The New Yorker “Urban Legend”

The New Yorker


garrity life lite fireman

     The New Yorker style helmet with a Garrity light held on by a rubber strap; that was all I wanted as a young junior firefighter. I cut out the Garrity light advertisement from Firehouse Magazine, and requested both the New Yorker and Garrity light for my next birthday. I wanted that helmet, the light, and everything that I viewed came with that advertisement. That image was as COOL to me, as the Malboro Man was to many.  I so badly wanted to get out of my Metro and into a “Leather New Yorker” style helmet. I didn’t get a New Yorker the following birthday, but I did get a flashlight to mount on my helmet. I then ordered a full box of Garrity lights direct from Garrity; a full box of 50 lights. I then had my Dad get me a large black inner tube to cut up as helmet straps, and  I started pushing helmet lights as a junior firefighter.

Shortly after this, an upstate New York firefighter had relocated, and joined the next FD over from mine. I first met him on a call, and he was in full gear with a box light held on by a rope sling. I thought, he’s from New York, wears a leather helmet, and has a hand lantern held on with a rope sling, he must be an URBAN Firefighter.  I immediately requested a new hand light from my Dad.  He picked me up a nice rechargeable hand light, and I built a rope sling. I now had a Garrity helmet light, a hands free lantern, and had acquired a plastic version of the New Yorker. I was on my way to being just like an FDNY FIREFIGHTER. I believed in wearing full bunker gear on all calls, carrying a box light, and always having a tool in my hand. I was all about this and I had yet to see my 18th birthday. I just knew that New York firefighters wore their gear, had hands free lights, and always seemed to have a tool in their hand. I wanted to be an FDNY FIREFIGHTER.

photo (2)

Suburban Tools of the 80s and 90s

This was in the late 80s and early 90s. I started reading Firehouse and Fire Engineering Magazine cover to cover, always reading the URBAN authors first. I officially got issued my first set of gear on May 21, 1988. It consisted of pull up boots, a long coat, and a TURTLE SHELL style helmet. I was so excited on this day, and really had no clue how lucky I was to be subjected to the Fire Service. I started reading the back page of Fire Engineering called  “Random Thoughts”, and this became the highest priority on my monthly reading list. How LUCKY I was for Tom Brennan to have started this monthly column only months before I started legally wearing gear and legally operating on the fireground. Each month I read and

re-read Random Thoughts. I would read about carrying a rope, and then immediately drive up to ACE Hardware and purchase a personal rope.  I would read about carrying wire cutters, a personal radio,  having a good search light, a personal alert sounding device, and many other excellent tips before 1990. Tom Brennan, an URBAN Firefighter was teaching me, a young junior firefighter from a small SUBURBAN/RURAL community.

I would then share what I had learned with others in the firehouse. It was at a very young age that reality set in, and I learned another valuable lesson.  Not all firefighters share the same passion, enthusiasm, and love for the job as others.  I also learned that many grown men have serious insecurities about this job and themselves. They would say, “This isn’t NEW YORK,  and we are NOT the BIG CITY”. I just couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to read and learn from somebody that had been to so many FIRES.  This would get me a little frustrated, but I continued to read Random Thoughts and implement everything I could.

I started reading Chief  Vincent Dunn’s articles and books, and then the book Firefighting  Principles and Practices by William E. Clark made it into my hands. Chief Clark was appointed to the FDNY in 1937 and served for 20 years. He then moved on to Prince Georges County Fire Services to assist in the regionalization of fire protection. Chief Clark did not stop there, he then went on to become the Bureau Chief of the Florida State Fire College.  There are so many leaders like Chief Clark, Chief Halligan, Chief Dunn, Chief Downey, Chief Norman, Lt. Andy Fredericks, and so many other FDNY Firefighters that have highly and positively impacted the American Fire Service. I sometimes wonder where we as a fire service would be without these great leaders and visionaries.

