Saturday, January 30, 2010

What kind of foam are you?

Over at All Hazards Contemplations, we're discussing some similarities between firefighting foams and fire officer and leadership characteristics. That may sound like a stretch, but there are actually many similar traits between foam and some fire officers. Firefighting foam has been around for a long time. The Navy, ARFF firefighters, and the petrochemical industry have used Class B foams for decades. When used properly, foam does a good job of extinguishing fire types for which water is not an efficient extinguishing media. Foam can be used on Class A fires, Class B fires, and for hazmat vapor suppression.

Different foams have different characteristics, are applied differently, and do different things. It may surprise you, but fire officers share several of those same features and characteristics. So, let’s think about the characteristics of different foams and apply them to fire officers.

Class A Foam

Class A foams are designed for one thing – fighting structural or woodland fires where the fuels are solid and have no special hazards. Class A foam does an excellent job of sealing air away from fuels and often result in less fire damage to a structure. Class A foams are very efficient at one thing, but they are a one-trick pony. Class A foams are useful as wildland fire barricades or for direct structural fire attack. However, Class A foams don’t produce much steam, so they are very ineffective when indirect fire attack is required, as in an attic fire.

Are you a Class A fire officer? Are you very good at one thing, but very ineffective at the other dimensions that make up your job? Do you perceive your job duties as “We just fight fires”? Are you uncomfortable with any emergency that doesn’t have smoke and flame showing?


CAFS is Class A foam that has air bubbles mechanically added at the pump so that the hoseline is pumping finished foam rather than foam solution. It makes the hoselines lightweight and easy to handle. It also makes the hoselines much easier to kink and completely shut off the foam flow than either water or Class A foam lines. Class A foam is high maintenance – it requires a compressed air pump in addition to the water pump.

Are you a CAFS officer? Are you light and frothy, without much substance? Do you seek the easy way to do things without considering that by making some things easier, you may be keeping the job from getting done at all some of the time? Do you require twice the motivation to work as other fire officers? Do you make others chase your “kinks” or otherwise add to others work because of how you do your work?

Protein-Based Foam

Protein Foams are designed for Class B liquid fires. They are old school, having been around since World War II. Protein foams are made from either animal blood and byproducts, from soybeans, or from a combination of both. They may have fluorine added to increase shelf life, but the fluorine adds environmental toxicity to the foam.

Are you a Protein-Based fire officer? Are you old school? Does something have to die to get you to work properly? Do you, like soybeans, create a lot of gas? Like flourine, are you toxic to the work environment? Do you have a long shelf life? Have you changed how you do things, but not enough despite getting the job done?


AFFF is a Class B foam that creates a vapor suppressing film between the foam bubbles and the fuel surface. It is very effective on spill fires. It is good to great at sealing flammable vapors into liquid fuel spills. The AFFF film is slick and oily. Applying other Class B foams atop AFFF usually results in the other foam sliding away due to the slickness in the AFFF. AFFF is good for suppressing polar solvent (alcohol) fires, but it requires twice as much concentration (6%) for this application as the normal (3%) application rate needed for hydrocarbon spill fires.

Are you an AFFF officer? Do you suppress anything that rises from below you? Do you do a good job, but have a slick and oily finish? Do other fire officers not mix well with you?


AR-AFFF is a new foam type that is similar to the older AFFF, but with several important differences. AR-AFFF is around 50% more expensive than standard AFFF. However, it is applied at 1% to hydrocarbon spill fires and 3% to polar solvent fires, so a given quantity of AR-AFFF will suppress three times as much fire as an equal quantity of standard AFFF. This results in an actual decrease in cost-per-gallon of the foam concentrate. Typical AR-AFFF is completely biodegradable, and is manufactured without the fluorine additives common to AFFF and protein foams. That makes it a much better choice for fighting both hydrocarbon and polar solvent fires. Additionally, AR-AFFF can be mixed at 0.5% and used as Class A foam for both wildland and structural firefighting applications, making it the most flexible foam currently available?

Are you an AR-AFFF officer? Are you flexible? Can you adjust your approach to adapt to different problems and challenges? Are you friendly to your work environment instead of using effective short-term solutions that leave long-term toxicity in your environment? Are you effective in handling a variety of emergencies rather than just being good at one thing? Can you adjust your intensity and concentration to fit with changes in your work environment?

High Expansion Foam

High Expansion Foam is designed to fill up confined spaces and exclude fire. It does not perform well in exposed positions, because its high expansion ratio makes it light, fluffy, and easy to blow away in a light wind. High expansion foam applications are so limited that most public fire departments don’t even carry it. High expansion foams require special application devices. They also require a lot more effort than conventional foams in order to be effective.

Are you a High Expansion officer? Do you require special treatment to be effective? Does it require additional effort by someone else to make you get the job done? Are you light and fluffy, without substance, and easily blown away by the winds of change? Are you comfortable only within narrowly-defined limits?

Hazmat Foam (vapor suppression foams)

Hazmat Foams are designed to suppress vapors from liquid hazmat spills. They are usually not effective for firefighting in Class A, Class B, or polar solvent fires. They are very, very good for one thing – preventing vapors from rising up from below. In this respect, hazmat foams are even more specialized and limited than is traditional AFFF. Hazmat foams are very effective not only at keeping vapors from entering the environment, but they are effective at keeping the environment out of the hazmat spill.

Are you a Hazmat Foam officer? Are you useless at firefighting? Do you suppress the idea vapors rising from your subordinates into the general environment? Do you work harder at keeping the environment out of your firehouse than you work at being an effective leader?

