Tactical Safety for Firefighters- Pulling Double Duty


Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack

Pulling Double Duty

When searching for extension and possible hidden fire in ceilings, firefighters must discover a ceiling’s true identity. Many ceilings come in pairs – a newer one below an older one. This can take the form of similar materials or modern components versus legacy construction. While not exactly a double ceiling, double thickness drywall is another tough pull.

Removing drop ceiling tiles is the easiest ceiling to pull. Many times they are just added as a modernization of the space. While they can collapse, their weight doesn’t compare to plaster or other materials. Often drop ceilings hide old tin ceilings, plaster and lath, drywall or all three.

The point is, if you discover an additional ceiling, you must open it up after you remove enough of the first one. This second barrier is typically more difficult to pull due to still in place supporting member of the lower one and space restriction. Let’s not forget the materials such as tin which, in a deteriorated state of rust and decay, can really be frustrating to remove as small pieces litter the floor. We want our ceilings to come down quickly and completely in sections, not mini bites so that there is no longer any hidden voids or embers remaining unseen.

So when you stick your hook way up high and hit a second ceiling, get ready for a workout. By removing both thoroughly, you can be assured that all that destruction equaled preservation. Without a proactive examination and subsequent exacting overhaul, more will be lost. Save property and improve tactical safety by pulling double duty when it comes to ceilings.

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- Facebook Firefighting


Tactical Safety for Firefighters


The tactics used by Facebook firefighters vary almost mirroring the real fire service. I say almost because what often gets hit hardest is not the adz end of the halligan but the keyboard of ones digital device. Facebook firefighting is always safe even when you let it all hang out, your worst injury suffering an unfriending. Let’s not forget flash mobs of outrage which of course are much less injurious than a flashover even if you don’t detect it coming. For improved awareness become a student of Facebook behavior which of course is always modern.

Fighting fire via Facebook is very convenient too because even with a pause for your enlightened reply the fire doesn’t die. Profiling which is shunned by most is often the center piece of survivability odds makers and extolled by many FBFD members as good stuff. I wish those same firefighters could guess the stock market too, that would be rich.

There is so much experience at the ends of many hands in fact All Hands. The outgrowth of social media equality, everyone is an expert at least at an inch deep. No finger pointing here I will save that for my instructor photo and my keyboard. Have a gonger of a time and remember no bunker gear cleaning is necessary as a Facebook firefighter, no matter how many J O B S you take in.

By Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- Staffing Reach


Tactical Safety for Firefighters
Staffing Reach

We hear all about the issues of staffing in the fire service: its limitations and its benefits. First things first! Your staffing is your staffing and typically doesn’t change much except for the variable of the alarm assignment strength. Volunteer response is a deployment model that tends to have more radical staffing swings. So now, what are you doing about this “given” when it comes to community fire protection?

Is your staffing commensurate with your buildings? Are your hosebeds assisting your handline deployments? Are you able to check the boxes and perform interior attack? Comparisons between what is perceived as ideal staffing and minimal staffing is not the point.

The question should be is staffing adequate for the majority of your fire attack incidents? This is a critical need and should be looked at critically. Interior fire attack is handled by a nozzle firefighter who should have a backup firefighter assisting with that nozzle function and advancement. Fire extinguishment also needs to be supervised by an officer. That’s three people. Can we do it with more? Sure, add a firefighter further back to assist with line movement.

The bottom line is that this is the model. You may or may not have a complete version of it, but that only cuts you so much slack. If you switch roles or you assign two tasks to each firefighter, or you improve your interior advance techniques, that’s creative thinking. If you only opt in for a staffing model you will never attain, that is fantasy.

Benchmarks are a common form of fireground measurement. Here is a simple model for fire extinguishment. How much hose will be used on the interior of the building? If it’s on length ( 50′), then that is a staffing model. If twice that is needed, that is another. This is why the interior model doesn’t vary much. Getting the hose to the point of operation is typically the real variable that staffing impacts. Vertical and horizontal distances matter and often account for increased hoseline staffing both inside and outside the fire building. There is no need for two nozzle firefighters for a single hoseline but there is often a need for a door firefighter. The fire service needs to adapt and overcome its excuses and dreams and focus on the issues that impact operations and fireground lives by moving towards efficient extinguishment.

By Ray McCormack


Tactical Safety for Firefighters- False Positives


Tactical Safety for Firefighters


There is much talk in the fire service regarding how some pass downs have been proven wrong due to current research. In some categories, this legacy behavior has been explained utilizing a more scientific language which is one aspect of research. The other is how to avoid the legacy outcome regardless of what you label it now (hint : Better Engine Company LeadershIp).

