My post today will probably piss some people off whom I consider friends, but so be that. I will not use any names or name any departments involved, but those involved in the incident I am going to discuss will know who it is I am talking about it.
Back in a cold 2003 night, I was sound asleep at my volunteer firehouse trying to get a good night's sleep, but that was not in the cards. I was riding OIC (Officer-in-Charge) of our Engine that evening and I knew we had enough staffing for our Truck Company (Ladder) to be staffed also. We were one of the few agencies that actually played by the rules and our first-out Engine did not leave the building without a minimum of 3 CERTIFIED personnel (1 certfied driver, 1 officer qualified firefighter riding as OIC, and 1 FF1 firefighter, of which one of the three must be certified to at least the EMT-B level but most of the time our Engine was riding with a Paramedic). Anyway, a little past midnight, we were punched on a single family residential structure fire with a report of persons trapped as the third Engine. We started heading that way and at the five minute mark after initial dispatch, tones started dropping again for this call. The first 2 Engines had failed to respond and made us the first due Engine with our Ladder behind us. At this point, I yelled into the back crew area of my Engine and asked how many I had back there (sometimes people stop by and jump on, etc.) and I heard "just me Cap". I told him when we got there, the driver would hand jack our supply line as it was only a few feet to a hydrant, he was to pull the 200' 1 3/4 cross-lay while I did my lap. Dispatch was still advising that they had a 911 open line from the residence and they were no longer in contact with the occupant/caller. On my lap, I noticed heavy smoke from all 4 sides of the structure coming through the eaves and all of the windows were closed. I made the decision to try to go in through the front door and then proceed from there. After a minute or so, we realized we were not going to get access through that door and moved our efforets to a door on Side Delta (4). We gained entry quickly, had our hoseline along with our Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC). The way we finally went in ended up putting us in the kitchen. We had high heat and smoke banked down down to our knees. We were joined by an Assistant Chief from one of the companies that failed so that put three of us in the building. This house was full of crap, literally! Everywhere you moved there was junk. The three of us did a very quick, systematic search of this residence, found the fire was almost self-extinquished, and we found the victim unconcious and unresponsive lying wedged between her bedroom wall / window and her bed covered with more crap. And I mean more crap. The three of us got hold of her, dead weight, and managed to carry her out of the building following our hoseline to the door where an EMS crew was waiting for us. The patient was transported to the hospital, treated for her injuries, and was released 4 days later. Although she lost most of her possessions, she was still alive and that is what mattered to me.
The reason I told that story is beacuse that is how a rescue is supposed to be done - calm, systmetic, everyone acting as a team and no free-lancing. I am not saying that just beacuse I was involved in it, I am saying it beacuse I believe in it. It was the way I was taught and it is the way I teach. We, as responders, need to remember that the call we are responding to is not OUR emergency. We are trained to mitigate the situation and what steps to take to make sure, or at least least try to make sure, that there is a positive outcome. There is no room in the fire service for free-lancers or individuals who routinely do not follow procedures that are set in place for THEIR safety. That is what gets firefighters and civilians hurt or worse off, killed. Rules, regulations, SOPs, or whatever you want to call them are in place because someone before you has done something that has warranted one to be created. Officers need to set and be examples to their firefighters and follow them and so on. When officers continuously break them, everyone else will think it is OK for them to break them also. That is not the way it should be !
I will continue on with with this thought in my next post. Until then, please be safe and do your job the right way!