Saturday, November 14, 2009

Going Where The Heat Rises

Firefighting is a dirty, labor intensive job that requires intelligence, strength, and courage. Trying to break the process of fighting fires down into a sterile process culminates in failure on the fireground.

This is evident daily at fires across the country. Just a few weeks back a fire took hold of the second floor of an apartment building housing eight units and more than 24 people. Firefighters arrived and began an aggressive attack on the Alpha side to prevent spread from the Charley -Alpha corner.

The entire process involved split second decisions as crews were ordered into apartments adjacent to the one burning. Ceiling were pulled, additional line stretched, primary searched were conducted and truckies began opening up. All of this occurred in a building that had fire spreading horizontally through the attic. It was dangerous but that's part of a firefighters job.

Contrast that with a fire the author witnessed months earlier where similar circumstances existed. Fire began to spread via the common cockloft and firefighters were withdrawn in a hasty manner. The result was an entire apartment building being lost when it could have been checked at the second apartment.

Some argue it doesn't matter if the property burns or not but that is intellectually dishonest. It does matter when the property can be saved. For many in the second scenario described, all they had was what was in their apartments and the majority could have been saved with hard work, courage and fire smarts.

No one openly advocates the exchanging of a firefighters life for property. However, in the real world, risk is real and cannot be reduced to zero. Firefighting is dangerous and still requires people willing to go in harms way. Far from the sterile lab the job of a firefighter is filled with high heat, smoke, and the ability to place a hose line in the proper place.

That is the modern, and traditional, approach to the job of a firefighter.
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