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Humbled and so much to talk about

It has been a busy few days here in the Richmond area, well busy except for were I work. Not to say we have not been running calls but it seems like everyone is going to fires except us. On Sunday we got transfferd while a few companies were working a chimney fire that extended to the attic, and we went to cover the hole, and do not get me started about the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County, it seems not a day goes by without a fire for one or multiple of their companies.

However just when you feel the disgruntledness, and complacency bug start to creep their ugly heads into yours, there always seems to be a call that snaps you back. We often get called for “the unknown problem” and to be honest no one really treats them serious because they seldom generate anything substantial in the way of excitement, intellectual stimulation, etc. So we get on the rig as usual in a non chalaunt way, and get an update that there is a car in the driveway with a person still inside, car still on with gas peddle revving. We immediately realize that like a Transformer this may be “more than meets the eye”.

Once we arrived we found a unconciuous male, foot on the gas, vehicle in neutral, with the car locked, and us standing in our station wear. I immediately ran back to the rig and put on my coat, and helmet. I then grabbed some step chocks, in case the vehicle slipped into drive. Then I used my center punch to break the passenger side window, unlocking the door getting him out then securing the vehicle.

On the surface this seems pretty routine, but in my mind it was completely complacent that we were not ready to go upon arrival. I’m sure there was nothing detrimental to the patient, and we still acted well within department SOG’s, but is that good enough? I do not know. What I do know is that next time the unknown problem comes out I’m going to do a little more “size up” on the CAD screen, and in the dispatchers ear to get a full picture.

Thoughts on Chicago LODD

I’m sure if you read this blog, you probably read others as well. It seems everyone has an opinion on the Chicago double LODD, so I figured I would share mine with you as well. First off any LODD is tragic, these guys left behind families, friends, etc. that can not be replaced. However not every LODD is necessary, and a lot of them can be prevented. This one definitely blurs the lines. First off the building had issues from a 2007 inspection that stated is was structurally unsound. This obviously was not relayed to the fire companies, which is unacceptable. If our FMO (Fire Marshals Office) finds something that could be a danger to us they make sure the whole department knows about it. The companies do a great job with this as well.

However with the limited information on the building they had, and the conditions they were met with, and the knowledge they had of this being a safe haven for homeless people, some might argue that they made the right call to enter the building as it is our job to save lives and property. Some also might argue the opposite point of view, that they should have not gone in, etc. Some will even say take a look at the New Orleans fire in which several homeless people died in a “vacant” structure.

Some have  used this incident to get on a soap box about the moral and ethical obligations to save everyone, and that homeless people’s lives are not any less valuable than someone with a home or family. I even read one where the Declaration of Independence was quoted specifically the ” all men are created equal” portion. Far be it from me to argue with our founding fathers, and while I do think a life is a life, I am reminded of the movie Saving Private Ryan. The specific part in which Tom Hanks tells “Private Ryan” to “earn this” meaning of course to earn the right to have had so many men sacrificed for him, and then the flash forward to “Private Ryan” asking his wife if he did. While I would never with hold care or treatment from anyone, I do often wonder if I were to die, or lose my career because of a drug addict, or homeless person would they earn the right to live based on my sacrifice, or would they be back on the street the next day like nothing ever happened.

Now we get to the tactical aspects of it, personally I think pulling viable victims out of commercial occupancy is a needle and a haystack adventure. Smoke kills long before victims are thermally challenged (burned), add to that the building size, how slow a rope search is, and the amount of air in our SCBA bottles typically success in this type of occupancy is not one we pull viable victims from.

So that brings us to the was it right or was it wrong? Frankly I do not think you can judge that. Were some things wrong and do they need improvement? Sure they do, but not everything they did was wrong. Some ask is there a line, and when do we draw it? I think a set line in the sand is the wrong approach as NO FIRE is ever the same. I however do think that we can not go in every time, but we also can’t not go in every time, as usual a middle ground is typically the appropriate response.

You have to always look at your Building (occupancy type, and condition pre fire and on fire), your Fire conditions (what is it doing, what is it going to do), and your Resources (how many people do you have, how many people can you get, how fast can they get here) before we commit to any action plan no matter offensive or defensive.

I’m interested to know what the rest of you think about this, and anything else going on out there. Leave any feedback in the comments section. Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there.

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