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Thread: Another gem from Lt. Ray McCormack

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    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Default Another gem from Lt. Ray McCormack

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    "A fire department that writes off civilians faster than an express line of 6 reasons or less is not progressive, it's dangerous, because it's run by fear. Fear does not save lives, it endangers them." -- Lt. Ray McCormack FDNY
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    I bow to thy greatness
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    One friend noted yesterday that a fire officer only carries a flashlight, sometimes prompting grumbling from firefighters who have to lug tools and hoses.
    "The old saying is you never know how heavy that flashlight can become," the friend said.
    -from a tragic story posted on firefighterclosecalls.com

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    When I watched Lt. McCormack's speech at FDIC he talked about the great danger that is facing the fire service, the loss of public trust. I was reminded of this a while later when I was watching more youtube stuff about the FDNY. It was a documentary about engine 82 in the south Bronx featuring Dennis Smith and others. A captain was talking about how the citizens could always call the fire dept. and that they would always show up. In the midst of all of the violence and despair, the citizens could always count on the FDNY to show up. Of all the problems facing the fire service how would the loss of public trust affect us? I believe it would be catastrophic. At the risk of sounding careless to the safety crowd, I really believe in what Lt. McCormack said, "We don't need a culture of safety, we need a culture of extinguishment."
    JMHO
    Last edited by conrad427; 06-03-2013 at 07:51 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    When I watched Lt. McCormack's speech at FDIC he talked about the great danger that is facing the fire service, the loss of public trust. I was reminded of this a while later when I was watching more youtube stuff about the FDNY. It was a documentary about engine 82 in the south Bronx featuring Dennis Smith and others. A captain was talking about how the citizens could always call the fire dept. and that they would always show up. In the midst of all of the violence and despair, the citizens could always count on the FDNY to show up. Of all the problems facing the fire service how would the loss of public trust affect us? I believe it would be catastrophic. At the risk of sounding careless to the safety crowd, I really believe in what Lt. McCormack said, "We don't need a culture of safety, we need a culture of extinguishment."
    JMHO
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).

    I took his class last year at FDIC. I walked up to him afterwards and told him that while I respected who he was and what he had done, but I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work. He was polite and we talked about it for a minute or two, but in the end, we still disagreed.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-03-2013 at 09:11 PM.
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    I think if the public wants departments they can trust, then they should stop electing politicians who are systematically reducing resources for departments across the country, both large and small. This trust is (or should be) a two way street. If there are less firehouses with less apparatus and less staffing, less training for the staffing they have, along with lower wage and benefit packages then why should the public expect the same service as they were getting before? We can do a lot, but some help would be nice.

    That youtube video of Engine 82 was shot about 30-40 years ago. I'm not sure it relates to current conditions in the fire service. Although I see where the reference to public trust would still apply.

    I don't see why a culture of safety can't coincide with a culture of extinguishment; they are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of agressive interior departments manage to do both on a regular basis.

    I would imagine that Lt. McCormack was referring to departments that allow their safety concerns to paralyze them as far as getting the job done. I would also imagine that he didn't go through his FDNY career as some kind of reckless cowboy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work.
    Most of the firefighters in this country "work" in the urban areas. That's where the work is. The "rural world" may encompass a large quantity of firefighters, but they aren't seeing the work.

    As far as your comment goes, I agree that it's much easier to advocate a culture of extinquishment when you are properly staffed. Unfortunately even these fire departments are seeing the encroachment of a culture of safety that is negatively impacting those we are sworn to protect. And that is why Lt. McCormack is pressing his message, in my opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).
    Sigh.....
    I guess we should all move to NY then as that would be the only safe place in the country.
    Somehow we manage to get the job done with old engines, inexperienced members, no truck, rescue, squad, or mutual aid companies five mins away. We still have a culture of extinguishment. We don't have millions of citizens, high rises, massive airports, subways, or any of the big stuff. We DO have dedication, training, and a desire to help the people. We have an engine, PPE, and SCBA. You put the fire out in a small town with an engine, not a squad or a rescue company or a truck. It would be nice to have a truck, but we don't so we put the fire out without one. As far as experience goes, how in the heck do new firefighters in big cities get experience operating interior? Eventually they are allowed to operate interior. You cant get experience inside standing outside. Doesn't matter if you run 1 or 100 structure calls a year, eventually there has to be a first time.
    The fire service is about service to our fellow man.
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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    I don't see why a culture of safety can't coincide with a culture of extinguishment; they are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of agressive interior departments manage to do both on a regular basis.

