We use the term “baptism by fire” in the fire service to measure that milestone that we achieve with our first big fire; our first true test as a firefighter. The “baptism” welcomes us into a world where ranks are closed very tightly and bonds are never to be broken. And when one dies, the aggrieved mourns the loss, but it is the fire department that captures all of the attention.
I recently wrote a blog on Firefighter Nation with respect to and in honor of Fire Paramedic Apprentice (FPA) Rachel Wilson of the Baltimore City Fire Department, who died during a training exercise on February 9, 2007.
The intent of the blog was to examine pre-incident issues, post-incident issues, recommendations that were made post-incident and corrective measures taken to date. Comments are welcome, but they will be respectful, thoughtful and most of all, civil. I expect there to be differences of opinions, but again; they will be respectful replies.
Because of the many issues involved, I believe that it is important that a dissection of available information takes place and we intake them as lessons learned. I have posted the links to all documents reviewed for the article.
I know very little about the “inner” workings of one of our storied fire departments in this country; Balitmore City Fire Department. After all, they were the backdrop for the feature film “Ladder 49”.
However; though I may not know how BCFD fulfills their mission statement, I know how it should work at ANY fire department, because firefighters are NOT supposed to die during their training.
They are supposed to be learning the skills that will keep them alive!
I will tell you that, based on the information circulated after the death of FPA Rachel Wilson and since, it appears that this tragic incident has become a political football and though inappropriate, also became the exclamation point to a series of decisions that may have been made for the wrong reasons that culminated in the death of a 29 year old mother of two small children.
NIOSH issued ten (10) recommendations. The internal report identified fifty (50) violations of NFPA 1403. Three (3) terminations resulted from the incident and a chief resigned for unspecified reasons.
My conclusions and opinions are based solely upon the documents that I reviewed and no disrespect is intended towards any of the fine men and women of the BCFD and it is noted that many of the recommended changes have been made.
To read my blog in its entirety, go to http://www.firefighternation.com/profiles/blogs/baptism-by-fire-or-death-by
These are the links to the documents reviewed: