Salka: There is No Cultural 'Solution' to Firefighter Deaths

Aug. 22, 2013
Changing the culture of the fire service is not enough to prevent the death of a firefighter in the line of duty.

I keep reading articles, editorials and blogs about firefighter fatalities and what everyone thinks it will take to solve this "situation."

News flash, there is no quick fix for the number of firefighter fatalities that occur each year. Firefighters are killed and die at fires and on duty and after duty for a multitude of reasons. A multitude! A great number!

Those among us that suggest a change in our fire service "culture" alone will solve or correct this situation are about 500 miles off the mark. Yes, developing or promoting a more professional attitude among firefighters, officers and chiefs could be a very productive way of addressing the LODD situation. But it is only one of literally hundreds of issues that impact the chances that a firefighter will survive or die at a structural fire.

To say that we are killing firefighters in much the same way every year, meaning the number that are lost inside a building, the number that are struck by a backing apparatus, the number that have heart attacks, etc. is simply not true. Each and every LODD is a unique and a once in a lifetime event. The exact conditions may never again be reproduced at a fire.

As a matter of fact, had the firefighter that was killed traveled just slightly slower, they may not have fallen through the section of weakened floor that caused their death. Had the firefighter that was killed stopped to vent a window or exchange some information with another firefighter, they may not have been killed by the collapsing wall in the rear a minute later. It would simply be a collapsing wall, a near-miss.

I think we need to stop trying to reduce firefighter fatalities with one swing of the bat. There is no single solution. It’s not because we are advancing too far, too quickly. It’s not because we are not physically fit. It’s not because we drive too fast. It’s not because we don’t study our buildings. It’s not because we have too few firefighters on our apparatus. It’s not because we don’t train often enough or at all. It’s not because our officers receive no officer training. It’s not because our state has no minimum training standards for career or volunteer firefighters. It’s not because our radios and hose couplings and airpack threads don’t work with our neighboring departments radios couplings and threads.

I could go on here but do I need to. There are a multitude of reasons firefighters die at fires. Each is unique. Some are solvable. Some are not. 

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!