Category Archives: Other Things Fire Department
In case you missed it here is the Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio Traditions Training Tuesday where we talked about the fire at #87 Herrington Drive in PG County Maryland that put my friend Danny McGown in the burn center. Listen in as those who were there go over just what went down, step by step, and hopefully it will help you prepare incase you are placed in that position, God forbid.
Also, here is the Radio Transmissions from that fire:
“THE HEIGHTS” MAKES A STRONG SHOWING IN FIREHOUSE MAGAZINE: 2ND BUSIEST LADDER TRUCK AND 2ND BUSIEST FIREHOUSE IN THE NATION
The 30th year of the National Run Survey from Firehouse Magazine highlights many categories within the fire service including busiest Engine, Ladder, Rescue Squad and more. Departments from around the country submit their run totals to be ranked among their peers across the US and Canada. Only the top unit in each class from each department is included in the results listing published in the August issue of Firehouse Magazine. The District of Columbia made a strong showing again this year and the members of “The Heights” are proud to announce their inclusion in the fabled “list”. For the year 2010, Truck Company 17 was the 2nd busiest ladder company in the Nation, responding to assist the citizens of the “East End” 4,496 times last year. “The Heights” complement of Engine 30, Truck 17, Ambulance 30 and Medic 30 again took honors as the 2nd busiest station in the Nation with the 4 units recording a total of 18,531 responses. The Battalion Chief responsible for the East End crews, BFC 2, recorded a 19th ranked 2,062 runs in 2010. The Officers and Members of “The Heights” are extremely proud of the recognition from Firehouse Magazine for their long nights and proven dedication to the citizens of DC and thank them for the honor.
Here is an interview that demonstrates the pure love of the job that helps bring the true spirit of the fire department back to light for me as it should for everyone else. You didnt hear any “we shouldn’t have been in theres'”, any bullshit about “victim survivability profiling” and you sure as shit didn’t hear any Monday morning quarterbacking about whether or not we should search vacant homes. To me it simply says, “It is what it is and we’d do it again”. These 2 men exemplify what it means to me to be a fireman and I’m proud to work in a department full of them. Watch and learn.
“I’m no hero, but I served in a company of them” – Major Dick Winters, Easy Company.
In case you missed it here is the latest episode of Fire Engineering Talk Radio featuring myself and the rest of the Traditions Training crew as we tackle the topic of “Aggressive Searches). Its always a fun time getting to chat with the brothers. Just ignore the porn star voice at the beginning and the rest should be semi-entertaining.
An exercise in rhetoric inspired by the writings of Matt “Maine” Hall. His recent facebook descriptions of late night ramblings from the ghetto of our home in Landover has inspired me to try my hand. Here is a late night rambling from a memorial weekend spent in the back of Truck 17.
Our chariot comes to a stop just shy of the entrance to the apartment complex, the heroes of “The Heights” answer the never ending call for service, this time its the ever elusive activated CO detector. I watch as my crew makes their way up the hill towards the mountain of brick and mortar known as Benning Park Apartments. Heavy eyelids give way to an unrelenting stare as i catch myself gazing longingly through the dust covered window of my tillermans perch. The iridescent hue of a lone streetlight joins with the familiar reds and blues of a passing police cruiser, together they bring identity to the darken street sign. 4900 G st. SE. My temporary inhabitancy now has a name.
The air is cool and crisp as it recoils from the recently passed storm. The night is alive with activity, people pass but seldom wave, families and felons share the sidewalk together as they stroll into the emptiness of the East End night. My thoughts drift away from this place much the same as the dreams of the areas youth, away to a place far removed from the brutal realities of “The Heights”. Thoughts of a future with manageable hours, of nights with adequate sleep, of holidays at home with family and friends. The recurring thud of a car stereo gains strength as it closes on my position, the roar of exhaust from a passing donked-out caprice jerks me back to my observatory high atop 17 truck.
My attention shifts to a conveniently placed pair of “Air Jordans” dangling from the electric line above my head, swaying gingerly in the evening breeze, beckoning to this spot those in search of a quick high to lift them from this place. My band of brothers makes their way back down the hill from the building entrance, laughing and jostling, bonded together by the experiences and the tragedies they’ve shared, forged into friends at trail by fire. They know how quickly the song can change, how that next call for service might find them staring the red devil and his fiery minions square in the face, daring my brothers to enter in protection of these same families and felons that call East End their home. This fire forcing them to rise up to their best when DC citizens are at their worst. These men, these firemen, know that only the bond of brotherhood will bring them through the flames and back alive.
I chuckle to myself as a new thought creeps into mind. These moments i will miss, this ghetto i will miss, these brothers I will miss…
Well after 2 months of long nights surrounded by friends and a hard fought healing process, Firefighter Chucky Ryan has finally returned home from the burn center. Chucky was burned along with 4 other firefighters searching for victims during a house fire in Truck 17’s first due. His first stop? Rescue 3 to see the brothers of course. Here’s to a great guy who’s love for the job infects all those around him. Welcome Home Chucky, see you inside a burning southeast rowhome soon.