In conclusion, all firefighting and hazmat foams have their place. Good fire departments have access to all kinds of foam in order to handle a variety of fire and hazmat incidents with the best possible solution. However, not all “Foam Officer” types are good for either the fire department or for the firefighters. The best fire officers have AR-AFFF characteristics; they are flexible, they are good for several different problem types, they can suppress problems when needed, they are cost-effective, and while seeming more expensive on the surface, they actually save the department time, money, and effort in the long run.

And remember, even good fire officers, like good foam blankets are not perfect. Sometimes problems break through the fire officer's ability to handle them, just as the fire can break through the foam blanket.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Acceptable risks

It has been a little since I have made a post. I wanted to start with a statement I heard from a speaker representing a national organization at a state health and safety conference. He was the opening speaker by the way. The topic was on firefighter safety. As part of the presentation the individual who held a chief level position said that he considered it to be an acceptable risk for his firefighters to be unbelted in the patient compartment of the ambulance.

I restrained from reacting right in the middle of the session of over hundred safety officers and chiefs, but have to confess that I am still troubled by the fact that anyone would consider this an acceptable risk when there are safety features in the patient compartment to protect our personnel. Granted, the safety components are not the best and the design of the patient compartment is drawing national attention including the NFPA who is creating a standard. We should be looking at ways to protect our personnel and challenging others, NOT promoting it as an acceptable risk.

What are your thoughts on acceptable risk of firefighters being unbelted in any vehicle?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Houston? You Have A Problem!

There is a saying that goes something like this: “Ten ‘atta-boys’ can be quickly erased by one bad act”.

Such is the case with the Houston Fire Department. The men and women of this fire department get up every day and perform their duty for the citizens of Houston. A storied fire department, Houston FD has seen some of the largest fires in this country’s fire service history.

And yet; what has been capturing their public’s attention since July 7, 2009, are the allegations of racism and sexual harassment lodged against the department by female firefighters Paula Keyes and Jane Draycott.

I have spent several hours reading over the articles that I could find on the internet related to these allegations and the city’s and the fire department’s reactions to them. Also included are reactions from attorneys and the various firefighter associations that represent Houston firefighters.

The allegations are serious. The accusations that various inappropriate acts were ignored are a cause for concern, but what I found most disturbing were the comments left by readers on the many websites where articles of these accusations appeared. I found some of them to be racist, sexist and borderline psychotic. Some were posted by people who claimed to be current or past Houston firefighters, but as we all know, you can be anything that you want to be on the internet.

Following is a chronology of the events that I put together with the assistance of the information that I was able to find. My source credits will appear at the end of my article.

My comments will appear in bold type.

Tuesday, 7/7/09 – According to the article; racist, sexist graffiti was found on a locker at Station 54 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The fire department declined to provide details and the women were offered the services of the department psychologist to deal with it.

At the very least, this is willful damage to public property and worst case could be a hate crime.

Wednesday, 7/8/09 – Graffiti was found on the door to the female quarters at Station 54. Meanwhile, the City Council votes to spend $60,000 for sensitivity training after a “noose-like knot” was found in a veteran captain’s locker. The veteran captain said that it was a fisherman’s knot and he kept it to honor the firefighter who taught him how to tie it.
The Black Firefighters’ Association weighs in.

$60,000 could pay the one year salary of a firefighter. That’s a lot of money for “knot training”.

Thursday, 7/9/09 – Early Wednesday morning, the “N-word” was transmitted over a secure tactical radio frequency in a message that lasted eight seconds.
Allegations of previous harassments that went ignored appears.
11 News reported allegations of women being “groped” by male co-workers and in other incident, a male firefighter masturbated over a female co-worker while she tried to sleep.
Paula Keyes and Jane Draycott are introduced Wednesday evening on 7/8/09 at a press conference as the two firefighters from Station 54. Draycott stated that she had filed two complaints since April 1, 2009.

It should be mentioned that most of the focus was finding out how the radio system was hacked into and who did it. It was reported that it came from someone “outside of the department”.

Friday, 7/10/09 – Mayor Bill White rankles the Houston Professional Firefighters Association with his comments. Mayor White recommended hiring an outside consulting firm to review Houston Fire Department’s operation. He also recommended modifying two civil service rules; rules meant to assure due process for firefighters suspected of wrong-doing (slows the process according to the Mayor) and rules requiring promotions based largely on test scores (makes it difficult to put best leaders in place, according to the Mayor).
Mayor White promotes the Houston Fire Department as a “diverse” fire department, even though a survey shows that 97% of the 4,000-plus firefighters are men and 61% of them are white.
The union responded that changes in the rules would undermine the agreed upon contract.

Why would you recommend spending money with a consulting firm to tell you what you already know? And unless that firm is well-versed in the cultural issues of the fire service, they will find that many corporate strategies will be ineffective.

Houston KTRK reported that Keyes and Draycott have more than eight years with the department. Their attorney claims that previous, unresolved incidents led to his clients going public with incidents that included having the cold water shut off to the shower so they were scalded with hot water, having firecrackers go off when they opened the restroom stall doors and having their mattresses removed from their beds.

It would almost sound like “hazing” incidents wouldn’t it, if not for the fact that both firefighters were well past their probationary time with the department.

Allegations were made that Houston FD’s Chief Boriske’s inaction with other claims led to recent problems. The Houston Black Firefighters’ Association called for strong leadership that they claimed the department was not getting.
The Houston Professional Firefighters’ Association believed that Chief Boriske was being unfairly targeted.
Houston city councilwoman Jolanda Jones was calling for a Justice Department investigation.

