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  1. #1
    Yanjam5123 Guest

    Question Fire prevention or Fight fires?

    So, I received a disturbing letter today from the Assistant Chief of a department in New York State today saying he belives it is better to fight numerous fires rather then have an active fire prevention program. His exact words were
    Are we Firefighters or School Teachers? I'd
    rather have a crappie Fire Prevention Program and see more fire then have a
    good one and see no fire ever.
    What are the thoughts on this subject among the rest of the world? I personally belive having a successful fire prevention program is the key.

  2. #2
    FFTrainer Guest


    I'm going to have to disagree with the mentioned chief's opinions on this one.

    While I realize that in some cases reduced fire numbers can create a lackadaisical atmosphere among members, but isn't it our job to protect our citizens from the danger of fire? In my opinion, that includes both attempting to prevent it and if it should happen, suppressing it.

    Yes we joke with our FP guys that they're shooting us in the foot by knocking down our fire numbers, but it has always been a joke since we all acknowledge the great strides they have made attempting to make our residents and business people a little bit safer. We also acknowledge the ways their efforts have helped us do our job by enforcing functioning standpipe and sprinkler systems, helping with pre-plans, etc.

    Oh and what the hell, we cover some 20+ miles of interstate highway and they can't keep our driver humans from crashing or having their vehicle burn up (not to mention all these 'functioning' alarm systems that activate at 03:00 ) so it hasn't slowed down the runs that much!

    Granted there are less structure related fires, but if it has made our residents a little safer, then they're doing a good job and we'll just have to train a little bit more to keep some interior skills fresh.

    Stay Safe!

  3. #3
    Double_Local Guest


    I for one WOULD rather have an excellent suppression division and a crappy fire prevention division.

    #1 Fire prevention has more to do with socioecenomics than public education.

    #2 Regardless of fire prevention, fires still occur, and we still have to send men into harm's way to fight them. If I spend my money on adequately TRAINING, equipping, STAFFING, and deploying my department, and have none left over for prevention personnel, oh, well, I guess the field companies are gonna have to prevention duties.

    #3 If, on the other hand, I spent all my money on Prevention efforts, I may have reduced the number of fires in my community, but by shortchanging my men's training, equipment, staffing, and/or deployment, i have traded the SAFETY of my men for better public relations numbers.

    #4 Ideally, I'd have enough money to do both, but that never seems to be the case.

    #5 before some mutt tells me that "If you reduce the number of fires, you reduce your exposure to danger"...tell that the 100+/- families left without a loved one, every year, despite radical decreases in fires.

    #6 That chief is a jackass for a) writing that down, in those words; and b) giving it to you.

  4. #4
    Yanjam5123 Guest


    Let me ask, how much money does it take to have a couple of activity days at your firehouse or to send some of you guys into the field for a few hours to help out doing some residential surveys? It costs practically nothing. As for the people who die in fires, try telling their families that the fire department who is there to help them, which includes fire prevention, is only interested in helping after their hous catches fire, and not trying to prevent it from happeneing in the first place.
    If your going to have a fire department and take part as a firefighter, do your job which includes both training, and prevention.

  5. #5
    spo0k Guest


    Oh give a break.
    Now I like any other love going in and fighting fire. I love it. There is nothing more fun.

    Yah know what though? What did we all learn on our first day of fire school? Our job is to save lives and protect property. This starts with prevention.

    Sure there will always be fire, its a fact of life, but lets compare something.

    A newer city with an active fire prevention team enforcing building codes and forcing in sprinkler systems and making sure that buildings are up to par.
    An older urban city where fire prevention is having to play catchup because old building codes were much more lax.

    Now you tell me which department see's less fire, then you justify to me how prevention isn't doing there job and doesn't serve a purpose. On top of decreasing fires, how many 5 year olds knew what 911 was when it first started? Now how many know. Early education is another key.

    By now I'm sure you are all thinking I must be a prevention officer... nope. I would personally hate the job, loathe it, but I respect the men/women who do it.

    Get real guys, fire prevention is an important part of the fire service, and hundreds opon thousands of lives have been saved by learning from mistakes that happened in previous fires and applying them to new construction. I could spend days and write pages citing examples of this but I wont, I think I've made my point.

