Trade Stories: Aaron Fields, Firefighter

Fire Crew in Tin Cloth

Aaron Fields has been a firefighter for over 13 years, 6 of which have been spent training others in the state fire academy. After a close call in his first fire due to incomplete training, he has devoted his days to perfecting a hybrid fire hose handling method called Nozzle Forward. Now, Aaron can be found traveling the country in his Tin Cloth Double Logger Coat (also known as the ‘Seattle Work Jacket’ in other areas), providing information and training to young firefighters that could save their life. Filson had the opportunity to to gain further insights on this remarkable method and the man behind it in our latest Trade Story.

What prompted you to start working on this unique method?
I got stuck in several fires early in my career that opened my eyes to the fact that I had been taught half of what I needed to know.  We need to understand not only what to do, but why we are doing it.  I took what I had learned already, and began the pursuit of filling the rest in from various places.  Fire hose and fire attack is the most basic thing in the fire service, so many folks take it for granted.  I have never been a personality that is satisfied with “good enough.”  I was lucky and ended up with some fantastic mentors.

What makes Nozzle Forward different than other methods of hose handling?
I’m a “systems” guy. My brains works like a Monet, if you go right up on his work you just see dots but if you step back you see the entire piece. I need to see the whole process. I started taking apart all these different techniques, abstracting them, combining them and came up with my own method that was fairly functional. The Nozzle Forward class is not simply a collection of techniques, but is instead a principal in mechanics that is reapplied in several ways, to create a simple effective, efficient system giving the nozzle-team greater mechanical advantage over their hand-lines.

In addition, it includes an aspect of fire attack based in years of experience coupled with the most up to date scientific studies. It helps nozzle teams deep inside structures — with limited perspective — to make quick choices by “reading” the behavior of the hostile environment. The skills taught in the Nozzle Forward are blue collar, practical skills that are an adaptable system for fire line management and fire attack.

Filson-TinCloth-FireFighter-1How long have you utilized Filson products? And how much time has this particular Tin Double Logger Coat been in service?
I have had a Tin Cloth jacket for about 20 years, currently I own three.  I have a Tin Cruiser that I wear around and two Tin Double Loggers that I use when teaching.

This jacket in particular is 5 1/2 years old.  I have been teaching the Nozzle Forward for about 6 years. For the first two years I did about 12 classes.  The last four years have been between 30 and 50 a year.  On average we flow about 500,000 gallons of water per class. I myself likely flow in the vicinity of 500-700k a year.  In simple terms, this jacket has seen a “shit-ton” of H2O.  Usually, the training facilities have pumps and reservoirs, so there isn’t much waste of water. We use the Tin Cloth because it holds up to the wear and tear of the drill ground and keeps us dry.  Clearly we do not use them in live fire, simply when we are practicing.

Filson-TinCloth-FireFighter-7Name a few of your other interests, hobbies, pastimes…
Besides working for Seattle Fire and teaching the Nozzle Forward on my off time, I raise two kids, 8 and 5, and keep fit.  I also like to read.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I have gotten a lot of good advice, here are a few: “Education is an act in personal humility,” “Our job is not one that we ever exceed the public’s expectation of us. They expect us to solve their worst problems. We either meet the public’s’ expectation or we fail,” and “Work more, talk less.”

What’s the best part of your job, Aaron?
The best part of my job is feeling like I have made a difference.  I was raised in Seattle. I work in the neighborhood that I grew up in, my brother and father work for Seattle Fire too, so the sense of community is very strong.  With the Nozzle Forward I have feel like I have been able to ply my craft in cities that I don’t work in.  When someone uses a skill that I taught them to have a positive impact, I feel like I am doing my job in a small way outside of my own geographic area.  Damn cool, damn humbling.