Sunday, 7/19/09 – The Houston Chronicle reported that Station 54’s captain’s log revealed “chaos in the making”.
More incidents were reported including: urine splattered in the women’s restroom and personal lockers ransacked, because the women did not have the keys to lock them.
Daily captain’s log showed at least six entries since April 1, 2009 that showed Keyes and Draycott were being harassed by co-workers.
The May 12, 2009 entry involved urine left on the bowls of the women’s toilet.
Station 54 had a policy prohibiting men from going into the women’s dorm.
Boriske stated that he “didn’t believe there is a systemic gender or racial problem at Houston Fire Department”.
The June 13, 2009 roll call at Station 54 included a review of the harassment rules.
On June 19, 2009, cold water was shut off to the women’s showers and urine was splattered on the women’s toilet.
On June 29, 2009, captain log indicated that both women notified their captains that they were going to the city’s inspector general’s office to complain.

At this point, I would find it safe to say that, if the alleged incidents were allegedly occurring, then allegedly, these two women were allegedly displaying alleged and uncommon tolerance. And Boriske’s assessment was barely audible.

On July 7, 2009, the words “Die (racial slur)” and “(racial slur) Lover” were scrawled on the walls of the women’s dorm. Women’s lockers were grazed with the same marker. A picture of Draycott and her daughter, who had been killed in an auto accident and kept in Draycott’s locker, had the words “Die (racial slur)” and “Dead” written over their faces.
Draycott also claimed that men came into her room while she was off-duty, even though the area was off-limits to men and cut their toenails on her bed, used her desk drawers as Skoal spittoons, took her mattress and rifled through her locker.

Take the pictures out of the equation and look at the rest of it. Spitting tobacco juice into a desk drawer is just uncouth and you would never get the smell out. If you didn’t get the toenails out of your bed, it would be like lying on broken glass. How do make up stuff like that?

According to Draycott, she thought that the attraction to her room may be the TV that was in there, even though there were at least three other TVs in the station. Acting upon her suspicion, she took the TV out of her room and put it in her locker, only to come back to duty to find the TV out again. When she confronted her captain, it was decided that the TV would not be in her room.
Hours after telling reporters about their problems, the two women were finally issued keys for their personal lockers.

Would anyone care to make a guess as to how expensive the keys to the lockers are going to be, regardless of the outcome of the complaints?

Tuesday, 7/21/09 – Keyes and Draycott have agreed to take lie detector tests, following accusations that one of them may be behind the graffiti, so Jane Draycott agreed to take a polygraph test that, according to her attorney, she passed.

The results may not be admissible in any court proceedings, but it has powerful sway with the public, where credibility has been questioned.

Wednesday, 7/22/09 – The probe is delayed because the lawyers who were hired by the city were found to have ties to the city’s attorney.

Thursday, 7/23/09 – A letter describing a meeting between Houston city council member Jolanda Jones and the Houston Professional Firefighters’ Association is made public. Jeff Caynon, president of the HPFFA and who is black was called a “house Negro” by Jones. Jones claimed that she was only repeating what she had heard from others.

Wednesday, 8/5/09 – Draycott was ordered to provide a handwriting sample to the inspector general.
The city hired two law firms for $190,000 to look for “institutional” problems in the fire department.

So far, a quarter million dollars has been spent on a “bridge to nowhere” and in a city where not too long ago, they were struggling with keeping fire trucks in service.

Tuesday, 12/8/09 – The review of the fire department conducted by the lawyers was completed with recommendations made for improving the fire department. The report shows no systemic problems, but rather, isolated problems and the report comes out just 4 days before the elections.
Keyes went back to work but to a different fire station. Draycott stayed on paid administrative leave.

Thursday, 12/17/09 –The legality of the court order for the handwriting sample submitted by Draycott is questioned by a civil rights attorney. City counters that it was done within the legal framework.

Thursday, 1/14/10 – A letter asking female firefighter Jane Draycott to stay away from her job was read on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 by fellow firefighters at Station 54. She left after four hours and will not return to work until the probe is complete, according to her attorney.

Friday, 1/15/10 – Draycott told Houston KTRK that when she returned to Station 54 on Wednesday, January 13, 2010, she was met by Chief Boriske, his command staff and Captain Brian Williamson who read a letter. Chief Boriske described it as a “team-building” meeting that didn’t go well. Draycott left after four hours of what she called “four hours of harassment”.
Newly elected Mayor Annise Parker condemned the meeting and Chief Boriske for allowing it. Mayor Parker stated that poor treatment of women in the department will stop.
In the midst of sexual harassment allegations, the HFD Pipes and Drums organization unveiled their fund-raising calendar. The cover displays a “scantily clad” female firefighter. It was quickly pointed out that the fund-raising calendar is not sanctioned by the Houston Fire Department.
Draycott insisted that she will return to A shift at Station 54 and “will not be run off”.
Still, questions of disciplinary action over the “team-building meeting” remain.
Former head of the Black Firefighters’ Association Otis Jordan called for Chief Boriske to resign, claiming “the department is out of control”.
Mayor Parker called for Chief Boriske to investigate the behavior of Captain Brian Williamson and two other firefighters who read letters aloud to Draycott upon her return.
The Mayor vowed to take appropriate action once the inspector general’s investigation is complete. She also wants guidance on whether departmental rules were violated by anyone involved with the HFD Pipes and Drums fund-raising calendar.
Heather Arnold, the Houston firefighter who posed for the cover of the calendar said “that she was honored to do it for such a good cause”.

So, in case you lost track, you now have attorneys for both sides, the Mayor, City Council, Inspector General’s office, Chief Boriske, the Houston Professional Firefighters’ Association, former head of the Black Firefighters’ Association and City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones ALL involved in this matter AND with little agreement on what if anything should be done.

