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Thread: US system of fire fighting more dangerous than other ones?

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    Default US system of fire fighting more dangerous than other ones?

    Hi,

    normally I would post this thread in the international section but it seems that this part of the forum is mostly deserted.

    I am a volunteer firefighter in bigger german city since five years. To get better in our daily business we try to compare different (international) tactical approaches to find ways to improve.

    In my opinion there are many things which could be learned. For example tactical ventilation is not very often used in Germany.

    The german firefighting system is in general a bit different to the one used in the USA. Every time the two systems are compared in discussions is mentioned, that there are a lots more cases of deadly incidents per year in the USA than in Germany. Although there a more active firefighters in Germany than in the USA. So I wondered if firefighting in the USA is more dangerous than in Germany? Or is the different system a reason?

    What do you think?

    At last i am sry if anything isn't understandable. English is notmy first language but i try to improve. Hopefully i choosed a adequate sub forum.

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    I honestly do not have a enough knowledge on the german fire service to compare the two system and say that one is more dangerous than the other. However I am sure that there are many different factors that come into play in addition to the tactics employeed by both service. Just of the top of my head these come to mind

    Differences in building construction
    Different building codes and fire prevention code enforcement.
    Different social aspects and society views on fire and fire pevention
    Different population density and other rual versus urban factors
    Different training methods and firefighting tactics
    Different fire department cultures and society culture

    I think to compare the two is almost like trying to compare apples to oranges. Both our fruit but both are very different for a varity of reason. Now that does not mean that you can cannot compare and contrast the two to determine what might could be improved by one another.
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    Construction is a big difference.
    Life style is different, a vast amount of our structures are single family residence.
    A country that was built with a natural resource that was plentiful, cheap, and easy to build with-wood.
    Finally, but not least, but more controversial; personal freedom. I can build what I want depending on the AHJ, but with large sparsely populated areas, there may not be an AHJ. My cabin had 2 inspections; a state electrical inspection and a state septic inspection.
    So basically it really isn't inherently more dangerous as it is just different.
    Look in your neighborhood, how many stick built buildings do you have?
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    Is it also true insurance in Germany does not pay as much as the US?

    And maybe fire incident is less in Germany??

    Also major factor of death in US vs Germany firefighters?

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    Here is a PHENOMENAL piece from the USFA on the subject, from about 2 years ago. Read it when it first came out and it's still very interesting.

    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/p...tics/v12i8.pdf

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    Let's not forget the types of firefighter fatalities in the US. Consider the non-fire things that are killing American firefighters:

    1. Heart attacks: We have a healthcare system that leaves some people without needed tests and medication. We also have a terrible diet and very sedentary lifestyle. So the firefighters who die of medical problems are more a reflection of an overall public health issue than of firefighting techniques or tactics.

    2. Vehicle accidents: The US is less densely populated than Deutschland, so our rural fire departments must travel longer distances. That lower density also means smaller populations supporting a department, leading to smaller budgets and resulting substandard apparatus that are more likely to be involved in accidents. So some of the blame goes to our topography and geography.
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    As Disraeli said, there's lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    The US paints a pretty broad brush regarding LODDs.

    A look at the 2012 preliminary report from USFA is subject to a lot of interpretation. F'rinstance, only 22 firefighters died on-scene at a fire out of the total of 81 firefighter deaths over all.

    Only 13 have "advancing hoseline" listed as a factor - and that includes wildland.

    32 of the deaths are listed as "not incident related," yet they're considered LODD.

    Before we can truly compare ourselves to other countries, we need to know how they compile their stats.

    http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighte...drYearEnd=2012

    Keep in mind that I'm not taking away from anyone's sacrifice here - but the stats pretty plainly show that most of us aren't dying directly due to firefighting - there are myriad other factors involved.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Where are you getting the number of firefighters from? The US has 4x the population of Germany (316 million vs 81 million), so it seems unlikely to me that Germany has more firefighters.

    That alone could account for the higher number of fireground fatalities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    As Disraeli said, there's lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    The US paints a pretty broad brush regarding LODDs.

    A look at the 2012 preliminary report from USFA is subject to a lot of interpretation. F'rinstance, only 22 firefighters died on-scene at a fire out of the total of 81 firefighter deaths over all.

    Only 13 have "advancing hoseline" listed as a factor - and that includes wildland.

