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Continuing with our examination of MFA tactics as additional “tools in the toolbox” for the control of structure fires, today’s post will consider the issue of ignoring viable options.  This topic is pertinent to every fire department because, thanks to the hard work of the ISFSI, UL, and many others in developing and distributing information about improvements to firefighting inspired by fire dynamics research, and the fact that these changes are merely modifications of traditional tactics that require no special equipment, we all have these “tools” at our fingertips already.  

(I know it’s not that simple, anymore than you could deliver a new type of equipment - say an instrument that calculates the density and flammability of smoke - to every fire department and then simply announce that they suddenly all have the capability of using that device.  Training and practice are required in order to ensure any change goes smoothly.  My point is that, unlike most improvements, MFA tactics are free for the taking, and, in my opinion, well worth the effort required to make them operational with any organization.) 

I once joined a volunteer fire company that had its circular saw stored - more accurately, hidden - on the department’s utility van.  That vehicle was the third-due on all alarms, after our two Engines, and transported personnel and equipment to the scene.  The steel box holding the saw served as a handy seat  (it being the pre-seat belt era), but was never opened on the fireground.  Our Fire Chief forbid its use anywhere near a burning building, referring to the gas-powered device as “a bomb”.  It had been purchased by an outside group, and, ours being a small town, was retained out of politeness.  Having previously been a member of departments that considered the circular saw a vital tool, it was hard to accept using axes and pry bars when a more efficient implement was available.  It was only after his retirement that we could begin to take advantage of its remarkable ability to penetrate a wide variety of materials. 

MFA tactics are considered by some to be “a bomb”, or similarly dangerous, and therefore to be avoided.  While it is true that operating a gasoline-powered device near open flames poses unique risks, if that is the sole rationale preventing the use of a tool found to be safe and effective by many other departments, then it suggests that caution has been supplanted by fear.  Despite the sometimes passionate resistance to the use of exterior streams before entry, that particular maneuver also has substantial evidence supporting its safety and effectiveness, suggesting that a similar over-reaction is at play.  Or, at least, that it deserves a more objective analysis before dismissing its utility and benefits.  

Still, sometimes a tool can’t be even taken out of its box until after a change in leadership occurs. 

MJC

The author can be reached at markjcotter@comcast.net

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