Love and Mercy

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Love and Mercy

by Ray McCormack

“Everybody loves being a firefighter.” That is the one universal statement that stands up over time. It doesn’t matter if you came on during the legacy years or modern times, the quote is unwavering. While that’s great for the fire service and gives us common ground, everything after that is up for grabs, even grabs.

You see not everyone believes in grabs. Some don’t feel they can happen due to a variety of reasons, such as response times, smoke intensity, staffing shortages, and rescuer risk. Some of those factors we control and some we don’t. I can easily understand the items out of my control and how certain realities restrict making a grab. What I find disquieting is the almost knee jerk refusal to put one’s self out there on the internet never mind the fireground.

Firefighters are public defenders who try to save people. If given the opportunity to make a grab would you do it? Many raise their internet voices up in a resounding, “No thanks.” Posts regarding lives of less value then their own, is that what we do now judge who gets saved and who doesn’t based on whim? Of course they give reasons; one has to supply some reasons for opting out on saving lives. The litany of reasons can sound technically impressive but it’s missing a big one, fear.

My question is can you be that smug and still not cite fear as a reason? It’s alright to be fearful – that’s why It’s a rescue, because it could go south. There are many rescues that have worked, and failed too. They couldn’t get out with their charge, a rope snaps, things changed and deteriorated. We honor them for their love, not of the job, but for the victim.

It is not easy to make a grab. It’s a test and it is a test you want to pass. For those that wish to opt out, there is comfort, at least over the internet, stating the virtues of their decisions. We want firefighters that understand risk. We want firefighters that recognize their capabilities too. We see many people who get into horrific accidents and we work to free them with little protest. We don’t hear much regarding opting out of that type of life saving and that’s probably because we don’t feel threatened by that environment. Well, many firefighters feel the same way about the fireground – comfortable. How you get to that comfort level is up to you, but once you get there being in tune with what others need should come easier to you.

It’s best to remain positive especially as a firefighter. When we respond. we should be thinking we can force any door, stretch any line, put out any fire and rescue those trapped. If you’re on a different path, stop short changing yourself. You won’t always win, but having inaction as your mantra is not helping anyone. It’s simple if you can get it done, then do it! Building a reserve of excuses doesn’t save lives, actions do that. Getting involved in something bigger than yourself takes a mindset, if you’re all about reasons why your efforts would be fruitless, you are the one who needs mercy.

Aggressive Firefighting Saves Lives!!

I will not make excuses for supporting Aggressive Interior Firefighting. I have supported Direct Water Application since the 90s and have been teaching it for nearly 15 years. I supported going through the front door even with fire venting through that same door way before some test burns proved that we don’t PUSH FIRE with straight and SOLID streams. Urban Firefighters have been teaching Direct Water Application/Entry through the front door most of the time regardless of fire location. They taught this based on hundreds of FIRES they had been apart of extinguishing, at all times of the day and night. Fires that were not in a controlled environment in the middle of the day. These fires were in all types of structures with different fuel packages and different tactics. There was a time that the Urban/Fireground Experienced Firefighter was valued. Their time fighting REAL FIRES under emergency conditions were valued as a positive and not as a negative. It seems that some feel just reading books and spending time on social media certifies them to tell others how its done. I realize not all firefighters have the opportunity to get fight fires frequently and that’s ok. I respect the firefighter that continues to read and train so when the do have a fire, they are that much more prepared for BATTLE. Battle is what fighting fires is and always will be. You can not completely replace or reach the same level without the experiences. Its like our USA Women’s Soccer Team. They won not only from skill but the experience of playing in BIG MATCHES. Experience Matters! Take classes, Train in a drill tower, Get Acquired Structures, do whatever you can to prepare yourself for BATTLE. But at the end of the day you cant fully replace time compressed decision making under emergency conditions. The Fireground is a unique place and so many can do a certain tactic on the drill field, but fail to be able at 2am when fire is blowing out multiple windows. Time teaches us all that experience matters in so many parts of life. Kids thin their smarting than mom and dad until they get older. Life teaches us lessons. I wish more were looking to study the Urban Firefighter and working towards making the most with their staffing instead of making up excuses. Time Delayed Tactics is part of limited staffing. Figure out what needs to be done and then prioritize. You may need to delay some tactics until more staffing arises. Stop Making Excuses and figure out how to do the best you can, with what’s provided to you. I realize some do not have the staffing to vertically ventilate. But just because you do not have the staffing does not mean its not needed, just that you can’t do it based on staffing levels. We haven’t been doing it wrong. We have been very successful in the fire service at saving civilian lives and property. We continue to save lives everyday. We must continue to look for the best way in and sometimes/most of the time that’s the FRONT DOOR.

