Everyone accepts that when a firefighter dies in the line of duty there has to be a thorough and impartial investigation to determine what went wrong - what new lessons have to be learned and what old lessons were ignored and need to be re-emphasized. The investigation should be conducted...
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At this point, the IAFF and the IAFC believe it should stay with NIOSH and the CDC. I disagree. They may be brilliant scientists, but they don't understand the fire service and don't have the commitment or sense of urgency that is required to investigate firefighter deaths. I think this responsibility - and the resources to do it - should be given back to the USFA, where the investigations would be conducted by experienced fire officers who understand the problem and the importance of quickly determining what went wrong.
Local fire departments can and should continue to conduct their own investigations, but outside help is needed. Unfortunately, there have been situations in which it has been difficult for a fire department to hold its own people accountable for bad decisions or policies that resulted in line-of-duty deaths. Tragic incidents were treated as being "part of the job" and there was no accountability or sharing of information. We know that a firefighter's work is inherently dangerous, but we must never accept line-of-duty deaths as inevitable when we know from experience that they are preventable.
HAL BRUNO, a Firehouse contributing editor, retired as political director for ABC News in Washington and served almost 40 years as a volunteer firefighter. He is a director of the Chevy Chase, MD, Fire Department and chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.