The FDNY and other Large URBAN Fire Departments have made a huge impact on the SUBURBAN Fire Service. The experience they receive from a high volume of fire activity has given them the ability to fine tune techniques and tactics. If you do some research, you will see where these authors were from back in the late 80s and early 90s.  I look back and realize that the URBAN Firefighter and the FDNY  in general has made a huge impact on my career, and I have learned so much from their instruction and experiences. I try and deploy URBAN Tactics in the SUBURBAN/COUNTY setting. Yes, I said URBAN Tactics. When forcing the back of a stripmall, I use the Forcible Entry techniques taught to me by URBAN Firefighters  Mike Lombardo and  Bob Morris. When operating the nozzle, I use the nozzle position techniques taught to me by Tim Klett and Andy Fredericks. I could go on, but hopefully you see my point.

I believe URBAN Tactics are many times necessary in the SUBURBAN/COUNTY setting.

The fire does not care what your staffing is or is not. Stretching a line, forcing a door, venting a roof, searching a house, throwing ladders, and every other tactic or skill performed on the fire ground does not always require URBAN staffing. It seems that recently, many want to discard what the URBAN FIREFIGHTER has to offer us as SUBURBAN/COUNTY Firefighters. I couldn’t imagine operating at a JOB without the knowledge and training given to me by highly EXPERIENCED URBAN FIREFIGHTERS. I believe that ALL firefighters have something to offer, but we cannot discount an individual’s experiences on the fire ground. Tests, experiments, and training are great, but nothing replaces true combat experiences in the field under stressful circumstances. The URBAN Firefighter has been conducting ongoing tests through trial and error for decades….on the FIREGROUND.

So, before you dismiss the URBAN Firefighter and what they have to offer as LEGEND, remember what they have done for us in the SURBURBAN/COUNTY Fire Service. Where would we be without what they have given us as a COLLECTIVE FIRE SERVICE over the last 40 plus years.  I would like to thank all the URBAN FIREFIGHTERS who have personally impacted my career and taught me so much. I deploy your URBAN tactics on the SUBURBAN fireground regularly. Without URBAN professionals like Mike Hayes, Tim Klett, Bob Pressler, Jim McCormack, Ray McCormack, Mike Ciampo, Andy Fredericks, Mike Lombardo, Bill Gustin, Bob Morris, and so many more, myself and many others would probably still be deploying the SUBURBAN tactics of the 80s on today’s fireground.  A fireground that now

more than ever, requires the knowledge and precision of an URBAN LEGEND.


County/Suburban Firefighter of Today.

Remember, much of what is  taught by the fire service LEADERS of TODAY is derived from the LEGENDS of YESTERDAY.  So why do all these “Random Thoughts” matter to the SUBURBAN firefighter today.  It doesn’t matter whether you operate on the URBAN or SUBURBAN fireground, many of these tips and tactics can be applied equally.  The helmet mounted light is always illuminating where your eyes are looking.  It is hands free, and allows you to look up while pulling ceiling, and does not require you to hold your light vertically. If you don’t need it, just turn it off, but when you do need it, is always there, shining in the right direction.  The radio sling carrying your radio makes simple sense, as it holds and protects your radio under your coat, and allows the lapel mic to be hands free.  URBAN firefighters were doing this decades ago, yet the debate still rages on today.  The lantern on the sling was a no brainer to me the first time I saw it, as it keeps your hands free to carry not one, but at least two tools.  Why show up to go to work without having the proper tools in your hands?  So many of these ideas I tried to share with others many years ago, but met serious resistance as a young, inexperienced URBAN wannabe.

