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 respectfully disagree.  Well, to some extent.  I agree our job is hazardous.  I agree no matter how hard we try, somehow firefighters will still die.  I agree that we have to be aware that "vacant" buildings may be occupied.

HOWEVER, that does not mean I will not consider the risk versus benefits.  That does not mean I will allow the emotions and chaos on the fireground to cloud my judgment and what is known fact.  

How many of you have families and friends?  Are they worth less than the families and friends of the communities you serve?  If you die in a fire, good for you, you're a hero, done with the pain, it's over.  Those you leave behind... they will suffer.  Is their suffering mean less to you than those mourning a civilian loss?  Is that why you can screw the "risk a lot to save a lot" and just risk a lot whenever?  Your department will face serious stress and emotional issues.  It may cost the department a couple more firefighters who just can't do it anymore.  It will at least cost your brothers and sisters time and pain and grief as they struggle through their loss.  

Your friends and family will wonder why.  Did you die to save someone?  Or was it a building where everyone was CONFIRMED to be outside?  Was it post-flashover conditions?  Temperatures far above what the human body can withstand?  What sort of peace can they have if they can't find a good reason you died?

I do agree that this safety mantra can be taken the wrong way.  But it's not what I believe was intended... I don't think it was meant to encourage people to declare defensive on every fire.  To stand around for a long time discussing tactics.  I think it was meant to make us THINK.  There is a lot of science, backed by experience firefighters and scientists working together, to help us determine whether there is a savable life in a room... (about 300°F for 1 minute for the body, about 200° for the airway)

And why not make the job safer?  Why not work on working smarter not harder?  Finding ways to both save civilian lives while putting us at less risk?  How about a transitional fire attack?  New studies show that water doesn't push fire and that knocking down the seat of the fire almost immediately improves survivability conditions throughout the rest of a house.  We can make an exterior knock via a window, door, hole in a wall, etc, thus putting us at less risk, improving chances for victim survival, and making rescue easier.  I know this isn't applicable on all fires... but seems like it could be used a lot more often.  What about using piercing nozzles more?  Reducing the chance of backdrafts in closed spaces? What about PPA to improve smoke conditions for you and a possible patient?

I don't want to ever not do my job.  But I want to be smart in how I do it.  I want to assess the risks and mitigate them whenever I can, provided I can still do my job.  And I will consider what I am risking my life to save.

2 things:


1st:  Reading through I saw one or 2 people mention that there is no one savable in a post flashover fire. 


I agree with you to a point.  If someone is out in the open and the room flashes, there is a very good chance that they are not alive.  But what do we always teach kids in fire safety?


If you can not get out get to a closet or another room, or somewhere to hide.  If you show up and its post flashover and someone is reported inside, they could be in a crawl space, closet or had gotten out before the room flashed.  There is no way of telling where a victim is in a house, even if someone said they are in the fire room.  There is still a chance someone is in that building alive and well and waiting for firefighters to come in and save them.  You do not know until you get in and do the search.

Which means just because it is post flashover doesnt mean its not a risk alot to save alot situation anymore. 


To quote an FDNY Officer "What are your chances, your chances are always the same 50,50.  You either do it or you dont. It makes a difference that we turnout quickly, it makes a difference that we stretch correctly, it makes a difference that we do a search.  If we put the fire out safety is accomplished for everyone on the fire ground.  We need to push in and put the fire out" (just a few lines to his speech)


2nd:  And to the ones that talk about size up.  Get out and know your first due area.  I know plenty of firefighters that can tell you exactlly how their first due is laid out almost to a "T".  Building construction, room layouts, propertly layouts, where hazards in the home or around the property are.  These are things every firefighter should know. So that when he pulls up to the ranch or 2 story or high rise building he can tell you that if theres fire blowing out 2 windows in the front or fire coming out the basement windows, where the best access is, the best areas to vent, whether or not there are bars in the rear, or propane tanks in the cellar. 


Knowing your first due and surrounding areas cuts down on your initial 360 size up.  If you can show up know the building layout and know where the fire is, chances are you are going to be able to go into attack mode quicker than standing around with a crew on the line waiting for an officer to do a 360.  Now I am not saying dont do a 360 but if your the officer and your crew and you know the first due then send them to work and do your 360 while they are knocking down the fire and doing searches. 

If the room is flashed over, no one will be able to search closets off of that room until after the fire is knocked down.  That makes a quick search impossible.


