10-20-1999, 03:28 PM #1PG12FIREFTRFirehouse.com Guest
Are there enough safety measures in place to help protect Wildland firefighters?
With the recent rash of firefithers being killed while fighting wildland fires, I have begun to wonder if there are enough saftey guidlines and SOP's established for their safety. What do you think?
10-21-1999, 07:36 AM #2FFLEEMSFirehouse.com Guest
The best guideline to use on fires is the thing that hopefully has a helmet on it. You are an adult who has voluntarily chosen to engage in a dangerous profession. You must be constantly alert, trust the people you are working with and know what you are doing.
There are standards in place, 10 and 18 standard orders, WATCH OUT, whatever you want to call them. These are very basic concepts that will save your life. I forget the exact number, but the Firefighters at Storm King Mountain violated a lot of them. Learn from these tragic mistakes. Be an unknown firefighter, not a cross in the ground.
I know accidents happen, but please let us
never repeat Storm King Mountain or Mann Gulch.
10-21-1999, 12:56 PM #3Captain HickmanFirehouse.com Guest
I agree with FFLEEMS, the best thing is to use what you have between your ears and include them also. As a fire fighter you need to use your knowledge, common sense, feelings, and everything else that makes you a fire fighter. If you have the training and knowledge and feel comfortable with what you are doing, you can do it safely. If you think you know what you are doing, feel eager to do something, and act in a hastened manner, then watch out. It's hard for some of us fire fighters to admit that we don't know it all and we rush into things that should be left alone. Take 5 seconds, look at the situation. If we feel uncomfortable with what we are about to do, don't do it. 5 seconds is not a long time, but it can mean the difference in how you do something. Training, Self Control, and Self Awareness, I think, are everyones three largest assets that they could have. Knowning what you are trained to do, being able to control urges, and being aware of things going on around you should keep an individual safe. To me using my senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and gut feelings help me the most. Just being aware of things around you. We all have our private space around us and when somethings invades our space we react. When I fight fire, my private space is a lot bigger. It runs from the top of the roof to the basement floor and from the street to the next street over. At a wildfire, it's from one safety zone to the next and anything in between that I could use to cover mine and anyone working with me, assets.
Anytime you work, turn up your senses and keep them up. Use everything you have to work safe. Be Safe and Watch Out for things that don't feel right and take that 5 seconds to look it over.
Be Safe out there..
10-21-1999, 05:29 PM #4monteFirehouse.com Guest
No more sop; no more guidelines. The 10/18, downhill guides, and common denominators are enough. But they are not standards. They describe behaviors or mitigation behaviors. What is sorely needed is facts on how to be "effective". We do not know some of them yet, and never teach the one's we do know. We are all so far apart on what it takes to be safe, all we can do regurgitate old news and blame firefighters for violating concepts. No more junk please .... let's talk about some specifics. If your interested.
10-21-1999, 06:13 PM #5PG12FIREFTRFirehouse.com Guest
Excellent, I am appreciating all the responces. I am in college, University of Maryland at College Park, studying to become a Fire Protection Engineer. I am a probbie at Station 12, PG county in MD, and have yet to run with them. I am also from CT from a small rural town of 4500 with a large acerage of forests. I will be the first tro admit I have little knowledge in the wildland fire frontier, and would love to leanr more. I am presently working on a paper for ENlgish that deals with my very quesrtion, are there enough safty guidline, SOPS, regs, planning, command systems, what be it, in place to help protect us firefighters? Any sources of information that are scholarly, an expert for example, would be greatly appreciated... please email me with them at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks
10-21-1999, 06:36 PM #6monteFirehouse.com Guest
What's really interesting to me is the enormous range of perceptions when it comes to being safe. The concept of risk and how it plays in the decision process as well. Experience does not mean knowledge. Especially when we have done it wrong for that long. Then all at once, all the little things catch up to us, a fatality occurs, and it becomes the firefighter's fault for not following the 10/18. We are fault for not having a conscience memory that works fast enough, and now we are at fault for an unconscience memory that only holds concepts. I hear and see 20-30 year veterens argue about how to be safe while looking at the same situation, and knowing the same information. They both recite the same concepts, safety paradigms, blah blah blah. Definitely, ignorance-complacency-distractions are our links to disaster.
