eight of the top 20 were local stories from the Washington, DC area. Remember that for next year’s contest. We are global in scope here at (yeah, right!).

To get a winner we had to go deep down to someone who guessed two of the top five. While he had the two top stories in reverse order, author and fire service veteran from Baltimore County Chris Hawley was the only entrant to get more than one out of five. The good news is the two Baltimore boys should have lots to talk about when this one buys lunch.

Our rankings are based on the number of pageviews between January 1 and December 31, 2009 according to Google Analytics. If a story had multiple postings we only counted the top one for our list.

The interesting thing is that the bottom two stories and the 21st story were just nine clicks apart. Their rankings kept changing up until the closing hours of 2009. In the end, a somewhat odd, but newer story from Montgomery County, Maryland moved up, knocking off one of my personal favorites from earlier in the year. Number 21 is the story of Alexandria Fire Department (VA) veteran Doug Townshend who, while off duty, rescued his brother Mike from a burning home. Click here for that story.

Click the Popeye cartoon to see what used to pass for a year-end review at
Click the Popeye cartoon to see what used to pass for a year-end review at

By the way, I did this type of year end review, rather than the more humorous (at least I thought so) version of the two previous years, because I thought it would be easier to manage. I am writing this at 4:00 AM on New Years Day, so now I am not so sure. If you miss the old one, here it is (I am sure most of it is still true today anyway).

Obviously isn’t just us taking a look back at 2009 and ahead to 2010. Other fire service sites beat us to the punch. Paul Peluso at says 2009 was the year of the video (look below for proof). has a host of characters writing lots of words under its year in review banner. Billy Goldfeder has a message for the new year at Paul Combs has a great thought in his December cartoon at I am sure Bill Schumm will have something to help bring in the new year Firegeezer style and so will many others who share the site with this rag. .

And Rhett Fleitz at The Fire Critic, who is a great inspiration and supporter to all of us who blog, has a contest that is better than mine. Rhett  is looking for the Fire/EMS Blog of the Year 2009 (now you know why I said those nice things about him). Rhett’s is better because he is promoting it as the contest with the prize where you don’t have to sit across the lunch table from Dave Statter.

Thank you to all who entered our contest. Thank you to all who read and comment each day. Thank you to all who link to and carry our stories. Most important, a happy and safe 2010 to all of you and especially those out there protecting us each and every day.

So, drum roll please! We present our 20 most popular stories from 2009:  

1. May 30 – Confrontation caught on video between Oklahoma State Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Martin and Creek Nation Paramedic Maurice White Jr.


This was the story that dominated 2009 on Not only did the posting on May 30  (our fourth posting on the topic) bring in 43 percent more pageviews than our number two story for the year, three other stories on the confrontation would have taken places two, three, and four. When you add up the clicks for the almost 20 stories we posted on this topic they account for about five-percent of the overall traffic on the blog for 2009.

There have been more than 700 comments (actually a lot more than that, but many we couldn’t publish). A couple of comments still arrive each week.

If you would like to see some of the other stories on this one, click here and keep scrolling.

I think the reason for the high numbers, besides being a hot topic, is that we apparently reached way beyond our normal fire and EMS service audience on this story. It helps that the YouTube video above, which has more than two million views, has our link in its description.

2. October 9 – District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department Sprinkler Demonstration mishap.

As much grief as I get for carrying too many negative stories on the blog, the only reason the world knew about this one is because I was trying to do a good deed and post some positive news. On Wednesday, October 7 there were two sprinkler demonstrations scheduled in the National Capital region. One at Gallaudet University and the other at the University of Maryland (at MFRI). My goal was to get to both of them, but the Maryland one was the priority because of the release of a study about Prince George’s County’s mandatory residential sprinkler law. I never made it to DC and no one said anything to me about a problem during that demonstration.

As I was about to leave work the following evening I was feeling guilty the DC sprinkler video didn’t get any play in my story the day before (there had been a photographer on the scene from LNS, the local news service run by my station and two others in Washington). I pulled the video up with the intention of editing something for the blog and possibly Of course, as I watched the video, I immediately realized there was a little bit more to this demonstration.

This entry had 128 comments. More comments came in after Chief Dennis Rubin, when talking about what he saw, used the term “comedy act”.

Click here to see our follow-up stories on the sprinkler demonstration.

3. December 17 – Flashover in Erwin, North Carolina.

Firefighter Will Gregory exits the home with his PPE on fire. Photo by Brian Haney, The Daily Record.
Firefighter Will Gregory exits the home with his PPE on fire. Photo by Brian Haney, The Daily Record.

This was a late entry for the year. It came about because first put out the story of the close call based on the newspaper article by Brian Haney at The Daily Record in Dunn, NC. Figuring that there might be more than one photo, I called Mr. Haney and he told me he had shot 210 images from that fire. Brian sent a bunch to and gave us permission to use the photos.

4. January 9 – The crash of Boston Fire Department Ladder 26 killing Lt. Kevin M. Kelley.

Until a day or two ago, this was in the number three spot for the year. In my heart I wish it was number one. I was blogging away on the Friday afternoon that Ladder 26 wrecked trying to keep up with the developments from Boston. Later in the evening when we learned that Lt. Kevin Kelley was the firefighter killed, it didn’t take long to find his appearances from Firehouse USA on the web. How can you not smile when you watch these?