    FF. Mike Burnes
    Whitehall Fire Division

  6. #6
    Double_Local Guest


    Yanjam: See #2 in my prior post. I said "oh well, field companies would have to (sic) prevention duties" I believe this would include open houses, school visits, etc.

    Spo0k: I'll give you a break, since you apparently didnt' read what I wrote.

    New City: nice buildings, few fires: fire prevention uninportant: teach people about strokes, cpr, aed, drunk driving, water safety, home safety whatever...but fires arent a problem here.

    Old City: bad buildings, more fires: fire prevention irrelevant, here's why: Kid in school 10-20x more likely to die of drug related violence than in a building fire. This is amongst other problems such as aids, alcoholism, theft, rape, etc. Loss prevention efforts should be focused on the LARGEST problems, not the one that happens to be in our name.

    As I said in the first post, field companies should have some prevention and education duties, but if a jurisdiction is going to spend money educating it's citizens in loss, injury, and death prevention, that jurisdiction should get the most bang for it's buck...which may or probably is not, FIRE prevention.

  7. #7
    Yanjam5123 Guest



    It is the fire departments job to perform fire prevention education to all of it's citizens. They pay their taxes and really are not all that interested in weather you would rather fight a fire or prevent them, they don't want a fire to happen to them and they expect if it is your job, that you will do it. If it's too much to be able to perform both, then have someone else do it for you.
    Just because a child may be more likely to die as a result of gun violence then in a fire does not mean that prevention is not warranted. That has as much logic as saying you are more likely to die in a car accident then a plane crash so lets not perform maintnance on planes.
    Fire prevention is the reason that countless people have not died in fires, this includes citizens and firefighters who then don't have to enter burning buildings to rescue people. To disregard it is irresponsible and dangerous.

  8. #8


    I not sure how it is in the States but up here in Canada as part of legislation a Fire Service must provide Fire Prevention and Education Programs. Records are kept of the activities and reviewed by the Provincial Fire Prevention Bureau during an annual operations audit.

    Now Fire Prevention goes beyond showing up at the school once a year during Fire Prevention Week. This includes Fire Inspections, Preventive or Pre-emptive control burns, 911 education, etc.

    Your fire prevention program is your best Public Relations activity. The Community gets to know the members. And when the time comes to replace a piece of equipment it's easier to get the community behind you.

  9. #9
    neil4597 Guest


    I find it difficult to believe that a person with so much responsibility as an Assistant Chief would make such an irresponsible statement.In the U.K. he or she would be facing a discipline case and possibley a new career.

  10. #10
    Double_Local Guest


    No, I'm pretty sure that PUTTING OUT FIRES is our best public relation measure. The public doesn't give a rat's ***** about us until they call 9-1-1. But then, they want to see us tear through the streets, jump out of the fire truck, kick in the door, put out the fire, and come back out the door carrying a small child, just like in the movies. Prevention activities might make the 4:00 news on a slow day, a big fire makes it during prime time.

    I never said that prevention activities weren't important, I'm just saying that it's less important than being able to put out fires SAFELY, e.g. with the proper training, staffing, equipment, and deployment. After that, IF we have the time and the money, then we'll do prevention.

    If we respond to every sort of emergency: shootings, drownings, falls, car wrecks, ODs, etc...why is it that we only focus preventing fires?

    When less than one third of property loss is due to fires, why is it that we only focus on preventing FIRES?

    Why is it, nationwide, we've reduced the frequency of fires by what, more than 50%, do we still kill 100 of our own every year? Is it because we aren't' equipped? No, It's because we spend more than half our training time on EMS, Prevention, Customer Service, Hazmat, and High Angle Purple Elevator Trench Rescue. It's because what used to take us 40 men to do, we now try and do with 12-24 affirmative action "firefighters".

  11. #11
    Yanjam5123 Guest



  12. #12
    Yanjam5123 Guest



    You don't get it man. 100 firefighters lives would be saved if no fires were fought. your job is preventing fires, you don't just get up when the calls come in. I said it before, and this is the last time, if you are unable to do both, that is know how to put fires out safely and assist in fire prevention equally, then you are in the wrong line of work.
    Your public relations nightmares happen on the scene of a fire. The public loves to beat up the departments over the way they handle incidents. They do however love to have you help them, see their money at work in a constructive way that is less likely to be second guessed.

