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I remember being a young, volunteer firefighter and learning as much as I could from whoever would share.  Being in a small, mostly rural department, and with no social media--only the monthly trade journals---I depended on the more senior guys around me to pass on what they had learned and I always assumed that they knew what they were talking about.

It didn't matter what the topic was, I seemed to always come away with something I didn't know before hand.  The one thing that I can never remember, and maybe I'm just lucky, was that not one guy ever told me that "this way is the only way." Never!  These guys weren't out teaching all over the country. They weren't even teaching in the region. They weren't writing for the magazines or text books.

They simply were doing the best they could with what they had available to them and with the knowledge that was taught from other firefighters or through experience. And there are still a lot of departments out there that are still like this.

We used booster lines, we used old gear and old SCBA's and we went interior. We also hit it from the outside..............and then went in.  I'm sure we did some things wrong and a** backwards. But, it wasn't because we wanted to, it was all we knew. We were somewhat isolated and did the best with what we had.

Fast forward a few years, some of us became paid firefighters in nearby St. Louis County and we started bringing back skills to our volunteer departments. Not to show them that this is the only way, but to help them learn what they didn't know.

In all my years as a volunteer or as a paid firefighter, I have never felt so discouraged by the rhetoric, ego and bravado regarding tactics.  The whole "pussification" of the fire service thing and who has the best tactics and on and on is ridiculous.

Listen, the UL studies and the ISFSI paper are information to supplement your current operational plans.  That's it. They are both created and distributed to provide information.  Both sides of this are guilty of taking an extreme position one way or the other, shame on both.

I like the idea of applying the science and I support the ISFSI paper as a tool to provide some cues for consideration when arriving on a building fire. Now, ask me when the last time I hit the fire from the outside?  Almost two years ago! Does that mean that I discount the studies? Does that mean that I have too much ego and refuse to hit it from the outside? No, it means I haven't had a fire that required it!

Same goes for VEIS, when was the last time you did this on a fire? Depending on where you work and how your department is organized will depend on the frequency that you employ that tactic. But, as controversial as it is, and there has been plenty debate from some about the safety of this tactic, do you just discard it or is it in the tool box? Are there parameters that must be met prior to or coordinated with VEIS? I would bet there are.

The exterior water application is no different. It's an option. But,there is a lot more to that study than exterior water application. (Heat release rates and their effects on PPE, heat flux rates, importance of a 360, door control, and the list goes on.)

Are there some that will take the stance that they will always hit it from the outside? Yes, but that is not UL, NIST or anyone elses fault. That is that agency's fault. And I would bet that if they take that extreme, they are already taking other issues to that same extreme; wrong, right or indifferent.

Are there some that will never hit it from the outside because they are hard chargers, aggressive firefighters? Yes, and that is not anyone's fault but that agency's.  And that is for them to deal with and I will not judge either side.

But, I will not pound my keyboard, rant and rave, call you names or question your manhood based on the way your department chooses to operate.  Are there some fundamental skills and tactics that should be done by every firefighter and department? I would argue yes.  Do all fire departments have a responsibilty to be as current and proficient with tactics to give victims every chance at survival? Absolutley!

I would rather us find out who has questions, collectively come up with a message that is real and not created to drive up Likes, Friends or other social stats, but that will HELP those that need it.

I have talked to  firefighters that read all of the information being pumped out there and they are confused!  They don't know who to listen to and who is right. Hell, some guys have changed their tune from one opinion to the other depending upon the responses from posts.  That is not helping those volunteers that I once was who doesn't know any different and looks to social media, because of it's easy access, for the answers and sees so many different stances.

All I am saying, and I have said it before, each department is different in regards to resources, capabilities and even training.  Each will handle fires their own way based on those factors.  The information should be used to supplement YOUR operations based on sound, fireground tactics.

I believe that most fires will be, and should be, extinguished from the interior. I believe that searches must be conducted on all buildings as condtions allow, whether assumed vacant or not. I believe water puts out fire, not pushes it. I believe that water on the fire is, more times than not, the best action we can take to improve the conditions we are confronted with.

I also believe there is more than one way to accomplish that and I think it is incumbant upon us, the fire service in general and especially those who reach large numbers of firefighters on a regular basis to instill that.

Who is against who here?  Brotherhood? I'm from Missouri, Show Me!

I hope you all take this for what it is: an expression of how much I care about the fire service, all of the fire service.  This is not an indictment on any one person, group or agency, it's aimed at all of us. We can all do better.

Thanks, train hard and like my Deputy Chief says regularly, Be Nice!

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Comment by Nick Morgan on February 20, 2014 at 10:25pm

Excellent post Jason!  As a Captain with an old and very aggressive urban fire department, who started as a suburban volunteer and served as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force, who is always trying to learn more about the job from many reliable sources, I think your post is "spot-on"!  The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.  The more experience I acquire, the more I realize there is to experience, and so on.  I'm not so sure that any firefighter, regardless of what department they work for, who is always bashing someone else they don't agree with, is as great as they think they are.  We should always be learning from many different sources in the fire service.  The principle I abide by is "take what you like and leave the rest", yet ever mindful that the person I disagree with just might prove to be right.

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