Tuesday, 1/19/10 – Chief Phil Boriske stepped down as chief and to return to his previous position as District Chief. Executive Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan was appointed interim Chief by Mayor Parker. It came one week after a public rebuke by Mayor Parker for his handling of Draycott’s return to Station 54, where he was present while letters opposing her return were read.
Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Firefighters’ Association said that “Boriske was a victim of his own good nature and management style…opportunist politicians, extremist activists and disgruntled city employees…”
Houston Fire Department announced a new program for young women who want to be firefighters. CampHoustonFire will take qualified, high school females into the program to give them a “hands on learning experience about the rigors and rewards” of firefighting.

Saturday, 1/23/10 – Boriske will return as the District Chief to Station 78.
Captain Brian Williamson was transferred from Station 54 to Station 53.
Captain Isidro Tamez of Station 54 was transferred to Station 102.
Four other firefighters from Station 54 have requested transfers.

In closing, it is very apparent that, should the allegations prove to have merit, then it is imperative that corrective actions be taken to address the immediate internal problems. Then, a plan to address any future issues of the kinds described must be put into place and enforced with zero tolerance for violations.
Everyone has the right to a workplace free of harassment of any kind.
It is very clear that there is much to do to repair the damage that has already been done to the public’s perception of their fire department.
In the meantime, the good men and women of Houston Fire Department will fulfill their oath to the citizens of Houston.

Source links:

Related links:

The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Executing Effective Tactical Plans

When we look at various buildings and occupancies, past operational experiences; those that were successful, and those that were not, give us experiences that define and determine how we access, react and expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future. Naturalistic (or recognition-primed) decision-making forms much of this basis. We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a predictable given duration of time; that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system; in addition to having an appropriately trained and skilled staff to perform the requisite evolutions.

Executing tactical plans based upon faulted or inaccurate strategic insights and indicators has proven to be a common apparent cause in numerous case studies, after action reports and LODD reports. Our years of predictable fireground experience have ultimately embedded and clouded our ability to predict, assess, plan and implement incident action plans and ultimately deploy our companies-based upon the predictable performance expected of modern construction and especially those with engineered structural systems.

Are your tactical incident actions plans taking into consideration, occupany risks versus the basis of occupancy type? How are you compensating for occupancies with actual or suspected engineered structural systems (ESS)?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don't pass up your opportunities to celebrate

Recently I was given an incredible honor when I was invited to give the keynote address for the Firefighter 1 graduating class for the Garrison (Minnesota) Fire Department. When I was invited to do this, I wondered “why me?” After all, Garrison is a couple hours away from where I live. The training Captain for Garrison, Mike Schneider had attended a seminar I taught about 10 months previous. Prior to that, and since then, I’d had no contact with Mike or anyone from his department. I didn’t know what to expect. I did a quick Internet search where I learned Garrison had a population of 213.

Needless to say, I didn’t hold out very high expectations for what the event would entail… and shame on me because I was about to get my eyes opened wide. I met Mike at the station. While it was a modest facility, it was clean. The gear was in order. The trucks were clean. During my tour Mike showed me the training room where the wall was peppered with leadership and motivation quotes. He was quick to point out that a number of those quotes were from my books “On Fire! About Leadership” and “Fireground Command Decision Making.”

That was a very humbling thing for me to see. Like many authors, I don’t get much feedback about the things I write which often leaves me wondering if anyone is reading this stuff and if they are, is it making a difference? In Garrison, Minnesota my material was not only being read, but was posted for everyone to read. Wow!

We went to City Hall for the ceremony in a room that would comfortably seat about 40 people. Fire department members attended to setting up the room and preparing refreshments while members of the VFW rehearsed the presentation of colors. I thought to myself “This is a big deal… a REALLY BIG DEAL.” The guests arrived and they filled the room to capacity. The graduates sat in the front row in class B uniforms devoid of the badges that would be pinned on during the ceremony.
In preparation for my address I reminisced to my early days as a firefighter and reflected on all the lessons I had learned over the past 30 years. I wanted to tell these recruits so many things – more than time would allow. I wanted my message to focus on their responsibilities and commitment to serve humankind to be loud and clear. My message would be to them. The rest of the audience – representing roughly 20 percent of the town’s population – would just be spectators to this discussion. It was a very emotionally charged speech.

Words cannot describe how proud I was of each of them, how proud I was that they invited me to speak at this ceremony, and how proud I was at that moment to be a firefighter. Yet, in spite of my intense pride I was also ashamed – ashamed that I had not celebrated more of these events in the organizations I had led. I now realize, although too late, what an injustice it was for me not to be the champion of more celebrations.

Congratulations Mike, Vickie, Clay, Chad, Jorge, Josh, Mike, and Bill. Your community now depends on you to put service above self.

Something good is going to happen in your organization in the coming weeks or months. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate it.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP

Encourage One Another

Ever notice that we rarely take the time to encourage someone along in something they may be dealing with or working on. Have you ever felt that no one really cared if you accomplished a task or assignment they have given you? When was the last time you were cheered on or better yet you cheered someone else on? It is rarely too late to stop what you are doing and make that call, take time out of your day to talk personally to someone, send an email or that a note or card. Letting fellow comrades and others know just how much we appreciate them or how much we are supporting them is an outstanding thing to do. Just think of the impact it will have not only on that individual but the organization as this simply act will likely be reciprocated to others. This creates a domino effect.

All of this is not about coaching, mentoring or managing, though acts of encouragement are parts of these realms as well. This is purely just doing the "nice" thing. I know this takes very little time and has a huge impact on individuals which affect organizations. Just a hint from brother/ sister to brother / sister in the fire service each of us can say and do things to either hearten or dishearten each other. Having a culture in which people feel valued and appreciated is a large part of what makes the department outstanding.

