Tragedies Like the Coos Bay Fire Cause Us to Think ... As They Should

Three Firefighters were killed on Monday in what is reported to have been a fire in an AUTO BODY SHOP that apparently had a roof collapse. Click here now and review the incredibly horrible video of this incident. Rarely does video become available that presents the situation encountered by these firefighters than this.

As the rest of us are getting ready for Thanksgiving, Coos Bay is now in mourning ... three of Coos Bay's Bravest have lost their lives-and we now join them in their mourning. Our heartfelt sorrow and deepest thoughts go out to all the members and families involved.

While it is too early to know what happened on Monday, incidents like this cause of to think -- as they should. These comments are not in anyway reflective of the tragic incident that occurred yesterday-as we said, what actually happened has not yet been determined. But incidents like this do make us think.

But what do we think? Do we think how horrible this incident is? Of course we do. Do we think of the devastating effects to the children left behind? Of course we do as well we should. Do we think "there but for the grace of God go I"?" ... Absolutely.

When we go into our typically deep thought process in an incident like this-we have a responsibility to go even deeper. We have to carry it to the next level of DEEP THINKING. What is the next level? The next level is YOU-making sure that your Department is preplanning, pre-training and pre-thinking about "could this happen in our Community?" Well, can it? OF COURSE IT CAN!

So, in addition to the very appropriate sad feelings we have for the loss of three Brother firefighters from Coos Bay, we need to take the information we currently have and use it to get our members to THINK.

If you are at your firehouse -- REVIEW THIS with your crews ... MAKE THEM watch the video RIGHT NOW. Don't accept any whining, lame or BS reasons why they don't have time. Shut off the cable TV, put away the cookies and cakes and get serious about this stuff.

Discuss the incident in depth from the reports and what you see on the video. Take an in-depth look and discuss what potential you have in your district for a fire like this and your preparedness for it .. get out of the EZ-Boy recliners, get on the rigs and go out of the firehouse to look at the buildings ... inside and out.

When is the last time you and your crew did a walk through of a hazard like this-in your fire district? When is the last time you and your crew did any walkthru for the specific purpose of preparing for when the building is on FIRE? I am not talking about some half assed fire inspection...I am talking about looking at the existing conditions and then discussing and planning how the fire will be handled-so all your members have a better chance of returning home.

What will your staffing be? What are your response times? How quick can you get enough firefighters? What is "enough" firefighters? It's all based upon the TASKS that must be performed-and many times-they must be performed simultaneously. So-do you have enough firefighters's dispatched and responding initially, on the first alarm? What is the building construction type? What is the fireload?

What is on the roof? What is the water supply? Is the building occupied and when is it/is it not occupied? Additionally: How fast can your FD deploy master streams? Can your master streams attack the fire from an effective vantage point? What does your FD do when you hear a PASS alarm?

Do you have enough staffing to handle RIT/FAST Team duties AS WELL as fight the fire? How many FF's are "standing by" on the scene? Do you have "firefighter down" procedures? Do you train on them? Does your mutual aid companies train with you?

You know all the tactical questions: Now go answer them!

You have got to devote aggressive time into making sure your members are THINKING about the very real possibility of this happening to your FD. So what can you do? You can help your members THINK! You can assess your department to make sure that:

  • Strict safety and operational policies exist and are followed.
  • Proper supervision is applied on all life safety relayed incidents.
  • Strict and daily discipline is the common denominator at your FD.
  • You always have qualified and aggressively trained people operating.
  • Strict command and control is applied when operating in a potentially hazardous incident (which can be almost ANY incident).
  • You have constant, aggressive, applicable, relevant, disciplined and interesting training.
  • Your members are always thinking that, at anytime, something could go wrong...and what are you doing to minimize that? Additionally, what are you doing to react to that? What is the plan?

What is TRAINING in your Fire Department? Is it a once a week "pain in the ass" activity?

EVERYDAY (career and volunteer) must be TRAINING DAY.

All of the above questions have to be answered well before your department is expected to turnout and respond to a structural fire.

A constant state of expecting the unexpected (with the above ingredients) whether on an emergency scene