Another aspect to be watched more closely is the false premises where a fire example is given along with a bad solution and now we fix it with a modern solution. The problem is if you were applying the original solution to the problem, then you didn’t understand basic firefighting anyway. So now we have SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) or a talking head who comes along with a new solution to fix it for you. You should have known this solution and you should be able to recognize silliness when you see it. The point is that some fire attack videos are giving you solutions to problems that should not have existed. Beware the peddler and their improved and enlightened ways. It’s only enlightening if you have had your head buried in the sand.

Get informed and pick up on what you’re being shown and just as importantly, what you’re not being shown.
If you want to improve the fire service, work on yourself first!

By Ray McCormack

Keep Fire in Your Life

Atlanta Fire Conference

Atlanta Fire Conference May 16, 17, & 18, 2014.

Still Spots available in the 8 Hour County Fire Tactics Hands-On. This is not to be MISSED CLASS. ONLY $50 for the Full Day Class


We will cover everything from maximizing the hydrant, different supply line options, 1.75″ & 2″, 2.5″, Attack Lines, ADVANCED FORCIBLE ENTRY, with through the lock, VES, RIT Deployment, LADDERS, Vertical Ventilation, SEARCH, and Vertical Fire Attack. This will be a FULL DAY of training to include all necessary TACTICS for your next FIRE!!

Instructors to Include:

Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY Ladder 28

FF Jim Smith, FDNY Squad 41

Chief Curt Isakson, Escambia County Fire Rescue

Chief Shannon Stone, Fort Walton Beach FD

Jason Martino, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

Lt. Adam Bobe, Escambia County Fire Rescue

Lt. Norm Robinson, Escambia County Fire Rescue

Lt. Joel Richardson, Escambia County Fire Rescue

Lt. Matt Scallan, Escambia County Fire Rescue

Lt. Dan Kunz, Escambia County Fire Rescue


High Rise Operations Conference 2014

LA HR Fire Early Registration for $200 for Full Conference!! This will only last for a few days. Regular registration will start at $250 and late $350. This conference SOLD OUT last year.

Link to register https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=T6H8C78GJ8T6J

Price for HROC 2014 is Currently $200 for a few days and will go to $250 SOON.

The Pensacola Beach Hilton Gulf Side is the host Hotel and has plenty of rooms available for the $89 a night. Call 1 (866) 916-2999 and ask for Group Reservations. Use Code: PHR




Coming winter of 2014 on Pensacola Beach!!!

December 2nd, 3rd, & 4th. 3 days of 8 different speakers including priceless classroom & hands on information! There will be an option to pick all lectures or do both lecture and hands on as well as lectures for the Chief Officer. December 2 will be all Lecture from 8-5 with opening ceremony. There will be a Firefighter Social after class  each night, starting with Monday Night Football the night before conference starts.

Instructors; Chief McGrail (Denver FD), Lt. Mike Ciampo(FDNY), Lt. Ray McCormack(FDNY), FF Jim Smith(FDNY), Capt. Bill Gustin (Miami-Dade), BC Curt Isakson(ECFR), Capt. Kevin Story(Houston Tx. FD), Lt. Matt Negedly (Orlando FD), JJ Cassetta (Orlando FD), Mac McGarry(Key Hose) & more!

Additional Speakers this Year: Chief Kolomay and Chief Hoff, the authors of Firefighter Rescue & Survival book by Pennwell. Also Chief Jerry Tracy and Lt. John Ceriello of the FDNY.

The following is a list of offered topics that will be covered:

1. Command & Control of High-Rise Fires
2. Size Up and Deployment at High-Rise Fires
3. Understanding and Utilizing Built in Fire Protection Systems
4. Understanding and  Utilizing Alarm/Control Room
5. Elevator Operations and Rescues
6. PRVs and Everything that they involve.
7. Search and Rescue at High-Rise Fires
8. Forcible Entry in a Smoke Filled hallway
9. Smoke and Fire Control
11. Open Balcony vs. Enclosed Hallway
12. Fire Attack and maximizing Standpipe
13. Attack Line Options
14. Salvage and Controlling activated sprinklers.
15. RIT Operations at High-Rises
16. Standpipe Emergencies

All out of town attendees will be provided transportation to & from the airport! Anyone flying will be provided a SCBA however bring your mask and full bunker gear (required for full hands on portion). If you choose strictly Lecture/Command Track, gear will not be necessary and class size will be larger allowing for more attendees.

Sign up now -early registration $200- then the price will go up to $250 for normal and $350. Conference limited to 300!

Hotel Reservation are available at a rate of $89. The Hotels will be easy to book with plenty of rooms available due to being our tourism off season.

This will be the foremost highrise training symposium event in the southeast in 2014!!!


