Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Firefighter Hourly: 'Culture of Extinguishment Speech Leaves Firefighters Perplexed'

Ray McCormack's FDIC speech certainly seems to have split opinion across the fire service. Art Goodrich offered his take earlier on TKT. Fellow Kitchen Tabler and FR1 columnist Jay Lowry over at his FirefighterHourly blog gives a different perspective in the following post:

"When Lt. Ray McCormack stated the fire service was wrong in placing the lives of firefighters above the lives of civilians at FDIC the remarks found firefighters scratching their heads.

However, to his credit, the Lieutenant said what needed to be said.

In departments nationwide safety is a concern but in some the emphasis on safety detracts from their ability to do the job effectively. This isn't what firefighters are trained to do nor is it healthy for operations. In fact, an emphasis on safety can put firefighters in unsafe positions due to a timid approach.

The key to the culture of safety is department specific. For example, in the FDNY, safety is a part of the job because of the number of fires the FDNY responds to on a yearly basis. From experience comes a healthy respect, and knowledge, of what fire can do.

Now look at Charleston. A small department with limited fire activity can't take the same approach as larger departments with substantial fire activity. Thus, when it comes to operations, safety must be considered because of the lack of hands on fire activity. pushes aggressive interior attack coupled with risk analysis. Go where the fire is but have commanders capable of making decisions if the situation changes. In short, a fireground commander with unlimited resources won't fight a fire the same way one with three stations will.

The lieutenant will likely be a hero to a small minority and a scourge to those who are advocates of setting up down the block. Instead, he spoke about an issue needing discussion and made the point we have all been trying to make about departments with poor leaders. Thank you Ray."

A good discussion follows, too, on
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  1. McCormick's speech set the fire service back 40 years. He would have been better off finishing his comments on "Extinguishment" rather than attack the safety aspect of the job. God, how could the FDIC sanction that debacle? And to all you idiots that think McCormick is your new hero, I hope your not leading anyone into any dangerous situation.

  2. Anonymous:

    Thank you for your comment but I respectfully disagree. If his "comments" set the fire service back 40 years then the fire service was on unstable ground. I think his comments served to ignite a debate and discussion about the way the job is performed.

    There's no way Ray wants anyone to be hurt. Instead, he is stating a belief strongly held by many. It needed to come out for discussion.

  3. I believe Lt. McCormack is responding to the "pendulum experience" in the fire service. I belong to a fire dept. that prides itself on "aggressive interior firefighting", however we have more resources than many FDs, and we used to have a large number of fires. However, we were plain reckless at times, and it's a miracle that more of our firefighters were'nt seriously injured or killed in the huge number of vacant/abandoned building fires we used to respond to. There was very little emphasis on knowing fire behavior or building construction in our training. Most of it was geared toward agressive firefighting tactics. Now it seems that for some of us in the fire service, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, to where we question the need for an interior fire attack on a residential building if there's no obvious life in danger. I'm a strong advocate of firefighter safety and survival; and I believe that less fires means that we need to train more on basic firefighting tactics, not less. However, I believe Lt. McCormack is right in challenging us in the fire service to not lose our focus and committment to saving lives and savable property. In the city I work for, many of the people in neighborhoods with high fire activity are poor. Many of them have no insurance, and if a fire destroys their home, it probably destroyed everything they own as well. This could leave them homeless and without any hope. We can't needlessly risk our lives for property, but I believe Lt. McCormack was correct when he stated that "when people call the fire dept., we're the only hope they have left. Let me close by saying this: I HATE going to FF LODD funerals, especially when it's someone I know. But we also have a job to do and a very vital public trust. We must train and educate ourselves more. We must work "smarter not harder", and we must seek to be as safe as we can in an environment that is never totally safe. And yes, if we put the fire out, the problem goes away!

  4. I think the one thing the leuitenant has done with this speech is bring about a debate that a lof folks have has been needed. Whether you agree with the way he put it or the exact details is another case. but i feel it is something that needed to be raised in a general area

  5. I don't think anyone believes that we shouldn't strive for safety on the job but many of us believe that an over-reliance on safety does have a detrimental effect on the efficacy of how we do our jobs on the fireground.
    With firefighters fighting fewer fires the fires we do have are very important in terms of the experience we gain from them.
    If we fight most of our fires from outside structures what happens when we have to enter a structure to attempt a rescue ? There's no experience to draw on. How will you recognize signs of danger if you train in flashover chambers and acquired structures only ?
    Could the culture of safety ironically end up being a danger to firefighters as it denies them the experiences needed to become proficient and knowledgeable in their trade ?
    Dave IFD


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