    [This message has been edited by Yanjam5123 (edited 04-23-2001).]

  13. #13
    Double_Local Guest


    Yanjam, YOU dont get it. Explain to me how Prevention Activities, which may or may not be responsible for the very significant drop in fire frequency over the last 20 years, has significantly reduced the number firefighter deaths per year?

    Perhaps YOUR public relations nightmares that occur at the scene of fires is the direct result of YOUR fire departments inability to effectively fight fires?

    NEIL of the U.K., can they really fire you over there for voicing an unpopular (though not illegal or immoral) opinion? That must really suck.

  14. #14
    gah74 Guest


    I understand what everyone's point is here. Maybe I'm wrong, but Double_Local nearly seems like he's making the devil's advocate argument and purposely overstating his case.

    Fire prevention is here to stay and it's a good program. I think most department's can successfully implement these programs without a tradeoff in training or staffing.

    I know that our department focusses on much more than just fire. We do CPR classes, safety fairs, go to crime watch meeting, work w/ our utility companies on electricity and safety. So we aren't totally focused in on just fire safety.

    I do like to use fire safety instead of fire prevention, because we can not prevent all fires, but we can educate children and adults in proper actions to take when a fire occurs and thus hopefully help them to escape safely. But how do I prove w/ statistics how many fire's I prevented today or how many lives were saved today b/c someone knew what to do when their house caught fire...I CAN' we will continue to see a lot of skeptics on this subject.

    But when the **** hit's the fan...We still have to perform effectively. If we don't we endanger our own lives and citizens lives. I don't see that we have to trade one off to do the other though. Instead, we may have to cut back on nap time and dominoes.

  15. #15
    Yanjam5123 Guest



    OK, You are getting to be a bit annoying here, I see I have to spell everything out in great detail for you. Now try and follow along here. If you have %50 less fires, that means your firefighters are going into 50% less fires right? OK now, that means your firefighters are now only in 50% of the danger as before, thus reducing fire related injuries and dfeaths.
    Second, Do not attack my fire department as we do not have major problems at all. In fact we happen to be very very good and our fire prevention program is top notch. All of our guys are well trained and perform their jobs extremely well.
    If you and your department, like the chief I mentioned above would rather watch their towns burn to the ground and their citizens die because you are too stubborn to recognize the significance of fire prevention then so be it. Me and those that choose to follow the times and recognize the importance of a good program integrated with a good firefighting effort will continue to win the publics approval, have less firefighter injuries/deaths, and less civilian loss of life and property.

  16. #16
    Double_Local Guest


    There there buddy, you've brought up the point exactly, and, i'll tell you why your attitude is dangerous.

    You've spelled it out for me clearly: YOU think that if you reduce the number of fires by 50% you'll reduce the "danger" by 50%.

    I think, and the numbers bear me out, that we've reduced the number of fires by 50%, yet we still have the SAME number of deaths...

    I think, that if you reduce the number fo fires, and keep the staffing, training/experience, etc., you will reduce the danger. Unfortunately, this never happens...

  17. #17
    gah74 Guest


    The statistics here prove nothing either way.
    It's easy to see why one would say there is less danger if we go to less the same time it is perplexing why fireground fatalities are not going down at the same time.

    ...BUT, this alone does not mean that fire training has somehow dwindled or is on the backburner to fire prevention efforts. I believe there are probably a lot of factors that go into this and am curious as to what people think they may be.

    I believe that newer construction methods probably contribute. There have been numerous multi-fatality fireground deaths at lightweight trussed occupanies.

    Perhaps, just the fact that most of us fight fewer fires now is a factor. Live fire training and actual live fire are two different animals.

    I don't have all the answers to that, but just because fireground fatalities have increased doesn't mean that training has been scaled back. Double-Trouble loves to drop statistics, but they are out of context completely.

  18. #18
    spo0k Guest


    Local it seems that your motivation for doing this job is making the news by fighting the big fires.

    You also seem to think that we can either spend _ALL_ of our money on prevention or _ALL_ on supression. That is a completely ridiculous statement. Even small departments with little budget surpluss can afford a 40 hr person or even a part-time person. You also imply that funding a prevention program makes it impossible to train. We train every day on crew at no cost to the department, by pulling hose, loading hose, going over text, etc.

