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A lot of discussion was generated by my last post (Worth Dying For?! at http://community.fireengineering.com/profiles/blog/show?xg_source=a...]), both pro and con, and much of it quite strongly-worded.  (To me, the most amusing comments are from those who claimed to stop reading my post when they reached a point with which they particularly disagreed!)  Some questioned my motives, credentials, or sources; while others began side arguments about topics as varied as freedom of speech and personal responsibility.  Of note, of the persons who contacted me directly (my e-mail is always listed at the end of my posts, just like this one), two were complimentary and supportive of my stated viewpoint (both from fire officers), while one reader (a fellow FDIC instructor, among other attributes) offered a differing opinion, with our exchange also viewable on the link above.  Much additional discourse has occurred on other platforms without my involvement.

One of the primary stated concerns with my most recent post was this line: “Since the majority of life and property in a burning structure is lost long before our arrival, though, we are being told to “sacrifice” ourselves for the sake of a principle, not for any practical purpose.“  My sole direct critic pointed out - correctly - that this was an unverifiable opinion, and offered his opinion that such a statement might have dangerous repercussions for the fire service.  While the remainder of my post went on to acknowledge the continued need to perform interior operations for search and fire extinguishment, the sentence in question was likely the point at which many stopped reading; or at least seeing straight.  Putting hypothetical odds aside, we likely all agree that lots of people are killed by fire, lots of them are saved by our efforts (before and during fires), and we need to work diligently toward moving those numbers from the former to the latter category by using the most effective measures available.  

Whether you view my admittedly pessimistic assertion as refreshingly realistic or recklessly subversive, I am here admitting that it was not central to the theme of the article, the lack of data on the subject renders it moot, and I’m sorry I brought it up.  My intention was to convey that the poor survival odds of occupants, and the rapid destruction of contents and structure, should be factored into any risk/benefit analysis at a burning building, while many readers apparently instead interpreted it as me saying that no one can survive a fire long enough for us to intervene on their behalf.  Any perceived suggestion that I was recommending the abandonment, weakening, or even realignment of our core objectives of protecting life and property, much less the vital and time-sensitive process of interior search, would indicate a failure on my part as a communicator.  

Having spent years reading, writing, and teaching about structural firefighting, my goal has always been to help improve our collective skills and abilities in accomplishing our mission, not to cause, or become, a distraction.  That said, I still believe that urging firefighters to risk more in the pursuit of their mission has several inherent shortfalls that render it an inadequate approach, but I will endeavor to argue my position with less ambiguity, opinion, and provocation; and more clarity, reason, and thoughtfulness.  

MJC

The author can (still) be reached at markjcotter@comcast.net

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