Ready or Likely to Attack or Confront

Please note: This “Mutual Aid” profile has been created to request articles from other writers and authors in the fire service who are willing to share their knowledge with our followers. With that being said, these articles are un-edited for content/language and viewer discretion is advised.

I saw a speech today by Battalion Chief Curt Isakson. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Talk about a guy who is passionate and prepared! Today I want to echo some of his insights and challenge everyone reading this to think about being a bulldozer. Chief, I apologize if I get any of this wrong, this is just my take on what you said. Chief Isakson is a true student of the job. He doesn’t just study our trade; he owns it.

13102885_1735728940036771_3352986276589846288_nOne of the key topics the Chief brought up that has stuck with me is being a bulldozer. He is talking about going into the fire building and aggressively pushing your way to the seat of the fire. Now a quick side note for all the Facebook fire veterans that are going to shout and say, “Not this aggressive stuff again. Fires today are more dangerous than they used to be. We need to be safe!” First of all, shut up, get off of this page and do some real training or get a new job. If you don’t understand the difference between being aggressive and not being a moron, then MY fire service is not for you. I don’t have time for your bullshit. And yes I said my fire service. I am owning this; I have bought stock, and I am a contributing partner in the future of this job that I am so blessed to be a part of.

Now that I’ve hopefully cleared the room of all the wannabes let’s get back to the bulldozer. The Chief mentioned heading down that hallway and operating your nozzle on the move, using the stream to bulldoze that smoke and heat out of the way in order to push to the fire room. He’s not talking about penciling the ceiling! Not talking about moving in 5 feet, blasting the ceiling for a while, and then moving in another 5 and repeating. This is all out war! Open the bail, grab on to your nether-regions, and start pushing and flowing. I don’t care if it is 1¾” line or a 2½”. If the fire is pumping, then we need to be flowing the proper line in the right place as we move to the seat of the fire.

I can hear all of the nay-sayers starting on their excuses right now, “But how do you expect me to flow and move at the same time? We can’t do that; we only have two guys on the line. It’s easier to move the line if we’re not flowing.” If you have questions or concerns about how to flow on the move, contact the fire academy that I help teach. I can find about a dozen 18-20-year-old college students that can show you how to flow and move.

We as a fire service love to preach about safety, safety, safety. Do you want to see a safe fire scene? Go to the August 1995 edition of Fire Engineering Magazine. It has a picture of a safe fire scene. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the cover is blank. That is our safest fire scene, nothing. No house, because it could be burning, no front steps because “Johnny Firefighter” could trip, no hose because it could rupture, no truck because some idiot might not wear his seatbelt, no scene because, in this job, things can happen. Do you know how we make a fire scene safe? By aggressively attacking the fire. If we decide that we are going to make an interior attack, we need to make an interior attack like a bulldozer! Go in and be the baddest mother that ever entered a building. There should not even be a need for me to use the term aggressive. Aggressiveness is implied by me saying that we are at a fire. The same thing applies to a defensive fire. If I decide to hit it from the outside, can I not do that aggressively?


The definition of that word describes our job. Ready or likely to attack or confront! Is that not what we showed up on scene for? If we are not ready or likely to attack or confront, then call the cops and have them bring their extinguishers and see if your neighboring department wants to play, because you are useless on that scene.

It is absolutely astonishing that we are in a fire service that feels the need to use the term aggressive and treat it like it’s a dirty word. Your job is to be ready or likely to attack or confront….YOUR JOB IS TO BE READY OR LIKELY TO ATTACK OR CONFRONT! Maybe I’m not getting through; I’ll rephrase…..YOUR JOB IS TO BE AGGRESSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!

How do we make the scene safer? We show up and we aggressively attack the fire, whether offensively or defensively. We aggressively occupy space and search for victims. We show up ready or likely to attack or confront the problem which we were called to the scene for. Can you imagine if our military leaders had to tell the soldiers fighting overseas to be aggressive when they fight? It wouldn’t make any sense; the nature of their job necessitates aggressiveness. Does a football coach need to tell his players when to aggressively move the football? Or when they are on defense, does he need to tell them to aggressively stop the progress of the ball? Just in case you’re confused I will answer it for you, the answer is NO!

