Chief Taco’s Blog


Notes from the Street Part 1 Americans often avoid thinking about death and failure. However, first responders must.  It goes with the territory. In my nearly four decades of serving communities, I’ve often viewed the world in “glass half-empty” terms. During the highs and lows of leading and following those on the streets, I made […]

Se7ven Simple Cancer-Free Habits

  Please allow me to paraphrase an affirmation I read recently: “There are men of a rough persuasion who are willing to take care of the kinds of situations that ordinary people can’t. They’re called soldiers.” This, in my mind describes the men and women of the emergency services who have dedicated their lives for […]

Another Pathway to First Responder Cancer Prevention

Much has been written about the current scourge of firefighting that is cancer.  Support networks and research institutions are evolving from coast to coast while several states although slow to get their act together are beginning to develop and pass firefighter cancer presumptive legislation. In June of this year, a short article, “Seven Simple Cancer-Free […]

Should a Mentoring Program be in Your Department’s Future?

Many of us remember the first time we walked into our fire station as a newbie. The excitement (and anxiety) was palpable. In addition to the dozens of questions running through our heads regarding the rewards and dangers of being a first responder, we also wondered: Would we be liked? Accepted? Fit in? Able to […]

Se7ven Leadership Growth Habits

IN today’s supercharged, “if you snooze you lose” atmosphere, many believe if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward. I don’t subscribe to that theory wholescale, but believe you have to take each issue, each problem, each challenge on its own merits. I am no longer a participant of that particular rat race, which allows […]


Planning for Crowd Surge Summer is the start of the party and celebration seasons. The warm weather lends itself to beachgoing, volleyball and music concerts.  It seems like every local yokel with a guitar and a few musically-inclined wannabes can get a crowd together with a few taps on their favorite social medial platform and […]

Human Trafficking Awareness for First Responders

Seldom do I turn down an opportunity to train. When I do, it’s usually because the topic entails funny-smelling substances that burn the skin on contact or ones that may be politically controversial. However, this one, in my humble opinion must be discussed in every community across America.  That is Human Trafficking.   The practice […]

Five Traits of Good Leadership

Recently, a short article in Inc. magazine popped up in my daily news feed, which delved into the traits of bad leadership.  Lately, there has been an abundance of articles dealing with bad leadership.  Perhaps a reflection of the times?   In 2022, I’m making a concerted effort to look at things from the positive […]

Managing Nursing Home Incidents

The need to care for a growing elder population shouldn’t become a soccer ball kicked around due to a difference of definitions.  Typically, the difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility is: a) the assisted or medical services provided; b) physical facility layout; and/or c) the living arrangements.1 Residents of ALFs (Assisted […]

Human Trafficking: What First Responders Should Know

What is Human Trafficking? Human trafficking is generally understood within the United States to mean: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act (sex trafficking), in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person […]

Mentors and Morons Who Taught Me to Lead #007: So, Old Fire Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Recently, I received an email from one of my old colleagues – Bobby K. I’ll leave his last name unfinished – kinda’ like his last duty day. And also, because he’s been able to shed his old habits and start a new, even respectable new persona near his old duty haunts – South 29th Street […]

Se7en Habits of Highly Effective Officers

Recently, I wrote an article “7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis” based on Bill George’s book of the same title. The concept has been utilized many times throughout my career during crises of varying degrees of criticality.  George’s concept is succinct and, in my experience, effective.  When facing a crisis, George advises: Face reality, starting […]

Fall 2021 Newsletter

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Mentors and Morons Who Taught Me to Lead: A Colleague Doesn’t Always Agree With You

Mentors and Morons Who Taught Me to Lead: A Colleague Doesn’t Always Agree With You #006 in the series. I relocated from the Sunshine State to the Old North State just as the pandemic started to gather a head of steam in early 2019.  Luckily my training and experience taught me not to panic until […]

Mentors and Morons Who Taught Me to Lead #004: Leadership Doesn’t Have to be Loud