Many in today’s fire service jump at the latest trends and techniques endorsed by manufacturers without so much as a second thought. Yet, try to replace the hooligan tool with its nearly useless straight adz, and a fork more fit for a door chock than forcing a door, with a Pro-Bar halligan, and the arguments commence.  “You only want that because they that’s what they use in FDNY”.  The IFSTA manual told us that when we encountered a steel door in a steel frame, we should find an alternative entry point.  It’s a good thing that as a SUBURBAN firefighter, I went to a forcible entry class taught by an URBAN firefighter, and learned that with the proper tools and techniques, entry was achievable. Another tool, the NY roof hook provides more uses on todays fireground than the traditional fiberglass pike pole that is specified as standard equipment on many of today’s apparatus. The 8 lb flat head axe will outperform the 6 lb axe day and night, and as we know is quite versatile.  Carrying a personal rope is worth more than its weight in gold.  Carrying the “can” (2.5 gallon water extinguisher) can be extremely helpful in trained hands, as SUBURBAN staffed companies work to stretch an attack line.  Converted channel locks  and a multi tip screwdriver in your pocket are  other great tools, again many ideas brought to us by our URBAN fire service brothers.  Give ANY trained and motivated firefighter a six foot NY roof hook, a pro-bar halligan, the “can”, and watch out.  So from the URBAN to the SUBURBAN fireground, always remember it is the QUALITY not the QUANTITY that matters on your FIREGROUND.

Curt Isakson

Penciling of Water “Death On The Nozzle”


This is a MUST READ for all Fire Officers and Fire Instructors. This has become a HUGE problem. We must push for better Live Fire Training.

Originally posted on :

Our Next Generation of LODDs from Live Fire Training

Kevin Story Captain

Black Fire 

Who are they: They are all around you and they are graduating from academy’s every day.

What are they: They are our next generation and the future of the fire service. If you are a Company Officer, they are riding behind you. If you are a Chief, they are the Troops you had coffee with this morning.

Why are they going to be LODDs: Because what live fire training is today, is ill preparing them for what they will face once they are riding on the apparatus.

But we have NFPA 1403: Which is part of the problem, as it has watered down fire training (pun intended) to something unrealistic, to the real world of rapidly growing fire conditions we now face.

There was a definitive need for NFPA 1403: that was plainly seen by some of the…

View original 1,931 more words

The Intelligent Search


The stats come from several NFPA civilian fatality reports and cause of fire reports between 1984 and 2013. I basically combed through a coupled hundred pages and took out what I thought was interesting and tried to piece together some numbers to ponder. Some of the other information like the 9 out of 10 front doors swing towards the bedrooms came from me sitting at a table with a couple of guys who put 30+ years in searching at large urban depts. one the FDNY and the other San Francisco. Basically I did this to promote discussion with my own crew but since I’m an instructor and admin for the Brothers In Battle page I shared it with a larger audience. I found the information between the two sources NFPA and real world experience interesting and want to formulate my understanding from both. The biggest question I have regarding the tactics my dept. and many other use is are we doing what’s right to locate and remove victims in the fastest way possible. I think if you’ve done primary searches on fires they are often a cluster-fuck. One thing I gathered from this info is, should we be VESing every fire? It’s often the fastest and most accurate way of locating the bedrooms which is where a majority of victims are found who don’t get found behind the main entrance or the main arteries of the house. If we don’t find a Vic in the first room we VES, we simply continue our primary search via the hallway to the next room, (yes that is Freelancing to most people, I call it Freethinking and not trying to put a complex tactic into a box.) These numbers make me want to search a building from the inside out and the outside in. I want to consider all streams of experience and data and after many beers shared with guys who went to more fires than I’ll ever see, draw my own conclusions. This white board for me was just another step in that direction.

By. Brian Olsen

Smoothbore or Fog?