My challenge to each of you is... see what we can do every day to send positive encouragement to another person's day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Can Brown Do For You?

The simple answer s that he can give you hope.

I am not referring to what he can do as a United States Senator from Massachusetts. I am referring to how he did it and using THAT as a model for those of us in the fire service that are fighting for the very life blood of our fire departments in our respective communities.

A quick political science lesson on this extraordinary accomplishment of Scott Brown, in my opinion:
1) A large segment of America is not happy with the direction that the country is going and all of the chicanery by the politicians who have gotten us there.
2) A Democrat has held that seat since 1966; Martha Coakley was anointed as the successor to the legendary “Lion of the Left”, Senator Ted Kennedy and ran with a sense of entitlement, not to mention a 20-point lead in the polls going into December. She grossly underestimated her opponent and the independent voters in Massachusetts.
3) Scott Brown traveled to the small cities, rural communities and suburbs in his pick up truck, gaining support, regaining trust and pulled off a modern day miracle.

Why should we give pause to think about this candidate and the race he ran and won?

Because we, the fire service, have to prepare for smaller government and Life after much of the federal grant money goes away…and it will!

I have always believed that funding a fire department is a state/local issue. The reason that I include “state” is because in Illinois, we have state-wide MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF). These agencies should be funded by the state for obvious reasons.

However; our local fire departments should be funded by our citizens and the communities that we serve, because THEY determine what services, if any, that we provide. It doesn’t matter if it is a full-time, career department, a paid on call or a volunteer department; the community, through their elected/appointed officials decides how that is to be accomplished or not.

We cannot be “Martha Coakleys”, believing that we are entitled to whatever level of service that WE think the community should have. We serve the people; they don’t serve us. Therefore; we cannot jam anything down their throats, using the scare tactics that are so common today in government.

We need to be “Scott Browns”, educating our citizens about what we do. They already know why, but we have to give them the information to make informed decisions on their fire protection.

First and foremost, they have to provide for our personal safety and if we have to explain why, then we do that. When the discussion turns to the bigger ticket items such as fire trucks and new stations, the road might get bumpy, but by stating the facts and keeping emotions in check, proper justifications may prove successful. At least you can argue that fire trucks are still part of the personal safety equation.

New stations, unless it significantly improves insurance ratings, may only be seen as higher taxes with no immediate, tangible benefits and the community might very well decide that they don’t want that.

Unless you can prove the value to the community for more elaborate equipment like extrication, trench and structural collapse equipment, you may be limited to providing basic fire protection.

We have to ask ourselves if WE want it more than they do and if the answer is “yes”, then prepare for disappointment, unless you have the time to raise the funds without raising taxes.

As Scott Brown proved, you’re going to have to take the small victories and disappointments and work those into bigger victories.

Until then, protect yourselves, be the best that you can be and keep moving towards gaining and then keeping the trust of your communities, because, in the end, it will be that trust that will allow you to expand your services.

And it will be with the buy in of your community.


This article is protected under federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form without the expressed written permission of Art Goodrich aka ChiefReason. This article appears under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella.
Visit on

Monday, January 18, 2010

Is Your Fire Department a Service Delivery Organization or Just a Social Club

I remember back as a child (40+ years ago) watching the Flinstones. Fred and Barnie had joined the local fire department. This sound pretty normal for two average guys. However, at a specific time on Tuesday nights the fire siren (a pterodactyl) would sound. All the firefighters would rush to the fire station for a supposed call. Then they proceeded to play cards. Service Delivery or social club.

Unfortunately that same scenario may not play out exactly like that today but I would challenge you to look around you closely. How much service delivery is truly going on? How much of a social club exists in the fire service today? Ok, before you beat me up too much, I am the first person who loves the commrodary of the fire service. In volunteer organizations the ability to be part of a group is important! But lets face it...we have a bigger issue. Some organizations only let in who they want...aka the good ole buddy system. they could care less if the person was a great addition to the team. I know departments that will get applications and tell the individual there is a waiting list and turn around and ask another individual to be a part of the group. Guess being in the "clique" has advantages. I know you are thinking here I am bashing volunteer fire departments. That truely is not the case as I am involved in one my self. Career departments do the same thing and it goes as far as being on a station or company level.

What should we really be focused on? First and foremost it is the service delivery we provide to the community and the citizens. We should be working tirelessly to make our communities better prepared, educated and safer from fires, disasters and the everyday hazards that exist. This means that we need to be expanding our realms to new demensions. We should be taking proactive approaches to mitigate hazards, disasters and fire before they occur. I know most firefighters don't get as pumped up about helping properly install a car safety seat as fighting a working structure fire but where do you have the greatest potential for impact?

Here's a challenge:
  • Do an intra-inspection on yourself and orgaqnization... what do you see?
  • When you see these issues occuring be the change agent.
  • Don't fall into this trap yourself.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fire Behavior Acting Badly; Rowhouse Fire Close Call

Five Baltimore City (MD) firefighters were injuried as a powerful fireball engulfed the front of the dwelling. One firefighter was hospitalized and is reported in stable condition. Two other firefighterrs were hurt during overhaul. The fire in a rowhouse was being worked, when conditions rapidly changed resulting in the extreme fire behavior.
  • As a company or command officer are you maintaining a keen level of situational awareness of fire conditions and observing and predicting fire behavior?
  • When fire behaves badly, there may be little time to react and overcome the severity and magnitude of those self-revealing conditions in a timely manner to preclude injury.
  • What's your dashboard readings telling you when you're observing and reading fire behavior indicators, smoke and scanning the fire scene? Are you monitoring or passive?
  • According to published reports, the early morning fire began in the basement and quickly traveled to the first floor.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Means to an End-A Bad One!

