Editorial: Changes

A firefighter looking at our February issue summed up last month's editorial about firefighter fatalities by saying, "Death takes no holiday." He said those four words say it all. We all know that this can be and often is a very dangerous job. Death and injuries occur on the fireground, during training, in the fire station and responding to and returning from incidents.

The dedication on the table of contents page of this magazine each month lists the names of firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty. All of our efforts are directed to firefighter safety. We wish we didn't have to dedicate the issue to anyone. Sometimes, all the education, technology, equipment and training are not enough. For example, close to press time, two firefighters were killed in Stockton, CA (see page 41) and an assistant chief died on the fireground in Selkirk, NY. Details will follow when available.

Three firefighters were killed two years ago in an arson fire in Pittsburgh. Many changes have been undertaken since that deadly fire. Recently, I talked with Pittsburgh Fire Chief Charlie Dickinson. He explained how important it is to get the message out and to perform proper procedures. The lessons learned from that fire are for every department, not just Pittsburgh. Even with all that Pittsburgh went through two years ago and what the department has done since the tragic incident, the city's firefighters have suffered another bad fire. In January, several firefighters were caught in a backdraft. Two of them were forced to hang from windows away from flames until they had to let go and drop several floors. Luckily, the firefighters suffered only critical injuries instead of something worse (see page 141).

Speaking of change, on page 42 we present another look at the Wingspread IV Conference held last October. People from across the country got together to discuss critical problems in today's fire service. Some may say that others should have been involved and other opinions formulated but a consensus group has put forth what its members believe are some of the critical factors affecting fire departments and their survival strategy.

A subscriber recently sent in a newspaper clipping about a private company taking over public fire protection in Florida. A similar situation exists in Westchester County, NY. Many sections of the Southwest have been protected by these types of concerns for many years. The handwriting is on the wall for many departments whose cities are strapped for cash. Firehouse® will focus on some of these critical factors in future issues.

Another big change involves dealing with automobiles. On page 29, we present the first of a series called the "University of Extrication," written by Ron Moore. We all respond to auto accidents and related emergencies each and every day. So many changes are taking place that an in-depth look at many of these complex features is critical not only to firefighter safety but to the civilians involved.

Most of the material we present is well received. Sometimes, we receive letters from readers suggesting that we should have covered a certain incident, fire or topic. We wish we could cover every incident but time and space in the magazine are the critical factors. We are willing to change and listen to your requests. But we need your help.