Firefighter = Fire Victim

This account is provided by a reader. Chief Goldfeder's comments follow. We are a large volunteer fire company responsible for protecting a highly populated seaside resort city. We staff at least one engine company with volunteer duty crews to...


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Looking at the first attempt, it also may have led to a bad situation as heavy smoke was showing and, as described, in what were pre-flashover conditions. The captain was lucky. However, in the second attempt, with the conditions as described, a line with a crew should have been stretched along with proper search and venting being done with the assistance of other companies.

  • "Stay low and let it blow." Good term. How about this term: "Stay low, let it blow, but don't go without my bro's"? OK, I tried. Seriously, your brother and sister firefighters have been trained to function as a team and must be used that way. Firefighters standing up? Why does that seem to be happening more often these days? Why do we seem to find our younger firefighters (old ones too!) going in on their knees or, even worse, standing up? The answer is simple. Years ago, firefighters didn't have SCBA, so if you planned on breathing you HAD TO STAY LOW and close to the floor! Now with SCBA, that's not a problem.

    The other factor is that we have excellent protective clothing today that lets us go in farther. In some cases that is a blessing because clearly today's personal protective bunker gear has saved hundreds of thousands of firefighters from getting injured or even killed. On the other hand, firefighters AND THEIR OFFICERS must still know the conditions and the limits of their equipment based on those conditions - and anticipated conditions as well.

  • Using the adjacent units to attempt the rescue is exactly what the big picture is all about. Take a look at all options when looking at the "risk versus benefit." By training as a team with your crew of firefighters and then functioning that way at the scene, the risk of injury to your members is minimized. By maintaining crew integrity, the firefighters can count on having their leader with them and gaining the advantage of the experience and training of that officer. When the crew is broken up, the results are predictable.

We have been asking readers to share their accounts of incidents in which firefighters found themselves in dangerous or life-threatening situations, with the intention of sharing the information and learning from one another to reduce injuries and deaths. These accounts, in the firefighters' own words, can help others avoid similar "close calls." We thank those firefighters who are willing to share their stories. We invite readers to share their experiences. We will not identify any individuals, departments or communities. Our only intention is to provide educational information and prevent future tragedies.

We thank Contributing Editor William Goldfeder for compiling these reports. You may send your reports to Chief Goldfeder at chgold151@aol.com.


William Goldfeder, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 30-year veteran of the fire service. He is a battalion chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief fire officer since 1982 and has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, recently completing his sixth year as a 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.