10-22-1999, 09:06 AM #7cbp3Firehouse.com Guest
Greetings. A very important topic, and I feel I should add my 2 cents, (if worth even that much...)
As events show; most recently the administrative decision after the Sadler fire entrapment in Nv., ultimately the responsibility for firefighter safety rests with the individual firefighter. Experience is all, in this situation. You must rely on your crew boss, STL, and Div. Sup., people in the field with you, but you are the person on the line. You are experiencing your individual conditions, and you must be the final arbiter of your personal safety. I have served in all of the above positions, and at one time or another, I have had to make safety decisions that contradicted the instructions I had recieved from superiors. In the end, to err on the side of caution is far superior to the alternative. We must avoid the mentality that we know it all, and we can operate on "autopilot". Just because someone has given you an assignment doesn't mean they have ALL the facts, or that conditions are going to remain constant.
The 10 orders and 18 situations are exactly that: the first...Orders! There is no guarantee you'll be perfectly safe if you follow them, but violate them at your grave peril. Second...guidelines, situations to alert you of heightened danger, places where you are even more at risk, and should be especially watchful. Learn these: they are the result of other's experience!
Above all, remember that the majority of injury and death that occurs on a wildland fire happens on small fires, or "quiet" parts of large ones.
Use your head, look out for yourself, and your buddies!
10-25-1999, 10:58 AM #8monteFirehouse.com Guest
I still think we are missing the point. The Sadler Fire is an excellent example. If we ultimately believe the firefighter is responsible for their own safety, a 20 year veteran should have no excuses ... how about the rookie or the 5 year firefighter. Somewhere they have to learn the exact measure of the 10/18. If we do not teach it someone has to instruct them. Since that is not being done, we have a team situation (Sadler Fire) that passed a poor decision down, through the organization, all team members, and the recipients were the least experienced/trained. If we must resign ourselves to being independent of team decisions, there is no confidence, no flexibility to change. So who looks out for the ill experienced and trained? Again I say, we need the data and the facts. As Storm King Industries say, "without the facts, all we have are opinions". Arn't you curious about what the facts are?
11-11-1999, 09:28 PM #9stone35Firehouse.com Guest
10/18 orders? What are these?
11-11-1999, 10:54 PM #10dfcwinsFirehouse.com Guest
These are basic safety rules used by wildland firefighters during operations. Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and eighteen rules that Shout Watch Out during operations. Sometime this winter I'll be writing up a back to basics safety article that will fully explain the 10/18, LCES, etc
11-15-1999, 11:32 AM #11monteFirehouse.com Guest
My background is wildland fire; right now it's been 32 years since my first. I have heard a lot of discussion about the 10 standard orders, and the 18 situations that shout watch out, as well as the development of lces (lookouts, communications, escape routes, and safety zones), also the downhill line construction standards, and the common denominators of near miss and tragedy fires. Mostly, they say, "these are the basics, the fundamentals of fighting wildland fires safely". My point, and this applies to structural firefighting as well (i belong to a volunteer dept.), if we say something is a standard, it obviously will show the measure of our actions. If it does not, it is not a standard, it is something else, like good advice, or part of a vision statement. I believe in the 10/18, etc., but I reflect on them as good advice, not the fundamentals of good tactical and people management. The reason is, I have data to show we are ignorant relative to some of the purest concepts of being safe. In a room of 40 people, with experience totaling close to 800 years, the room is a mass of disagreement over what it will take to be safe in the described environment. The reason for this, I think is these paradigms do not tell us, how to develop decision points, or even that we need them. How to implement them, and how in a fire environment we can assure ourselves that what we have develop will keep us safe. I would ask, are we just as safe by being in an effective safety zone 1 hour prior to a high intensity burn-over, compared to running into an effective safety zone 3 minutes prior to the same burn-over?
