Author Archives: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,

The Coming Firefighter Cancer Tsunami

The firefighter diagnosed with colon cancer today may have first been exposed 15 to 20 years ago (1998 to 2003). What did we know then? How well were we protecting ourselves then? These are questions that should be scaring the hell out of firefighters. They do me because my career spanned the years 1982 to 2007!

Read More »

Fire Psychology: The Dawning of a New Age

Said Wheldon, who has worked with firefighters in her private psychology practice, “In my own work, and in speaking with other psychologists who’ve treated firefighters, I’ve come to learn that that firefighters are different. They’re different from police officers, who I’ve also worked with, and they’re the general public. And I think they need a different kind of psychologist. They deserve a different kind of psychologist.”

Read More »

Fire retardants and their impact on firefighter health

Until I went the following year to a specialist who understood autoimmune issues and said that the previous tests were incomplete as most docs do not understand how to test for the full thyroid spectrum.  My former male fire officer [with Aurora Fire Department] also has Hashimoto's (though it’s much more common in women) and I know women firefighters that have had thyroid cancer as well as Sjogren's syndrome—a really terrible autoimmune disease, worse than Hashimoto's.

Read More »

Why YOU need to track your on-the-job exposures

It’s on you as the individual firefighter or officer to document your exposures—every single one—that you can document from the past and from here on out in your career. It can be years before you develop cancer, more than likely after you’ve completed your career in the fire service.

Read More »

The Company Officer as Risk Manager

Chief Avsec writes of the need for a "third corner" in the company officer's hat of responsibilities: risk manager. “If we are to continue making positive strides towards making the job of a firefighter safer, we must develop company officers who can recognize and manage risk in both the emergency and non-emergency arenas.”

Read More »

What’s the atmosphere in your firehouse?

How does one of those Alpha males "open their soul" to their comrades who earlier in the day or the previous shift were "fighting" with them for dominance that day? How does a more introverted male or a woman or a male of color get the understanding ear that they seek as they try to deal with a particularly stressful incident or post-traumatic stress in general?

Read More »