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The fire service is full of debates and animated conversations the same way it was long before we all started riding the big shiny trucks. Many of these debates will outlast all of us. Some of these debates will be put to bed but new ones will emerge. This is all part of a cycle where we learn new things and then begin to apply them to the changing fireground.

Sean Gray and I have been accused of creating a divide between the “sides” of fire attack. This blog is not being written to further drive the wedge of divide, it is being written to help those that don’t know which “side” to listen to.

Sean and I want you to listen to both “sides” of the debate. At this point you may be scratching your head and think we are trying to trick or manipulate you. You may also think we are back peddling on our position. Those assumptions cannot be farther from the truth. In all actuality Sean and I don’t feel there are any reasons to take any specific “side” as there really is not a side to choose.

The debates of tactical considerations should not cause anyone to choose or pick a side.

Definition of consideration – “something that you think about when you make a choice or decision”

Each one of our departments have many differences. The resource’s Sean Gray has on a first alarm assignment in Cobb County, GA is very different from what I have in East Haven CT.

Let’s take a look at my department for a moment. I work in a combination department with 11 career firefighters on shift that are supplemented by four volunteer companies. Companies that struggle with all the challenges that affect volunteer companies across the country. East Haven borders New Haven CT who has a first alarm staffing of 24 firefighters.

The border between New Haven and East Haven shares may 2 ½ balloon frame constructed homes. Some of those homes sit only feet away from each other with the city lines going through the middle. Some of these homes, based on feet one direction or the other can have 24 firefighters arrive in 4 to 8 minutes where the home 3 feet away will only get 11 in 4-12 minutes. Based on staffing and resources New Haven and East Haven will choose their tactical considerations differently. The end goal and mission is the same but how we achieve those may be different.

Choosing an interior attack is or a transitional attack doesn’t make either one right or wrong. The incident commander is choosing the best option for the fire he or she is standing in front of with the staffing and resources immediately available. There are also many departments that show up with much less staffing with a much greater response times.

When you are debating the tactical considerations remember there is a place for each tactic based on many factors. From the building construction to the fire behavior, to the staffing and resources to the specific fire the IC is in front of.

So for those of you struggling which “side” of the debate to listen to remember, listen to both as they both have a place.  There is no one right answer to any fire. You must evaluate your fire and choose the best tactical plan you can with what you have. Those forcing or advocating you choose a “side” would concern me and intrigue me to look a little deeper into their true motivation. Why would any fire service “professional” try to convince you to choose only one tactic to fight a fire in your community?

Recently during a very engaging social media discussion an International friend Paul Grimwood put this very simply “What is the problem with accepting that we look at things from different perspectives? There is a time and a place for everything.”

Here is my advice to you my brothers and sister; keep debating and keep asking questions but be careful of anyone who tries to sway your thought process to choose a “side”.

A patch on the shoulder, a popular blogger, a regular article contributor, one who has many FaceBook friends, Twitter followers or is a national lecturer doesn’t make them credible. Their ability to understand both sides of the debate who takes their experience, their education, the science and data all into account and presents you with options for your fire are the ones I would listen to.

At the end of the day its your fire and your choice to make the right decisions that are right for you, the members of your department, the civilians and most importantly your family who’s waiting for you to come home to them.


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Comment by Pabel Troche COMBAT READY on February 2, 2015 at 10:55am

The "divide" of any opinion and or view in the fire service is no one persons fault or doing. History reveals that WE cause division because of "ignorance"; (noun) the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc. There are no sides just knowledge and information for our taking. The information you and others provide is necessary and healthy to assure we LEARN from each others successes and failures. Sharing knowledge should never be something to get defensive or divided about, when someone does I immediately question their motive. Thank you for your continued effort to share your knowledge and opinions. I have a tool box (brain), the more tools the better; those whom limit their tool box to a flat head screw driver will be very regretful they day the encounter a phillips head screw! thanks for all you do!

Comment by P.J. Norwood on January 29, 2015 at 9:25am

Paul, thanks for the feedback. Just so you and anyone else that may be trying to figure out who I am speaking about. The second half is not directed towards any single person, organization or group! I know some will want to twist it to create a divide but that is not the case. Take me for example. Should someone listen to what I wrote just based on any those items listed if appropriate? No, of course not!

I am recommending that we listen to those that have an "ability to understand both sides of the debate who takes their experience, their education, the science and data all into account and presents you with options for your fire are the ones I would listen to."

Comment by Paul J De Bartolomeo on January 29, 2015 at 9:08am
I think I understand where you're going with the first part of your blog. Available resources, arrival times, fire conditions all have to be taken into consideration as you formulate your tactical plan. I think part of the issue lies in a growing reliance on the transitional attack. Firefighters are becoming ingrained to operate a line through a window because they see fire. They do this for many reasons; training issues, panic, poor tactics, unwillingness to go inside etc. I think we all agree that we can't become over reliant on any single tactical approach. Have options & understanding is a good thing. Having established tactics is even better. Another issue I see is departments leaning on the exterior attack "hitting it hard from the yard" because of so called staffing issues. No matter where you operate in this country how many FF's does it take to staff a 1 3/4 handline? Arriving with 8-12 members within 4-8 minutes at a 2.5 story frame is more than enough to mount an aggressive attack provided they have sound tactics in place. Recently my 100% volunteer outfit responded to a 2.5 story balloon frame P.D. With fire issuing from a 2nd floor rear window. For the first 5-10 minutes there were 6 members on scene. Within 5 minutes they secured a water source, located & confined the fire, conducted a primary search, stretch a line & extinguished the fire. You see, with proper training, established tactics, motivated members, and experienced leaders fires go out utilizing an aggressive interior attack.
As far as the last part of your blog, questioning peoples credibility. The patch on his shoulder has been earned over 3 decades in some of the busiest units on this planet. He was riding the shiny fire trucks when you & I were playing with Matchbox cars. His following is based on his knowledge & experience amassed over 30 years doing it for real not hanging out in the training office. Being a regular article contributor for 20 years leads me to believe there is some truth in his writing otherwise he'd no longer be published. Bottom line, personal attacks are a sure sign of weakness & jealousy. Evaluate your own credibility before you question that mans!
Comment by P.J. Norwood on January 28, 2015 at 7:27am

Aron, with all due respect you are completely missing the point. I am not disregarding the interior tactic or experience necessary to make appropriate fireground decisions. The interior attack is as important as the transitional attack as they both have their place.

As I have stated numerous experience, education, science and data combined together is what is needed. DC Healy and Capt Cierillo are perfect examples of that model! A model that I have talked with them both about personally. They don't depend on their experience alone, only the science, or just their training to make the right fireground decisions. They put the whole package together to make the right decisions.

Please go back read the blog as you have missed the point on this one Brother. This is not about calling any one specific individual out. I am simply trying to help some of those that are confused because some have created these “sides”  and some do not know which “side” to listen to. You may not see it in your world but there is a divide that has been caused and this is not necessary in our service. We can debate and disagree but we need to respect and understand there are different tactics that work for different departments based on their resources. 

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