    I would imagine that Lt. McCormack was referring to departments that allow their safety concerns to paralyze them as far as getting the job done. I would also imagine that he didn't go through his FDNY career as some kind of reckless cowboy.
    I agree. It seems simple to me that the two must coincide. But I think there has to be a balance, would I be out of line to suggest 50/50? I like the idea of putting the fire out and most of your problems go away. The problem I have is a lot of the experts have basically given us a laundry list of reasons why we should not take a risk to save a life or property. These reasons or suggestions turn into gospel and we write off citizens and property with out taking time to assess the situation. I especially like your last statement. I have seen the safety culture paralyze depts. into thinking that they should not even train for interior firefighting because of the current trend in building construction. It then turns into a reason to not do our job and not spend as much time training.
    The fire service is about service to our fellow man.
    There is a trust that must not be broken and we are the keepers of that trust.
    Captain Dave LeBlanc

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    We did it for years on my #1 POC FD. When I joined in 1977 wewere using a 1950 Ford 500 gpm front mount pumper, a 1937 500 gpm mid-mount pumper, and a 1949 Mack EFU converted fuel truck as a tender. We had 6 turn out coats, 6 helmets, and 2 SCBA. We had about 2000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and about 800 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose. All of it was ancient, some of our 2 1/2 was date stamped 1947!

    Guess what we did...We trained, we optimized what we had, we worked and worked and worked to improve our people, our equipment and our trucks. We bought better used trucks that other departments cast off as obsolete and made our way to where we are today. When I started we had a bunch of old guys the youngest after me was 37 and after him everyone was between 50 and 80. It took time but eventually we had a group of hard charging young guys that wanted to earn everything, wanted to save houses and lives, and just wouldn't take "It has always been this way" for an answer. Was it esy changing? NOPE, but we did it.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).

    More excuses as to why you can't do anything in your corner of the world. If you ut half the effort into change as you do inot excuses you could move mountains.

    I took his class last year at FDIC. I walked up to him afterwards and told him that while I respected who he was and what he had done, but I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work. He was polite and we talked about it for a minute or two, but in the end, we still disagreed.

    I'll bet you left quite an impression of Lt McCormack
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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    I think if the public wants departments they can trust, then they should stop electing politicians who are systematically reducing resources for departments across the country, both large and small. This trust is (or should be) a two way street. If there are less firehouses with less apparatus and less staffing, less training for the staffing they have, along with lower wage and benefit packages then why should the public expect the same service as they were getting before? We can do a lot, but some help would be nice.

    That youtube video of Engine 82 was shot about 30-40 years ago. I'm not sure it relates to current conditions in the fire service. Although I see where the reference to public trust would still apply.

    I don't see why a culture of safety can't coincide with a culture of extinguishment; they are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of agressive interior departments manage to do both on a regular basis.

    I would imagine that Lt. McCormack was referring to departments that allow their safety concerns to paralyze them as far as getting the job done. I would also imagine that he didn't go through his FDNY career as some kind of reckless cowboy.
    I have to tell you that I agree 100% with this post. Excellent explanation of this topic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).

    I took his class last year at FDIC. I walked up to him afterwards and told him that while I respected who he was and what he had done, but I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work. He was polite and we talked about it for a minute or two, but in the end, we still disagreed.
    When you say that your FD cannot do A, B and C because of reasons X, Y and Z and keep repeating that, it becomes the norm. The fact is, you choose to accept low standards and mediocrity as the norm, while there are many smaller, poorer and more rural FD's that still get the job done.

    You can choose to be a Tigger or an Eeyore...
    Last edited by DeputyChiefGonzo; 06-04-2013 at 12:30 PM. Reason: posted before morning coffee.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).

    I took his class last year at FDIC. I walked up to him afterwards and told him that while I respected who he was and what he had done, but I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work. He was polite and we talked about it for a minute or two, but in the end, we still disagreed.

    There are numerous departments in this country that have a culture of "safe" extinguishment without all the resources of a big city department. Hell, even with departments who have longer response times where the fire may have gotten a better hold of the structure, they will get a quick knock down with an exterior attack and transition to an interior attack. Give me an engine with 1000 gallons and 5 motivated, trained firefighters (also knowing well trained mutual aid is on the way) and we can get the fire knocked down fairly quickly on all but the most fully involved structures, making it more survivable to any victims. Water does some amazing things when placed on the fire aggressively and precisely, the fire goes out. Once the fire goes out, so goes most of the dangers on the fire scene.

