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Many things are being discussed in our service today. My take on things is a mix I suppose you could say between sides of the fence that the Fire Service has created. We have the "Safety Sallies" in the blue corner and the "Aggressives" in the red corner. I did the groups in specific corners for a reason, if you figure it out wonderful, if not, sorry. Many issues are in the front of our minds right now. Searching of insert name of building type here, proper size hose lines, ventilation, etc. We seem to split down party lines and to me this about the worst thing we could possibly do.

 Here's a novel idea, break down the fence and meet in the middle! Many outstanding and far more intellegent folks tha I, occupy both "camps," so how about instead of "flinging poo" as Chief Goodrich has elluded to in his post and "Sir Lancelot etc" by Dave LeBlanc, both on this sight. If you haven't read them, please do before you finish this. These two gentlemen, who, Dave I know personnally and Art I know through his writing and chatting with, represent the corners. These two guys don't share the same beliefs on some of the issues, yet they are friends, and meet in the middle, in the battleground that has become of Safety vs Aggressiveness.

We all came on this job to be a fireman, to my knowledge no one forced you to get on that engine, truck, or rescue, if someone was forced to come on the job, stop reading now. Being a fireman, is a tough demanding and dangerous job, period! We've come a long way from hanging on the tailboard, trying to pull our boots up, to enclosed cabs, with Seatbelts! Wow, are we good are what? Spare me the butt slapping and back patting we all do, before the job is done. Our job is never going to be done, fires happen, fact and people die, if not for us!  Real quick, if you don't like being referred to as a fireman and would prefer Fighfighter, the touchy feely PC way, just pretend. We have some of the smartest folks in the world working in our profession. IAFF, NFPA, NIOSH, EGH, IAFC,etc, these folks are giving us tools to put in our paperwork toolbox everyday and as firemen and bosses, we need to use them to help keep our members safe. We have hands on training like Brotherhood of Instructors, Vulcan training groups and many other teaching the apparatus toolbox things to make us better firemen, everyday folks!

Novel idea time! Lets use the skills we honed in our apparatus tool box, get the saw, irons, hooks, axes, etc,  to take apart this fence and instead having party lines, like the politicians we all agree we don't like. Let's look together and have civil disscussions and conversations on how to make both toolboxes work together, to better enhance the Fire Service. Leave the fingerpointing and second guessing outside of our circle. We truely as Firemen are better than that. Be mindful of the families of the lost or injured Brothers the next time you feel you need to point a finger at any Brother or Department, it could be you tomorrow.


We are in the greatest Profession in the world, the bond we have with each other has no borders, nor should our professionalism to our citizens, towns, districts, and our country! Be Safe, but all buildings get searched, we say when and if that building is unoccupied.






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Comment by Paul Combs on January 21, 2011 at 8:44am
Thanks, Mike - thought provoking and professional content is what really sets Fire Engineering apart from the other fire blog and training sites. No anonymous rantings here - if you comment, you are held accountable. Which in turn promotes its own brand of spirited, comprehensive and lucid discussions.
Comment by Paul Combs on January 21, 2011 at 8:35am

Kudos, Jeff! Like any family, we will have our differences from time to time and being passionate by nature, those differences can become volatile. But in the end we must realize that we ARE family, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, gender, politics, and yes (my personal favorite), career or volunteer. Kevin Shea's quote by President Roosevelt pretty much sums it up for me.


Thanks for bringing this to the forefront, Capt!

Comment by Mike Walker on January 21, 2011 at 8:27am
This is an awesome thread. I am always so impressed with the thought provoking discussions. You guys rock!
Comment by Jon D Marsh on January 21, 2011 at 5:35am
Jeff, I was following your point until that last sentence. Are you saying we need to meet in the middle except when it comes to vacant or condemed buildings ?
Comment by Jeff Schwering on January 20, 2011 at 7:07pm
Guys, thanks for jumping in. Rest assured I do have at least one comment for every post, it would be unlike my personality not to. I successfully broke my fibula, for you paramedic types, and right leg for the non-medical folks. I needed a vacation and I was the only casualty in the evenful evening that was last nights snow and ice storm in St.Louis, my family is safe and that is all that matters. I have plenty of time to repley after the Orthopedic doctor in the AM. Everyone Be Safe! I'll be answering shortly.
Comment by Mike Walker on January 20, 2011 at 2:20pm

Well said brother. I say we in the middle revolt and kick extremists off the island... oh wait, that would be extreme... damn I hate swimming with sharks! 


But honestly, you make some very good points. 

Comment by Eddie Crombie on January 20, 2011 at 12:44pm

Your point was right on Jeff.  Unfortunately there has been a line drawn in the sand that is causing some differences and discussions of where we are and will be as a Fire Service.  Let me give you my take on this "Safety Sally" vs "Aggressive" mind set you describe in your post.


