Eleven years ago, the Amarillo Fire Department was forever changed. Eleven years ago we wept, we hoped for good news, and we prayed. We prayed and hoped that the brother, who was now living on life support, would somehow return to us. The hours slowly passed, and those changes never happened. Brian Hunton fell from Amarillo Fire Department Ladder 1, on April 23, 2005, and passed away on April 25, 2005. Eleven years ago, we grieved the loss of Brian and looked for the answers to ensure this tragedy would never happen to us again.
Ladder 1 was called to a structure fire on Polk Street the evening of April 23rd; this would be Brian’s last alarm. As the truck left the station, Brian was standing up in the cab. He was getting his turnout gear and SCBA donned; preparing (like he had done numerous times before) to arrive on-scene and be ready to go to work. As Ladder 1 made a right hand turn on to 3rd Street, the rear door opened, and Brian lost his balance. Brian fell out of the truck and struck the back of his head on the roadway. He was rushed to Northwest Texas Hospital, where he died two days later.
The day of Brian’s funeral was surreal. He was laid to rest in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. The funeral precession was truly amazing. Motorcycles, fire apparatus, and cars lined up as far as you could see down I-27. The interstate was lined for 120 miles with on-lookers, and uniformed personnel paying their respects to this 27-year-old Firefighter, who was killed in the line of duty. In Lubbock, apparatus were fitted with black mourning shrouds and staged outside of the church. Fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel from all over the country were there to support the Hunton family and Brian’s fire service family. The funeral service was filled with stories and tears. The bagpipes played, ladders were tip-to-tip, and our fallen brother was laid to rest with as much honor, respect and dignity that any one person could ever hope. But what would be the lasting effect of Brian’s death? Could we change? Were we even willing to change?
We did change. The members of the Amarillo Fire Department did not accept the old theories of “firefighting is just dangerous sometimes” or “safety makes us slow”. Instead, the members made the commitment to change their culture. We started wearing our seatbelts – ALWAYS. We began to view safety as an integral part of our processes, rather than a hurdle that we had to jump. And we started to have real discussions about how to be better; how to operate more safely and efficiently, and how to give the absolute best customer service to those we serve; while still keeping our own safety as a priority. Seatbelts were only the starting point; as we have continually accepted the cultural change necessary to improve our department and most importantly – ourselves. We have implemented new tactics such as “coordinated PPV” and “transitional attacks”. Our incident commanders put a premium on having an available Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) and increased our standard response to a structure fire from 3 trucks to 4. Riding on the outside of an apparatus is a thing of the past. We now acknowledge the hard facts about the staggeringly high firefighter cancer rates and are working toward limiting our exposure to the substances that are believed to be its cause. Some may argue that Brian’s death had little to do with these changes. But the fire service culture can be hard to change, and we have readily accepted many changes in the way we do things since Bran’s death. Many believe this event was the catalyst.
Brian’s death has also made an everlasting mark on the whole fire service. In 2006, the National Fire Academy and Dr. Burton Clark created the National Seatbelt Pledge. The story of Brian’s death has been told to nearly every student at the National Fire Academy (NFA) over the past ten years. Every NFA student is given the opportunity to sign this pledge that states, “I am making this pledge willingly; to honor Brian Hunton, my brother firefighter, because wearing seat belts is the right thing to do.” Over 150,000 firefighters nationwide, have signed this pledge that honors our brother. The signed pledge, bearing the names of the membership of the Amarillo Fire Department, proudly hangs inside AFD’s Central Fire Station today. In the early morning hours of February 1, 2008, our department was rewarded by our new-found safety culture. Engine 6 was involved in an accident that resulted in the truck rolling onto its top. All four members of that crew were wearing their seatbelts and were thus left unharmed.
Brian’s death is a tragedy that has helped redefine the AFD. We will continue to honor Brian, and his memory, by being a safety-conscious department. We will continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to be the absolute best fire department we can be. We will pass on the ideas of this culture to our newer, younger members. And we will never forget our fallen brother who makes us better.
Stay Sharp, Stay Safe
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than he who will give up his life for a friend.
Firefighters, all too often, may lose their lives protecting the lives of total strangers.
Holy cow, where do I begin???
BlastMask is a product made for firefighters by firefighters right here in the USA. Through the physical demands of their passion of firefighting, the creators were driven to produce a product that would make firefighter-oriented workouts more effective towards functional operational ability.
BlastMask has become a staple piece of equipment in MY training regimen.
I wasn’t fully prepared for how much it added to a workout. The day I found out I was going to get one to review, I went on eBay and bought a used Scott mask and waited.
The device arrived in a small box which included some advertisement material and a pamphlet about the scientific benefits; we’ll get to those later. The Blast Mask is an SCBA regulator-looking piece of plastic with a diaphragm inside that gives the wearer a feeling of being “on air” during the physical demands of a workout. When you first don the mask with the BlastMask attached, you at first question the benefits of it. At rest during normal breathing, it is rather difficult to realize just what potential this thing holds. Then you begin your workout.
My first workout with the BlastMask was paired with a sandbag system. The routine included weighed squats, pushups, burpees, tire flips and sledgehammer work with the tire. Just like when wearing an SCBA, as your heart rate increases, so does your bodies demands for oxygen, causing you almost to draw or suck air from your bottle. With the BlastMask, your mask will suck tight to your face as you work for each deep breath. You fight through it, continue to work, and when you finish your workout, you welcome the “outside air” when you doff the mask/BlastMask.