I sense we are comparing our actions, which are explicit, to concepts that require much detail to implement. We are not providing the means to develop a standard approach to this, or a means to collaborate, verify, and document success. We react to tragedy, and continue to compare apples to oranges. The firefighter will always be shown as the bad decision maker.
My perception is, human factors control the majority of our ability to make good decisions. That we have to recognize when collaborative, analytical decisions are the best, and when "recognition primed" decision making is most appropriate, and who should be making them. This would require profiling firefighters and nontraditional training. We are a long ways from that right now.
I am a training specialist in a wildland cirriculum, and I'm very interested in your thoughts. After all, we work shoulder to shoulder when structures are involved, and haz mat adds a new dimension to wildfire. You folks do good work here, don't give up on this subject of human factors and safety, and conceptual direction. I'm listening.
[This message has been edited by monte (edited November 15, 1999).]
11-16-1999, 11:14 AM #12cbp3Firehouse.com Guest
I have a feeling we are in danger of losing the forest for the trees, so to speak. The problem in discussing training and knowledge in absolutes is just that; there are NO absolutes. None of us here would assume that there is a textbook out there that, when memorized, would qualify us to perform an interior attack on a working structure fire. Experience is required.
Now, some generalizations can be made. For starters, we can assume that if I am involved with a fire in a wood-frame ranch of 1500 sq. ft., with a shingle roof, and vinyl siding in NJ, you have the same structure in MT., and he has the same in WA., we will be doing very similar things at the same time.
However, even this doesn't hold true when I have a 50 ac. fire in southern NJ, you have a 50 ac. fire outside Missoula, and he has a 50 ac. fire near Wenatchee. The same problem exists having a fire in a given location on Apr. 1, or June 1, or Oct. 1.
There are far too many variables in fuel, weather, and topography to make generalizing a wise thing to do.
The orders and situations are indeed guidelines. Forced upon us in order to give structure to an otherwise fluid situation. It is important that we do not become slaves to them, as it is any other dogma, however, as I have said before, ignore thes guidelines at your grave risk. The records of fallen firefighters are filled with reports of these heroes violating one or more. The last firefighters we lost here in NJ during a burnover in a wildland fire incident was in 1977. These were four good men, who became victims of a bad set of circumstances that were tied up with four of the fire orders.
Learn them, keep them in mind, and be safe!
11-16-1999, 12:23 PM #13monteFirehouse.com Guest
You make a good point. I would like to develop mine further based on your comment. Let's look at those 3 fires, and the a few of the 10/18. Lookouts for example. 1st, all 3 fires can burn with the same intensity, but may do it while exhibiting slightly different behavior. So what does a lookout look for? We say, post a lookout, but do not do a good job of identifying what to look for. At what point is passive crowning too much? At what point is black smoke an indicator of widespread change or just a local occurrence? At what point does wind become critical? At 2 mph at eyelevel? or is it 5? I agree conditions may be fluid enough to be different, but the protocols arn't. I agree an intense burnover in New Jersey can occur at 35% humidity, and 15-20% in MT, but the process to determine that is what the 10/18 don't allude to, nor do we instruct it. We show people how to use the sling psychrometer, to read a thermometer, to know the difference between passive and active crowning, but we do not instruct, test, or simulate, how to put all that together to define the thresholds and trigger points for that specific fire. You can still exhibit fine safe behavior, but without the data and the structure to use it, too late. Read some of the more recent investigation reports: Shepard Mtn., Stadler, to name a couple where firefighters were caught unaware, and grossly underestimated the size of adequate safety zones. Although they may met the 10/18 to some degree, exhibited good behavior, but not to the measure of being "safe". My 2 cents again, and thank you for challanging me, you make good points.
12-12-1999, 06:45 AM #14DudeFirehouse.com Guest
12-12-1999, 07:05 AM #15DudeFirehouse.com Guest
Sorry about that last blank message guys, Forgive me, sometimes I know not what I do.
I have found the thread fascinating. You guys in the States are having the same argument that we are having over her in New South Wales Australia. Safety vs Risk in firefighting and how to reconcile both.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is a State wide volunteer service with about 70,000 members divided into 2500 brigades. There is standardized training that is given state wide, but it is not compulsory, just highly encouraged.