    You keep speaking of this magic number of 100 deaths. Dont get me wrong, losing even 1 firefighter is too much, but the actual number of firefighters who die in a fire due to fire has drastically _DECREASED_ and composes only a small portion of firefighter fatalities each year, most relating to MVAs and stress related medical illness.

    Case in point - a five alarm fire we had with my department recently. This was an older building built before fire sprinklers were required, and when it changed occupancy, the fire prevention team tried to force them to put a sprinkler system in. Unfortunatly, the city building inspector would not back them up and the new owner ended up not being forced to install this system, even under strong advisement from our prevention team. So, 5 years later, a small fire starts back in the warehouse, and due to the lack of sprinklers, spread rapidly and quickly turned into a 5 alarm fire that caused millions of dollars in damage.

    case in point #2 - worchester. What if a sprinkler system was installed in that building? Would that fire have gotten that out of control? Would 6 firefighters died that day had the fire been contained by fire sprinklers.

    Think about all the fires you've been on that were contained by sprinklers that, by looking at the structure, could have turned in to a major ordeal.

    Sprinklers are only a small part of fire prevention, education, inspections, alarms, all these things play into reducing the instances of fire, reducing the danger to the public, and to us. I could go on and on about various activities that our prevention team accomplishes around here, which is the older urban area I spoke of earlier, which have drastically reduced fire load, fire damage, and fire deaths just in this area. And you're right Local, they don't make the 5 o'clock news, but they didn't take this job for being on the news and neither did most of us, we took this job to help people.

    FF. Mike Burnes
    Whitehall Fire Division

    [This message has been edited by spo0k (edited 04-23-2001).]

  19. #19
    johnusn971 Guest


    Ya know. I'll put this simply. NYC is a city with "new" and "old" buildings and areas. In the 90's and early 2000's now, Structure fires are going down. If a city as large and diverse as New York, can maintain top level supression duties, and prevention duties, with companies responding to as much as 20 alarms each a day, I think almost anyone can do it.

    Also, to put the proverbial nail on this coffin, I believe it was either Chief Dunn or Skala who stated- "The only good way to put out a fire safely, is to prevent the fire from starting." Don't take it personally there Double Local, but I'll take either of those Chiefs suggestions, more seriously, than yours.

    Have a Nice Day
    Doc DC3

  20. #20
    gah74 Guest


    Good points spook and johnusn971.... Local seems to be more reactive than proactive when it comes to issues such as these.

  21. #21
    Double_Local Guest


    Let me reiterate, in short sentences for you:

    #1 You people are confusing the original Chiefs statement with mine:

    I agree that prevention is an important part of our activities, but:

    With a perfect prevention system, fires will be very rare, but will occasionally occur.

    With a very good prevention system, fires will still occur with some regularity.

    With a Perfect suppression system, fires would be fought safely or not at all. Risks would be weighed and taken only when neccessary. Companies would be good at what they do, whether through training or real world experience. Companies would be adequately staffed and equipped to perform their job with a minimum of death and injury.

    #2 I brought up the point that, despite a massive decrease in fires, our annual deaths have remained steady. No one has offered an explanation, other than to say that the numbers have actually _DECREASED_. I'm not sure of that, and would welcome the full set of facts. Don't forget that some of those "stress related" deaths, that everyone loves to blame on smoking and being overweight, may have been burn injuries in past years.

    #3 Sprinklers are NOT prevention. They are fixed in place suppression. There is a difference, perhaps I'll start another forum.

    #4 Hey, John of USN/NY, he spells his name Salka, and I agree with everything he says.

    #5 What my point boils down to though is...regardless of our prevention efforts, we owe it to the citizens to offer some REACTIVE fire suppression service, and we owe it to ourselves to make sure we can do that safely. MY PERSONAL OPINON is that if they won't fund us to put adequate staffing at the scene in good time, well, then we don't take any extra risks, and stop fighting fire like we used to.

    #6 I still think that the reduction in fires is in no small part due to 10+ of the best economy this country has ever seen. I hope that when the economy turns down again, we aren't caught with our pants down.

