For some strange reason I thought we the American fire service was progressing away from the "100 years of un-changed tradition" statements.
Today, we are each faced with a magnitude of "new" information that has been educating us in a way that no firefighters have ever had the chance to receive before. We are being armed with data and information that is giving us an ability to better know our enemy. However, we continue to set ourselves up for failure. We train in live fire in buildings when you vent everything gets better. On the fireground when we vent things do not automatically get better. Conditions will only improve with coordinated application of water or in the absence of water closing the doors to confine the area until water can be applied.
We know this by experience and from the testing that UL- Firefighter Safety Research Institute has and is doing. This testing is putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to keep us safe and help us to choose tactics that are appropriate for today's fires. The UL-FSRI is not just a bunch of scientists meddling in a laboratory. It's a panel of well-respected firefighters from around the country that sit in a large room, discuss the science and test the theories so we can move the fire service forward. All aspects of the fire service are represented on these technical panels from Rural to Big City Departments.
Experience will only get us all so far to keep yourself and those under our command safe. We must keep up to date with what the enemy is doing and adjust our tactics as appropriate when appropriate.
Look at the US military; would they invade an urban street in Afghanistan the same way they invaded the beach in Normandy? No, of course not!
Has the military adjusted their tactics based on the conditions and the enemy? Yes!
However, they have not changed everything. They adapt the new and old tactics to put together a tactically safe plan to minimize casualties. They still use some of the same tactics they did in WWII such as softening the target. That is done through a barrage of artillery from a distance. Which is in comparison to hitting it hard from the yard?
This is very similar to the fire service as buildings and contents change we must adapt our tactics. That doesn't mean throw out what we know. It does not mean stand outside and fight all fires from the front yard. It does not mean force the door and crawl down every hallway choked with smoke and high heat conditions. It simply means we must stop (for those of you that are) writing, posting, teaching and applying only the old tactics! There is still a place for solid engine and truck work and there always will be. However, we must not preach, teach or apply these tactical inaccuracies based solely on our experience.
There is absolutely NO mention in any of the recent studies, data, or training programs that have been produced by UL or NIST that suggests fighting all fires from the front yard. They simply want us to base our actions on the fireground conditions.
The studies also do not define offensive or defensive attacks. The fire service has defined that many years ago. However, I ask why do we define our tactic by where we start? Should we not define our tactic by what we are moving towards?
Let's look at it this way; A quarter back lines up on his own team's 2 yard line. He takes the snap and moves backwards into the end zone. Is he playing offense or defense? He moved backwards! He’s on offense because he passed the ball up the field towards his end zone. This happens to be the overall objective. Score a touchdown and extinguish the fire as quickly and as safely as possible.
Let's look at the US military; they have been hitting it hard from the yard and softening the target in every major conflict. Before the infantry marches across a border the target is softened by air strikes.
Some fire service educators and social media firefighters want to continually pitch a wedge in the fire service from advancing our knowledge base and ability to fight today's fires. Some are asking, and some firefighters are actually taking sides. There are not offensive or defensive sides in firefighting! There is an offensive and defensive tactic that can be deployed when appropriate. I think any fire service professional that pushes a wedge like into our ranks is not much of a fire service professional. Those "professionals" will contribute to injuries and LODD's.
We as the American fire service must get over ourselves. We must stop the "I am a macho salty firefighter" persona. We must start taking into account our experience, training, and education (both new and old) and stop trying to use a one size fits all tactical model. No two fires are the same; so therefore, no two tactical plans should be the same.
Circumstances dictate actions and we must be capable to determine the best action for the fire that we are fighting. If that means flowing 15 seconds of water from the outside to take the energy away and then make the stretch, by all means get it done! If that means stretching down the hallway and hitting it head on, by all means get it done! If that means setting up elevated master streams and fighting the fire from above, then by all means get it done!
Today we have more ways to learn than ever before. We have more organizations testing and challenging our tactics. We have firefighters and fire officers looking at today's fires and making the right decisions to get their crews home safe. But, we still have some preaching to do based solely on experience on fires that are not the same fire we have today.
Do yourself a favor! Do not base your tactical decisions on any one person's opinion. Read the studies, read Fire Engineering, study the books, study your department's policies and procedures and look at similar incidents around the country. Then take your experience and your knowledge and make the best decision based on all of the compiled information and personal experiences. Don't simply base your tactics from another person's opinion as the writing on your tombstone won't mention their name nor will they be there to support your family!