    32 of the deaths are listed as "not incident related," yet they're considered LODD.

    Before we can truly compare ourselves to other countries, we need to know how they compile their stats.

    http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighte...drYearEnd=2012

    Keep in mind that I'm not taking away from anyone's sacrifice here - but the stats pretty plainly show that most of us aren't dying directly due to firefighting - there are myriad other factors involved.
    In many cases, the usual MO is to toss the US fire service under the bus.
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
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    Quote Originally Posted by SPFDRum View Post
    In many cases, the usual MO is to toss the US fire service under the bus.
    Yes. Apples and oranges. Somebody finds a different country with better (apparently) LODD stats and then butt-plunges the US fire service about why it's so.
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    Using Wiki:

    Germany has 1,383,730 firefighters, mostly volunteer.

    US has 1,100,000 firefighters (756,000 volunteer; 344,000 career).

    With populations of 80,399,300 (Germany) and 316,909,000 (US) that means that Germany has 1 firefighter per 58 people and the US has 1 firefighter per 288 people.

    Per square mile: There are 10 German firefighters per square mile in Germany (137,841 sq miles), and and 3.4 US firefighters per US square mile (3,794,101 sq miles). Then again, just population wise, Germany has 583 people per square mile while the US has 88 people per sq mile.

    So the US has less active firefighters than a country 1/36th the size. Sounds like Germany can "dog pile" a fire and put it out.

    So questions for Kernesky;

    -How many firefighters are on an initial alarm residential structure fire? Our NFPA 1710 standard has 15 to 17 firefighters arriving within 8 minutes of recipt of an alarm. The first company arriving 6 minutes after dispatch with 4 members. (Not many departments can meet this to begin with)

    -You mention ventilation is not often used. Ventilation (either vertical or horizontal, natural or mechanical) is a mainstay of American firefighting. Without proper ventilation an interior attack is made much more difficult and dangerous. Without an interior attack you cannot protect lives of people trapped in buildings (search, rescue, evacuation). So question is: Do you guys go interior much?

    Hope you reply. I am interested.
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    Once upon a time, a very wise boss of mine stopped me at a greater alarm. It was a standard 2.5 story wood frame (essentially a three story home) that was fully involved and extended to the north and south exposure, as well as a rear cottage and garage. It was impressive, and very impressionable to me, as a 6 months out of recruit school cub.

    As a good boss does, he was teaching me some things about what was going on. The entire scene was still very surreal to me; basically, 5 buildings burning and five alarms worth of companies and a half dozen special calls (we only register to five alarms). Guys and rigs and handlines were everywhere. As a good cub, I was stuck to my boss's hip. I think we came in on the third alarm, or so.
    Well, he stopped me at one point and said; look, this is how we put fires out. It's done with manpower. It isn't water or ladders, it's manpower. Plain and simple.

    Watching that scene, there were guys everywhere. His words are true. It is manpower that puts fires out.

    Maybe Germany is onto something.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jasper 45 View Post
    Once upon a time, a very wise boss of mine stopped me at a greater alarm. It was a standard 2.5 story wood frame (essentially a three story home) that was fully involved and extended to the north and south exposure, as well as a rear cottage and garage. It was impressive, and very impressionable to me, as a 6 months out of recruit school cub.

    As a good boss does, he was teaching me some things about what was going on. The entire scene was still very surreal to me; basically, 5 buildings burning and five alarms worth of companies and a half dozen special calls (we only register to five alarms). Guys and rigs and handlines were everywhere. As a good cub, I was stuck to my boss's hip. I think we came in on the third alarm, or so.
    Well, he stopped me at one point and said; look, this is how we put fires out. It's done with manpower. It isn't water or ladders, it's manpower. Plain and simple.

    Watching that scene, there were guys everywhere. His words are true. It is manpower that puts fires out.

    Maybe Germany is onto something.
    Manpower is great. My department can absolutely flood (pun intended) the fireground with manpower. But what good are they if they are not properly utilized? A bunch of guys running around doesn't put out fires. A sufficient number of streams flowing the required amount of water puts fires out. And properly placed firefighters searching and overhauling effectively will support the function of extinguishment. I've seen scenes with just too many people who were not operating efficiently. It is counterproductive and can be dangerous. Like everything else, I believe it is a proper balance that is needed. Manpower yes, but they must be properly using streams, ladders, handtools, apparatus, etc. or they are just part of the problem. Proper supervision is also paramount. No freelancing, cowboys, etc. Any one not productively engaged must be held back in reserve. For the larger fires like the one you described, a good IC who can size up the scene and come up with a strategy that works and a backup plan in case it doesn't can be the most important factor.

