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At this fire, one factor that contributed to the firefighters’ problems was that a 1¾-inch line was charged and used to hit the fire from the exterior .with firefighters still operating interior. As each of the writers indicated, it should not have happened and it was not directed to happen.
All of us have been on fire scenes where situations have occurred or actions were taken that were not directed by command. In most cases, nothing terrible occurs as a result of those actions. But, on occasion, the results can be far more tragic than what occurred at this fire. The problem is that the more we allow tactics to occur “the wrong way,” we become comfortable with it and they then become the norm.
What is the solution? As in almost all of our close calls, training is the solution – training on such critical factors such as fire tactics, operational discipline, command, control, communications, operating procedures and accountability. Of course, “accountability” means knowing where members are and are operating, but it also mean all members understanding that they must be accountable for their actions and must understand the consequences of their actions if fireground rules aren’t followed. Rarely do firefighters do something intentionally to hurt or interfere with an operation; their intentions are pure, their interest is to help. But if that “help” is the result of poor training, lack of knowledge or not directed or led by an incident commander or sector officer (or they haven’t arrived yet), the results can create very negative consequences. And when an incident commander or boss cannot be there to provide that leadership or direction, all of the members’ fire training must kick in so they can understand the outcome of their actions. How does that happen? Again, the only answer is training. Is it easy to get this done? Not at all. But if you are looking for easy, consider riding a flower-delivery truck and not a fire truck.
Another tactic that requires training as well as strict coordination through command is the use of positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) fans. Yes, these fans are a great tool as a part of the incident commander’s “arsenal” to get the incident under control. However, incident commanders, officers and firefighters alike must use extreme caution when placing and activating the fans so the use of the fans doesn’t make conditions worse. In this fire, that was not a factor. However, there have been fires where the improper use of PPV directly resulted in tragic outcomes. PPV, like a hose stream, axe, power saw or thermal imager, is a tool to be used on the fireground by trained firefighters under the command of experienced and trained fire officers.
When training is missing, problems are predictable. When training occurs, at all levels, the positive results as well, are predictable, and once again, everyone goes home!
William Goldfeder will present “Firefighter Close Calls: Injury & Death Prevention” at Firehouse Expo 2005, July 26-31 in Baltimore.
William Goldfeder, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 32-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com.