We Are Still Losing Our Own: The Simple Things
another year comes to an end we take a look back and evaluate the job we
have done over the last twelve months. I don't know about you but personally
I am my own worst critic. I tend to beat myself up because we know our
shortfalls and where we can improve but alot of times we lose focus. In
the fire service, firefighter injuries and deaths are the glaring statistics
we face day in and day out, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
are still killing firefighters and furthermore firefighters that aren't
dying on the job are being injured at an alarming rate, sometimes with
injuries so severe that they are forced into retirement. So you ask with
all the technology, high dollar gear and so forth why is it still happening
? Very simple, we are forgetting "The Simple Things"
is the stuff that has been drilled in our heads from day one entering the
fire service. Wear you PPE, follow your SOP's, lay supply lines, pick up
supply lines, pull a line, coordinated ventilation, etc. You get my drift.
It is the same song and dance, we have all heard it. However, year after
year we are still going to firefighter funerals and visiting fellow brothers
in the burn unit.
not every injury or death is because of careless operations on the fireground.
We all know that in this line of work sometimes bad things can happen even
when we do everything right. With that being said, knowing the fact that
even in a perfect world bad things can happen, you would think we would
make every effort to try to be as close to perfect as possible when it
really counts but for some reason alot of the time we are still coming
month we will take a look at several LODD's and near misses over the past
couple of years. In doing so, hopefully shed some light on what went wrong
as well as efforts to make sure we don't make the same mistakes twice.
We will refrain from naming departments or personnel involved and concentrate
on the actual events that took place so we can learn as much as possible
to help us in the future.
Study # 1 A
fire in a large single family dwelling took the life of a rookie firefighter
in 2007. With three floors of fire a newly promoted Lieutenant and the
victim were searching on the second floor without the protection of a hoseline
when things went terribly wrong. The Lieutenant fell down the stairs and
made it out while his rookie was left behind and died. At the time they
were performing a primary search, a hoseline had been pulled but it was
a two and a half pulled by an engine that had no intentions of entering
the house to begin with.
It is imperative that we as officers and firefighters riding as acting
officers make sound decisions because all it takes is one mistake and a
little less than five minutes to kill a fellow brother. I'm not saying
that there was not a need to search the house because there was but at
the very least it would be nice to know that the engine is coming behind
you with an attack line to protect you. For all you officers with less
than seasoned veterans on the back step if you are ever faced with a situation
like this it would be wise to keep your rookie,partner, or anyone else
in front of you. In this instance, had the officer had his rookie in front
and not behind him they could have both fell down the steps together and
into the front yard with nothing lost.
Study # 2 Four
firefighters received serious burns when they were operating on the second
floor of a burning townhouse in 2007. They were consumed by fire from below
after a fire on the first floor extended trapping them on the second floor.
They survived by diving down the stairs from the second floor and making
there way to safety but not after all four received critical burns.
Alot of times we become so involved with getting the fire that we lose
sight of the basics. This fire started on the back porch and extended up
the rear. It just so happens that the second floor was burning before the
first floor and crews made there way upstairs not realizing that they were
trapping themselves because fire was about to consume the first floor as
well. No matter how much fire we see on the upper floors of a dwelling,
we must NEVER, NEVER pass up fire below us in an effort to extinguish a
larger amount of fire above.
Study # 3 Six
firefighters were burned when they became trapped on the second floor of
a large single family house in 2008. They were forced to rapidly escape
by bailing down ground ladders, one firefighter was forced to jump from
the second floor because a ladder had not yet been placed to the window
he appeared in.
A proper size-up would have considerably increased the chances of these
firefighters not being injured. The officers involved never got a look
in the rear. They thought they were dealing with a second floor fire that
had extended to the attic. When in reality, once again the fire originated
on the back porch, dropped down lighting the basement off which extended
to the first floor. In turn creating a massive amount of fire below as
they proceeded to search on the floor above.
Study # 4
firefighters were briefly trapped in a two story single family dwelling
in 2008. The firefighters were trapped in the stairwell when they bypassed
fire on the first floor. Thay managed to self rescue without injury.
Size-up, in this particular case, the officer knew he had fire below but
chose to go upstairs where the bulk of the fire was because he assumed
another line was coming behind him to handle the first floor. Once again,
we can never pass up fire on a lower floor in an effort to make our way
closing every incident we discussed involved a number of the same issues.
If a proper size-up had been done many of these incidents would not have
had the terrible outcomes that they did. In total, four different jurisdictions
within 100 miles apart experienced events that will forever change there
departments. Thirteen firefighters went through a situation we all hope
we never have to go through. Twelve of the thirteen lived to tell about
it while one did not.
the coming year let's get back to "The Simple Things". Size-up, attack
line selection and placement, ground ladders, coordinated ventilation.
All of these factors play a large role when it comes to being a success
on the fireground. If you miss one or slack in one area or the other, you
are setting yourself and your company up to fail. Put yourself in the shoes
of the brothers and sisters in the stories above and ask yourself what
would you do if faced with the same situation.
next month, take care, and BE SAFE !
the Author: James Rose is a 16 year veteran of the fire service. He started
his career with the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department and currently
works for the City of Charleston Fire Department assigned to Ladder 5.
He also volunteered with the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department in Prince
Georges County MD and currently volunteers with the Stafford Volunteer
Fire Department, the busiest all volunteer fire department in the State
of Virginia. James has an AAS in Fire Science from the Northern Virginia
Community College and his currently pursuing a BS in Fire and Emergency
Services from the University of Florida. James is a three time recipient
of the Medal of Valor from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. James speaks
frequently on Engine Company Operations, Incident Command, and Rapid Intervention.
James can be reached by email at email@example.com
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