5. November 15 – Was that a leaf blower? Yes it was.

While I get a lot of stories and videos from your tips, this is one I found all by myself. Going through fire related YouTube videos on a Sunday evening I happened upon this clip. I usually don’t run controlled burning type training exercises, but this one looked different. After picking my jaw off the floor upon seeing the unusual PPV via the leaf blower, I decided this was one worthy of a wider audience.

6. February 3 – Cruise ship takes out DC fireboat.

You have to admit this one was different. The 160-foot Spirit of Washington squeezed the 72-foot John H. Glenn Jr., putting a big gash in the Glenn’s hull and sidelining the boat for many months. The collision also crushed a small FBI boat at an adjacent dock.  

7. September 11 – A rewarding save in Muskegon, Michigan.

MI Muskegon rescue

This is a rather simple story of a rescue in that it was popular despite there being no video of the event. Firefighters saving the day when it looks like that might be impossible.

 Here’s how WZZM-TV’s Lambrini Lukidis described the story:

Kelysse LaBelle is full of energy today. But when fireman Scott Campau rescued her from the bottom of Fisherman’s Landing in Muskegon last week, Kelysse was purple, her eyes were gray and lifeless.

“The stroller was actually sitting up-right on its wheels on the bottom of the lake and she was unconscious,” said Campau.

“She wasn’t breathing, no heart rate,” said Battalion Chief Ken Chudy who lead the team on the call. “She was lifeless when we pulled her out of the water,” said Fireman Kevin McMillan also assisted by firemen Chad Horn and Scott Hemmeslbach.

8. May 7 – Natural gas explosion injured 8 firefighters in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Eight Prince George’s County firefighters were hurt when an explosion occurred while they were investigating a natural has leak at a shopping center in Forestville. 

9.  July 20 – Firefighter brothers from Milwaukee save child from burning car.

Truly one of the great stories of the year. John and Joel Rechlitz received national attention for their off-duty rescue of a young boy from a burning car. Their efforts didn’t stop after the rescue. The firefighters remained close to D.J. Harper and his family. Click here.

10. February 28 – Tower audio from plane crash at Denver airport.


In December, 2008 Continental Flight 1404 ran off a runway and burst into flames at Denver International Airport. This was the audio as the airport tower controllers directed firefighters to the scene.

11. September 6 – Ladder collapses at Pennsylvania fire.

Photographer Wayne E. Ray captured the before and after pictures of New Eagle VFD’s Ladder 14 during a building fire in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

12. August 24 – Lt. Charles “Chip” McCarthy & FF Jonathan Croom, Buffalo Fire Department.


The fireground audio provided by Erie County Fire wire was very difficult to listen to as these two men responded to a call for help inside the burning building on Genesee Street.

13. April 29 – Flint firefighters say cutbacks delayed getting water on fatal fire.


Layoffs and budget cuts were THE story of 2009. We saw a lot of stories like this one, but for some reason the Flint fire got more attention than the others.

14. May 6 – Former Prince George’s County volunteer firefighter Jerry Engle talks about possible arson ring involving firefighters.


What more can I say about this frequent subject of stories. In the interview Jerry Engle told us all about an arson ring involving firefighters. Later in the year Engle and another former volunteer from Riverdale were both charged with the fire Jerry told us about. If you haven’t read enough about him, click here for our Jerry archive.

15. April 8 – Firefighter Daniel McGown burned in Prince George’s County house fire.


PGFD’s Daniel McGown was rescued by fellow firefighters from this burning Largo home and is now back on the job.

16. January 16 – Prince William County dissolves Gainesville VFD.


After concerns over a long period of time the county moved in to make rather dramatic changes at a long time volunteer company. 

17. August 18 – The 50th anniversary of the BLEVE that killed five firefighters in Kansas City.


A touching tribute to firefighters who were lost 50-years earlier. The incident is believed to be the first time the term BLEVE was used to describe the rupture and rocketing of a flammable liquid container during a fire.

18. March 11 – Risk a lot to save a lot: A story from Tulsa.


It took teamwork and a lot of guts as a dispatcher and engine company worked to save a woman trapped in an apartment fire started thanks to a  neighbor’s meth lab. Video shows Chad Meyer from Engine 26 basically walking through fire to bring out Nikki Cain.  

19. December 1 – Firehouse sleepover becomes a waste management problem in Burtonsville, Maryland.


This entry from Montgomery County had to be one of the more unusual stories of the year. A firefighter’s date spent the night at the firehouse and got lost on the way to the bathroom.

20. January 26, 2008 – Report into the April, 2007 death of Prince William County, Virginia’s Kyle Wilson.

VA-Prince-William-Wilson-764461Yes, you read the dates correctly.

What this means is that, even though Kyle Wilson died in a house fire in April, 2007 and the report was released nine-months later, firefighters are still interested in learning from this tragic situation. Enough people searched, found and apparently read that entry in 2009 to make it part of our top 20.

I think that’s a good sign.

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