I’ve had the honor of serving with many brave and talented heroes throughout my career.  Those who instilled the drive in me to be better, I consider them mentors.  I have also crossed paths with several who have demonstrated the worst examples of greed, incompetence, and sometimes cowardice.  Those are the morons whose grievances I […]

Summer Newsletter

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The Latest in The Responder Safety Series Few firefighters witness a mayday first-hand. I recall an incident during my early firefighting years following a partial structural collapse in an apartment building with lightweight roof construction.  In my humble opinion, a mayday declaration was called for, but the lieutenant failed to do so. Fortunately, interior members […]

Operating In And Around Emergency Vehicles

There’s a saying: “You can’t help them if you don’t get there.”  So, the first thing to remember during response is to do it safely.  Studies conducted by government and private entities show that fire departments are some of the safest emergency responders.  A 2017 study found that fire responders experienced a response fatality rate […]

Mentors & Morons Who Taught Me to Lead #003

A Firefighter’s Friend I must remind myself that this blog is supposed to be positive.  Therapeutic. Cathartic. At least that’s what my friends in mental health tell me. Think: “Half full versus half empty”…”Tomorrow will be a better day”…blah, blah, blah. To be honest, my interaction with mentors in the fire service was very limited, […]

Clear and Present Challenge: Responding to Civil Unrest

Responder Safety Series A storm has been brewing for many years across our great Nation.  Some call it differences of opinion while others label it a stand for their way of life.  Regardless of the reason or rationale, responders from all disciplines respond (often at extreme risk) to the peaceful demonstration that quickly escalates into […]

MENTORS AND MORONS: Those Who Taught Me to Lead – #002

Don’t Call Him Willie In the first post (#001 – I’ll Just Call You Taco) describing my fire service initiation, I introduced the man who started it all – Chief Willard Harold Mayo. Some of us called him Willie – but not to his face.  And, don’t think for a minute you don’t have a […]

MENTORS AND MORONS: Those Who Taught Me to Lead – #001

I’ll Just Call You Taco  This is the story of a young kid from Orlando.  Early 1970’s just as The Mouse discovered thousands of acres of dead citrus groves devastated by back-to-back freezes.  A few creative land deals with the County leaders and ‘voila’ we have a new industry – welcoming tourists while ruining a […]

Are You Commanding by the Seat of Your Pants?

Recently, I read an article detailing the origin of the saying, “flying by the seat of your pants.”  During WWII, pilots didn’t have all the gauges and data inputs to assist in determining if one was moving up, down, to the left and so forth.  Instead, the inputs that their bodies felt helped them.  For example, […]


Assaulted by back-to-back-to-back calls, first responders are paying a huge price while serving.  The cost will linger for years – much like our national debt that continues to rise as families, businesses and entire communities struggle to survive.  As a former firefighter/paramedic I know the price we all pay for the constant onslaught while serving […]

“In The Summertime When The Weather Is High”: Responder Rehab

By F. R. Montes de Oca, EFO Fire Chief (ret) Some of you may recognize the title as the opening lyrics to a popular 1980s song by Mungo Jerry. Life was simpler back then. You responded to the fire. Put wet stuff on the red stuff. Chief declared the fire out. Everyone grabbed a drink […]

Fire and EMS Response to Civil Unrest: The Times They are A-Changing

Many of you in the business of protecting communities and those of us who are now interested observers (retired, consultants, trainers and the like) are wondering where the chaos of the last few weeks will stop. I’m not speaking of the COVID-19 Pandemic, rather the upheaval of citizens across the Nation. Anyone’s guess is equally […]


As a former firefighter I know how we oftentimes have so many things going on in our lives (that training class you want to attend) or life in general that we forget to perform maintenance on our most important organ – our minds.  Some would argue that our cardiovascular system is more important, and as […]

Introducing Responder 1, a Resource For First Responders

Hello and welcome!  Responder 1 is a new venture, continuing the efforts made by PyroTrainers over the past few years.  As we all continue to work through the avalanche of informational briefings, newscasts and memos from private and public sources we must all endeavor to stay attuned to ALL the dangers that we must confront.  […]