Friday, October 2, 2009

Two Common Fires; Different Outcomes

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Two common structure fires; one in Syracuse, New York, the other in Yonkers, New York. Both involving residential occupancies of legacy construction, both requiring tactical deployment assignments for search and rescue under heavy fire conditions, but each incident having profoundly different outcomes.

The Syracuse fire evolved into a firefighter mayday, when a firefighter's air supply apparently became inoperable or depleted during primary search and rescue operations resulting in a maycall and subsequent rapid exit through a narrow upper window in the attic. The video clearly depicts the tense minutes during which time the mayday was transmitted and firefighter Ray Duncanson bailed through the attic window.

The Yonkers fire (HERE) also involved an early morning response to report of a structure fire in a multiple occupancy residential dwelling. Firefighter Patrick Joyce, a 39-year-old city firefighter and a 16-year veteran of the department, either jumped or fell from the top floor of the burning 2-story multi-family home and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Two other firefighters were seriously injured as they also searched for tenants in an early morning house fire. The cause for the bailout has yet to be determined.

Both fires, common to our expected daily response that many of us have experienced in our years on the job; yet the unique circumstances of each building, of each occupancy, the fire behavior and incident parameters resulted in vastly different outcomes.

It continues to be all about doing the right thing, at the right time for the right reasons. Unfortunately, that also involves calculate risk, measured determination and circumstance that are reflected by who and what we do on every alarm, at every call, on every shift. Just as Buffalo, New York FD Lt. Chip McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom were doing the right thing, when deployed on the primary search and rescue assignment on the first-due, and the subsequent search and rescue on the RIT/mayday assignment at the August 24th fire in the City of Buffalo, NY. Their sacrifice in the line-of-duty, reflected the honor, courage, protection, fortitude and duty of the fire service, just as Yonkers (NY) firefighter Patrick Joyce displayed in the course of his assignment on October 2, 2009.

On any given day, at any give alarm, the dynamics around us at times may be in or out of our direct control. We may not be able to see what the cards have in store for us, BUT we must ensure we use every fragment of training, fortitude, knowledge, skills, courage, bravery, insights, luck and sometimes (other divine) intervention to get us through. We must have the fortitude and courage to be both safety conscious and measured in the performance of our sworn duties while maintaining the appropriate balance of risk and bravery.
· The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger.
· As a result, risk management must become fluid and integrate all personnel.
· We must manage dynamic risks with a balanced approach of effective assessment, analysis and probability within command decision making that results in safety conscious strategies and tactics.

We don't know what's in the cards on any given day, but the citizens we protect can rest assured, we will do our job, as firefighters to the best of our abilities, because of who we are.

Firefighter Spot videos, Syracuse Fire HERE, Yonkers Fire, HERE

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4 comments:

  1. I am very sorry that the author used the word "ROUTINE" not once , but three times in this blog. He should know better than to give this concept ANY press. We all (should) know that there is NO SUCH THING AS A ROUTINE FIRE.

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  2. Dear SFDrescue1; First and foremost, Thank you for taking the time to comment. The point of the piece presented was exactly that; "there are no routine" circumstances from which we operate. Two structure fires that followed generally accepted tactical deployment and protocols, each with inherent construction features and fire dynamics that may have contributed to the events. As recent as September 20th, I posted a piece entitled "It's Not Always Business as Usual” that redundancy, "routiness" and frequency of typical calls, may at times- for some organizations, lead to complacency and compound into less than effective operations. When things go wrong, they can go wrong at an escalating rate that may at times not be apparent. The lack of “parenthesizes” around routine doesn’t detract from the theme that; although companies may be engage in current structural firefighting operations in buildings, occupancies and under fire condition encountered in a similar fashion at some point in the past; the outcome of the current engagement may be entirely different due to a variety of circumstance unique to that incident requiring ongoing and acute situational awareness, focused tactics and engaged command management.

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  3. Chris beat me to the reply. Although there is "no such thing as a routine fire", there are what we consider "bread and butter" operations. These are the types of incidents we frequently encounter and which, feeding even farther on what Chris stated in his reply, for all those reasons of complacency, etc. are the ones which can land us in the most trouble. Furthermore, these bread and butter occupancies are ones common to most any jurisdiction in America, so there are lots of lessons to be learned.

    I think you (sfd) are correct in your statement, but I would be willing to bet my paycheck that Mr. Naum wasn't suggesting that conditions at any fire are "routine", nor suggesting that a less-than diligent attitude should be assumed by the companies operating on scene.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chris beat me to the reply. Although there is "no such thing as a routine fire", there are what we consider "bread and butter" operations. These are the types of incidents we frequently encounter and which, feeding even farther on what Chris stated in his reply, for all those reasons of complacency, etc. are the ones which can land us in the most trouble. Furthermore, these bread and butter occupancies are ones common to most any jurisdiction in America, so there are lots of lessons to be learned.

    I think you (sfd) are correct in your statement, but I would be willing to bet my paycheck that Mr. Naum wasn't suggesting that conditions at any fire are "routine", nor suggesting that a less-than diligent attitude should be assumed by the companies operating on scene.

    ReplyDelete

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