That puts the question back to the offensive vs. transitional attack.  If the fire is flashed out the window in an easily accessible spot, then extinguishment will be faster from the exterior and give the victim in the closet a better chance of survival. 


No one but you has said - or apparently practices - having the crew "stand around" while the officer does the 360.  Pre-planning helps, but it won't show you victims at the Side C windows during the fire.  Neither will avoiding a 360 to get the officer inside with the crew.


"Propane tanks in the cellar".   The vast majority of fire departments have no right of entry to inspect or pre-plan single-family residences.  How are you going to know about what's in the cellar if you can't legally enter to pre-plan?


There's also a catch to your quote "If we put the fire out safety is accomplished for everyone on the fire ground".  That's not true, especially for lightweight engineered construction SFDs.  Safer, maybe, but not safe.  Stopping combustion doesn't prevent post-knockdown collapse if the fire has attacked the structural members in an engineered construction Type V. 


Fireground safety is a process, not a one-time event that you can check off after knockdown.


If you run medicals or complete inspections of houses alot of times you get to see inside the house, take a quick peak with your eyes when your in a building for any reason and you can get an idea of what is around.  I have been to plenty of calls and inspections were we can preplan maybe not the hole house but areas of the houses we enter, it is a better start than not knowing at all.  And if you ask a homeowner in some areas they are nice enough, especially in new homes they will let firefighters into inspect and look around.  Not many people do, but why not try right?  It only helps you out.  Whats the worst that can happen they say no?  You atleast tried right.


Never was on a department that practiced waiting for an officer to do a 360 but have seen a few departments that their officer does not let them make entry until his 360 is complete.  And I didnt not say anything about not doing a 360.  I just said if you pre plan and arrive on scene and know the layout then the crew can get right to work and heading to the fire room and the officer can update as the scene progresses.


And if you get in and knock the fire down quickly and with the least amount of water as possible, the chance of structural collapse can be lowered even if the structural members were involved. 


Also showing up and sitting outside a post flashover and dumping water inside may just steam any victims that could be inside and add extra water weight into the building that is not needed.  If you can make entry into the building get in and knock it down. 


And getting in and knocking the fire quickly safety is accomplished.  Theres no more heat, the smoke is starting to disapate, on a hot or cold day guys are not standing around in rehab being beaten both by the heat and cold of the enviroment and the heat of the building going in and out of the structure, and the damage that the fire is causing to the structure has been stopped.  The quicker we can stop the progress, the heat impeading on the structure and amount of weight in a building makes a huge difference.  Get in knock  dowitn, overhaul, get out and go home.  The less time we are in a building the better chance everyone is going home and the better chance that the building does not come down ontop of us. 

Sometimes it is just that simple and to many people try and over complicate it with sayings like risk alot to save alot risk alittle to save alittle. 

Do you have any first hand experience or articles of someone being saved from a post-flashover room (or adjoining closet)?  If so, I'd be very interested in reading/hearing it.  I'm basing my opinions on what I've learned from a few classes and reading research reports.

Right now, what I've heard is that flashover is about 1100-1700°F.  Survivability is about 300°F.  No one in the fire room or likely near it has any chance of being alive.  I don't think post-flashover means no rescue... just chose where you search (maybe do VES of rooms that aren't way too hot for survival).  Also, if the fire is nearing flashover, firefighters shouldn't be in the thick black smoke... that's fuel just waiting to go.  Fix it, via ventilation or some sort of attack thus improving things for you and your victims, then go in.  As far as the transitional attack, if you're going to make entry and go for the fire room and put it out, how is that any better from making a transitional attack from an exterior window?  Both will create steam and put the fire out... both have the same risks to the victim, or am I missing something?

There are number of cases where I think LODDs or near misses could have been prevented by a 360 prior to FF entry.  Often when there are daylight basements hidden by the front of the building.  FF go in above the fire and it doesn't end well.  There was beautiful access in the back and a lot more info on what the fire was doing.  If you want the articles and whatnot, I'll find them for you.

I know most fires are still bread-and-butter, go exactly like you say.  Work just fine by those tactics.  But I read the reports of LODDs... and strange things are happening.  FFs got killed just opening the door to a central-hallway apartment complex because it was so hot and filled with smoke that the air from opening the door was all it needed.  Flashover is happening earlier in the fire and is hotter than before.  And to make it worse, the fire tends to die down as a box fills with smoke, making it look tamer than it is...  I guess all the things I keep hearing are leading me to believe it is getting more complicated...

What are your thoughts?