I’ll leave you with these thoughts for the day… If you show up to a fire, and the decision is to go offensive, is there a reason not be a bulldozer? Is there a reason not to be ready or likely to attack or confront? The people that we are sworn to protect deserve our best effort. They deserve to have firefighters that show up on the scene ready and likely to attack or confront. Be safe, be aggressive, and most importantly train!

– Hose Monkey



Married to Firefighting

It is estimated (here) that 50% of marriages in the fire service industry lead to divorce. That statistic is pretty high. The dream of being in a relationship with a firefighter sounds pretty glamorous. Sharing a bed with this tough, good looking, risk taker firefighter appears pretty amazing until reality sets in that is. The reality of that life is quite the opposite and that firefighter is now replaced with a body pillow because you spend more nights sleeping at the station than you do at home and when you are home you are most likely exhausted because of interrupted sleep or haunted by calls. Not quite as glamorous after all.

What makes so many marriages fail?

There is a lot that can cause a marriage to break up and being a firefighter adds a whole new layer of potential issues. Picture this, you come home from a long 48 hour shift at the fire station and hear your partner’s question, ‘How was work?”. Your past 48 hours have been pretty brutal with calls. If you are being honest, you don’t really want to answer this question because work absolutely sucked and it was absolutely everything that cannot be explained to someone that wasn’t there. So you answer with the word, “fine” and just want to find your bed or recliner and collapse in it for a bit or throw yourself into a hobby to try to forget about it all. You know the word “fine” never means fine and often leaves your partner feeling neglected or left out of your life. This response can have some pretty hefty consequences when it comes to building and maintaining your relationships outside of the station.

How do you find a way to talk to those that you love about the work that you love?

Let’s face it, there are just some calls that you can’t talk to your partner about if they weren’t there and sometimes you probably shouldn’t talk to them about it. It actually isn’t healthy for your partner to be aware of every call because it can cause sleepless nights worrying about situations that are out of their control. Sometimes it is best that they don’t know everything but they do need to know some things. They need to be a part of your life outside of the home.

Your life as a firefighter is not just a career; it is a lifestyle so if you don’t find a way to incorporate your partner into that lifestyle it could lead to problems. So how do you include them in your firefighter life but also limit it at the same time? It is more about finding ways to connect instead of just finding better ways to communicate. Being able to connect to your partner is vital.

You need to find what you can talk to your partner about. Ask yourself what parts of your day can you talk about without making it just sound like sunshine and roses? Your partner will know if you are only giving them the good parts of your day. You can talk about a routine call and pull out some detail of significance that can help your partner feel connected to what you do.

What if I don’t want to talk about my day?

You can tell them you had a pretty horrific call and you feel pretty crappy and can’t bring yourself to talk about it right now. Let them know that you care enough to inform them that something is bothering you but that you just need some time to move past it. Here is a quick statement you can make, “I had a pretty rough call last night, we talked it through a lot at the station and right now I just want to try to forget about it and be thankful that I am home spending time with my family.” Sometimes you may want to talk to about it though, so take advantage of those times and talk to your partner about what is on your mind and how you are feeling.

Bottom line though, those bad calls are going to happen, the sleepless nights are going to happen, and your work is not going to change. On the upside though, by nature you are problem solvers, fixers, doers and risk takers and you can bring this into your personal life. So let’s look at what you can do to make your relationships at home just as strong as the ones with the firefighters at the station.

It’s about connection, not just communication.

Find new ways to connect when you do have time together. Instead of looking at ways to communicate about everything, find better ways to connect with your partner. Connecting with one another will lead to better communication in the long run.

You also spend a lot of time apart so take advantage of that and let your partner know you are thinking about them when you can. Start small, just text your partner and let them know you are thinking about them while you are at work. It doesn’t 2_grandeneed to be this long conversation because they should understand that you are busy and that might not be possible. However, if you have the chance to let them know you are thinking about them, do it. Keeping connected as much as possible goes a long way.

Not only is it important to let your partner know you are thinking about them when you aren’t together but spend quality time together when you are together. Schedule date nights at least once a month and get away for a few hours together to recharge and reconnect. Learn something new or take a class together. Learning together helps couples to connect. So find a cooking class, or go zip lining, or take a work out class together. Find something that you haven’t done before and learn it together.