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    You want to nit pick and pull apart replies while missing the greater point, so be it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jasper 45 View Post
    You want to nit pick and pull apart replies while missing the greater point, so be it.

    What was the greater point if not that manpower puts out fires?

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    Manpower is the answer, and I full well know exactly what Jasper 45 meant. When we as professional firefighters, paid or volunteer, talk about manpower in the sense that Jasper 45 did, we mean properly trained and doing the right thing. Not a bunch of yard breathers, or T-shirt firefighters, milling around trying to look good but not get dirty or really do any work.

    Come out into small rural volly land where sometime the entire response of the original department during the day may be 4 to 6 guys and the pucker factor is strong doing the best you can while waiting for mutual aid to arrive. At my former career FD we knew we had 13 guys minimum coming on a working still, and twice that on a box, I believe Milwaukee runs 3 and 2 and that gets them 20 plus guys on a working still.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Manpower is the answer, and I full well know exactly what Jasper 45 meant. When we as professional firefighters, paid or volunteer, talk about manpower in the sense that Jasper 45 did, we mean properly trained and doing the right thing. Not a bunch of yard breathers, or T-shirt firefighters, milling around trying to look good but not get dirty or really do any work.

    Come out into small rural volly land where sometime the entire response of the original department during the day may be 4 to 6 guys and the pucker factor is strong doing the best you can while waiting for mutual aid to arrive. At my former career FD we knew we had 13 guys minimum coming on a working still, and twice that on a box, I believe Milwaukee runs 3 and 2 and that gets them 20 plus guys on a working still.
    Same here.

    Combo department we easily put 10-12 volunteers plus our 5 paid staff on a scene during the day, and at times, more.

    At night we'll easily put 20-25 volunteers on scene plus 2 career staff.

    And at times, that's actually too much staffing.

    VFD we may be 2-3 of our guys on-scene during the day plus 5 AMA.

    At night that number may rise to 6 or 7 of our guys, but could just as easily be 2 or 3, plus the AMA.

    Two very different operations based on ... Manpower.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FiremanLyman View Post
    Using Wiki:

    Germany has 1,383,730 firefighters, mostly volunteer.

    US has 1,100,000 firefighters (756,000 volunteer; 344,000 career).

    With populations of 80,399,300 (Germany) and 316,909,000 (US) that means that Germany has 1 firefighter per 58 people and the US has 1 firefighter per 288 people.

    Per square mile: There are 10 German firefighters per square mile in Germany (137,841 sq miles), and and 3.4 US firefighters per US square mile (3,794,101 sq miles). Then again, just population wise, Germany has 583 people per square mile while the US has 88 people per sq mile.

    So the US has less active firefighters than a country 1/36th the size. Sounds like Germany can "dog pile" a fire and put it out.

    So questions for Kernesky;

    -How many firefighters are on an initial alarm residential structure fire? Our NFPA 1710 standard has 15 to 17 firefighters arriving within 8 minutes of recipt of an alarm. The first company arriving 6 minutes after dispatch with 4 members. (Not many departments can meet this to begin with)

    -You mention ventilation is not often used. Ventilation (either vertical or horizontal, natural or mechanical) is a mainstay of American firefighting. Without proper ventilation an interior attack is made much more difficult and dangerous. Without an interior attack you cannot protect lives of people trapped in buildings (search, rescue, evacuation). So question is: Do you guys go interior much?

    Hope you reply. I am interested.
    I was surprised to find out that Germany has so many firefigthers. However if you look at the Wikipedia page in german you'll find out that those 1,383,730 firefighters include 250,000 junior firefighters aka kids aged 12 to 18 that don't respond. This shouldn't change your conclusion based on the numbers of firefighters in both countries.

    Doing a quick calculation for Belgium I find that we have about 1 firefighter per 550 people. Somehow Belgium still hasn't burnt down nor firefighters are dying at an alarming rate. But Belgium is also much smaller. Apples and oranges as others said and I join this conclusion. Why does this question always pop up: stereotypes and lack of information.

