As Firehouse Sees It: Changing Times

Currently, much testing and debate are going on across the U.S. fire service. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is conducting full-size, fully furnished tests of one- and two-family dwellings within its burn structure on the proper procedures and timing of vertical ventilation. This follows last year’s testing of horizontal ventilation procedures (see Safety & Survival on page 24). The FDNY has been holding meetings with senior members from all ranks regarding ventilation, airflow paths and timing of said ventilation. The results of these tests and discussions will change tactics and let commanders, fire officers and firefighters attack fires in the safest way possible, but in our business that may not always be the case.


Recently, the editors from all the fire service magazines and fire service websites got together on a conference call. The meeting was called by Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), and Billy Goldfeder, a member of the NFFF Board of Directors and international director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section. There was troubling news to report – two fire service personnel from different parts of the country had just committed suicide. As I was writing this editorial, another firefighter did the same.

The NFFF leadership wants to get the word that help is available for people who are suffering and going through tough times. All of the editors are addressing the subject and letting the fire service know help is available.

Here are several links and a book on the subject:




• Joiner, T. (2005). Why People Die by Suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Two months ago, after I wrote in my an editorial about two New York City firefighters who died fighting a fire in the Deutsche Bank building, which was damaged in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, a reader called to tell me a story.

A firefighter who had studied for promotion in the Highbridge section of the Bronx always liked to go to fires. Eventually, he was promoted and assigned to Ladder 5 in Greenwich Village. On Aug. 18, 2007, he was working “across the floor” in Engine 24. Numerous members were trapped on the upper floors of the Deutsche Bank building, which was undergoing demolition. The lieutenant barely made it out. Two of his firefighters that day were taken to the hospital. Apparently, the worst thing the lieutenant ever had to deal with was when these two firefighters were pronounced dead in the emergency room. He was hit hard. The fire took its toll on him. He told a friend, “I don’t know if I want to go to a fire again,” then retired.

With the never-ending publicity surrounding the World Trade Center, the officer finally took his life. Another tragedy behind the headlines whose cause maybe wasn’t so apparent.