First off, let me start off by saying I am not a writer or a typer and I make mistakes. I try to correct as many of them as I can find, but I am not perfect and I am continuously finding errors and correcting them so please forgive me if you see an error.
Second, I am open to any criticism, discussions or whatever you want to call it based on my writings. I have been in the fire service for over 20 years and have very round shoulders and will let the crap flow on by and take the legitimate stuff to heart. I pride myself that I learn something each and every day. Being involved in the fire service is an honor, and us "old timers" need to return the tradition that once existed (but that is another post). I wish to thank those of you who have commented on my posts so far. It is nice to know people are reading them and even better to know that some people even agree with you!
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. About a year and a half ago, a residential structure fire assignment was sent out in a rural county outside Richmond, Virginia. It was a Sunday afternoon, and as soon as it was dispatched you knew it was a working fire. The first due engine got out with 3, with their chief (a paid federal firefighter with approximately 5-10 years experience in his late 20s) riding as OIC. Upon arrival, he gave a very poor size-up, pretty much saying he had smoke showing from a residence. He did not advise what type of residence, what sides the smoke was coming from or any other what I consider pertinent information. The chief took command instead of passing it, did not do a lap around the house to see what conditions he had to the rear of the residence, and decided to play super hero instead. If the chief would have walked around back, he would have noticed that this was a balloon frame, 2 story, circa 1930 house with smoke puffing from the eaves and conditions that were perfect for a backdraft. There was no indication of any life safety issues so the 2 in, 2 out rule was in effect but was ignored. The chief and his one firefighter took a 1 3/4" attack line through the front door and proceeded upstairs. When they got to the top of the stairs, the chief opened the fire room door, causing a backdraft. The chief and his firefighter both dove out of 2nd story windows as the 2nd floor was now totally engulfed in fire. The only way anyone knew they had jumped out of the building was because a firefighter from a later arriving company ran into the chief and firefighter lying on the ground and immediately called for help. The chief was severely burned over a large portion of his body and spent many months at the burn center. The firefighter was a bit luckier and wasn't hurt as bad and only spent a few weeks there. Of course, they were labeled as "heros" because they were volunteers doing this on there on own time and risking their lives for no compensation. Please do not take what I am saying as volunteer bashing as I have been a life-long volunteer also, but who cares if they are volunteers or if they were getting paid. The point here is that they did not follow established standards and protocols and wanted to play superhero and have the fire out before the next arriving companies arrived. Instead, they did something stupid and almost got 2 firefighters killed - killed for no reason - killed to save a house built in the 1930s. Am I the one with my priorities mixed up?
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, this same company was dispatched to another structure fire, this time with a report of persons trapped. I know the situation is a little different, but the actions taken on this incident were just as reckless as the call I mentioned above. Mind you, this station/company is all volunteer and, therefore, the members respond from home to get the apparatus out. Instead of going to the station to get a truck out or get his gear, the chief, the one mentioned above that was severely burned, decided to respond to the scene. When he arrived, he found a working fire and it was confirmed that there was still one person entrapped in the residence. The chief, wearing shorts and flip-flops and no other protective gear, decided to affect a rescue of the entrapped individual and did so. By the time the first engine was arriving on the scene, the rescue was complete. I am happy as hell that this citizen was saved from her house being on fire, but it could have very easily turned into a double fatality fire. The question I ask is "What kind of an example is this Chief setting for his members and other local firefighters?”. In my opinion, a very poor one. The unfortunate part of the last incident is that the lady who was rescued from her residence just happened to be the mayor's sister so the Chief is being hailed as a hero and receiving all kinds of press over this. Again, he is drawing praise for a stupid move that could have ended up killing him and others. When is this going to stop?
We, as firefighters, are our worst enemy. We continuously break rules that are set in place to protect us and then we wonder why so many of us are dying each year? I am sick and tired of getting death notifications from the USFA on an almost daily basis. We are at a day and age where we should be decreasing our rate of firefighter deaths but they are staying almost at the same rate from year to year. We have better equipment, better training, we are better educated but yet we are still dying. What is wrong with this picture? Again, I ask " When are WE gonna learn".