Know Your Enemy #40

A veteran fire officer tells a gripping story of a fatal collapse that caused compulsory retirement to be instituted in New York.


For their first public meeting they asked a buff with the impressive title of "Assistant Chief of the Safety and Fire Protection Branch of the New York Directed Operations of the United States Atomic Energy Commission", to be the speaker. When I arrived they told me that they had a problem of a number of people who wanted to join to sell tickets etc., but had no intention of fighting fires and asked me to do what I could in my speech to discourage them.

I must say I rose to the occasion telling about pouring whiskey in your boots as antifreeze, etc. The faint hearted withdrew.

Years later I was a member of a fire department of a Virginia suburb of Washington. The department was dominated by a group that wanted no assistance or ideas from "outsiders". The despairing secretary of the company (a CIA employee) told me that he had known nothing of fire fighting until he joined the Levittown Fire Department after hearing the most inspirational speech he had ever heard at the organizational meeting!

My text, Building Construction for the Fire Service, 667 page third edition that has been credited with saving lives, was written by a firefighter for firefighters, primarily to save lives. It is available from NFPA.

The NFPA price is $$74.95 plus 6.95. I offer the book autographed and postpaid at a substantial discount. Call 301 572 7517 or email Fbrannigan@Comcast.net for information. It makes a fine Christmas or promotion gift, or for a mate who is a firefighter. The text is updated in my Ol Professor Column in Fire Engineering. For information ask for updates at my email address.

My last fire ground command was in 1949 but I never forgot the fundamental responsibility of an officer. Bring your people home. As my friend Vincent Dunn says, "No building is worth the life of a firefighter." FLB