You can’t spell “firefighter” without the word “fit”. And you can’t spell “Brian Edwards” without the word “earn”. He knows that respect, professional competency, and conditioning are not given, but are a gift we can give ourselves. And he willingly spreads the gospel of good health everywhere—and to everyone—he meets.
Brian has been around the fire service his whole life. His great-grandparents donated the land and barn-turned-firehouse to the local fire department in Southern New Jersey in 1918. His family had logged well over 400 years combined experience with the fire company and Brian volunteered with that same department as a Station Captain until he became a career firefighter in 2010 and moved to Virginia.
Brian began his career in the fire service in Loudoun County, VA. Prior to committing himself entirely to the fire service, Brian worked as a heavy-duty truck and equipment mechanic—skills he still frequently uses in his role as Engine Company Driver at Fire Station 436 in Fairfax County. He is also one of the lead Scott 3M SCBA repair Technicians, which he balances with teaching a wide range of classes at the Fairfax Fire Academy.
Brian continues to keep his hand in for Loudoun County as a part time instructor and a volunteer member of the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Company. He travels the country teaching a wide range of topics to fire departments that may not have the funding for elaborate training facilities or classes. This training is provided in part by the Gary Sinise Foundation and Training to Perform Under Pressure-two organizations that help provide instruction and resources for our first responders, so they remain safe and ready for the dangers in the line of duty.
If that wasn’t enough, Brian also uses his skills and experience as a member of the Virginia Task Force 1 USAR team. He is a Logistics Specialist and truck driver; a role that can take its toll physically and emotionally. Recently, the VA-TF1 was deployed to Florida to assist with disaster relief efforts. Before that, VA-TF1 was on international deployment for 16 days in Turkey for the devastating earthquake that struck the area. With another deployment to Morocco looming, Brian understands the need to continue to destigmatize mental health needs in the firefighter community.
According to an article in Forbes magazine from March 2023, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation estimated there are 100-200 firefighter deaths by suicide each year. That means firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the Line of Duty. The department of Homeland Security estimates the rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 firefighters is 18%, compared to 13% for the general population. The stress is real. Brian is a proponent of continuing to change the narrative. “Mental Health in the fire service and emergency services in general is a dark subject that most people are just starting to get comfortable talking about” he told me. “I was always taught just to take the mental beat down and move on but that doesn't always work. It's ok to realize even the tough folks have dark days and need a reset. We must talk about and not make fun of it anymore...We have to really support each other in our darkest of days.”
Brian also understands the importance of consistency in exercise for maintaining a healthy body and mind. And the importance of transparency in the journey. “I use fitness as my way to decompress and forget about all the bad things that happen around me and focus on me and my health and wellness. Somedays are good. Somedays are really rough” he admits. He preaches consistency as the key to getting the most out of exercise, even on a busy schedule. “An hour workout or fitness session is such a small part of your day but adds huge benefits” Brian explains. “There are days at work when it may take us all day to get in our fitness goals, but we get it in... you have to make the time even on days you don't want to.”
Brian’s fitness journey isn’t only motivated by the desire to keep his mind healthy. “At one point I was 357lbs and not healthy at all. When I started getting into testing for the career fire departments, I knew I had to make changes both for the job and myself personally” Brian admits. “I had no clue what I was doing when I started and hated every gym session, but I had goals.” From that simple beginning came a lifelong passion for Brian. “Once I got hired, I started into peer fitness and recruitment for both Loudoun and Fairfax. I was also a long-time level 2 CrossFit Coach. Now if I don't get some type of fitness in it drives me crazy” he explains. Brian has taken his passion to the competition course. “[Out there] it's nothing more than Me against Me.”
From the beginning, Brian has tapped into family tradition—whether at work or play. One of his favorite hobbies is “rail fanning”; sitting trackside watching trains or working on his own model trains. “I'm nerd like” he tells me. “It's something that my grandfather and I would do for hours so I carry that on with me.” Just like he carries on a love for good footwear. Brian has many pairs of HAIX—work boots, station boots and our Black Eagle athletic shoes. “I bought my first pair of the original Fire Flash zip-up fire boots back in 2005 for both myself and my father. We both loved them from day one. We both still have them and use them around the house for yard work now” he notes. “I'm very rough on shoes and they definitely hold up well. I can't tell you how many pairs I have had or had repaired, they just keep on going. They are a bit rough at first until they break-in, but they are some of the most comfortable shoes and boots I have ever worn. I do a lot of athletic events from normal fitness and stair climb races, 5 and 10ks, Firefighter Combat Challenge and so on and always have my HAIX.”
Brian is a guy that is driven by his passions. Whether it's training or trains, fitness, firefighting, or world-class footwear, he puts 100% into all he does; no matter what the return on his investment might be on paper. “Something I would like people to know about firefighting is that for what we get paid as a career member or don't get paid as a volunteer, we definitely do not do it for the money” he tells me. “The time away from family, long days and nights and stresses on the mind and body—it's not worth the money. We do it for the passion. I do it for family traditions and the fact I go to work every day hoping to make a small difference in somebody's life while they are having the worst day ever.”
To learn more about Brian, check out his Instagram account @dieselman264.