Great Losses Led to Great Contributions

Feb. 26, 2011

Our great friend Bob Barraclough of Plano, TX, passed away recently. Bob spent 50 years in the fire service and related industries. He was a friend, teacher, apparatus industry expert and most of all he was well respected throughout the fire service. I first met Bob when he worked for E-ONE in the 1980s. In his later years, he was an apparatus consultant and always took time to show me what was new, describe how a piece of apparatus had been reconfigured to perform a specific task or discuss an idea he thought had potential, but never was put into production. Bob would tell me after one of the classes he taught at Firehouse Expo, "Did you know we had a great crowd listening to us at 8:30 A.M.?"

He was known to his good friends as "SOB" — "Sweet Old Bob." Firefighters operate more effectively and safer today because of Bob's lifelong contributions to the fire service and the apparatus industry. Bob held a special gathering in Dallas a few years ago with his closest friends. Friends arrived from all over the country just to acknowledge Bob's friendship and his many years of industry expertise. He said this special gathering was meant to take the place of anything that would take place after he was gone. He celebrated in life before we would remember him in death. We will miss you, Bob.

One of the biggest losses of life to fire occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in Lower Manhattan 100 years ago this month. Paul Hashagen, our fire service resident historian, looks back at the fire that killed 146 and led to many changes in working conditions and fire-related legislation that have benefited millions of people. In 1911 or even today, the best time to change fire laws is right after a tragedy. The public forgets very quickly. See page 82.

Speaking of legislation, in this month's Fire Politics column on page 20, Contributing Editor Dennis Compton discusses the hiring and selection process of fire chiefs used by many municipal governments. Think about all the time and effort that go into taking the proper steps needed to hire the right person for the job with nationwide searches, proper education and training, knowledge and experience. But isn't it amazing that when a controversial issue comes up for discussion, the fire chief's expertise and experience are often disregarded as the governing bodies instead align themselves with lobbyists, special-interest groups and political supporters? When local, state and federal leaders should be relying on the people they hired, all of a sudden out of the thin air they have become the experts.

In an exclusive survey that has not been compiled before, we present the Combination Department 2010 Run Survey, including apparatus fleets, budgets, membership, and 2010 fire and EMS calls. We thank the Volunteer Chief Officers Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs for its help in compiling the data and getting the word out to its member departments. See the results at

There are no shortages of close calls, or worse, related to basement fires in single-family dwellings. Basement fires are among the most dangerous and challenging fires most of us respond to. For example, in New York recently, several firefighters were injured in a basement fire when the fire apparently flashed over. In another fire, several other firefighters were injured in a floor collapse. In this issue, Billy Goldfeder's Close Calls column on page 28 looks at what happened at a basement fire in a single-family dwelling that occurred in Prince George's County, MD.

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