..."Just 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 matters! 

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 'at risk'....

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.

     Chief William 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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