Scott Freitag

Scott Freitag

Presidents Message

By Scott Freitag, NAED President

Welcome to Baltimore Navigator 2012. What a great city and venue to gather for our annual conference. The Inner Harbor is a step away from the Baltimore Marriott, putting us in the enviable position to relax by the waterfront under a theater of stars after attending sessions and catching up with friends in the business.

But did you know that Baltimore also caters to the stars on ground? Yes, that applies to us and our work and also, in this case, the stars of the silver screen. Television’s long-running America’s Most Wanted was filmed in Baltimore. The 1990 feature film Avalon tells the story of Polish-Jewish immigrants coming to the United States and settling in Baltimore.

That’s just a sampling from the “A” list, as in alphabetical order. Moving down the list, we also have Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman; Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in Bruce Willis’ Die Hard series; and Silence of the Lambs, the haunting thriller starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

Yes, I tend to go for action movies and, yes, they usually involve police, fire, or some other form of investigative backdrop. A favorite movie, Ladder 49, mixes several of the elements necessary to hold my attention in addition to depicting the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) Engine Company 33. And for your daily dose of trivia: The fire department dispatch heard during the film is using the actual dispatch protocol the BCFD uses. The BCFD has both fire and medical ProQA.

For those who might have missed the movie, Ladder 49 chronicles the attempts to save firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) who is struggling to reach a secure area after falling through several floors of a burning grain elevator/warehouse in the Canton waterfront district. While his unit, led by Deputy Chief Mike Kennedy (John Travolta), races to the rescue, Morrison’s life as a firefighter flashes to the screen.

This is not so much an action flick as it is about the character of people willing to risk their lives to put out fires and save lives.

As a career member of the Salt Lake City Fire Department, I enjoyed the film’s depiction of the dangers inherent in the profession and the way firefighters band together both on and off the job. Those are reasons for my choice in careers. Although not your classic adrenaline junkie, I do like the challenges and camaraderie.

The same apparently applies to screen actor Tim Guinee. He played Capt. Tony Corrigan in Ladder 49. Since the movie’s release in 2004, Tim has continued his career in television, film, and in the Stone Ridge Volunteer Fire Department (SRFC).

Say that again?

Tim was so taken by the role he played that he joined his hometown Stone Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in upstate New York. Tim is still listed in the SRFC’s active roster; he is one among 41 members, including the chief and captains, serving a population of about 1,100 in a predominantly residential area. They respond to close to 220 calls a year and work with neighboring fire departments through the mutual aid system.

Prior to Ladder 49, Tim’s firefighting experience was limited to ride-alongs with a friend at the New York Fire Department who was killed on 9/11. Talking to the producer about the loss of his friend and his subsequent help at Ground Zero landed him an audition for a role in Ladder 49. He won the part and was trained in BCFD search and rescue techniques. Although I don’t know the specifics, he was given an award for saving a woman’s life while he was on a ride-along in training for the movie. It was the intense movie training mixed with the reality of the job, he said, pushing him to apply for the real thing. He wanted the opportunity to serve in the Catskills, N.Y., community he and his actress wife Daisy Foote call home.

In an interview with Frankly My Dear movie critic Roger Moore, Tim said roles he plays tend to transcend into his persona. “They say an actor should fall in love with your character,” Guinee said. “I’ve always thought that you should allow yourself the possibility of falling in love with what that character loves to do.”

The same can be said of the professionals gathered together for three days in Baltimore for the Navigator conference. We have allowed ourselves to fall in love with what we do each day.