It is important for your relationships outside of work to be healthy to keep your mind focused when you are at work. The fact is your work and the bad calls won’t change. The potential for strain on a relationship is there but you have the ability to take control of your relationships and connect with your loved ones. So find new ways to connect but also understand that you are only one half of the problem and one half of the solution. If your partner is not open to connecting with new ways or things just feel like they are too far gone, then it might be time to seek out some help from a marriage counselor. A counselor can help look at your relationship from an outside perspective to see what might be causing the strain.

You don’t have to be one of the marriages that lead to divorce. Start with connecting and go from there.


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Rebuttal – Fire Science vs. Reality

Submitted/Authored by Jeff Chandler – Tacoma, Washington

I would like to offer a rebuttal from the “fact resistant” side, if permitted (I don’t have a web site of my own). Skepticism is necessary to keep science moving in the right direction. Skepticism is often based on experience which, when taken in context, IS science. To say any of the outlandish claims currently circulating through firehouses and the internet is “scientifically proven science” is ridiculous. Many have taken small portions out of context to bolster their personal opinion. For instance, let’s look at lightweight construction. Do TGIs and lightweight trusses lose strength when exposed to fire more rapidly than conredlands-fireventional (“legacy”) construction? Absolutely, but here’s where we take that science to divergent positions. The “new guard” has taken this and made rules in some departments against vertical ventilation and severe restrictions on entering these structures for fear of floor collapse. My take-home from these “scientifically proven studies”? Make sure you don’t have fire below you if you’re inside (do a 360) and use caution with fires that are in the attic (like always). The “new guard” forgot that these failures were from EXPOSED lightweight members. They are not exposed if sheetrock is protecting them. It didn’t require a college degree to figure this out, just experience and simple scientific reasoning yet many departments took away a tool from their toolbox.

The condescension that comes from many of the “new guard” while they proclaim that their life is the most valuable (yes, I’ve heard it said out loud on several occasions), that we should never vertically vent, that “transitional attack” is new or preferred, that “fires of today” are a new phenomenon or that their education makes them superior to the “traditionalist” necessarily brings a gut level response from those attacked. The ‘traditionalists” aren’t the ones calling for radical changes based on experiments that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the variables we face every day. Discounting experience gained “data points” because they come from “traditionalists” who suffer from the “disease of ignorance and an aggressive form of laziness towards having to learn imagesnew things” is in itself ignorant, in my uneducated mind. Ironically, you advertise the 110 years of combined experience on your site rather than the combined college degrees. Maybe we should study the experience levels of the two sides? Anecdotally it seems that more experience breeds more skepticism. There’s a reason for that. There is a reason that some legends of the fire service are speaking out against the current trend. I value their decades of experience and leadership, their love of this profession and their work ethic to ever characterize their opinions as fear of learning something new. For the record, I count experience fighting fires, not simply being present in a fire station.

Science once proved the earth was flat. Skeptics disproved that because it was a theory, not a conclusion. Don’t assume that skepticism comes from a non-scientific viewpoint. Assuming that there is even one percent of necessary study to reach a “scientific conclusion” about fire attack is not realistic.


For example, synthetics have been around for over a hundred years. The fact that more civilians die each day in fires than firefighters annually die due to flashover is testament to the fact we have adapted. We’ve adapted to all these new developments through experience, some of it through very hard lessons. To discount this experience by proclaiming we finally have scientists to fix us is a slap to all those who have sacrificed and helped us change over time. “Transitional attack” is what we did before SCBAs. Why did we make and stay with the interior attack model if it wasn’t a success? Wasn’t that a significant change the old guard had to make?77e3798bb9782084333898c5f75d9aab_L

Firefighting is learned primarily through experience. There are no books or classes that cover the entirety of the profession. It is not just squirting water on fire by uneducated individuals holding a “labor job”. We build on our profession through a lifelong endeavor to be better and learn more. Maybe that includes a degree, maybe that includes working somewhere that you see a lot of fire. I have embraced and used many scientific findings from Governor’s Island and NIST/UL. My read on transitional attack is that if your staffing dictates it’s the best you can do, that’s OK, do it. Not a new concept. The pushback is a result of the push to “progress” without regard for the decades of real world experience that remains untapped.


Read Fire Science vs. Reality here.


Fire Science vs. Reality

The irrational Great Debate with UL/NIST and Traditional Firefighting

A news story aired recently on Fox 6 News in Milwaukee last Sunday. (Watch it here) Trust me. You’ll want to see this.

