Fear Mongering & the Truth
I find myself amazed at some of the conversations going around some circles in the fire service. Some mention our risk, how dangerous the modern fire ground is and how we must in the name of our safety change the tactics and techniques that having been saving people’s lives for decades. Well for what it is worth here is my 2 cents.
I do not expect anyone who works for me to be a Kamikaze Pilot or to think they have to engage in suicide mission to earn the title of firefighter. We must be as smart as we are aggressive. If we are going to preach about the new science of fire behavior then we must also use an objective, scientific approach to look at all the data.
I mourn those who lost their lives in the line of duty. I have personally attended some of the funerals and know some of the people in the data set that I am about to discuss. Their loss will have an everlasting impact on their families, & organizations. As sad as the loss on any life is, we must look at those losses in context of the issue.
Statistics from the US Fire Administration report that in the period of January 2008 – December 2017 22 firefighters died in the line of duty while preforming rescue & search operations at structure fires. In a 10 year span on average 2.2 firefighters were killed per year while engaged in rescue & search operations at structure fires. I am at loss for finding the words that describes this number as it relates to the data set without being somewhat disarranging to those who made this sacrifice.
Some people in our profession are raising questions about if it is worth the risk to engage in interior structure firefighting. I am floored by that train of thought and embarrassed to admit that there are fellow chief officers who talk like this. 50,000 people die every year in motor vehicle accidents and no one is asking if it is worth the risk to drive a car. We go to fires wearing three thousand dollars’ worth of bunker gear an $8,000,00 SCBA, with hose lines that can generate 160 gpm flow and with all this we are more worried about our safety then we are about Mrs. Smith who is lying in hallway wearing nothing but a nightgown? Oh by the way in the same period that the 22 firefighters died 11,976 civilians died in structure fires in the US.
All the arm chair scientist are real quick to throw out numbers and recite data to further their agenda. Let me introduce some other pieces of information into the conversation. On his website Firefighterrescue.com Chief Curt Isakson reports that 40 civilians were rescued by firefighters form structure fires in the 2 MONTH period from January – February 2019. The number of rescues in a 2 MONTH period is almost double the number of firefighter fatalities in a 10 YEAR period. I will get off my soap box and let the numbers speak for themselves.
My parting words are simple and I think I speak for many chief officers. If you under my command I expect you to always honor and respect the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives in the line of duty. I expect you to be capable and willing to execute your mission in a high risk situation. I expect you to be as smart as you are aggressive, and that these two characteristics are part of your core. I expect you to uphold the traditions of our noble profession, to do the right thing for those we serve, and to always remember that yes. It Is Worth The risk.
By: Chief Dennis Reilly