In my last blog, I wrote about how nepotism gone unchecked could adversely affect a fire department and leave it on “life support”.

Here is an example of how to kill a fire department.

The source for my comments comes from

(William) “Celtruda’s grandfather Rocco, a long time fire volunteer, said he got ‘Billy’ involved in the fire service thinking it would help his grandson mature. ‘He’s 23 years old physically, but his emotional security is much more that of a teenager…When he drinks, he loses his moral compass’.”

Oh; it gets better.

Grandpa Rocco went on to say, “…that his grandson is basically ‘a good kid’ who immediately took responsibility for his actions”.

Hmmm; could it be because ‘Billy’ got caught?

I mean; all’s he did was to set THREE fires: two in occupied homes! Fortunately, no one died, but lives were changed forever.

If William Celtruda was taking responsibility for his actions, then why did he offer excuses at his sentencing?

William Celtruda blamed his drug use (crystal meth) and peer pressure from his fellow firefighters as excuses for setting the fires.

To the judge’s credit, she gave Celtruda the maximum 14 years in prison and five years probation in a case that had already been plea bargained by the prosecutor.

So; 23 year-old ‘Billy’ Celtruda vandalized his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle, had mental health issues and a drug abuse problem that Firefighter Grandpa Rocco thought that the Mystic Fire Department could help him straighten out?

Yeah; that worked out well, didn’t it?

A total of six occupants in three homes are lucky to be alive and thankfully, no firefighters died while fighting the arson fires set by Celtruda.

Young Billy will be all grown up when he gets out of prison. Then, he must go to work to pay $60,000 in restitution to the victims. Civil suits may also be filed.

Maybe in his spare time, Celtruda could volunteer for a fire department.

I mean; since the fire service is so hard up for members, who’s going to bother with a background check?

And even if a department does a check, Billy will simply tell them that it was long ago, that he’s “changed” and deserves a second chance. The sad part of that statement is that there is a department that might be foolish enough to do it!

We all make mistakes and here’s your gear. Do us proud, Billy!

When will the insanity stop?

When all departments are required to have a meaningful application process, including interviews and background checks, physicals including drug testing and a real desire to hire good citizens.

Otherwise, they are just adding to a growing problem and one that fire departments and communities cannot afford.


The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit:

Aggressive v/s Reckless Tactics

There is a general attitude of “It won’t happen to me” in the fire service when it can. Safety and survival starts prior to the incident and continues throughout the incident with actions and attitudes both before and during the incident.
For years I have heard firefighters internationally say, "we have to be aggressive when combating fires, that's what we do." I pose the question, "are we being aggressive or are we being reckless in our tactics?" There is a fine line that often gets crossed. It is feed by the mentality "this is the way we have always done it or I have been doing this for years and nothing has ever happened". I want folks to stop and think differently for a moment, if you were playing Russian Roulette what would be your odds? Now revert back to some of the tactical operations and decisions that you have either made or were required to care out. What were the outcomes? What were the "odds" that the outcomes could have been different?

To be blunt most times these aggressive mentality involved no rescue efforts, the building was non-tenable and torn down within 30 days after the event. So what did we really gain? ...experience, instant gratification of being able to fight fire??? All for what?...experience that embeds outdated tactics and philosophies, risks far exceeding the benefits, and it is all fun until somebody gets hurt or killed. Then we write it off as part of the job and what is expected. (I have actually heard that more times than I care too.)

Aggressive is good only when it is calculated based upon true situational awareness and evaluated based upon a risk benefit analysis where the gains are high and probable for positive outcomes. Reckless will eventually catch up to you. Risk a lot for a savable human life, risk nothing for what can be replaced.

Remember to stay safe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Columbia Fire Department - Staffing Puts Fire Out

In the midst of all the feel good stories circulating in the Simulacrum it is time to focus on what is a fact and not a myth. Staffing, per NFPA 1710-1720 or better, puts fires out with a reduction in injuries to firefighters and civilians. Instead of focusing on what's not working let us praise a department that does it correctly, albeit in the midst of a turbulent year.

On a frigid night in late December this author was sitting with members of Engine Company 13 in Columbia, SC. Tones dropped indicating a fire in a hotel with multiple calls stating the fire was visible and victims were inside. Four engines, two ladders, two rescues and three chief officers were on the initial alarm. Each of the apparatus carried four personnel per NFPA 1710. (We covered this at Halligan and Hose's Website)

Riding with Engine 13 the author saw smoke rising into the sky as Ladder 7 reported on scene with fire showing from the Alpha side of the structure. Engine 13 arrived right behind and the Captain and his crew stretched a line to the interior hallway to block the fire from the rest of the building. Occupants were pouring out of the upper floor.

As the ladder and additional units went to work it became clear that what started as a major fire was quickly being reduced via the efforts of the full staffed first alarm assignment. Even as a second alarm was called, and it was the proper call, Engine 13 was knocking the bulk of the fire back into the rooms of origin. To make a long story short they got the fire under control along with the balance of the first alarm.

No lives were lost and property damage, at $300,000, was significantly less than what anyone would have predicted arriving on scene. Several factors contributed to a sterling effort:

  1. Staffing
  2. Aggressive Interior Attack - (put the fire out and it saves lives)
  3. Coordinated Efforts
  4. ICS
Though Columbia has been a victim of closed engines (2 were out of service. One has been reopened and the second will reopen next month) they have maintained staffing. Risk analysis is in use and the firefighters and command officers understand what they are up against. In some locations this fire would have taken lives.