To say the BlastMask is a work-out accessory is an understatement.
There has been some questioning of firefighters working out in “gear” and whether they provide a functional advantage. While I’m sure most of it is personal preference, I can say that, scientifically, it has been proven. “When the BlastMask is worn in conjunction with an SCBA and bottle, your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption) is reduced by 14.9% primarily due to the regulator. Also, the firefighters peak power output and SPO2 (oxyhemoglobin saturation) are decreased by the regulator alone. TRAINING IN A FACE PIECE AND PACK ALONE DOES NOT REDUCE VO2 MAX, PEAK POWER OUTPUT AND SPO2.”
To add a quote directly from the company website, “BlaskMask makes a positive impact on your budget and resources. Fire service fitness initiatives have shown a decrease in lost workdays by 28%. What’s more, every dollar spent on uniformed personnel wellness returns over two dollars in occupational injury and illness costs.”
“BlastMask also saves the manpower and time it takes to refill SCBA bottles, keeping resources ready for real emergencies. Not to mention it decreases wear and tear on expensive SCBA regulators.”
Training with the BlastMask increases the firefighters’ ability to work under the physical stresses of a fire scene by building confidence through functional training and helps prevent firefighter injuries that are due to lack of fitness. It will also help prevent LODDs that result from stress and overexertion.
While conducting drills at the firehouse, a firefighter can train in a clean atmosphere, and still use the muscle memory of being on an SCBA. After the drill, your SCBA is immediately in service, full of air and “combat ready” on the apparatus. I also decided I wanted to my mask to simulate poor visibility. After a little ingenuity and some searching, I found something that would work. I decided what better way to simulate poor visibility, than to tint my lens? I usually use Glad Press’n Seal to give me a light smoke look, but limo tint is proving to be working great.
The BlastMask is most definitely an asset to any physical fitness routine.
Healthy, physically fit, trained firefighters are the most confident, mentally and physically strongest firefighters in the brotherhood, period.
Want one? Check out the contact info below for more information.
This week, several outlets have announced the newest, safest and most innovative recommendations for firefighter safety in the wilderness setting. After years of studies and collaborative efforts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have announced minimum standards that will be required for future federal grant funding.
One topic of discussion that was discussed at last week’s seminar, held in Southern California (SoCal) with Cal-OSHA in attendance, was the usage of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) in the wildland setting. The venue almost seemed uncanny as it is known as the “Home To Several of America’s Most Dangerous Wilderness Firefights.”
Firefighters across the region have been extinguishing these types of fires for many years, and studies have discovered that wildland firefighters are now contracting the same type of malignancies as structural firefighters. Cancer-causing combustibles have been found within the burn areas of several wildland fires, especially since more exposures have been subjected to ignition than in previous years. Among those exposures, 95% of them were either SLICERed or DICERed. Which makes forestry firefighting nearly equivalent to structural firefighting. “Whether standing on the front lawn or fighting the valleys of California, we are all the same, so why not treat the dangers the same?” asked Rich Weiner, head of research & delivery at the University of California.
SCBA usage will become more of the norm in future years whether we are willing to accept change. As studies and the newest publications of IFSTA have shown, firefighters will continue to apply more emphasis on OUR own safety, rather than the safety of others.
Cancer has been a known hazard for years. Manufacturers are currently constructing new prototypes for a slimmer, more lightweight version of structural SCBA’s to accommodate for the smaller spaces that are found within the cabs of today’s brush apparatus. Recommendations have also been made but were tabled for the next seminar at FDIC in April, to have a slimmer, agile facemask that can be remembered as an acronym. This recommendation comes straight from IFSTA, as it was noted to “Keep it simple and understandable for firefighters to remember.”
Other sources have stated that OSHA will be meeting with senior executive research analysts to establish a “baseline respiratory protection factor across the entire fire service, as a whole.” OSHA has acknowledged the introduction of synthetic material to most burn areas, whether it be small rubbish fires in outdoor spaces or large, wildland fires that extend for acres or hundreds of acres. Recent studies have shown smoke conditions above outside fires are 65% more hazardous in 2014-2015 than ever before. It is unknown what the main source of hazardous chemicals are, but it is being conspired that it is from the “synthetics that are illegally dumped or placed by human factors”.
Along with wildland SCBA requirements, air monitoring conducted by 3rd party organization or state OSHA rep, not attached to the fire department, will also be required to ensure a safe working atmosphere for all firefighters.
Since the old “War Days” are behind us, so are the days of using natural fabrics and materials in our forest fires. Synthetics are plaguing our fire service, and the only way we know how to fight it is to remove ourselves completely from its greedy fingers. By removing ourselves from the harm of cancer, we are maintaining firefighter longevity and keeping the insurance claims adjustors happy. Perfect.
If you get what I’m saying, leave a comment. And be sure to share this information with your friends.
FTM – PTB – RFB
The National Fire Protection Association(NFPA) has long been known to mandate innovation and design requirements. In proper fashion they’ve just passed
the 2017 revision of NFPA 1901, which on the surface might seem pretty mundane. NFPA 1901 is kind of a boring standard mostly written to provide guidance to apparatus manufacturers, although this revision gives us something a little different and WE ALL SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION. The 2017 revision to NFPA 1901 mandates that all Class A Pumpers be Quints. Let that sink in for a moment. An all quint fire service nationwide? What’s really going on here?