Our FireEMSBloggers, The Fire Critic and STATTer911 each have shared the video of firefighters arriving at a Butler County house fire. In his post about the action, The Fire Critic asks " Do you think your department might have had a chance at getting to the victims while they were still viable victims?"
Good job to the firefighters for doing what they needed to do with what little they had to work with.
Read Statter's page, which has comments from all 3 firefighters you see in the video. One of which was a Dep. Chief (3rd one at the door) who went on to say that both firefighters were working with little experience to guide them. They could have just given in to the uncertainty and done nothing and wait for back-up. But, no, They packed up, readied a line and went on at the best of their ability.
He also mentions the staffing problems with his dept. At least someone TRIED to get there and TRY to do something.
The other 2 firefighters also chimed in with their comments too. And all in all, I think they did a good job. And now they have this experience behind them to help guide them at the next call that has similar circumstances.
This is why I'm glad all our apparatus have seating for 7 including driver. We can get out of our truck ready to go. I'm not a fan of getting ready on scene. It looks very unprofessional from a PR standpoint. Don't know if there would've been much they could've done regardless. However, WHERE THE HELL WERE THE REST OF HIS CREW? Can't imagine having the neighbors help the lone fireman get set up and seeing him try desperately prepare with no help. Even if he was ready, his team wasn't. Mid afternoon one would think more men would be there. I feel horrible for the firefighters in this situation, victim's families and the neighbors for the grief clearly seen in this video.
On #1 - He may very well have, but it's not going to do you a lot of good when your mutual aid is 20-25 minutes out. We aren't talking about a population center here....there are less than 13k people in the 431 square mile county. I would imagine the fire departments are spread out and thinly staffed.
#2 It appears that the initial driver/operator turned the pump over to one of the EMS crew, who I would imagine was either a F/F in another jurisdiction, or had fire service experience.
#3 I agree somewhat, but there are two factors that could have played into things here that aren't covered in the video. A. In the Statter comments the Asst. Chief (3rd man on the line) states the two personnel who made entry aren't very experienced fighting fire. I would imagine that if he isn't very experienced fighting fire he has even less pumping on a house fire. and B. The video did show them getting a drop tank off the tanker, and the positioning could have been to facilitate water supply. I can easily add a couple sections of handline whereas I can only add so much hard suction and I can't stretch a dump tank.
Don't be to quick to question where the rest of his crew is. In rural areas firefighters don't always live, work, and volunteer in the same community. There is a small volly department in my area that is lucky if they get 1 or 2 firefighters for daytime calls. Auto Aid helps fill in the gaps but when your help is 20-30 minutes away you do what you gotta do!
First let me say that I am NO stranger to arriving short-staffed...or alone. I spent the first years of my career working in conditions many of you would say were just plain crazy. I learned alot from it. Here's the first question: Were there smoke detectors? If not, why not? Does this department or community endorss them? Is there a local ordinance? Is there any local prevention program? There is the first failure. And as we all know, no matter how much we preach, even those of us who make them available for free, and do the installation, it's like seat belts...if you don't use them, you need to be responsible for your own actions.
Tragedy? yes of course. But with a few cheap smoke detectors, it is highly likely this wouldn't have been a tragedy.
As for the "tactics" here's my take: Few people actually know the capabilities of their community fire department. You get what you pay for. You cannot expect miracles when you have few people to depend on during the day, when response time is long becouse of distance traveled to the station and to the scene. The presence of fire engines inside a fire stations does NOT equate to the actual ability to protect.
There is no provision for anything other than a driver and one ride based on the type of cab on the apparatus. So it must be common practice in which one or two firefighters hop on the engine and respond. Piece-meal arrival never, ever equates to an organized fire ground. Two firefighters are seen getting a portable tank ready when it is pretty much obvious only one line is in service, and likely that 2 lines may be about all that is needed. Tank size on the first engine? 750-1000gallons? Maybe the other two would have better served by ventilation, assisting on the search, etc. Yet we may queation, as is the case in many smaller rural departments if everyone arriving is capable of interior operations, which is a whole different problem. The attitude of "there is a job for everyone" doesn't hold true when the first few that arrive on the scene of an entrappment cannot do everything that needs to be done.
The attack line is loaded the way so many other departments load them with no thought or regards to proper, efficient deployment. Loaded flat, nozzle on top, parade ready. What ever works...but you can see there is no provision for placing the first 50' coupling at the door, etc. Second firefighter behind nozzleman had nothing, as was previously stated. No irons, tic...nothing. Window vented left of doorway was vented low instead of cleaned out. Basic things, but seem to be common. All I can say to this is that those generic firefighter 1 and 2 programs do very little to actually prepare new firefighters for duty. At best they MAY be trained to use equipment, and even that may be questionable, depending upon the location.
The smoke present told the story. However I may not agree with the argument "forget the line". One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to force entry, or make entry, which means opening a previously closed barrier, which allows ait to the fire. Remember here that the arrival of additional firefighters that will, or can stretch a hoseline is questionable. Stretching and charging that first line is the BEST preperation in this case. Make entry and change the dynamics of the fire, and you will curse the decission to enter without a hoseline. You MAY even solve some of the problem, buy some time, and at least slow down the fire.
Staffing is the number one most important factor. Second is training the officers and firefighters. The best equipment on the planet doesn't mean anything if you don't have a brain and some limbs behind it.
But if the victims are deceased prior to our arrival, there is nothing left to be done. Recovery isn't worth injury. We can blame the department, the firefighters like everyone else. But the real culprit is lack of early detection, and maybe late reporting.
Like Brain I too face the same situtation with my rural departments with little money for the smaller to buy new gear for firefighters we have to use older sometimes out of date gear, and not only that we also have few handheld radios avaiable to use. I purchase my second hand from another department and I am a captain, on a good day if we have a structure fire I might have 5 interior qualified people to make entry and they would be The Chief,2 asst. Chiefs,my self and 1 Firefighter. But I would have about 6 rehab,2 operates on sceen until my mutual aid arrive and for these reason we also call for additional units from neighboring areas when we go in enroute.
That not uncommon in very rural areas where no paid personnel .I am in such an area in Texas just to the northwest of Houston. We some times get lucky and there will be a retired ff say from houston that lives close by and comes over and lends hand or former Volunterr FF that is not any department anymore and sometime just the neighbor to help while other perasonnel are arriving by apparatus Or POV's it's just reality.
On first glance the smoke appears to be volume pushed and light in color telling me that it more than likely has not made it too full blown structure fire, only a room/contents fire. This would have been a good choice for VES. The first FF on scene would have done good to have the ems or bystanders deploy the line for him. the second FF would have done better to have taken all the necessary tools to the door. It did not appear that the FFs entering had anything more than a helmet mounted flashlight. In my experience the first due ffs would have done better with a axe and water can and a quick search. the time of day, early morning and vehicles present at the residence are indications that there are possible victims, in addition to the neighbors possibly notifying the first due units. No i would not have gone in alone, but would have attempted a quick and dirty search with the second due guy. It does appear that the first due at the door checks to see if it is locked, but it appears the door wiggles a bit, so prob would not need a tool to force entry. I do give props to the first due guys, admittedly not very experienced they did a pretty good job. It seems to be a bad situation and one they will probably never forget. As a rural department, with most likely poor water supply the department should train to those conditions. VES is a good tool for life safety but poor for the structure. In situations like this there will be no winner, those guys will kick themselves for a long time, but hopefully the department as a whole grows from the unfortunate loss. in closing, good job to the guys that were there.