We all know there is an internally heated debate within the fire service between the new NIST research findings & tactical suggestions and the way we’ve always fought fire throughout history. There are often heated debates within the fire service, and the public-at-large is typically none-the-wiser, nor should they be.

The fire service (department) is one of the last trusted government funded/backed agencies in the United States that still has the public’s trust. They know if they call us that we’re

An unidentified Quincy firefighter rescues a woman from a burning second-floor window after fire broke out Wednesday morning at 633 State in Quincy. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson) A dramatic scene unfolded late Wednesday morning after a fire broke out at at 633 State. One man was reportedly helped from the building by an unknown rescuer, and Quincy Fire Dept. Lt. Jack Ray rescued a second occupant from a second floor window. The following photographs detail Ray's rescue as it happened. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
(H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)

going to show up and do everything in our power to help them and not hurt them. Law Enforcement can’t even lay claim to that. Our fathers, grandfathers and forefathers shed sweat, blood, tears, and their lives earning that public trust. We ride their coat-tails and do the same.

As a service to our communities, we’ve made daring rescues, we’ve taken incredible risks, faced difficult odds, and have proven our worth. We have died preserving the heart and the intent of our service to humanity. Overall, we’ve represented our profession with honor and nobility.

In proper progressive fashion, we’re fortunate to have fire engineers and scientists on our side working hard to find a way to make our job just a bit safer. It’s noble work and much needed. We can learn from science, and we should be excited to see the data behind what we do. Used properly it should help us hone our tactics.

As soon as I watched the Fox News Milwaukee story titled “Researchers test new approach to fighting fires; critics say it could delay victim rescue”  I said out loud “Oh Shit.”
The internal fire service debate has gone public. A news story like this does nothing more than cast a web of doubt among the public about it’s fire service. Inserting the idea that we would EVER put ourselves before THEM damages our reputation as a service and dilutes public trust.

I digress.DTSNorwoodPark9Fire

Internal debate within the fire service can be a healthy thing to have. It’s how we grow as firefighters and learn our craft.  The great debate seems to lay between the hard-nosed traditionalists and the new guard.  Historically, the fire service was never a field that required a college degree; it was a labor job. Who needed a degree to spray water?  Today, the world and our profession are much different. We aren’t just pulling ceilings and spraying water anymore.  We’re an all-hazards response service.  We’ve taken on EMS, Hazmat, a myriad of Technical Rescue all with their own skill set, WMD/CBRNE and so on. We’re are better equipped and educated than our predecessors.

What’s the Breakdown?

The breakdown in this debate rests in a few places.

  1. The first breakdown resides in this nasty strain of fact-resistant firefighters that seems to be sweeping the nation. You know those guys that reject every provable fact or every single scientifically proven study? It’s a disease of ignorance and an aggressive form of laziness towards having to learn new things.
  2. The guys that are banking on it. There are some folks out there who are waving the flag of transitional attacks as if it’s going to replace firefighting and the old way is dangerous. Pump the brakes a bit. We’re all still learning. Teaching 1.3 million firefighters new science is a painstakingly slow process, generational really. Lets use a transitional attack for what it is. A new tactical option fit for some fires but maybe not all of them.


3. Science. The scientific method is based on measurable evidence that is subjected to specific principles of reasoning. It’s a pretty fool-proof way of figuring stuff out. As a fire service there is a lot we can learn from fire science and the UL/NIST studies. There are ways we can use that new knowledge to our benefit. Knowing is half the battle. (Caveat, fact-resistant firefighters have to be willing to accept scientific findings and be willing to learn.)

4. The Traditionalist, blatantly rejecting the science. Yes, we’ve always done it a certain way. Yes, we have an obligation to the citizens we serve. Yes, they should be put first in the pecking order. We’ve been fighting fires by what we’ve learned through experience and weak science for decades. It’s worked, and we’ve saved lives. However, building construction has changed, home furnishings have changed, houses are flashing over and construction materials are breaking down much quicker than the sturdy homes of the past. New construction practices and materials put us at an even greater risk. Chief Brannigan was right. The building is our enemy, and we must learn how to fight it. The enemy has changed.13226678_10209602189481491_5639367112288136214_n

Nobody is saying we’ve been doing it wrong. The NIST and UL findings do suggest ways we can fight fire better. SLICE-RS/DICE-RS offers an acronym reminder for a transitional attack. The “R” or Rescue

are considered actions of opportunity, meaning they are the priority if we are able to do so. It’s the trump card in the transitional attack.