    Side note, I have been on the scene of some structure fires that look as though there is no way of survival for any victims and when we get the fire out and conduct a secondary search, we find spaces with little to no smoke damage and no fire damage. An interior room with no window, such as a laundry or closet could be a safe refuge for someone lost in a fire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    And I would like to see how that culture of extinguishment worked out for him when he showed up with a couple of beat up engines, 6 or 8 inexperienced firefighters, no trucks, no squads and no rescues and a second alarm 20-30 minutes away compared to 30 experienced men in the latest apparatus with 4 more pieces responding on the 10-75, and a full second alarm 10 minutes from the scene.

    It's really easy to have a culture of extinguishment when you have more resources than just about any FD on the planet, and as a department, more experience top to bottom than anyone else (though much of that was lost on 9-11 and the post 9-11 retirements).

    I took his class last year at FDIC. I walked up to him afterwards and told him that while I respected who he was and what he had done, but I didn't agree with his position and told him that it just didn't fly in the rural world where most of the firefighters work. He was polite and we talked about it for a minute or two, but in the end, we still disagreed.
    The quote says A fire department, not FDNY or any other department. It has absolutely nothing to do with equipment, and everything to do with the mindset, heart, and desire of the individuals. Brought up in a culture of self-sacrifice and a want to serve their community.
    The fact you can't deduce that simple concept from Lt. McCormack's quote speaks volumes of of why your pathetic little department and you are the way theyare. You hide behind this cloak of mediocrity and **** poor standards to disguise your cowardice. Period.
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    I agree. It seems simple to me that the two must coincide. But I think there has to be a balance, would I be out of line to suggest 50/50? I like the idea of putting the fire out and most of your problems go away. The problem I have is a lot of the experts have basically given us a laundry list of reasons why we should not take a risk to save a life or property. These reasons or suggestions turn into gospel and we write off citizens and property with out taking time to assess the situation. I especially like your last statement. I have seen the safety culture paralyze depts. into thinking that they should not even train for interior firefighting because of the current trend in building construction. It then turns into a reason to not do our job and not spend as much time training.
    I think you nailed it when you said "without taking time to assess the situation".

    I don't think the "experts" ever meant to give us reasons not to do the job. I think there are some who misunderstand or misinterpret the information. When we are told that lightweight construction can collapse within as little as 5-10 minutes of flame impingement, we could use that to justify exterior ops at all fires involving lightweight construction. Or we could use that as part of our size-up and make it our first priority to find out if fire is even affecting the structure. (If we don't know the construction type going in it must always be a high priority to find out.) Maybe it's just a contents fire with all walls and ceilings intact and providing the protection they were designed to provide. There would be no reason not to mount an interior attack. You keep in mind the early collapse potential in case the fire attack doesn't go as planned. You may put some kind of time limit on the attack and pull out early if fire has been found to affect structure.

    What it comes down to is we need to be experts too. Take the technical info provided and make it PART OF WHAT WE DO instead of a reason not to do what we do.

    If, on the other hand, we arrive to find extensive fire involving contents and structure of a lightweight building we may be forced to concede the fight. Contrary to some youtube videos I've seen we are not obligated as firefighters to hurl ourselves into the flames.

    There are important decisions that have to be made on the fireground. A competent IC is always needed. I'm not dictating policy to other departments or criticizing other departments, but I think there are some bad policies out there. A company officer could be the IC early in the operation. How can we allow that officer to have as little as one year's experience (I've seen this posted in this forum) and be making these decisions?

    Probably a topic for a seperate thread, huh?

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    I think you nailed it when you said "without taking time to assess the situation".

    I don't think the "experts" ever meant to give us reasons not to do the job. I think there are some who misunderstand or misinterpret the information. When we are told that lightweight construction can collapse within as little as 5-10 minutes of flame impingement, we could use that to justify exterior ops at all fires involving lightweight construction. Or we could use that as part of our size-up and make it our first priority to find out if fire is even affecting the structure. (If we don't know the construction type going in it must always be a high priority to find out.) Maybe it's just a contents fire with all walls and ceilings intact and providing the protection they were designed to provide. There would be no reason not to mount an interior attack. You keep in mind the early collapse potential in case the fire attack doesn't go as planned. You may put some kind of time limit on the attack and pull out early if fire has been found to affect structure.

    What it comes down to is we need to be experts too. Take the technical info provided and make it PART OF WHAT WE DO instead of a reason not to do what we do.

    If, on the other hand, we arrive to find extensive fire involving contents and structure of a lightweight building we may be forced to concede the fight. Contrary to some youtube videos I've seen we are not obligated as firefighters to hurl ourselves into the flames.