    Initial response should be 15 firefighters (2 engines staffed with 6 ff's and one ladder or tanker staffed with 3 ff's) and one chief.

    About ventilation: I would say different building materials but's it a complex matter.

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    Germany also has conscription, and becoming a volunteer firefighter was allowed in lieu of military service, which boosts the number of firefighters.

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    This topic is an interesting one to say the least, as far as LODD I think our numbers in the US are somewhat inflated compared to others. Mostly because of the criteria used to say what a LODD is and is not. This is not to say the job didn't directly affect the death of said firefighter, but to me dying of a heart attack 24hrs after shift is far different than someone advancing a hose line and getting caught in a flash over situation.
    That being said I think if a death can directly be attributed to the job the family deserve's benefits. As others have said just looking at the LODD numbers and not reading into the actual cause of death, I can see why the US fire service seems more dangerous.

    Code enforcement or lack of is another reason many US firefighters get hurt. There are many counties in the US who have no fire marshal, no inspectors. When a house or even a business in some cases is built it may have one maybe two inspections by an inspector who may or may not have any experience with fire code. In most of these areas they do not have the money to employee a fire marshal and when a fire happens the local sheriff's office takes over the investigation and in most cases they do not have the training nor equipment to carry out such investigations, So they turn if over to the state. With this system its easy to see how illegal modifications to buildings never get noticed until there is a fire and firefighters are hurt.

    Building construction in the US probably has something to do with it, but I do not know enough about the construction of houses in Europe to comment about this. I do know that the new houses being built in the US are pretty much tinder boxes though.

    As for manpower, in my experience here its either feast or famine. You either get the full alarm of 3 Engines and a ladder with 6 guys on each rig and you got 16 guys nut to butt in a 10x10 room. Then you could end up like the last fire I was on with one engine with 4 and ladder with 4. In those cases you are working your *** off to get the things you need done.

    Like others have said apples to oranges between the US and other countries I mean just look at the differences of the department you run at and one of your neighboring departments. Everybody finds something that works for them. What works for you may not work for others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Manpower is the answer, and I full well know exactly what Jasper 45 meant. When we as professional firefighters, paid or volunteer, talk about manpower in the sense that Jasper 45 did, we mean properly trained and doing the right thing. Not a bunch of yard breathers, or T-shirt firefighters, milling around trying to look good but not get dirty or really do any work.

    Come out into small rural volly land where sometime the entire response of the original department during the day may be 4 to 6 guys and the pucker factor is strong doing the best you can while waiting for mutual aid to arrive. At my former career FD we knew we had 13 guys minimum coming on a working still, and twice that on a box, I believe Milwaukee runs 3 and 2 and that gets them 20 plus guys on a working still.
    He said there were guys and rigs and handlines everywhere. Then he repeated that there were guys everywhere. That's all he really said. I did not get from his post all that you did. I responded with a point that manpower doesn't always equal productive manpower and I gave examples. Similar to the ones you gave. He accused me of being nitpicky, although I wasn't trying to be. Or critical either.
    This appears to break down along cultural lines. The members of short staffed or lightly staffed departments believe manpower is the answer. I am not anti-staffing. But we get over 50 firefighters on a structural fire. And the first 30 are there within minutes, with the balance shortly behind them. At most fires about half of them never really do much work, if any at all. I've seen YouTube videos of house fires with 10 or 12 firefighters on the roof. Not a good thing. I guess I'm saying that manpower is the answer up to a point. There is definitely such a thing as too much. Of course it's great to have if something escalates.
    I was teaching a tactics class once when a guy from a rural department asked what our staffing was on a house fire. When I told him, he started to laugh and asked why we didn't just pick the house up and dump the fire out the back door!

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    A bunch of guys running around doesn't put out fires. A sufficient number of streams flowing the required amount of water puts fires out. And properly placed firefighters searching and overhauling effectively will support the function of extinguishment.
    And it takes manpower to operate a sufficient number of streams flowing the required amount of water, plus a bunch of corksoakers providing them the water.
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    One difference I can point to, and correct me if I'm wrong, is architecture and building materials.

