a "routine" house fire..
by Chief William Goldfeder
We've heard that before.
It appears that, although there were injuries, an important task at this
fire was done, and it paid off---a ladder was extended and in place for
the firefighters to escape...before it was needed! Think about your last
2-1/2 story dwelling fire...were ladders placed to provide a way out? Don't
count on the interior stairs.
You probably remember the
story of a fire at the end of 1999 (the one where there were a total of
5 firefighters on the 1st alarm-period.) that was described as "looking
normal"...and then within seconds three firefighters died
moments later in a genuine
FLASHOVER, as the investigation revealed.
FLASHOVER in its true form
is rarely survivable, as the experts tell us. But a whether it flashes,
rolls-over or whatever-several ESSENTIAL tactics and procedures MUST
be done to minimize the chances of it occurring:
1-Ya gotta VENTILATE.
2-Ya gotta COOL.
3-These must occur simultaneously
and in coordination.
You can't expect to respond
to a reported house fire with four or five people on the initial alarm
and then expect to be able to handle it properly. I don't care how good
ya are. I don't care if you can do the firefighters combat challenge
in under a minute while
wearing two airpacks. I don't care if you have a thermal imaging camera
for everyone and your mother. I don't care if your new pass device beeps
to remind you that Jerry Springer is on in 20 minutes.....
None of that crap
What matters is the basic
stuff of water supply, stretching the 1st hose line, stretching the second
hose line, vent crew (inside and outside), truck work, search & rescue...
all done at the same time-coordinated by an experienced and trained Chief
on the scene-with adequate staffing to do it in!... and trained on
it plenty of times "before the run"...ANYONE can do these tasks one or
two at a time...but to do it SUCCESSFULLY and to minimize the chance of
anyone gett'n hurt-they gotta be done at the same time! Sometimes we find
ourselves in situations where, no matter what,we're still going to be placed
As a Fire Officer, you are
responsible to determine those risks through your initial size-up...and
then continue doing that during the run. As Chiefs, prior to the emergency,
you are responsible to have the training, personnel
and response and operational
plans in place so the job can get done-the right way.
One final note-I mentioned
"risk" before...We are in a "risky business"-the public expects us to take
needed risks when someone needs our help....just ask them!! We may get
hurt or even lose the life of one of our own in the
provision of our duties-the
key is do do everything you can PRIOR to the run, to insure the public,
your troops and yourself that you have done the best to be ready. Beware
of those in our business who want to "risk manage"
firefighting to the point
where we have completely lost touch with our mission...to save lives, which
includes our own.
Goldfeder, a 27 year veteran of the fire service, is a Battalion Chief/Director
of Planning and Development for the Loveland-Symmes
Fire Department in southwestern Ohio
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