The reality here is that change is hard. Heck, even the idea of change is difficult to digest. It means we all have to get off our ass and learn something new. It’s in our nature to fight change because we enjoy the comfort of wherever we are.

Am I endorsing the UL/NIST research?

No, not entirely. I believe we have a lot to learn, and I firmly believe in the scientific method. I believe that information is power, and I want to know as much as possible about the enemy we face. There are times when a transitional attack would be beneficial. It’s a useful tool for the box and a safe option for volunteer fire stations with minimal experience. It would help keep inexperienced firefighters heads above water.

Am I advocating for traditional tactics?

Yes and No, with new home construction materials it’s difficult to say reasonably we can fight residential fires the same way we always have. Back in the day, we could search an entire house twice before ever having to worry about the house collapsing. Today, the roof

Staff Photo by Dan Reiland
Photo by Dan Reiland

and floor joists are designed to be lightweight and are held together with glue. It’s clear we need to change the way we fight fires in newly constructed residences. They are falling apart faster and flashing over at about the time of our arrival. A transitional attack is a tactical option for an experienced incident commander to use after reading the structure and it’s integrity.


My HARD Suggestion?

Everyone needs to calm down a bit.  The reality here is that fire departments all over the world will be playing around and will be experimenting with the UL/NIST findings for years to come. We aren’t taking an about-face on everything we currently know or do. We aren’t going to wake up tomorrow mandated into performing transitional attacks knowing we have a viable rescue to make. Let us use some common sense and some outward emotional restraint. When there is a rescue to be made, almost all rules seem to go out the window.Screen-Shot-2014-08-06-at-12.28.52-PM  The UL police aren’t going to show up and arrest anyone for not making a transitional attack.

Let’s use this science for what it provides us. Information. Information that may help us do our jobs in an ever-evolving fire service. We can only benefit from new fact-based fire knowledge, and it can only help us learn more about what we do.

For the love of God, let’s keep this “great debate” an internal fire service one and leave the pubic out of it. We’re only protecting our reputation as a public service provider.

I recommend watching a few of the modern fire behavior videos on the UL YouTube channel HERE.  You’ll notice that it’s Firefighters, Fire Engineers, and Scientists working together.

Read the Rebuttal to this article here.


What Percent are You?

Note: The bulk of this post deals with fire department EMS, so if you are not in a department that does fire department EMS, you may find it uninformative. Those of you that do fire department EMS, read on!

As you can imagine, I spend quite a bit of time on social media. I have slow shifts like everyone else, and I have time during my off time to decompress and be a couch potato, so I try to read and follow other fire and EMS blogs and social media pages, just to get a feel for what kind of attitude we have as a “business”. As such, I read articles and posts from various authors about various subjects and in turn, hear various opinions about the same topics or subjects. I am no different. I propose my opinion on subjects and try to give some background as to why I feel the way I do. I will admit that I do not get to travel and dine in the finest firehouses across the country like other “bloggers”, but I get a sense, from what I read, that the issues that I deal with are similar to other parts of the country. Granted, we have varying protocols and levels of service, but we all generally follow the same basic underlying methods and practices to do our jobs.

gasper m17
(Image courtesy of the Gasper Township Fire Department, Eaton, Ohio)

That being said, I have read several articles about being part of a percentage of firefighters that “gives it their all” or “trains until the sun comes up” or “they are the salty dogs that you should look up to, seek out and gain knowledge from. Ones to model one’s career after”. I agree with that fundamentally, but I have rarely seen articles about finding the senior EMS guy or gal and learning from them.

I have learned from some senior folks. I soaked up knowledge and learned the tips and tricks that made me a better fireman (at least it felt that way). They made me a better operator and gave me perspective on how to train the new guy, now that I am the “senior” man on many occasions. I have learned from street-wise and seasoned medics as well. I have always valued what I learned and have tried to pass it on as much as possible, but I am starting to wonder what the current “senior” folks think this business is supposed to be like in 2016. My opinion of this job seems to get further and further away from their opinion, and I find that curious.