In article after article and blog post after blog post I gaze with soft eyes at the material being placed into the hearts and minds of this Nations very young and ultimately often inexperienced fire service. Amazing catch phrases and profound statements like “risk little to save little”, “big fire – big water”, “risk vs. reward” more often than not from guys and gals with resumes as long as this blog entry. Resumes so long that if you’re like me, you get bored just reading them. Class after class, one accreditation flowing seamlessly into another; your eyes stare in awe at the seemingly endless stream of knowledge that these “authors” must possess behind those magical finger tips that typed such thought provoking words as “survivability profiling”. Yes! That’s it; these are the innovative people that will guide our young fire service into the future, teach us right from wrong. These innovative people who rely on their lessons learned from their infinite battle proven firefighting experience to make broad generalizations about the state of the service and….hold on…did you say “infinite battle proven firefighting experience?”
Hmmm, let me go back and check that resume again…instructor 1 thru 1000 – check, Master’s Degree in fire science – check, Command Level Officer in bum “f” anywhere – check, beat up the red devil in his living room and pulled little babies from deaths grasp in defense of his neighbors life and property – che….hey wait a minute, I don’t see that anywhere in this resume! In my haste to read what glorious mind nuggets were hidden in the article of this published “author” it appears I forgot to check their qualification to tell me anything relating to fighting fires. But the article was about “survivability profiling during FIREFIGHTING operations” was it not? (Now before you all flip a lid I pulled that title out of my a%$ so don’t get bent, and if you do, suck it up).
This concept of “checking that resume” before I read an article or watch a video about anything professional (in any field) is something I learned somewhere around 3rd grade. That’s when I realized that the bitchy, unwed, childless, cat infested 40 something year old woman down the street really had no leg to stand on when informing my mother on how to raise her bad-ass 8 year old boy. The same seems to be true in today’s fire service, except someone forgot to tell the new kids the deal. Someone forgot to tell youngins that are new to the game that these so called “experts” can leave their shoes on when counting how many times they have even been in a burning building. Yet we continue to accept these broad generalizations that are shaping the future of tomorrow’s fire service from people who have never really been in today’s fire service. Have we really allowed our brains to get in the way of our ability to protect the public and even ourselves?
Case in point:
So there I was, typing away on the old office computer when I get a call from my buddy. “Where are you?” he asks. “My office” I reply. “Well there is a house right down the street on fire and…click” that was the end of that conversation. You see, I do not discriminate, I am an equal opportunity firefighter, I will fight the red devil wherever he may be and as such I tend to allow my name and certifications to appear on the rolls of more than one volunteer fire department. This particular event and jurisdiction will remain nameless to protect (for now) the incompetent and will only be used for demonstration purposes. So up the street I go and sure enough, a 2 story single family home with fire showing from the rear and second floor, “cake” I thought. So I dress up in my fireman costume and survey the scene. Soon enough down the hill comes the 1st engine into this non-hydranted area, followed by the tanker, and comes to a stop. Time for me to play their game… “Hello officer sir, I’m such and such here is my Personal Accountability Tag, I will be attaching myself to your crew, shall I help you pull a handline?” as I look at their crew of three counting the driver.
“No son, pull the Blitz Fire (500 gpm)” (you did read me say non-hydranted did you not?)
“Ah, be advised sir there is a report of a 4th grader missing” I replied as communications and I both tried to will them into an offensive attack.
“There is too much fire, we have to knock it down from out here and then we will go in”…and as is often the case in this area, the calamity of errors continues for the next hour or so. A truck company that brings no ladders to the house, a CAFS bubble party in the front yard, a chiefs buggy stuck in the 3 day rain soaked field next door, a work-free smoke walking contest once finally allowed to attack and even an eventual evacuation once someone decided that the Rapid Intervention Team was not in place (the 2 out was, but they had been redirected to spray water into a rear window). Huh? Yeah that’s what I said. If you’re like me, then you’re probably amazed the tax payers even bother to pay their fire taxes anymore, with such superb service and all.
How did this happen?
How did it come to be this way? Is this truly the future of the fire service, to not fight fires at all? It’s hard to be called out for being wrong when you stand on the side of over-cautiousness with a second helping of safety. And alas that is where the nation’s authors have gone to avoid confrontation, a catch phrase contest on who can be the safest.
I have a new catch phrase for you, “Return to Effectiveness”. Effective actions combined with appropriate timing to achieve a positive outcome. Effectiveness = fires go out, people get rescued, the fire department does it’s job. Instead of having front yard arguments about the friction loss of a 2in handline or the gallons-per-minute requirements for fire load in 3 rooms instead of 2, how about we just do what works, what is effective, and we put the fire out in the quickest most efficient way possible?
