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Captain Bill Gustin of the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department was a perfect complement to FDNY Captain Mike Dugan’s opening conference address.


Where Dugan was telling the young firefighters to turn introspective; to soul search for their reasons that they are firefighters (“Why Are We Here”)-Gustin was telling them what they could expect.


From budget cuts hurting both career and volunteer departments to the changing attitudes of the public, “doing more with less to doing less with less”; Bill Gustin put the fire service on the stage as seen through the critical eye.


And, how can you argue with him when he states that we spend too much time and money on getting firefighters out of trouble when the focus should be on keeping them out of trouble in the first place?


He had very strong words on the apparatus accidents that have occurred in the past few years. His simple message was to “slow down”. To the apparatus drivers, he reminded them that, if they hit someone and it is their fault, they could be arrested, lose their job and then get sued. As a comparison; he couldn’t remember of too many firefighters who fell off of rigs when it was still acceptable to ride outside of the cab. How true!


Here was another fire service veteran advocating learning from others’ mistakes. NIOSH LODD reports, NIST burn studies and UL were all mentioned as very good sources of information that should be read; then used.


I liked his straight forward delivery. He stood at the podium and gave his honest and personal insights on where the fire service has been, where it’s at now and where it’s going.


Sound familiar? Yeah; Gustin “BAGged” it!


Now; Captain Gustin wasn’t delivering a safety sermon. In fact; “safety” was rarely mentioned, but…


The message came through loud and clear.


He mentioned that firefighters were dying “with a hose in their hands”. He wasn’t advocating not doing interior attacks, but he was advocating applying water from the exterior to slow down fire growth in order to make it safer for teams to go in AND he made it clear that he was not fond of “bursting”.




Because applying short, nozzle bursts of water doesn’t put the fire out, but only delays flashover. He advocated getting water and “plenty of it on the seat of the fire”. What a concept!


Though his message was directed at the young firefighters in the audience, it wasn’t condescending. He encouraged education and to take advantage of the changing technologies like thermal imaging. But, he stressed that technology alone is no substitute for making critical decisions in regards to building construction and fire behavior.


I believe that we will have to continue to see advances in the way that we think!


And having frank and honest discussions on points made by Captain Bill Gustin in his address will go far in reducing firefighter injuries and death.


It wasn’t so much a “wake-up call” as it was a call to be awake and aware of an inherently dangerous profession.


Throw in respect for the job, respect for each other and respect between generations of firefighters.


Gustin and Dugan; two heavyweights who delivered a one-two punch at FDIC 2011.


Catch them both in the archives at:




The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

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Comment by Jake Beck on April 4, 2011 at 3:39pm

Solid points, Art. 


My generation, generation X, will have spent nearly two decades bumping up against a gray ceiling of boomers in senior decision-making jobs. But, that will eventually come to an end. I hope that we have learned a thing or two, because with the changing fire ground, fiscal crisis and generational differences (Generation Y), we certainly have a tough job ahead of us.

Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on April 4, 2011 at 1:34pm


We agree.

But, despite what the fiscal future holds for your generation, just make sure that you get everything from the veterans before they go.

You may find ways to work around a lack of funding, but gaps in critical information are hard to overcome.

As long as there are venues like FDIC, information will continue to flow.


Comment by Jake Beck on April 4, 2011 at 9:45am

Art -


I am not advocating doing away w/ critical fire ground tasks or even pushing them back later in the incident. What I am advocating is that we take a long hard look at our critical fire ground tasks and ask ourselves "is there a better way of doing this?".


Despite our best efforts, I believe that budget cut backs are here to stay and I have a feeling that staffing issues are going to be a big part of my generation of the fire service. What we do to overcome the staffing issues will define my generation, negatively or positively.

Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on April 4, 2011 at 8:08am


The number of tasks at a fire scene has not changed, so it still requires that ALL of the tasks get done.

The number of firefighters responding to the scene HAS changed; it has been reduced.

Less firefighters performing the tasks means that something won't get done. Is that ventilation or some other critical task?

It is impossible to to more with less no matter how many times you hear it said. And anyone who says they can do it must have an extra pair of arms that pops out for fire alarms.

And if departments who have suffered cutbacks haven't adjusted their response, then they are an accident waiting to happen.

Brains turn to mush when that heart rate gets above 175. Add to that core temperature because we wear turnout that doesn't allow for heat dissipation and doing MORE makes you more susceptible to an early side line in rehab.

We have to find better solutions to this growing problem of staffing cuts.

And no; quints are not the answer.

Comment by Jake Beck on April 4, 2011 at 12:07am

Gustin said it very well and I applaud him for getting this type of message out into the forefront of the American fire service.The fact that he chose to focus a fair amount of his opening address on doing less with less is an interesting concept. In my mind, maybe our tactics should change so we can do more with less.


Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that as a fire service we should accept staffing cut backs. Modern day fire ground conditions are getting worse, not better - we need MORE staffing! What I am saying is maybe it is time to change our tactics to combat a more dangerous fire ground w/ less fire ground staffing.





Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on March 28, 2011 at 11:18am

I also like that Bill is an Illinois boy.

We grow 'em good here.

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