I read recently that the FDNY and Detroit Fire are in the process of a major “overhaul” of their operations. Namely because of the fire load (the amount of fires they are fighting) has gone down and the EMS load is going up. That article struck a chord with me. Here are two of the busiest fire department in the nation taking another look at how they operate. I can almost guarantee that there are men and women in the FDNY and DFD rallying against changes. It’s what we do, right? Change is scary! From what I have read, the unions are taking what appears to be a “middle of the road” position right now so it remains to be seen how this will turn out, but I began to wonder, as I stated before, what the senior staff thinks the fire service should be like in 2016. Were they surprised to hear that they need to focus more on EMS? I am reading as much as I can about their issues, and it remains to be seen.

There is no doubt that a number of fires have dropped off, and the EMS calls have gone up in almost every area of the country. We are turning out on more and more weird and wonderful EMS related calls and even more that are due to the failures of the public health system. It’s a busy life for the fire department EMT/Paramedic, and it will only get busier.

ems27So what of it. What’s the point? My point is this; it seems like our senior staff members continue to tell our cadets, our rookies, our new hires that “slaying the dragon” should be the highlight of your career. That being the 10% firefighter is what it means to BE a firefighter. That “doing work” and “getting some” are what makes a firefighter a firefighter in the firehouse. That EMS is just something that we have to deal with, as if it will go away in the future. Is it really? In 2016, does that make you the model firefighter? I submit that it does not.

Time and time again, I hear senior staff complain that “when they backed the ambulance in this firehouse, we quit being a real fire department” or that we don’t GET to fight fires anymore because we are taking all of these EMS calls. Really?? You have got to be joking! When I was a Chief, I told my staff that if they continued to complain about EMS, I would pay them using the fraction of funds gleaned from putting fires out. Once I broke down the percentage of the money they earned from fire and from EMS calls, they decided to be more proactive about transporting instead of trying to get refusals, and they didn’t feel as salty about not getting to slay the dragon every day.

I don’t see putting fires out as the greatest moments of my career. Yes, I had some great times kicking doors in and throwing water, and I still do. I love being an engine operator even more now and I love working on the truck, but there is so much more I have done that I am proud of. I have touched so many lives over the years. Some of my greatest “holy shit” moments came in EMS. Some of the “jobs” that made my heart pound out of my chest were in EMS. Some of my proudest moments were in EMS, and some of my biggest defeats were in the back of an ambulance. I have made a point to be the one of the 10% that completely changes the mood of an EMS scene for the better when I arrive. I have made a point to know more than the other guys about medicine and the future of our field, and I share that with the new guys. I feel I am part of the 10% but for other reasons that I feel are just as important as knowing how to force a door 29 ways.

Cc_akEUW4AASFx0I am not saying that firefighting isn’t important work. I truly believe in training until you can’t get it wrong. I get just as frustrated with poorly trained firefighters as anyone. I watch the news or videos on YouTube and armchair it with the best of them. I have put as much effort into being a good fireman as I have being a great medic. I will never feel like a bad ass dragon slayer. It is not my nature. I come from a line of lawyers and stamp collectors, not blacksmiths, butchers or bodybuilders. I have never claimed to be macho, but I can think my way through a difficult airway, a confusing medical call or a wicked trauma. Those skills are what makes today’s 10% in my opinion. We are EMS departments that fight a fire on occasion.

I have seen the FTM-PTB (fuck the mutts-protect the brothers) stickers around, and it makes me uneasy. Who are the mutts? Are they the ones that don’t think the same way about the fire service as you do? Are they the ones who think the medic is exciting? Are they the nerds? You should look around. Some of the leaders in this industry are hanging on every word that comes from NIST. The nerds are taking over so maybe it is time for a shift in perspective. I know the usual explanation is that the mutts are the ones who don’t care about training or drilling or working as a team. Can we put those hose jockeys that think that EMS is a stupid waste of their time in the mutt category? They aren’t embracing all aspects of the job, so does that make them a mutt? I mean, they have to stop dropping weights in the workout room or have to stop molesting the forcible entry training prop to take a stupid EMS call so do they have the right attitude about what this job should be in 2016?

The fire service is mired in tradition and therefore mired down in traditional thinking, so I expect change to come slowly. We still don’t realize that the equipment pays our salary, so we don’t take care of it. We are slow to purchase EMS equipment that would drastically change patient outcomes. We are slow to support the part of our business that generates revenue. Big red firetrucks look cool but if the wheels are falling off the rig that supports 1/3 or more of your budget then why would you neglect it? It’s a weird business model that will eventually shift for the better.

(Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
(Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

I rambled a bit on this post, but I hope you can get through that and see my point. It is time to redefine what we see as the “model firefighter” in my opinion. Knowing how to be successful in EMS will carry that firefighter into the future. Making sure they feel comfortable in an ambulance is just as important as them being comfortable climbing a ladder. This is a team sport, so if all of the team members are not trained up, in all aspects of the job, the team will suffer.

I work in a department that, when you promote to Lieutenant, you no longer have to ride the ambulance. I was operating the engine the other day for a newer Lt. and I said: “I trust you with my life in a fire, but I am getting less comfortable with you helping me on the medic”. With a strange look, my Lt. said ” why is that, I’m still a medic”? I said ” it’s because you don’t see patients anymore. Your skills are going to fade”. He agreed, and we had a good laugh, but I was being honest.

So what percent do you want to be? I want to be part of the group that sees past what we are doing today and looks ahead at what we can become. As a Chief, I always was excited about well-rounded employees because I knew I could plug them into any spot and they would excel. Can you excel in every spot? I hope you can!

As I have stated in the past, I am in no way an expert in the field. I am not a professional writer either. I just post my opinions in hopes that it will promote a dialog or get people to think about our business differently.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe out there!


Salvage?! But I’m Here To Save Lives!

Ok, so when I started writing with Station-Pride, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to write any kind of operational, tactical, strategic article, ever. Because I will admit it, I don’t know it all. Shocker to some guys I work with…you boys hush.

But today I watched a video of a respectable department in a medium-large city that were defensively fighting a very obvious total-attic fire in a 2-story brick/wood-frame residence. None of the pics I attached are related to the video mentioned. There was no visible fire involvement on the first floor and minimal smoke on the second, but they had a tower ladder or 2, flowing “big water” into this attic, as more firefighters than on my whole department were walking around the front yard.

Obviously, this was a tactical decision made by incident command, who most likely had a lot more information than I did from the video, but it brought up a big question.

I am in NO WAY “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” this event. I just use it as an example.

When we were young, and we tried to get into the fire service, most of us were asked, “Why do you want to be a fireman?” Many of us probably said something along the lines of, “I just want to help people.” I believe this is what we would say because that’s all we knew to say.


Pretty basic stuff. Simple…… and perfect. At what point in the growth of your career did you decide that if there weren’t a life to be saved, you would sit back and watch a building (somebody’s home, mind you) burn to the ground as you attempt to turn it into a swimming pool?

We are taught about salvage in the academy. According to the IFSTA manual, salvage is an “after-fire event.” But why?

When my great-grandfather was a fireman, they salvaged personal/important belongings DURING firefighting activities. The video I saw showed an entire first floor of someone’s home being ignored and flooded because two floors above was on fire. Again, I obviously don’t know the whole story from just a video, its just an example.


Most fire departments have a motto or a mission statement and in that paragraph, it talks about saving or protecting more than just lives. It’s re- assuring to the citizens in our response districts that we will take the risk to treat their home and its’ contents almost as important as their lives. That includes salvage during the fire event. If we filled a whole house full of water damage when the fire was through the roof, what have we done? Created a “total loss” for the insurance company, and forced the residents to lose more property than necessary. Not just property, but memories and sentimental objects that may not be readily replaceable.


Are departments short-staffed and behind the ball from the time the tones drop? You’re damn right. Across the nation, we’re fighting a short staff issue but that does not mean we don’t have a job we have promised our citizens we would do. If some departments wrote their mission statements based on past factual practices, I’m afraid some of the public would lose confidence in their local fire departments.


The decision to use a couple of members as a salvage team during the fire may not seem glorious, but it falls on the IC to make that call. Train with your crews with the explanation of; “try to save what you can. Clothing for the kids, picture albums, veterans flags… If you see vehicle keys hanging on the wall, maybe even a laptop or computer tower.” Trust your men/women to accomplish the very best they can when you make that assignment.

If your home had a fully involved room and contents fire, what would you want to save from another room in the home?



I live in a relatively small home. If we have a room on fire, I want some dedicated men and women to save, to the best if their ability, things that my kids will need to live out of a hotel room with while we recover.