    In Europe, you had two World Wars rage through, plus countless other major conflicts etc. This taught you lessons in how to construct buildings and cities to weather such things better. Ie stone and concrete and masonry hold up better and don't lend themselves to massive firestorms like wooden buildings do. From what I've gathered, your buildings tend to be more compartmentalized as well.

    Here, we've never seen the likes of the massive destruction that occurred during the wars. Most of our oldest cities were begun when wood was extremely plentiful, and skilled masons were scarce and costly. Much of that still remains, now tinder dry and renovated so many times that you never know what you'll find inside. Wood is still the least expensive building material, but the rising costs, both of materials and labor, have led to using smaller dimension lumber and pre made components. The outsides are most often sided with vinyl or aluminum siding over a plastic wrap moisture barrier, and chipboard or pressed fiber panels.

    Fill that house with tons of hydrocarbon based synthetics, seal it up tight, add long discovery and response times, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    In other words: in North America, the majority of homes are almost ALL fuel. Newer construction can be compared to vertical lumberyards. Small dimension lumber surrounded by interconnected voids, allowing the fire to spread in all directions easily. Fire can also spread from the outside in very quickly- totally bypassing any sprinkler systems or firestopping. You could say they're the ultimate expression of the throwaway mentality. I doubt they'll last hundreds of years like some of the old style ones have. They are literally death traps under fire conditions.

    Also add in that most firefighters a) only work a handful of real structure fires in their careers, and b) also have to train for and deal with a million other emergencies. Means we're less experienced, and not as well trained and focused as we could be.

    This only addresses the LODD's stemming from actual structure fires. Wildfires, esp in the arid west cause many more, as do traffic accidents, stress, and health and fitness related matters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF View Post
    And it takes manpower to operate a sufficient number of streams flowing the required amount of water, plus a bunch of corksoakers providing them the water.
    I think I've explained my point here. Manpower alone isn't enough. That's what I said and that's what I meant.

    I'm glad you agree that manpower is useless if they're not being properly utilized to operate streams and supply water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    He said there were guys and rigs and handlines everywhere. Then he repeated that there were guys everywhere. That's all he really said. I did not get from his post all that you did. I responded with a point that manpower doesn't always equal productive manpower and I gave examples. Similar to the ones you gave. He accused me of being nitpicky, although I wasn't trying to be. Or critical either.

    Seriously, Jasper 45 is a member of the Milwaukee Fire Department, a well trained, highly skilled, proud traditioned, Fire Department. They are not a bunch of yokals running around with no concept of what they are doing.

    This appears to break down along cultural lines. The members of short staffed or lightly staffed departments believe manpower is the answer. I am not anti-staffing. But we get over 50 firefighters on a structural fire. And the first 30 are there within minutes, with the balance shortly behind them. At most fires about half of them never really do much work, if any at all. You seem to contradict yourself here and then seem to justify staffing cuts saying half of the 50 don't do anything. It's easy to talk the way you do when you know you have the cavalry rolling in behind you at EVERY fire. Now how about a reality check? My career FD is a suburb of Milwaukee and on a still we got 13 firefighters, twice that on a box but that includes mutual aid companies. I believe Milwaukee runs 3 and 2 to a still giving them over 20 on that initial call. Now take it out into the rural where some FDs are lucky to get 4 to 8 guys during a daytime call without mutual aid and often the mutual aid is in the same situation. Tell those guys manpower isn't the answer when you pull up to a fully engulfed barn fire with an engine and a tender. You talked about 50, get real, that isn't how the majority of the world works. I have great respect for the FDNY but it seems some of you have little respect for anyone that isn't you or doesn't do what you do.I've seen YouTube videos of house fires with 10 or 12 firefighters on the roof. Not a good thing. I guess I'm saying that manpower is the answer up to a point. There is definitely such a thing as too much. Of course it's great to have if something escalates. Generally those fires are big city FDs with people standing around. My career FD never had anyone standing around because with limited staffing everyone was working and usually multi-tasking.

    I was teaching a tactics class once when a guy from a rural department asked what our staffing was on a house fire. When I told him, he started to laugh and asked why we didn't just pick the house up and dump the fire out the back door! He laughed because like I said above your real world isn't even a fantasy to a rural department with 20 or less members. Go out and run with those guys a while and you will NEVER say again that you have too many guys with guys standing there waiting for something to do.
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    Last Post: 10-16-2002, 12:14 AM

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