Leadership & Tactics Seminar May 9 Pensacola Beach

Leadership Seminar

Pensacola Beach at the Hilton Gulf Front

First Floor Coral Reef Room over looking the Gulf of Mexico


Full Day Seminar on Leadership & Tactics

Battalion Chief Todd Edwards, Atlanta Fire

1) Atlanta Fire Line Of Duty Death: The Steven Solomon Case
This course provides the students a true insight into the how and why this firefighter lost his life. During this course students will hear the radio traffic from the incident, view pictures of the entire scene and come to understand how easy it is to loose a fellow a firefighter. Students will learn what went wrong, how to prevent these types of incidents, and learn some very valuable safety lessons.
2) Real Leadership : It’s not complicated!
There are hundreds of books, theories and articles about leadership. Our firefighters and officers are overwhelmed with information and in the end never learn any practical applications. This no non-sense course was designed from experience, trial & error, and numerous interviews of both firefighters and fire service leaders. Students will learn it’s not that complicated.
Battalion Chief Curt Isakson, Escambia County Fire Rescue
3) Front Yard Leadership
Providing Tactical Direction for success on and off the Fire Ground. Understanding where to focus your attention for overall success. Leading with Passion and Vision.
Pensacola Beach Hilton
May 9
08:30-16:30 Hours
Register at this Pay Pal link:

Leadership Seminar

May 9, 2014

Pensacola Beach

0830-1630 Hours



This will be a full day of Fire Service Leadership and understanding how to lead and SURVIVE in the Firehouse and on the Fire Ground. Chief Edwards spoke in Fort Walton last year and was enjoyed by all.  We were requested to bring him back to Northwest Florida for another day of Leadership and learning from the death of a fellow brother.

There will be 50 Seats available at a cost of $50.

Register at www.countyfiretactics.com under Leadership Seminar page.


1) Atlanta Fire Line of Duty Death: The Steven Solomon Case

This course provides the students a true insight into the how and why this firefighter lost his life. During this course students will hear the radio traffic from the incident, view pictures of the entire scene and come to understand how easy it is to lose a fellow a firefighter. Students will learn what went wrong, how to prevent these types of incidents, and learn some very valuable safety lessons.

2) Real Leadership: It’s not complicated!

There are hundreds of books, theories and articles about leadership. Our firefighters and officers are overwhelmed with information and in the end never learn any practical applications. This no non-sense course was designed from experience, trial & error, and numerous interviews of both firefighters and fire service leaders. Students will learn it’s not that complicated.

Robert “Todd” Edwards

 Battalion Chief, Atlanta Fire-Rescue Department

Chief Edwards has been an active firefighter, leader and trainer for over 30 years in the American Fire Service.  For the past 25 years, he has moved his way rapidly up the ranks within the Atlanta Fire-Rescue Department, and continues to serve the department as an established leader who has consistently worked at the some of the busiest companies in the United States.   He is currently assigned to the Atlanta 5th Battalion in the capacity of Battalion Chief.  In addition, Chief Edwards serves as the Chairman of the Atlanta Fire-Rescue Department Operations Committee, and operates as the Lead Instructor for the Acting Officer Strategies and Tactics training.   Chief Edwards has also developed numerous in-service training programs, has written the department‘s “Rules of Engagement”, and authors and administers a large portfolio (both in-class and hands-on/live) of department-wide trainings.

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

Officer or Leader

Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
Officer or Leader

The question came up via Twitter regarding a class on officer development, should the officer be called a leader instead? I did not take this class so I am blind as to its content. The dilemma for most is; isn’t the officer a leader already? Yes the officer is the crew leader, however how much Leadership they provide will vary.

I will keep my remarks to Fireground Leadership because it is the most compelling and important component of any Officers role. There are both officers and there are leaders of companies, some are both and some are only officers. If you are fortunate you have a leader, if you are not then you have just an officer. Many officers either have not developed the leader within or have become so trained to only receive orders and direction that they lack initiative.

Leadership on the fireground requires initiative even within highly developed tactical fire departments that use SOPs or SOGs. In departments that lack foundational battle plans officers typically operate under the whim of chief officers often falling back into an awaiting direction mode.

Leadership on the fireground is what the promotion is all about. Cultivating that role is difficult under any system and either system will have many officers. The big turn around towards effective fireground leadership is knowledge and implantation. You must have knowledge of the fireground to make variations on plans, to accept orders and be mindful of how best to carry them out.

Your knowledge is gained by reading, studying, and fireground experience. Your implantation of task is also based upon study, reading and experience and your awareness as to what is taking place. You must understand the ” tempo” of the fireground, sometimes it’s easy to follow and other times it’s racing and compromised when you can handle that all by yourself then you have achieved leadership.

Effective fireground leadership is the hallmark of good fire officer. It takes time to develop just as other leadership qualities. If you do not have it together on the fireground risk goes up because you are not a critical thinker. There is no ceremony that tags you as an effective leader on the fireground it comes from going to fires and making decisions. Maybe that’s why it’s called an officers class.

Keep Fire in Your Life