If we do not slow down on this push for exterior fire attack at fires, Civilians Lives will be lost in larger numbers. I have studied a large number of civilian rescues/grabs. The Grabs/Rescues were done on firegrounds were AGGRESSIVE INTERIOR TACTICS were used from the start. Civilians are mostly dying from smoke inhalation and not thermal burns. You can FLOW WATER from the yard all day and COOL the environment. But if FIREFIGHTERS are not getting inside rapidly to locate and remove the trapped civilians, they will die regardless of how COLD your HARD FROM  THE YARD is. This is not a HOT and COLD topic. Its a LIFE and DEATH topic.

Lets get back to putting the CIVILIAN FIRST!!

I am VERY proud to tell my family and neighbors that they come first when I am on-duty ready to SERVE. I am ready to serve them like the Soldier is serving all of us to provide FREEDOM. We are/become so SAFETY CONCIOUS were almost hang cuffing ourselves. Safety is Great until it cost more Lives than its saving.

Let me say that again….. SAFETY is GREAT, Until it Cost More Lives than its SAVING!!

Aggressive Firefighting Saves Lives and Property.

If you want to save firefighter lives than push for better diets, more time getting physically fit, better annual physicals, less stress in the firehouse, and WEARING SEATBELTS..

Wish I had more time to RANT.

I support Transitional Attack when staffing or the Fire Dictates. But I do not respond looking to do that as my first option. I hope that staffing and fire conditions allow an Offensive Interior Attack, utilizing the front door.

Have a Great Day!

Thanks-Curt Isakson

Louisville, Ladders, and Interior Firefighting..

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Progressive and Aggressive! Photo by: Captain Joe Williams, Louisville Fire Department

Two Civilians were killed and five others injured in an Apartment Fire in Louisville. One Firefighter was trapped on the second floor and rescued by other firefighters. Some civilians were forced to jump for survival.

Almost every city, county, town/community has some building that resembles the above. We have them all over Escambia County. I keep looking at this photo and thinking how I would command this incident as the only chief on-scene with half the staffing. America Burning was nearly 40 Years ago and America had nearly 10,000 civilians dying each year by fire.  It is 2015 and we still have nearly 3,000 dying by FIRE. The number is down because the American Fire Service was founded and is focused on SAVING CIVILIAN LIVES like in the above picture. This was not and is not a fire that exterior water will extinguish the fire. This is/was a FIRE that required the LFD to aggressively fight for the safety of the citizens they SWORE to PROTECT. This is/was a FIRE that required previous INTERIOR EXPERIENCE. I’m challenging you to study this photo and evaluate with your company/battalion on how you would deploy. What would your staffing be? What would a 1st Alarm, 2nd Alarm,  3rd Alarm, etc., get you?? It is GREAT to be ready for the Bread and Butter. But this is not your Bread and Butter Fire.

This is more than a Bread and Butter, even for the Louisville FD. Are you READY?

This Fire Service must stand its ground on Interior Operations. We are not dying from Interior Firefighting. We are dying because so many are focused on the wrong thing. Some are just looking for their next teaching gig and getting their name out there. I believe we have been on the right track for the last 30 years. I believe we have been doing it right. I believe we save a lot more lives than we lose because we are aggressive. Civilians are dying INSIDE.  We must continue to Fight Fires from the Interior when possible. We must SHUT DOWN the Keyboard experts that have very little if any fireground experience.  Interior Fire Attack and Vertical Ventilation is statistically safe. Check the numbers.

If you support Interior Fire Attack than share this, post AMEN, tell someone, Lets join together for the SAFETY of all Americans. Lets join together to keep property loss down.

Civilians Lives and Civilian Property still counts.

Have a Happy Fourth of July and remember what this Country stands for and how it was founded.

I Love this Job and everything about it. I’m Proud to be FIREFIGHTER!

Thanks-Curt Isakson

Click link below for more info on this fire.

http://www.firefighternation.com/videos/rescues-and-mayday-fatal-louisville-fire

 

The New Yorker “Urban Legend”

The New Yorker

“URBAN LEGEND”

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.

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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.

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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