We mostly rely on the old hands for their experience to continue giving on the job training to the new guys. Since the 1994 fires that surrounded Sydney, training has
taken on a whole new meaning and importance especially since the Coroner gave us a severe rap over the knuckles for the lack of it.
Like many of you have said, Experience, a sense of fire awareness, local knowledge of terrain and weather conditions, vegetation,
access routes and water sources are vital to conducting a safe campaign in any fire situation.
SOPs, classroom lectures and practical application have their place but nothing beats personal experience. All fire fighters have to understand fire behavior in all its manifestations. It can be a slow and sometimes painful experience.
I don't think there is a textbook that can delineate a simple formula to safe firefighting.
Thanks for your Time,
Dude, Wagga Wagga New South Wales
12-13-1999, 03:52 PM #16monteFirehouse.com Guest
Not to beat a dead horse .... but my point is there is an unavoidable and necesary connection between experience and training. However, training has to provide adequate and accurate information. Right now, in wildland firefighting the only certain things we know are the technical aspects of the job: hydralics, aviation requirements, maybe some of the production rates. The majority of our job is not quantifiable. We do not quantify or qualify safety. For instance, the fire shelter. It was invented in the 1970's and has been credited with saving many hundreds of lives. This is good. But the root issue is why did these people have to deploy one to save their lives. This issue sports concerns like underestimating fire behavior potential, not timing escape routes, lookouts seeing the transition points of the fire but not understanding them, or communicating that info. poorly. The facts are, we do little to assure that everyone on our fire ground has the same fundamental survival skills, and we do not establish a concrete safety philosophy to guide us.
I would like to see management direction that says, to achieve "0 tolerance" every firefighter will be safe for 1 hour prior to an intense burnover. That would provide practioners the direction to develop a better understanding of transition points, and thresholds of safety.
This might sound guum-ba to you, but wildland fire is very predictable. Barring human factor errors, we still are reluctant to establish good standards for assuring personnel safety. We are content to say good behaviors are adequate, and continue to compare accidents/tragedies to behavior than to realistic and quantifiable standards.
Good behavior is a good intention, without reason that has been calculated and used in agood decision matrix; we will never change, and will continue to be surprised as firefighters die on the fireline. Termed the incubation stage of a disaster, we have not yet seen what lies in store for the future. We have seen indications of it. I think the solution is availble, and it is attainable if we change our politics.
12-14-1999, 12:51 AM #17ff emt-p bleveFirehouse.com Guest
A lot good throughts guys i feel training the structural firefighters that provide nearly 80 precent of initial attack on wildland fires in the united states is lacking.Rural fire departments provide major assistance to state forestry agencies in suppression of wildland fires.I know wildland firefighters our killed in the line of duty yearly.Structural firefighters need the same training as wildland firefighters and in some states its not very available (EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI)and we our losing firefighters also.In the state of kentucky F.D.have to pay 90.00 + dollars for a fire shelter and state forestry agencies pay 40.00 dollars for that same shelter and there unable to help us.Whats wrong with that picture, when we attack 80% of all wildland fire in this state.Volunteer departments get the call and usually have to take some type of action due to structures endanger.BLM had a close call in nevada last summer.Colorado in 1994 when the best of the best where over run 14 federal firefighters killed.Structural firefighters need to be trained at higher level these blazes are never harmless little roadside grass fires three firefighters have died in three different blazes from contact with downed power lines this year .Make all the rules you want if you do not take the training out to the fire departments which handle 80 % of the calls we our going to keep losing the safety battle.DO any fire departments out there buy equipment at the GSA rates.Basic 130 and 190 classes do not give company officers what they need and in this state that all the KDF has ever offer hopefully thats about to change.I do not no if more training and better equipment would have change what happen on Island fork but for the rest of my life i will always wonder.All i can do now is push push push for change in how most structural firefighters view wildfires.
[This message has been edited by ff emt-p bleve (edited December 13, 1999).]
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