Jimmy Butler, EVO, District of Columbia Fire Department, Washington, DC; Captain, Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department, Hyattsville, MD

THE D.C. CONNECTION. Veteran Hawk-stalker Randy Jones called to advise that he’d spotted a Hawk Tool in a photo on DCFD Squad 3’s Facebook page of a DC apartment house job. A couple of photos pictured a firefighter staged on a fire escape landing with a Hawk, preparing for overhaul. But, it wasn’t clear what other companies had been on the scene. Actually, this was Randy’s second website spotting of a Hawk in DC– he’d seen an earlier showed a couple of Hawk’s perched under the tiller seat of a DCFD tractor-trailer aerial.  But, again, the unit wasn’t identifiable.  Hmmm?

But, there aren’t a lot of Hawk Tools in DC, and I knew long-time Hawk user Jimmy Butler was working at DC’s Truck 8. So, it seemed like a good possibility that Truck 8 was present at one or both of the sightings.  A few months later, longtime buddy Andy Levy and I were delivering tools nearby and decided to give Engine 33/Truck 8 a call on the off-chance that Jimmy was working. He was. So, we stopped by for a visit.

It had been a while since I’d seen Jimmy. He’s well acquainted with the Hawk Tool but hadn’t seen or used the production version of the recently introduced “Hallux” end. So, we left a 5′ Hawk/Hallus combination with him to get his feedback on that combination.

DC’s numerous tractor-trailer aerials have are designed with lots of convenient space for tools and equipment. And, it’s well utilized. But, like any other busy metro fire company, Truck 8’s assigned piece has to go out of service from time-to-time for maintenance. That means the crew gets to refamiliarize themselves with some of its more specialized tools by transferring it to a temporary reserve truck. Such was the case on the day of our visit; reserve Truck 42 was filling in for Truck 8. But, you’d never know it by looking in its compartments. It still carried a variety of resources that would be the envy of most of the Midwestern fire departments I’m familiar with.

As it turned out, we had a pretty short visit. The 3rd Battalion is a busy corner of DC and Truck 8 was in and out of the station 3 times during the brief time we were there. But, having missed them completely on previous occasions, I guess we were lucky to catch Jimmy and company in quarters at all. Life in the District.

As a footnote, if you go looking for shots of the 3rd Battalion in action, one of the best places to look is on the “DCFD Rescue 3” Facebook page. Unless they’re already out on assignment, Rescue 3 runs with every working structure assignment. Thanks to them and their contributors for some of the photos used here.

THE HYATTSVILLE (MD) CONNECTION. Actually, Jimmy has been acquainted with the Hawk Tool about as long as anyone in the area. Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince Georges County (just North of DC) was one of the first stations to get the original prototypes, back in the late 80s and early 90s. They’ve had them on their trucks and squads ever since.

Virtually since its founding, HVFD has been a special operation. “Graduates” of Hyattsville benefit from at least three distinctive departmental characteristics:

  1. A Melting-Pot of Fire Service Culture. They have a live-in program that gives qualified volunteers from diverse locations a chance to explore active, responsible participation in the fire service without jeopardizing the benefits of a quality formal education. Jimmy started as a member of HVFD’s “bunkroom gang” (members who lived in the station while working or attending school) in the late 2000s while completing a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. Whether living in the station or not, this program fosters and solidifies life-long friendships and public service networks.
  2. Some of the Best Experience Anywhere. Members are expected to complete a rigorous schedule of training requirements and take advantage of numerous other training and public service opportunities. These have prepared many of HVFD’s volunteer members, like Jimmy, for service as valued career members of some of America’s premier fire departments.
  3. A Self-Sustaining Tradition of Excellence. Finally, Hyattsville never seems to have EX-members, in the usual sense of the word– their slogan might as well be “Once at Hyattsville, always from and of Hyattsville.” HVFD regularly celebrates the achievements of its “graduates” and their alumni continue to return the investment with dividends. Jimmy’s a good example. Years after joining the District of Columbia, he continues to serve as an active Hyattsville volunteer Captain and leader. He is, among other things, one of HVFD’s most active instructors on specialized equipment and practices. 

So, one of Hyattsville’s strongest contributions to its members is the opportunity to benefit from– and then participate in– a self-sustaining tradition of excellence.

THE AVOCA (PA) CONNECTION. It is clear from a review of other background information that his roots in the fire service were already well grounded when he applied for the live-in program at Hyattsvijlle. He started out in the fire service as a junior member of the Avoca Fire Department, Luzerne County, PA, Station 112. Like Hyattsville’s, Avoca’s Facebook page periodically recognizes Jimmy’s achievements elsewhere and remarks on his continued return visits to provide training for the current troops.

CLOSE OF A CHAPTER, BUT THE STORY CONTINUES. This distinctive cycle of professional growth, team-building and replenishment came together in an especially meaningful way for HVFD members and long-time buddies. Riding with Hyattsville the first week in May 2018, Jimmy worked a fire with HVFD Chief Dave “DH” Hang. There had been a long dry spell since the long-time friends ran a fire together and this may have been the last fire DH ran in their first-due before his retirement in September after 13 years as Chief. It was well documented and will be a memorable event for all involved.

We’ve valued Jimmy as a Veteran Falconer– a long-time user and critic of the Hawk Tool. But, far more importantly, he exemplifies the critical value of experiential continuity– that cycle of “learning from,” and “giving back to,” our vast fire service community. Nice knowin’ ya’.

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