As far as firefighters being killed because a 360 was not performed, just look at a double-LODD incident in Coltrain, OH where 2 Firefighters were killed when the first floor collpased into the basement. had they performed a 360, they would have observed the fire in the basement blowing out of a door on the backside of the structure. I am more than sure that there are more examples of situations where a 360 would have significantly changed tactics or in some cases, precluded entry.

I would like to say a few things on this subject. I have a repuation as a "Safety Sallie" on another site due to my feelings regarding interior operations, and when and who should perform them.


IMO, the risk a lot save a lot/risk little to save little mantra should have significant weight when it comes to determining when, and who, in terms of departments, should make entry. The sad fact is that as a whole, IMO, the fire service is far too aggressive in situations where we do not have credible information regarding building occupany.Does that mean that when we have information that leads us to believe there is aknown or high liklihood of occupancy, we should not make entry if fire conditions and/or department capabilities allow? No. But that being said, when there is simply a "possibility", especially if there is no silid inormation to support it,  of occupancy, we should be far more cautious about when we take the risks associatted with interior operations.


This is especially true in rural areas, where experience, training and most importantly, resources may be barely adequate to support interior operations. In these areas, making entry should be taken as a very seruious decsion, not simply an automatic action or SOP. Each situation, especially in the rural enviroment, should be evaluated on it's own merits rather than an automatic policy of making entry. The fact is making entry should be the decision, based on the fire conditions, resources, and a realistic evaluation reagrding the possibility of changing the outcome, as compared ro automatically going interior unless the decsion is made otherwise.


I am also a strong believer in basing any decsion to make entry for rescue on performing a realistic victim survivability profile. The fact is the fire service makes many attempts each year for victims that are only survivial using the most optimistic sceneraios, rather than the most realistic and likely secenarios. As much as we hate to say it, many of the victims we go in after, especially in the rural enviroment with delayed notification and/or delayed response times due to distance, are dead long before we make entry, and it many cases are dead long before we arrive on-scene. Some may, and have argued, that it is our job to take those risks if any possibility of survival exists. I disagree, and always will. the risk involved in making entry are only justified when there is a reasonable, not a very low, possibility of that victim being viable. We, IMO, as a service, send to many firefighters to the hospital each and every year with significant injuries that result from making entry into structures that offer little or no hope of victim survival. No, that it not part of our job, and those are the situations where we have to heed the meaning of risk a lot to save a lot/risk a little to save a little. 

Just for the record, I work full-time for a very aggressive combo fire district with 5 paid line and admin (who also respond to significant incidents) personnel during the day, and 2 at night, supporrted by 50 line volunteer firefighters and another 40 junior, exterior, support and dispatch personnel. We generally have the manpower to be aggressive. I also have 20 years experience as a volunteer in several other departments. A couple of them were well staffed and well-equipped with rapid and plentiful access to well-trained mutual aid. Another few were not so well staffed and well-equipped, and had minimal or distant acc edss to well-trained mutual aid.

I also currently volunteer for a small volunteer department as a line officer with a total of 15-16 personnel, with a range of experience and training, covering a large response area with some fairly extended response times, with minimal access to mutual aid with significant numbers of trained, interior personnel.

It's in that type of situstion that I preech the true value of a 360, survivalibility profiling and performing a realistic risk  and even more importantly, resource, assessment, while all of those are also important in a well staffed department, it's even more critical in low-manpower areas, as quite simply, there are often few memebers on scene to make up for your mistakes. the fact is in those areas, risking a lot to save a little can cost the department dearly in terms of firefighter safety if things turn bad. It's even worse when all of that occurs for the possibility of minimal gain.

No one said anything about "dumping water inside" except for you.  That's putting words in my mouth. 


If the fire is flashed over and vented to the exterior - as most flashover fires in SFDs are - it is MUCH quicker to give the fire a quick shot from the outside that to get a line inside. 


Once again, if the fire is flashed over, you don't have to worry about steaming anyone, because anyone in the flashover is DEAD. 


You are right about one thing - the less (sic) time we're in it, the better chance everyone is going home.  A transitional attack puts us inside the bulding for less time than a strictly offensive attack on the same fire.


You're right about another thing - "the quicker we can stop the fire's progress..." also argues for getting a quick hit on the flashover from the exterior before entry. 


I'm a firm believer in offensive strategies when warranted.  I've also seen victims hanging from Side C upper-floor windows missed because no one did a 360.  As stated, all the pre-planning in the world isn't going to locate the victims for you, and it won't necessarily locate the fire, either.

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