    There are important decisions that have to be made on the fireground. A competent IC is always needed. I'm not dictating policy to other departments or criticizing other departments, but I think there are some bad policies out there. A company officer could be the IC early in the operation. How can we allow that officer to have as little as one year's experience (I've seen this posted in this forum) and be making these decisions?

    Probably a topic for a seperate thread, huh?
    The fact is that an officer with 5, or maybe even 7 or 8 years on a slow company or slow department could have the same experience issues as overall, we are responding to fewer fires.

    There are likely thousands of VFDs out there that respond to fewer than 5 building fires a year, a rarely will an officer make all of those.

    Again, my issue is the member that made that statement, LT McCormack, comes from a place very much unlike where I am now. Even on his volunteer gig on Long Island, he still has access to manpower, experience (as many FDNY do volunteer on the island) and resources unknown to most rural VFDs. His perspective is not what we see every day.

    maybe you feel that you can make the judgment as to fire spread into the structural members, but I don't know if I can trust that judgment to somebody in the rural world with 7 years on and maybe 20 fires total. It's just the reality that for the rural officer, that type of an incident, as an example is a very low frequency /high risk event that simply in the rural environment requires far more caution than the same event in the urban or even the busy suburban environment.

    Yes, there can be safety and aggressiveness, but it requires resources (which most rural VFDs do not have) and enough experience to be able to make the right judgments, which requires not only training but more important, real-world experiences.
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    It only takes one to blaze a trail LA.
    Instead of coming up with reasons why you cannot, Why not come up with reasons why you can?
    I am on TWO rural departments now that are strapped for cash but hey that does not mean we don't train like our feet were on fire and our butts were catching.

    Talk to your men, come up with a set training night and go with it. Not everybody is able to attend everything but heck it is better than having no clue of what you are doing at all!

    You have locksmiths in Bossier Parish that will come and teach your men how to force a lock.
    You have a Utilites department that can come and teach your men which hydrants are good and which ones are slow flowing for your Tankers.
    You have places you can flow water and teach how to advance hoselines.

    Instead of focusing on what we cannot do lets focus on what we can do to get up to par and do those things that we could not do previously.
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    Also, You can get a whole lot of command experience just by doing table tops
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    Quote Originally Posted by IronValor View Post
    Also, You can get a whole lot of command experience just by doing table tops
    Doing a whole lot of table tops will give you table top experience.
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    This most likely deserves it own thread, but kudos to Houston:

    To Capt. Ruy Lozano, it is pointless to ask why firefighters charged into Friday's five-alarm blaze to search for people trapped inside when workers at the Southwest Inn said they already had cleared the building.

    "If one person says, 'I think everybody's out,' and somebody gets forgotten, we didn't do our job," Lozano, a spokesman for Houston Fire Department, said Monday.


    Houston Chronicle
    June 4, 2013
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    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    The fact is that an officer with 5, or maybe even 7 or 8 years on a slow company or slow department could have the same experience issues as overall, we are responding to fewer fires.

    There are likely thousands of VFDs out there that respond to fewer than 5 building fires a year, a rarely will an officer make all of those.

    Again, my issue is the member that made that statement, LT McCormack, comes from a place very much unlike where I am now. Even on his volunteer gig on Long Island, he still has access to manpower, experience (as many FDNY do volunteer on the island) and resources unknown to most rural VFDs. His perspective is not what we see every day.

    maybe you feel that you can make the judgment as to fire spread into the structural members, but I don't know if I can trust that judgment to somebody in the rural world with 7 years on and maybe 20 fires total. It's just the reality that for the rural officer, that type of an incident, as an example is a very low frequency /high risk event that simply in the rural environment requires far more caution than the same event in the urban or even the busy suburban environment.

    Yes, there can be safety and aggressiveness, but it requires resources (which most rural VFDs do not have) and enough experience to be able to make the right judgments, which requires not only training but more important, real-world experiences.
    And I don't believe that anybody is debating that reality and advocating acting beyond the actual ability of your personnel (due to lack of actual experience).

    The message is more about taking action via training and setting department expectations that move the threshold of ability forward rather than accepting the status quo or regressing.

    The way you present your arguments often obstructs the message (which may have merit) and your apparent inability to comprehend other view points is problematic for any discussion. Your point on the post above is for the most part reasonable, however it just emphasizes the points that some of us have been making - maybe your VFD (and others like it) isn't really a "Fire Department" if it lacks the experience and capability to act like a Fire Department when something is on fire.

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