Close Calls

A survivor shares dangerous fireground experiences and details the lessons learned from them.


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...


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Lessons learned synopsis:

  • Command must maintain a strong presence.
  • ICS is not an option.
  • When the crews are inside, they MUST have a clear radio channel. When this captain was calling for help, the radio channel was "busy" with calls that could have been made on a cell phone.
  • Trained and skilled rapid intervention teams are not an option.
  • Written and practiced "Mayday" procedures are essential for your safety.
  • Radio marking/timing by the dispatcher maintains incident perspective.
  • "Saving ourselves" training is critical.
  • Coordinate staffing and staging.
  • Train your firefighters that, when they are in trouble, FORGET radio procedures such as "this unit calling that unit" … get on the air, say what you need, what and where in plain English and say it often. Don't wait for courteous acknowledgements when you are in trouble.
  • Our dispatchers did EXCELLENT work. They heard the screams for help and "took over" the radio when no one else answered. Our dispatchers have fire training and knew what to do - do yours? Do your dispatchers monitor all fireground operations as an "extra set of ears"?