Great article I just read.  He talks about the "Risk a lot to save a lot" saying and how it really doesn't make sense.  Some people pull up on a vacant building and say that they aren't going in because it's vacant.  Well do you really know that without a search?  NO.  Homeless people could be squatting or children could be playing around.  The fire had to start some how.  Our job is very dangerous at times and some people don't realize that.  They think they can just stand outside with a hose line spraying water into the building and everything is great.  We shouldn't only risk a lot to save a lot; we need to risk a lot to do our jobs.(as said at the end of the article)

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i just read the article and i agree with you 100% risk is a part of the job and its true, i did not take an oath to only go in when there was somebody inside...i assume somebody had to be in there to start it (i was told that in probie school) and like the writer said, i too have been a victim at an accident scene where "lookattheaccident", "lookattheaccident" nearly got me seriously injured...TWICE! the second was a doozy, a lady drove over the 5" and the sudden pressure loss caused the BC to order an evac (it was the old 5" that didnt have the split protection the good stuff has now). her excuse was that "she didnt know you were not supposoed to drive over fire hose", the judge gave her the max for a fine and she had to replace the entire section and attend re education...not such a good thing had i and the others i was with been killed because that would have been defended as "thats what they get paid for". damn good article

The biggest issue here is going to be defining the situation.  What one person (or department) defines as safe to enter and search, another may not.  In other words, the idea of risk assessment is going to be all over the place.  For some, that "Risk a little...Risk a lot" maxim is a lot like the Check Engine light coming on.  You don't need to fully understand the situation, only that something should (or shouldn't) be done.

To my estimation, any room or building that has flashed over is beyond salvage as far as a rescue is concerned.  Pre-flashover?  Now that is going to depend on the building, contents, time burning, knowledge of the engine boss/crew and maybe dept. SOPs.

But I agree that there are inherent risks in the job. Some will say that we need to reduce those risks.  I agree. Take lights of of POV's.  Wear seatbelts. Stop speeding in POVs, apparatus and WTF is up with rolling over tankers? 

Having a very good understanding and working knowledge of Building Construction can go a long way as well.  Just because you roll up on a house that is built with light weight materials and methods doesn't mean it's a death trap and surround and drown.  It just means you have be smarter than in the old days when legacy construction gave you good parts of an hour to work inside rather than fractions of an hour in lightweight.

But then, if being a fireman was safe all (or most) of the time, anyone could be one.

While I understand the premise of the article, I also agree with Jack in that the focus is more about a good sizeup. I understand the aspects of even a "vacant" structure could have people, but a size up and overall picture is imperative too. While "risk a lot to save a lot" and other little sayings may be simplified, it doesn't make them gospel, but instead something easy to remember to get the point across.


What I mean is that while training and drilling is important, we don't always have the benefit of experiencing fires on a daily basis as some places may see. In fact, I would say the vast majority fire depts and even those busy depts, have their lulls and areas that are slow. This means you can get people who are first in who haven't always seen many incidents and such simple phrases can stick out, which also cautions the strategy and approach to tactics. Such decisions also stem from resources responding, timing, and so forth.


While the article mentions several firefighters killed in "vacant" structures, we also have to look at the circumstances involved. With the Cold Storage fire, it was reported there may be people inside, as well as knowledge of people being inside from their history. The latest Worcester LODD also mentions there was a report of someone inside, giving valididty to doing a search. Chicago was another similar example of knowing that people have used the building as shelter before too. Previous understandings of a structure and awareness of such issues should be part of a size up. Under the same pretenses, there should be an awareness of buildings and conditions that we know of, to make a good size up.


For us, we do get updates from building, police, and even prevention of various structures which should become points of discussions. Point is you could have a vacant structure, but has known building weakness, like holes in the floor, weakened masonary walls, etc. Such issues should be a part of a size up and factors into the big picture, so just because the building may be on fire, sorry, I disagree with the article and not going to commit someone inside unless there is a confirmed person trapped. Yes, risk a lot to save a lot......It really can be that simple.


On the flip side of things, like Jack says, even though the structure may be a recently occupied (basically the house a family just fled from) lightweight structure, just because the people are out, doesn't mean we should commit to surround and drown. Once again it becomes a matter of size up, having the resources available and so forth. This means on the said same fire, first pump arrives with say crew of 3 or 4 and reported everyone is out, doesn't mean you should go right in until other resources arrive either. This becomes a size up issue and calculated risking little to save litte. I don't mean standing by doing nothing, but there is no reason to commit to an interior attack with a report of everyone out without having adequate back up in place.


Overall I understand the sentiment of the article, but I also understand the diversity of the American fire service and that all operations can not be the same way all over. Having easy, simplistic sayings or acronyms can be a tool to use for a size up and to determine the risks associated. I do not agree that a "vacant" structure is necessarily vacant and to just surround and drown, nor do I believe they are occupied. It comes down to the size up and knowing what you have coming in. Basically, doing a risk assessment, which is all the simplified sayings remind people to do.

I agree - particularly with the fact that relative risk is going to be different depending on where you are and the fire conditions.  The building construction, fire size/location/spread, occupancy, FD staffing, water supply - there are a host of variables that affect basic risk-benefit assessments.