The fires we respond to have changed a great deal from the glory days back in the 1970s and 1980s.  The buildings during this time were sturdy and resilient to fire, containing natural materials that burned slower and cooler.  This afforded us some time to make decisions and be slightly reactive in our tactics.  This mindset is the foundation for the current teachings because many of the firefighters who wrote the textbooks gained their experience fighting these fires.  For example:


I challenge you at ask any firefighter what the warning signs of flashover are.  I can guarantee you will get the same “reactive” answer.

“Heat that drives you to the floor, rollover, and pyrolysis occurring at floor level.”


It does not take a astrophysicist to realize that to experience these signs you have to be inside the room, which may be fatal in todays fires.  


In contrast, today we are surrounded by lightweight constructed, highly insulated homes, filled with petroleum based materials that burn hot and fast.  The result is a drastic increase in ventilation controlled fires.  The most dangerous kind.  This change in battleground and enemy has proven some of our true and tested methods to be inadequate.  We can no longer afford to be reactive in our thinking. 


This change has bread this “Safety Sally” thought process that places a higher price on our lives than those of our citizens we SWORE to protect.  Wrong!  The one action we can preform to make the entire incident safer is to simply extinguish the fire.  This is where the “Agressives” take over.


I find myself siding with the traditional, aggressive mindset that has shaped our core values as a Fire Service since Ben Franklin formed the first fire company.  However, I can find some middle ground that will benefit both frames of mind.


1.  Get into the gym and physically prepare before you step on the rig.  


2.  Wear your seatbelt and slow down because if we never get there, we are useless.


3.  Get into the classroom and mentally prepare for battle.  Become intellectually aggressive.


4.  Get on the training ground to solidify those time tested basics that will enable us to quickly place the line, properly ventilate the structure, and efficiently rescue the victims.  


5.  Realize we are public SERVANTS that may have to risk everything when asked.  If you cannot accept this, find another line of work.  


The Fire Service is at a pivotal crossroads that may forever change the values we hold true.  We need to maintain our aggressive nature to properly serve those citizens we swore to protect.  However, we need to take care of ourselves so we can be there when we are called to help them in their time of need.  It is up to the younger generation of firefighters to hold these values and carry the service into the future.


Thank you Jeff for starting this discussion and providing the spark for this rather lengthy response.



Comment by Ben Fleagle on January 20, 2011 at 10:29am


Judging by the comments here, the problem isn't among these brothers.  I think we are subject to a new kind of stress in our profession.  We are daily aware of ANYTHING that happens, ANYTHING anyone says and can even watch it over and over again on YouTube.  We also have the ability to let our feelings be known at a moments notice.  I think this creates a "hyper-awareness", if you don't mind my creating a term. 

We are subject to this environment.  But also on a daily basis, we can choose to do exactly what you are asking for.  I found myself doing the same thing yesterday with my battalion officer concerning the traditions in the department.  I asked his opinion, true to his character, he answered with no frills, no feeling and no regard for what he views as unnecessary in getting the job done.  I then clarified the intent of the event with the fire chief who was sitting with us and to both my suprise and my battalion's suprise, our understanding of what the chief wanted was something we had not considered and the two of us changed our views towards a common ground because we had "heard" him.  I think this is the kind of thing that can't easily happen on the Internet and doesn't easily happen with strong, opinionated men.   "Small steps" my chief says when he sees me chompin' on the bit.

Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on January 20, 2011 at 10:09am
NIce job Jeff. There is a middle road and that is following your training and experience. Recognizing the situation that you have been presented with and making an informed decision based on that training and experience will, in most cases, lead us down the right path. The key is that we have to train and those that have more experience need to pass it on down on a daily basis. New lingo and work sheets and separate size-up profiling will not and can not replace fundamental firefighting tactics and decision making.

Kevin, I like your comment too about the gutter.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on January 20, 2011 at 9:51am


An inspired piece indeed.

The relationship that Dave and I enjoy is special. I won't summarily dismiss anything he says. I look at and consider everything he writes, because he has proven time and again that he has credibility and respect and that comes from his knowledge and experience. He has strong opinions and the courage to express them.

We really don't disagree on that much and we understand that what we say may have an effect on people in the fire service. And our desire to mentor new members coming into the fire service dictates that we don't just throw cavalier statements out there for consumption.

He is thoughtful with his blogs. He is a natural on podcasts.

And if I wait long enough, he might even say something nice about me.

I DO have a safety perspective but not analysis paralysis.

I support efforts to educate the fire service in matters that affect their ability to perform their jobs.

And in some instances, that means safety.

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