Blowin’ Smoke with David LeBlanc

This week’s Blowin’ Smoke article features David LeBlanc. He is a Captain with Harwich, MA Fire Department.   LeBlanc started as a Fire Alarm Operator in Harwich 20 years ago this month.  After overcoming some health issues, he moved to the floor as a Firefighter.  LeBlanc went to the University of New Haven and studied Fire Science and Arson Investigation, and graduated with a Bachelors degree.  While in college he was an active member of two volunteer fire departments and also spent one year as a live in student. LeBlanc also writes for a blog The Backstep Firefighter: A View From The Front Seat.

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How many years have you served in the fire service?

25 Years total, just finished my 20th of full time service with my current Department.  I have worked as a call firefighter, a volunteer, a Fire Alarm Operator, Firefighter, Lieutenant and Captain.

Why did you join the fire service?

Long story short, I was interested since my first school visit to the Fire Station in Upstate New York.  I moved and lived down the street from a Firefighter and started going to fires with him when he was called in.

Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference?

I have tried, throughout my career, to leave the place better than I found it.  I have always looked for ways to improve the Department without changing it to suit my own needs.  I also began blogging when I felt like I had something to offer that others might be interested in.  The blog mostly focuses on learning and training to keep us safe while continuing to do the job we are supposed to be doing – protecting lives and property. You can follow along by clicking here or visiting

Have you accomplished any specific personal goals during your career?

I have successfully been promoted twice, which is a huge personal goal, but the most rewarding was taking a struggling ‘new guy’ under my wing and making the difference in him. 

What is the biggest change that you have witnessed since joining the fire service?

There is a huge shift in the science of what we do, and with that some failures in the ability of our training to bridge the gap between Scientist speak and fireman speak.  Along with that has been an over arching focus on the ‘number’ when consider Line of Duty Deaths.  It tends to make us lose focus as to the ‘why’.  As a result, some well intention ideas and programs have been twisted into barriers that prevent (or attempt to) us from doing our jobs.   This job will always be dangerous, that is not a fatalistic acceptance that firefighters may be injured or killed, but rather a motivation to learn and train…and train others to be as prepared as we can be to minimize that risk.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge that the fire service faces today?

Lack of experience, loss of identity.  Too many departments and firefighters are focusing on how others do things, without understanding why they do what they do.  Couple that with less fires, and it presents a dangerous combination.  Departments and firefighters need to focus on how to fight fires in their community, with their resources, skills and manpower.

What is the best firehouse prank that you might have “allegedly” been involved in throughout your career?

Probably the best, and I can lay no claim to it at all, was when a brother took another brothers cellphone and changed the Coverage Call In number to the Chief’s number.  So when coverage was needed at 5AM, the offended brother called the Chief…..twice. Beyond that they run the gamut from filled lockers with Styrofoam peanuts to hanging Resi-Annie in the pole hole.

During your many years on the job, how were you able to push through the darkest of times?

I have always been able to get through with the help of the brothers.  By talking about it, and knowing that often we did all we could, even though it wasn’t enough.

If you could provide some of the younger generation of firefighters with a few “words of wisdom,” what would they be?

The “words of wisdom” I would pass along to others are many of the same things that were passed on to me.  Many of which, I failed at too often. 

  •  Two ears, one mouth. 
  •  Listen twice as much as you talk. 
  •  Try and train every day.  It may make a difference between living and dying.
  • The firehouse is family, eat together, work together, relax together.  

I would like to thank David LeBlanc for the time he gave to complete this article. If you would like to be featured in a Blowin’ Smoke article, send us an email to