SB or FOG? My 2$$
It’s time to but this debate to bed. I say BOTH. There certainly is a place for both and if you find yourself only taking a stand on one of the two nozzles, chances are you are uninformed. SB and Fog a lot of times are dependent on the demographics they serve. Where I work in suburban America, BOTH nozzles are needed and are beneficial. The biggest problem I see when debating these nozzles is that many firefighters are just simply uninformed or under educated on the advantages and disadvantages of BOTH nozzles and even at times, don’t know how to operate the nozzle properly so that it is an effective weapon. The lack of knowledge prevents progress. Staying in your own “bubble” (not getting out of your own department to see how the rest of the world does business) prevents progress. Close minded firemen…”We have always done it this way…and no one got hurt….or just put the damn fire out” mentality, prevents progress. I will take it one step further, it not only prevents progress, but it makes OUR job that more dangerous. That’s right, not just your job, but ALL OF US. This is not an opinion, it is an evidence based FACT. Here are some quick points to ponder that are FACT. Fog nozzles DO NOT provide ANY type of protection with interior firefighting. It is a myth that has absolutely no merit. Watch the video and see what type of “protection” it provides. When operated on a fog pattern, you can move almost as much air as a PPV, essentially creating a wind fueled fire. Again, see the video when the fog pattern is opened twice. Observe how “violent” the conditions get. Drastically changes conditions and heat conditions increase significantly. The ironic thing is, this is what I was taught in 1989 in rookie school. “We don’t know what we don’t know, until we know we don’t know.” I now know it was wrong and dangerous. I’ve learned this through training, education, and experience of being steamed burned (multiple times). Moral of this point, NEVER operate any type of fog pattern, no matter how narrow the fog pattern, when combating interior fires (when fire suppression, not to be confused with mop up). Don’t think so?? Just google the history of the fog nozzle and pattern and how they were originally designed to be used or read up on Lt. Andy Fredrick’s, then come back and finish reading my boring rant. Always use a straight stream. Again, watch video and it clearly demonstrates why we should not be using fog patterns. With that being said, fog nozzles on a straight stream are extremely effective and are excellent weapons. In addition, it does provide the firefighter with a little more versatility to use during overhaul and hydraulic ventilation if needed. Best Fog nozzle weapons are the 50 psi nozzle pressure nozzles. To keep it brief, it equates to high volume of H2o (150+) with low nozzle reaction. The greater the nozzle pressure, the greater the nozzle reaction which equates to gating down the flow. Automatic Nozzles are dangerous, period. Don’t use them with interior firefighting. If you don’t agree or understand, go flow test one and you will see. Don’t use 100 psi fog nozzles. These were big in the 80s and 90s, but fortunately are phasing out of interior firefighting. SB nozzles are extremely effective interior weapons and have been since the inception of the American Fire Service. They have low nozzle pressure (50 psi), typically open orifices the pass debris (essential for stand pipe operations) and solid packed streams that will penetrate objects such as dry wall much better than their fog counterparts. They typically have the same reach as the newer designed fog nozzles, but more volume of the stream goes further distance. SB also are typically small, light, basic, and compact, unlike their fog brothers from another mother. This design makes it ideal for combat firefighting. Light and small equates to aggressive movement of the nozzle….no big fog bails weighing it down. Simple in design….less that will go wrong, and that IS a big deal when the shit hits the fan. And, they are just plain durable and an effective weapon. The biggest mistake I have seen in my career for those who have not been exposed to SB nozzle operations (and that’s a lot of departments in suburban America), is the lack of understanding on how to operate this weapon in an effective mode. It should be moved aggressively all over the room, hitting the floor, sweeping the upper atmosphere, using the ceiling and walls to break up the stream into small droplets. The droplets will not be as fine as a fog stream, thus working to our advantage to not completely jack up the thermal balance like the fog pattern does. Many firefighters loose site of a simplistic concept they teach us in rookie school. GPM extinguishes BTUs. If we allow firefighters to use a SB line when they have never used one before but we don’t train them on how to use it, then we shouldn’t get pissed if they have a negative experience and decide it is not a viable option. So, the point of this rant…..BOTH ARE AWESOME WEAPONS THAT SHOULD BE USED. I believe in having versatility on an engine and by having both options, only make sense. Don’t take mine or anyone else’s word on this, go find out for yourself by training, reading books, studies, and journals about this (that’s right…we do actually learn from reading others materials and can apply what we learn), and challenging the status quo. If you have formulated an opinion on this but it is not based on your own research, training, experience, and education, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your position on this subject. Be the courageous follower in your department and challenges all perspectives to find out what works best for your demographics. “Challenge the Status Quo!”
Be Aggressive-
8 5 0 F I R E M E N