  22. #22
    LMfire Guest


    I am a strong believer on fire prevention, and the thought that firefighters are not in it for the glory. Glory seekers have no business in the profession, they are just junior coders. Yes it is nice to be seen in the news to get that publicity that the police get all the time.
    I live just outside a city in the top five for being the most dangerous. i do believe it is the second most dangerous, and probably one of the most corrupt cities also. So our news is pretty well packed full of stories. BUT if there is a fire in the area it is always on the news, even our fire prevention programs get on the news either on t.v. or in the paper. Who cares? I don't.
    What I do care about are the people I am here to protect in my community. Don't get me wrong I do love to go play in house fires and get down and dirty. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but what I love more is teaching and informing the community. I would rather see the kids smiling faces when I am telling them how to call 911 or how to crawl out of their house. Than to see their sad crying face when their house and all their toys are burning, or worst of all having to find a kid dead.
    Fire prevention is important no matter the town you live in new, old, small, or big. Just remember you should not be in this profession for the glory, be in it for the reward, the reward of being there to help those in need, before and after.

  23. #23
    Yanjam5123 Guest



    Sorry for the looong delay on this one, my daughter was a bit fussy last night. In response to the no signicifant decrease in total firefighter deaths to coincide with the decreasing number of fires, can you imagine the number of deaths that could occur (health related or not) if there were 50% more fires? Potentialy double.
    Now no I just don't have the time to look up any numbers or statistics from work on the subject so well just have to assume we may both be right unless you are able to get some numbers. As for the whole idea of automatic fire suppression systems, sure I agree they are a great aid but thats not really the topic here, so anyone else repsonding try to stick to the idea of public education and code enforcement as you beleive it should be handled or in some cases not handled.
    And just as an added incentive to check back often, when the topic has lost its drive I will reveal the department from which the statement came.

  24. #24
    FFTrainer Guest


    My reply to this issue is posted above however I do still have one question. This is sure to fire up a few people, but here goes.

    If we are so under-staffed, poorly equipped, and poorly funded why is it that we are against fire prevention?? If you set it up right, it shouldn't take much from your budget. If nothing else, the revenue from fines and violations goes right back into the FD. We need to face it that financial constraints will almost always be a part of holding us back so why not take some time between runs to do an inspection or stop by a school to explain 911 and fire safety to kids rather than bitch about how we are so unappreciated and poorly funded? If we are so 'poorly equipped' to do our job of fighting fires that it is literally killing us, then for crying out loud, take some time to reduce the fires. You can fight all you want with your local politicians (or whoever stamps "Approved" on your budget), using your call stats, etc, but if they have a $$ figure set in their head, that is what you're getting regardless of true need.

    To be quite honest, I don't really see where funding is an argument for this anyway since our funding has actually gone up since we put our prevention program into overdrive. It seems that people who see you more often under non-emergency situations are more likely to remember you at fund drive or city budget voting time rather than if they only see you smashing the windows of their burning home at 02:00.

    Oh yeah, and by the way. Yes, Sprinklers are a fixed supression device, but who insures they work for the "Perfect Suppresion" guys to use? My guess is your friendly Fire Prevention bureau.

    Fire away kids, I'm sure I made enemies with this one, but it's just one more thing to consider.

    [This message has been edited by FFTrainer (edited 04-24-2001).]

  25. #25
    spo0k Guest


    Local I just don't understand you. Rather than absorbing what is being said you continue to reiterate the same arguments.

    #1 - I did address your issue of firefighter deaths by saying the majority of them are not fire related anymore. Most firemen die on the way to or coming back from a fire on apparatus these days, a few more die from heart attacks/strokes/etc, how can you possible equate that with a fire loss?

    #2 - Dont try and back up now by saying you never agreed. In the third post on this thread you stated that you agree that fire supression should blow fire prevention out of the water.

    #3 - true sprinklers are fire suppression tools, but who makes sure they get installed in these 100 year old warehouses/MFD's? Having a department that goes around inspecting buildings to ensure they will not catch fire, or if they do, the fire will not spread, this seems to be the fundimental function of fire prevention, does it not?

    #4 - again you go back to this funding thing. You seem to think that if we adequately fund a fire prevention bureau, then there would be no way possible to have an adequate "reactive" fire supression team. Again this is ridiculous. A good supression team is one that adequately trains on shift with eachother. It has to do with the strength of the crew, not whether or not they have the latest and greatest equipment.

    FF. Mike Burnes
    Whitehall Fire Division

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