I will not argue the point of GPM numbers with you as apparently it is science; proven fact. But can someone please tell me how many GPM’s from a 2in handline make it to the seat of the fire when the 2-man crew that pulled it can’t get it up the front steps, let alone to the second floor. But they said big fire-big water didn’t they? Ah yes they did, it was right after the article about the shrinking staffing numbers across the country. So let me get this straight, apparently as the average size of an initial attack crew gets smaller the lines we choose to maneuver with less man power should get bigger?…Sorry I don’t follow. How about the 10’s of thousands of gallons of water we lob into second floor windows from the outside of single family homes and then wonder why the floors collapse when we finally go in to do overhaul. Maybe I can get an explanation on how across the country Compressed Air Foam Systems, which are supposed to be the savior of the fire service, are being used as initial attack lines when even a 3rd grader can tell you that fire needs “air” to grow. How several of my associates have been burned because of it yet in many jurisdictions it remains in initial attack use because a report says it puts out fires better than water alone.
Perhaps someone else smarter than me can explain the concept of allowing a fire that doubles in size every 30 seconds wasted minute after wasted minute as marginally trained crews struggle to get their line in service, waiting for the full complement of the alarm to arrive and ensure their “safety”. How much more dangerous is that home now with 10 minutes of free burn time then when we first arrived? Maybe someone can help me understand how National headlines more often read “body found after fire” then “firefighters make daring rescue” although firefighter fatalities don’t decline.
Now don’t get it twisted, I support educated decision making. Things like circle and basement checks, information gathering, back up lines, etc. All important things when walking that fine line between duty and stupidity. However what I do not support is the use of the phrase “firefighter safety” and others like it in defense of the coward and cowardous actions. We do the job we were asked to do by our neighbors and our friends, to serve and protect their lives and property with all that we have. If not us, if not the fire department, then who is going to do it?
The fact that I am trying to bring to your attention is our new age “phrases” are killing as many fire fighters and civilians as ever before because of the lack of effectiveness that goes along with them. Is there merit to some of these concepts? Yes of course there is, but if you don’t link them with common sense, the ability to adjust to each situation and the skill to be effective with them then you’re using these concepts as a crutch to hide behind. Fires have been going out for hundreds of years under the same concept; water on fire makes fire go out. Anyone that tells you they have invented an innovative approach that hasn’t been invented in the last 100 years all while going to historically less fires now than ever before is probably just trying to cash in on the naïve (or make an industry name for themselves without actually going to fires to do it).
I challenge each of you to pull yourself above the latest catch phrase and concept, reexamine your ability to do your job, to be honest in your abilities and ask yourself “am I being effective in my efforts or am I merely showing up in my fireman costume to watch a house burn down?” Do not accept a concept just because it was written by someone with a 10 page resume. Examine where these concepts come from, ask yourself if they make sense, step back into the shoes of the public we protect and look at your tactics from their perspective. Don’t let equations and catch phrases get in your way of your ability to be effective on the fireground. Be honest, let common sense prevail, and let’s help America’s fire service make a “Return to Effectiveness”.
Here is a story from the DC Generals site about some time spent with Firefighter Chucky Ryan who was burned in a house fire in Truck 17’s first due. Chucky is a great guy and a hell of a fireman, it was truly a tough experience for me to spend the night in his ICU room and see him in so much pain. It brings back the reality of why the Generals play to raise money for the burn foundation. As a member of the DC Firefighters Burn Foundations Family Services Team I see first hand the great job this organization does for the family’s of our injured firefighters in their time of need. Watching the Royal Wedding from Chucky’s room and to sit alongside our Brave Hero was a truly humbling experience. Chucky still continues to recover, keep him in your prayers.
From the DC Generals:
As Firefighter Charles Ryan continues to undergo multiple surgery’s to repair the burns to his body, members of the District of Columbia Fire Department along with members of the DC FF Burn Foundation Family Services Unit sit constant watch over their injured brother. Among these vigilant volunteers are several players from the DC Generals Police and Fire Football Team. Showing again just how important raising money for the Burn Foundation is in this time of need. The Foundation helps provide rooms for family members, food for Chucky and his visitors, state of the art equipment for the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center and much more. Our prayers are with Firefighter Ryan on his long road to recovery.
On Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, Prince George’s County Maryland held its 34th annual Public Safety Luncheon to honor the County’s Police, Sheriff, Fire/EMS, Corrections and Homeland Security members. The event was hosted by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and MC’d by Wisdom Martin and Paul Wagner of Fox 5 news DC. Among the honored recipients were Joe Brown, a Volunteer Captain with the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department and Tony Kelleher, the Chief of Kentland. Joe received a Silver Medal of Valor and Tony received a Bronze Medal of Valor for there actions at an apartment fire on April 26th, 2010.
Click here for the story from Kentland33.com