It is my bedrock belief that there are damned few situations where it is permissible to risk the lives of our firefighters. We must teach our people that it is NEVER permissible to risk lives solely on property related operations. The cost of learning this lesson has been great through the years. As a matter of fact, the odds had better be strongly in our favor for us to take a shot at saving a life. We have not become chicken about firefighting, but just a heck of a lot more prudent than was once the case.
It is difficult for me to tell you when and where you should take a risk. Only you can know what you see in front of you at the moment when your experience and training are called into play to make that life and death decision. Let me share that It is equally difficult to look a distraught property owner in the eye and tell them that you are not going to risk the lives of your people in a vain attempt to save an obviously self-destructing building. But you must.
However, as I sat in the back of that fine old church watching a brother firefighter embark on a new journey, with his wife on his arm, the decision to come down on the side of safety became more obvious than ever before. As a Chief Fire Officer, I was my brother’s keeper.
Let me warn you not to become panic stricken, or paralyzed with fear. However, I do want you to devote yourself to becoming judicious in the use of your most important resource. I am referring to those fine fire people. You know, the ones with the helmets and turnout gear.
My friends, they are not merely numbers on a chart. No my friends, they are living breathing humans, with lives, loves, families, and futures. Let me urge you to do all that you possibly can to see that your people are ready to perform their assigned tasks. Then be sure to use them wisely. And never, ever forget to say thank you a lot. That is just the story the way I remember living it.