I couldn't agree more on post-flashover fires - they are not survivable for unprotected occupants.  (I'm still trying to figure out some of the "don't upset the thermal balance" comments in a previous thread that showed a flashed-over occupancy.)


The point is that there are going to be fires that obviously have such a tremendous head start that nothing we do will affect the overall outcome.   Chief Brunacini's point was when there is obviously no chance to make a rescue and there is little chance to save any property, then we should not be taking great risks - whatever that definition is to the FD on scene at the time.


I also disagree with the author on the struck-by-vehicle problem being either low risk or low gain.  We're talking about someone's life and health on pretty much every highway wreck.  If we cannot completely block traffic, then working a wreck falls into the "high risk/high reward" category, just because of the patients' exposed location.  The patient doesn't have to be in critical condition from the wreck to make the situation a high-riske one.

Agreed.  Not only that, but there were victims reported in every one of the incidents the author cites.  That puts them squarely into the "high reward" category until proven otherwise. 


An example - Worchester seached the 3-decker for days after the LODD to determine whether or not a victim had been present.  If it took them that long to rule it out, then with the initial report of the victim, the initial companies did the right thing by doing search and rescue.  It was a textbook example of high risk/high reward until proven otherwise, days later.

Everyone has made very good points on here so far. I look at the "Risk a little...Risk a lot" terminology that is used as more of a guidline than an exact rule. I believe it is going to be situational with any incident we are involved with.

It comes down to what info the department is given as well as the type of structure, location/extent of fire, time it has been burning and other factors that come into play with each fire we deal with.

If you have a residential structure that is showing heavy fire from most of the structure and the homeowner is outside saying that everyone who was inside is out and accounted for presents differently than the same homeowner saying their is still someone inside or a structure with a report of possible/unknown occupants.

What we are presented with on scene will help the IC decide on where the risk vs benefit is at and whether a rescue can or can not be made. Every fire will present differently. Some we may be able to make a save and some may be too far along to make the attempt.

Our job is inherently dangerous. Not just fire calls, but every type of call can be hazardous. Even down to a basic medical call with a drunk who decides we look too much like the PD and starts swinging while your doing vitals. (Seen that happen) If you look at the statistics, even going to and returning from the scene can be a hazard.

In my opinion, if I was presented with a situation where I thought I could make a reasonable attempt to rescue someone from a building then yes i would go without hesitating. That's one of the reasons we signed up for this life. But if it's not possible then it's not going to happen. Remember, our job is also to go home at the end of every shift.

Stay safe and everyone have a great holiday season!

"Risk a lot to save a lot is BS"

Couldn't agree with you more.

There is a dangerous trend in today's fire service. The safety and catch phrase firefighting culture is trying to push us away from a job of selfless acts to that of selfish acts. This comes from the same people, many who happen to wear bugles, who tell us that "it's not our emergency".


I wear some bugles, but I'll be happy to discuss this one.


Risking a lot to save a lot is a smart way to conduct fireground operations, because it starts with the premise that we're going to take more risks when there is an obvious high reward.  The opposite should also be in effect - we should NOT take big risks when there is obviously no possibility of big reward.  (Well-involved, flashed over buildings come to mind.)


(As an example, I refer you to another recent thread here where some firefighters were talking about aggressive interior attacks to do "search and rescue" and were also talking about "thermal layering" on a fully flashed over and autovented fire.  


I also contest your opinion that anyone is trying to push the fire service away from a job of selfless acts and into selfish ones.  Your claim is an oxymoron - you are claiming that a safety trend is dangerous???  I'm interested in hearing your explanation for that one.


I'm not saying that you do this, but I've heard that same line of reasoning from numerous firefighters who use it as an excuse to oversimplify complex firegrounds, to encourage mindless reactions over goal-oriented, planned actions, and to just run into burning buildings without doing the most basic size-up or any kind of a risk-benefit analysis.


And...unless one of us is a victim, it isn't our emergency.  It's our JOB.  It's an emergency for the people that called us to help them, but we are supposed to be professionals.  A famous guy with some bugles once said "If it's an emergency to us, who would YOU call?" 


So, if it is our emergency, who would you call? 

"The safety and catch phrase firefighting culture is trying to push us away from a job of selfless acts to that of selfish acts."

Sorry but that's one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

So the entire concept of "Everyone Goes Home" is, according to the above statement, not just counter productive, but bullshit.  And that in order for us to do our job properly, someone MUST end up injured or dead. So I guess according to you, firefighters are not heroes, but martyrs-in-waiting.

And FYI, the phrase "Safety and catch phrase firefighting culture" is itself a catch phrase.  So you are clearly part of that which you decry, the "...catch phrase ...culture."  Don't ya just love irony.

Prepare to be quoted.

Ben - 

Regarding the current LODD in Worcester, history might show that perhaps this was not as "textbook" high risk/high reward as it might appear.




It's a Christmas miracle!  You're posting on FFN, I mean.


I might not have all the details about that LODD.  If you can tell me more, you know how to message me.


And...I did say "until proven otherwise".


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