Know Your Enemy #38

When a person writes in our field, he or she assumes an air of infallibility and wisdom," this aint necessarily so."

The great column of smoke from the fire was clearly visible, but no matter, we waited for the scheduled departure. I heard sirens and saw the rest of the firefighters going the other way, to the Berkeley Bridge. We were "running wrong"; the fire was in the Berkeley annex. of the Naval Shipyard I had to ask the same deckhand to get the cars behind us off the ferry. The tide was low so we had to push the bus UP the ramp, to the jeers of the bystanders. Despite this we made a good stop on our assigned section of the fire.

Here are some dumb things I want you to avoid

In the horse drawn days, drivers often were in trouble for driving recklessly so it appears to be an established evil. Unfortunately it was not acceptable then and shouldn't be tolerated today. Recently a female cadet firefighter died when a tanker overturned. The driver is charged with DWI.

What a terrible indictment of that department. I know the situation is not unique. Nobody is more arrogant than the drunk who insists on driving because he "can handle it"

If the officers of your department condone drinking and responding, much less driving, see if there are other members who agree with you and organize to impress the management with the seriousness of the situation If this fails, get out.

When a catastrophe occurs, plaintiffs lawyers will seek to sue everybody they can possibly name. You and your family's financial security is in jeopardy. "Imagine answering this question in court "You said you tried to change the situation but nothing happened. 'What further steps did you take?"

Time Limits

It is an error to accept any fixed time estimate as to how long you can stay in a building on fire. I have seen 20 minutes quoted, apparently meaning 20 minutes since you arrived. The fire attack on the structure may have started many minutes before and you have no way of knowing. Use your thermal imager(The Firefighters Radar) If a wood truss structure shows fire in the truss, no entry You cannot rely on any experience or test to KNOW when the structure will fail.

"Good Experience" is simply good luck."

Flat Roofs

Do not ignore a tip from Tom Brennan, If on a flat roof without parapet walls, and smoke kills your visibility, you crawl. Do not walk upright, otherwise you might walk right off the roof.

Bells and Smells

It is dumb to assume that an alarm from a particular building is a false or accidental alarm because there have been many such alarms. I was monitoring the local fire department that was dispatched to a hotel in a major city in which a fire conference was being held. When I heard an alarm for the hotel, the response was lackadaisical, to say the least. They were surprised to find that two rooms were off on an upper floor. Button up, mask not slung over your shoulder, but in place, PASS alarm activated, communication checked with the incident commander. Every alarm is the real thing till you determine otherwise.

Building Alterations

It is dumb to fail to keep your eyes open as you get around your area. A pile of lumber laying for many days alongside a 6 story fire resistive motel building illegally.

A supply room was built in the space at the top of the stairway. The support for the floor was a ledger beam on all four sides wedged into place. There was a fire in the supply room. The sole desk clerk on duty refused to call the fire department when notified because he had been the victim of a prank a few days earlier. The fire was reported from outside the building.'

The attack was made up the stairway. Fortunately the fire was suppressed before the wedged beams burned enough to fail. If the firefighters had asked the logical question, "What is a pile of lumber doing at a fire resistive building? " the illegal dangerous construction would have bee discovered and ordered removed. In the meantime tactics could have been adjusted to provide for a line up the aerial to the top floor for a fire in the storage room.


In October Firehouse p 30 read Chief Bill Goldfeder's "Close Calls' column, not because he says nice things about me and urges his readers to read BCFS3, but it sets forth a hazard I had never thought of. The overhead garage door mechanism fell during a fire, barely missing the firefighters.