That's the bottom line.

The Tradition Expedition

In between my writing of blogs and participating in discussion threads, I read some of the other blogs.

I have my favorites and for the most part, I will keep you guessing, because I don’t want to influence the voting for the 2009 Best Blog of the Year (Here).

However; I think that I have read almost every article written by Jason Zigmont of No; it isn’t a plug. In fact, I may have just cursed him. Sorry, Jason.

Jason’s recent article, “The Traditions That Hold Us Back” (Here) couldn’t be timelier.

I had just finished a blog on “tradition”, read Jason’s blog; then wadded mine up and threw it away, because he caused me to look at the subject of tradition once again.

To me, which is to say that it is my opinion that Jason writes with a style that is not layered to the point that you miss the point! His article, as usual, makes excellent key points.

Now; for my thoughts on the subject of “tradition”.

I don’t believe that a revolution to kill traditions is taking place in the fire service. Instead, I believe that there is an evolution of our fire services’ traditionalism that will define it for generations to come.

The oldest of traditions-that of generations of families sending their members into the proud service of their fellow Man as firefighters-will continue unencumbered.

However; another old tradition involving generations of families that will end up on the endangered species list is the practice of nepotism. Many of us can work with our relatives without enlisting them for some sinister scheme to control our workplace.

But, nepotism almost guarantees that anything bad that can happen WILL happen. I have no problems with a father/son combo, where no special treatment is imagined or real. My problem is with families who seize control of a fire department, plunders it for their personal gain and then leaves it on life support.

Yes; that is a tradition that we can do without and communities that allows it, are ignorant of it or don’t care about it, perpetuates the tradition. Firefighters AND communities must change it.

Another tradition that I hope to see less of are the LODD funerals. I am speaking to the NUMBER of funerals. Traditionally, no less than 100 LODD funerals a year are conducted in this country and countless more firefighter funerals of brothers and sisters taken by illness, disease and old age.

With that said, we must preserve the sanctity and solemn ceremony to pay our proper respects to our fallen brothers and sisters. It is a tradition that must never erode, fade or disappear.

We should not allow tradition that will constrain our thirst for new technologies, tactics or services to our communities.

We should do what we can to change the tradition that says that we can do more with less (See LODD funerals). We are at a point of diminishing returns and a new tradition of closing stations, reducing manpower and having rotating brown outs are taking hold (See LODD funerals). The veterans who have served on properly staffed and properly funded departments must remain engaged in the fight to get their resources restored and put the next generation on solid footing or we risk donning the Class A’s for more funerals.

We must preserve the tradition of firehouse cooking, but we need to eliminate high salt, high sugar and high fat meals. Healthy diets and healthy lifestyles will help battle the growing cardiac episodes and cancer rates in our fire service.

The firehouse, kitchen table discussions is a tradition that has not only continued, but has flourished by expanding to Internet website discussion boards (Here).

Heated topics with heated debates cools quickly when the tones drop at the firehouse, but they don’t cool as quickly on a website. Some will promote respectful debate while others will promote what could be akin to UFC matches. Hopefully, in the end, participants will invoke the tradition of handshakes from one brother to another.

The last tradition that I will touch upon is the tradition of driving fast to the incident-too fast to be more accurate. We must drive with due regard, with a sense of urgency and always with the safety of our firefighters and our citizens in mind. And wearing our seatbelts is a no brainer.

So; what is our finest tradition?

I believe that it is teaching, learning, making a difference and then going home to our loved ones.

We must always remember that the future of our fire service won’t be determined by the ones leaving, but the ones who are taking their places and we must give them every opportunity to succeed.

That will insure that their department and our fire service will also succeed.

In the meantime, we have to figure out which traditions to keep and which ones to write into the history books.

For more on the subject, see Tiger: Here and Here.


The article is protected by federal copyright law under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella. It is written and submitted by Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. This article or any other article submitted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella cannot be reproduced in ANY form without the expressed, written permission of the author. Violations are punishable by applicable laws.
Please visit:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Info Needed - Vintage Explosion, Backdraft?

My posts here have slimmed down for the pure sake of having my own personal site hacked into by the infamous Turkish Hacker. Look it up in a search, I almost feel honored in a sick way that the same guy who hacked dutch governments and his own Turkish governments hacked mine as well. The second hack infested my old site with malware which was impossible to eliminate. This was because I had so much content, and how could you find the proverbial needle in the hay stack. Needless to say, I have new blogger based site reconstructed at the same old address:

Now that things have slowed down a bit I should be able to share some videos with you all.

This first video is a never seen before (Well at least I have not seen it), and it comes with no information. Any help on location, date, or background would be greatly appreciated.

Twenty Ten

As we've transitioned into a new year, and as plans begin to take place that frame and outline the year’s activities, foremost in this planning, preparation, scheduling and outlook should be those activities and commitments that training, education and skill development can be implemented and enhanced. Take the initiative to recognize and identify training and operational gaps and distinguish the risk and options available to lessen or eliminate the risk and reduce the gap deficiencies. Take the time to implement effective, accurate and frequent training and skill development drills, training curriculums and programs.

Don’t sacrifice or forego on this mission critical area when so much is at stake in the domain of combat structural fire suppression. Understand the predictability of performance in the buildings and occupancies not only in your jurisdiction, first or second-due areas, but also in those areas that you may be called upon to respond to for greater alarms or mutual aid. Remember Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.

Keep an eye in the rear view mirror; learning from the wisdom and knowledge from where you’ve been, what you’ve done and all your past experiences and practice; but at the same time focusing on the road before you with keen attentiveness on situational awareness, anticipating error-likely conditions and balanced risk assessment and operational management in both your strategic and tactical deployments.

