charge of the fire?
Chief Billy Goldfeder
Last month, we all read about the horrible death of a brother firefighter in South Carolina. Firefighter Jeff Chavis died from injuries sustained while operating at a structure fire.
These thoughts and comments are never meant to give the "Monday Morning Quarterback" attitude and, fortunately, we don't seem to ever be perceived as doing that by the thousands of you that read this stuff I write. These comments today are no different....but now a dose of reality: The FD that brother Chavis worked for is being fined by OSHA for "seven serious violations and six less serious violations"...
The two most serious violations include:
I cannot imagine how the Chief and/or the Incident Commander from this FD have felt since losing this firefighter and now, OSHA identifies some "basic procedures" that weren't followed...and fines them. Honestly, I feel deeply for that IC and Chief-no doubt, this is the last thing they need now....but WAIT-whats that noise I hear??...IT'S THE LAWYERS crank'n up their engines!
Of course that will be the next step...what a horrible shame. These firefighters, officers and the late firefighter Jeff Chavis woke up one morning looking forward to a great day at the firehouse-perhaps even some of them saying "we hope we get a fire today"...like each of us have said.
The purpose of this is not to do anything other than to get you to ask yourself "WHO IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR FIRE? It is not directed at any FD, and certainly not our Brothers and Sisters in SC...but their situation DID get us thinking.
We make it DEAD clear to our Officers and Students (At the FD, in Command School, FDIC etc) that you are absolutely and fully responsible for getting your firefighters home safely...Chiefs such as Tommy Brennan, Jim Murtagh, Frank Montagna, Jack McElfish, Don Manno, Frank Brannigan, Alan Brunacini, etc., have said that for years...it's nothing new.....BUT to do that, your IC has got to have the background and experience in structural firefighting!
You can't have someone in charge of YOUR fire who's "next fire is gonna be their first" ! But yet there are some communities with so-called "OIC's" and "Incident Commanders" that have no business running the fire and who's next fire WILL be their first! They don't seem to understand their responsibility and those "above them" don't seem to care either...and nowadays, many officers get promoted with less and less hands-on fire experience & fire training (and some, unfortunately) with primarily EMS backgrounds who "woke up one day" and are now in-charge of structural fires. How does this work?
Well, it's a matter of poor risk-management by those "in charge"....The problem is that some "city fathers (and mothers)" and even some Chiefs allow it to occur... Their "philosophy" is that when they (the new "Incident Commanders on the block") are on-duty..."Odds are" there won't be a structure fire..(you know, the ones who say "We are an EMS Dept that occasionally goes to a fire" and "we don't have fires anymore" etc)....so what happens? They feel that "everything is fine" and go about their merry way checking apparatus for dust, having the ff's wash their staff car, adjusting their collar brass, making sure there are enough IV fluids and of course, finding outdated drugs in the ambulances..... And then (suddenly and without warning-which is usually how fires come in) all hell breaks loose when they get a working fire..and they are lost! Where does that leave "those that they are responsible to get home safely?"
WHO is going to TRAIN the firefighters everyday if those in-charge don't have the experience, training and "know how" (or interest!) in dealing with STRUCTURE FIRES? I'll tellya what happens...they buy any of those videos out there and call it training! Sadly, some "Training Officers" have become "Video Tape Distributors"...that's great-they can plan for a future when they retire as an Executive with Blockbuster. Videos are a good supplement-but they are not training.
So who's gonna take care of the troops?? WHO is going to be the experienced and seasoned LEADER at these fires and command the operation? Who is going to LEAD and SHOW by EXAMPLE the firefighters what to do (and not do!) during training? Who is going to have the experience and training (real training...dirty stuff-not your annual CPR recerts) to prepare these firefighters for the structure fire...when it "comes in"..? Who is going to make the firefighters (and Officers) train constantly on structural firefighting operations & tactics, fire command/scene supervision, building construction, structural collapse, venting, fireground communication and all of the related & required tasks because they (the IC) knows what can happen if they DON'T take the training seriously?
We have always been told (usually by someone whining) that we should always provide solutions to problems we present, so..here goes: If you know of "someone else's FD" with one of these "new age" I.C's ...do everything you can to: