I usually question veteran firefighters that tell a recruit or new-be “Son! Never hit smoke with a hose stream – Only the “red-stuff”!” or “Never take your gloves off”. (For those of you who are scratching your head saying “Tommie told me to never hit smoke”! If your intent is to cool unprotected steel, like the underside of a metal deck roof you are crawling under and all you see is smoke up there – it’s OK to hit smoke! I’ll discuss the glove thing in a minute.)
You see, when we tell these “minds full of mush” that – they believe it. Just as the young firefighter that died in a high rise fire several years back did. He was told a “Never”. The plenum came down on him and he got his SCBA harness tangled in the wires (This was before Rick Lasky’s Saving Our Own). He was told in recruit school “never take your facepiece off”. That word “never” probably rang in his mind over and over again. You see, he was down about 5 feet from a door to the fire tower. Had he doffed his SCBA, held his breath, taken off his facepiece and bolted for the door, he may be at the kitchen table today, telling some new recruit to take what they tell you in drill school with a grain of salt and then relate his own story as to why.
They say “never” take your gloves off”. Never? I was blessed. When I was crawling around on floors and in hallways that were involved in fire, I didn’t wear a hood. We didn’t have them then. I knew when it was getting too hot or when the heat was building too fast. When you really begin to feel the heat inside your bunker gear, you might already be in trouble. I mean, when you are beginning to feel uncomfortable and have an urge to move and maybe rub the area due to the heat, it’s getting too hot. I don’t know how you guys do that now. As an officer, that’s one thing I want to know to protect my crew. I can only come up with two ways to tell about the heat condition in the environment I’m in as a firefighter - either to pull my hood slightly away from my cheek or to take my hand partially from my glove. Please, tell me how else do you know?
Also, If you were to stumble across me and I am down and my facepiece is off and you are going to try to put it back on me, PLEASE take your gloves off and do it better-quicker! If you begin to take your gloves off and your hands start to burn, we both have bigger problems than my facepiece! Think about it!
We’ll discuss some other “never’s” later. But till then, please be careful what you tell recruits! Qualify your comments and Never say Never!