Twenty Ten (2010)
Here are twenty (20) Suggested activities or initiatives for you to consider in 2010….
Above all, be safe in all your endeavors, assignments and incident tasks.
Continue Reading Twenty Ten

  1. Regardless of my years of experience, I will increase my understanding of the basic principles of Building Construction, because; Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
  2. Identify ten (10) buildings within your first-due or response district and complete a pre-fire plan and present this to my company of organization.
  3. Identify an area where new residential construction is underway and follow the construction process from foundation through completion to gain an understanding of operational issues.
  4. I will complete the UL Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions online course and implement the lessons learned in my strategic and tactical operations.
  5. I will not take any building or occupancy for granted, and shall take all precautions to ensure crew integrity and safety during my task assignments.
  6. Complete a 360 assessment of all buildings upon arrival, when ever feasible to gain reconnaissance information on the building and incident risks and implement this info into my strategic, tactical plans or company task assignments.
  7. Research the issues affecting; Engineered Structural Systems (ESS), Fire Behavior/Fire Dynamics or Fire Suppression Management/Fire Loading and develop a training drill to share the lessons learned.
  8. Select a new or previous published fire service text book and read up on a subject area that I may have neglected or ignored to increase my skill set.
  9. Implement an objective approach towards effective risk assessment and profiling of all buildings and occupancies during incident operations and implement balanced tactical deployment with aggressive/measured assignments; recognizing that my company and I are not invincible.
  10. During demanding Combat Structural Fire Engagements, I will; Do the Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reasons and will not practice Tactical Entertainment.
  11. Read the Report of the Week (ROTW) on the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System web site and share the operating experience (OE) lessons with my company or department, to reduce the likelihood of a similar or more serious event.
  12. I will read Ten (10) NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports and present the lessons learned in a discussion, table top, drill or training program.
  13. I will attend a regional or national training conference to increase my perspective and awareness of other firefighting, safety or operational methodologies, process or practices to increase firefighter safety in my home organization.
  14. I will increase my understanding of the NFFF Everyone Goes Home Program initiatives, including the Sixteen Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, Safety Thru Leadership and the Courage to Be Safe Programs and other new program initiatives and advocate and promote enhanced safety measures in my organization.
  15. I will advocate and promote safe and defensive apparatus operations during emergency responses and will always buckle-up my seat belt and ensure my crew is always belted-in, not placing my company at risk and obeying traffic signals and postings.
  16. I will implement the New Rules of Engagement during combat structural fire operations; while monitoring and reacting to on-going building performance and fire behavior.
  17. I will increase my understanding of the Predictability of Building Performance and base my operational deployments on Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type.
  18. I will become a mentor to a new or less experienced firefighter and promote the traditions, honor and duty of our fire service profession, tempered with an emphasis on firefighter safety, survival and wellness.
  19. I will take NO emergency incident responses as being routine in nature, due to frequency , regularity or past performance, demands or outcomes, nor will I take any building for granted; Company, Team and personal safety and integrity is paramount and I will not be complacent, but remain vigilant based upon my training, skills and experience.
  20. This one’s for you to identify and fill in………..
Ensure you’re glancing occasionally in your rear view mirror to monitor where you’ve been, while driving your initiatives, programs, processes and actions forward. Above all, maintain the courage to be safe. 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; today, throughout 2010 and certainly well into this new decade and beyond. Be Safe....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Leaders Die, But Their Legacy Lives On

The fire service each year loses leaders to the hands of time. Over the years I have witnessed many fire service leaders pass on. Fortunately I have seen their legacy live on in others. This is a tribute to their leadership ability. On January 2, 2010 the Vermont and the Nation's fire service lost another leader, Chief Ralph Jackman. Serving the fire service for most of his adult life at 85 years young he was still giving his heart and soul to the fire service and his community. Chief Jackman accomplished something many leaders only dream of, that is serving as a fire chief for 50+ years.

His loss will be felt for many years with his family, friends and colleagues in the fire service. However, rest assured his leadership will live on. I know this because he shared a small part of that with me which has had large impacts with me personally. Chief Jackman inspired me in many ways. His leadership will be seen each time there is an Addison County Fire School, Each time the Vergennes Fire Department is dispatched and in the years to come as his mentees continue to lead the fire service.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned within this short piece and I want to share the one that has impacted me the most. Chief Jackman was a chief to many more people than just the Vergennes Firefighters, he was a firefighters chief. He always cared about everyone, giving tirelessly to others, serving the every need someone had and expecting nothing in return. I was impacted by Chief Jackman several years ago while teaching at the Addison County Fire School. His mere presence made everyone strive to a new level of excellence, give that extra 10% you didn't know you had just by walking into the room. He was a man who could inspire you by his quick smile and wit. He was progressive seeking new, improved and safer ways to do business. He believed in education and training. His hospitality was given to mere strangers and he shared everything ounce of knowledge he had.

His legacy will live one in those he touched. However, I want it to go further than that...I want it to touch as many people as it possibly can as his passion for serving others impacted me in so many ways. To every chief, company officer and firefighter my challenge to you is be the best you can be. Understand, embrace and respect the responsibilities you have. Officers, take responsibility, be the leader your supposed to be.

"...It is the Fire officers of today who will lead the way in determining whether we revel in traditions of the past, seek comport in the practices of the present, or explore ways on how to improve in the future..." - Louis J. Amabili, Former Director , Delaware State Fire School and International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).

In closing I want to challenge you to carry on the legacy of the great fire service leaders who have gone before us like most recently Chief Ralph Jackman. The fire service is counting on you.
Web Analytics