Last month, we began covering an amazing rescue and close call by FDNY Firefighter Peter Demontreux. As is evident by his actions and the end result of this fire, in addition to his high level of training (as provided both initially and ongoing by the FDNY), there are numerous...
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Unfortunately, many people now are under the misconception that they don’t need as many firefighters and firehouses and as much fire equipment in their community as they had before. At the above fire, Pete Demontreux and all the FDNY members operating on that scene who clearly performed above and beyond would not have had the same outcome if firehouses were shut down, equipment specifications were reduced due to price and training was minimized. Sure, some will say that “anything” can happen – and I respond, “That’s right, it can, and it did – Mr. Matheny is alive and so is Firefighter Demontreux.”
While some may say this is an “extremely emotional and rare example,” I would respond that this is reality. People have fires, they do get trapped and in many cases firefighters are able to rescue them. It’s a big deal, no matter how often it may or may not happen, especially to the Mr. Mathenys of this world.
In today’s “budget discussion arena,” the public needs to clearly understand the realistic impact of any proposed cuts. We have to be very honest and factual and do so with little emotion. Educate the public to think of us, their fire department, as their “must have” insurance. Saving money in a community by unrealistically cutting the fire department is the same as buying poor insurance. It is no big deal until they dial 911. And when they dial 911 and a lot less shows up than what they expected, and their stuff is burning up, the results can be tragic for them – and for us.
If we are to survive for our own good and for the good of the public, we must intensely educate the taxpayers and elected officials well before the budget cuts and well before the fire, using numbers they understand. They need to know what their “insurance policy” (your fire department) will deliver – and what it may not be able to deliver when they make their claim (the 911 call for a fire). They need to understand, for example, the reality of this particular fire in August 2010 in Brooklyn, NY, and all the factors that go into saving a fire victim who is trapped. No emotion – fact. And the fact that this fire could happen in your town.
It may be better received when you explain it in the manner we describe above. The public usually wants it “their” way: They want the lowest taxes before the fire, and then the best-staffed, quickest responding, equipped and trained fire department (stationed right next door) when they have their fire or emergency. The public can “have it their way” when they need us, but at a price that they have to be willing to pay. And in many communities that have taken the time to educate the public, they are willing to pay for excellent service when we explain it factually.
A brief explanation of FDNY truck (ladder) and engine company position assignments and responsibilities:
• Can firefighter – The can position’s main duties are to get into the building, search for the fire, contain the fire, and search for and rescue trapped people. The firefighter in the can position is part of the forcible-entry team that uses a water extinguisher to briefly attack the fire for rescue purposes.
• Irons firefighter – The firefighter in the irons position is part of the forcible-entry team. Their first duty is to gain access into the building, by force if necessary, search for the fire, contain the fire, and search for and rescue trapped persons.
• Outside vent firefighter (OV) – The OV position’s main job is to vent the fire from the outside to create an opening for heat and smoke to escape the building. In this position the firefighters often work on fire escapes, ladders and tower-ladder buckets. Gated windows, high fences, heavy security doors and objects left on fire escapes make the OV’s job more difficult. Once venting is complete, the OV will team up with another member and enter the occupancy to search for and rescue persons trapped by the fire.
• Roof firefighter – Firefighters in the roof position use tower-ladder buckets, aerial ladders, portable ladders, fire escapes and roofs of neighboring buildings to access the fire. This firefighter’s tasks are to check for trapped victims, ventilate and give a report of rooftop fire conditions to the incident commander.
• Truck company chauffeur – The truck chauffeur drives the ladder truck to the fire scene. At the fire, the chauffeur is responsible for raising and positioning the aerial ladder or bucket, then removing trapped occupants from the building.