Fire Chiefs Discuss Good, Bad and Ugly at Expo

The fire service is feeling the effects of a poor economy and chief officers everywhere have to make some adjustments – but it’s not all doom and gloom, a panel of four prominent chiefs told a classroom of eager students at Firehouse Expo.

He said Baltimore has a significant substance abuse problem and it’s important that smoke detectors be installed to alert people and hopefully save lives. Fire deaths had been averaging 25 annually in the city, but it was down to 6 this year which is on track for a 50 percent reduction.

For Hood, firefighter and paramedic fitness is important for San Antonio. He said the department had a paramedic who died in the back of an ambulance. He had hooked himself up to the cardiac monitor and other equipment in the back of the rig and died, Hood said. “That’s right where we found him,” he said.

Hood said he pushed for, and got mandatory physicals for fire department employees, but personnel won’t lose their jobs because of the findings. As a result of the physicals, 45 firefighters were found to have issues that needed treatment and four were “taken off line” to prevent what would have been an inevitable heart attack, whether it was on duty or mowing lawn at home.

Kilduff said FDNY has been focusing on reducing fire deaths. There was a time, not so long ago where upwards of 400 people annually died in New York City from fires. Last year, there were 62 deaths.

Kilduff does not, however, diminish any loss of life, but is pleased the department’s efforts have been paying dividends with reductions in the number of deaths through fire safety initiatives.

Bower from Montgomery County said his department has also done its share of installing smoke detectors in homes. But in a different kind of twist, he said his department does a number of social media messages about fire safety on Facebook and Twitter.

The department has received more than 1.2million hits with people learning about topics ranging from keeping kids safe in pools to driving on slippery roads.

“The results have been tremendous,” Bower said. “It really is the wave of the future.”