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Brains or Balls?

The video link I posted here http://averagejakeff.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/aggressive/ has really sparked some serious conversation over at Statter911.com and TheBravestonline.com. Some more information is out about the video as well and it seems that the house was not 100% involved (2 rooms on side C were smoke-filled with very little thermal challenge). So as I said the debate on right, wrong, or indifferent is really heating up.

One of the things that really stood out to me (not just on this topic but many other tactical debates) is the difference in opinion over education of today’s firefighters. Simply put some guys out there think things like building construction, fire dynamics, hydraulics, fire loading, etc. is a bunch of BS. A lot are of the opinion that the 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 line is the end all be all of the fire service, and that we should be going in on every fire no matter construction, fire involvement, lack of victims etc.

While others feel that all of those things I mentioned coupled with training, and experience leads to a more efficient, effective, and safe fireground.

I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle. I do have a BS in Fire Science, and I constantly read NIOSH, NFPA,fire related texts, fire related blogs/websites, and anything else I can get my hands on. I also attend hands on training classes, and have the desire to go to EVERY fire I hear about, and when I get to one you can usually find me trying to find a way inside, or to do some task. I am the guy that would tap you on the shoulder and say the chief wants you outside” so I can get the nozzle. Thats why I have the philosophy on a lot of things that I do, because the company and fireman that are ready typically get put to work, but I also realize that I need to have maximum protection and knowledge in order to go home at the end of the shift.

I feel like a good mix of education, and whatever it is that makes us love this job and want to do this job (balls, desire, competition, bravery) is the key. You can have the smartest firefighter ever, but if he can not get things from his brain to his hands, or he wants to stand outside on every fire then he does us no good. Vice Versa you can have a fireman who is good at the task level but if he can not tell if a building is going to collapse, a room is going to flash, or if a line is not right for this situation then he is just as useless.

Yes firefighting is dangerous, Yes firefighters are always going to die, and Yes it is our job to risk our lives and possibly die to save someones life. However it is also our job to assess the risk and reduce it down to a manageable level. In order to do that you have got to be formally educated, and sound at the task level. We must also evaluate our selves and manage our own risk. Wearing your seatbelt, SCBA, and PPE should not be options. Learning about building construction (especially new construction), GPM vs BTU’s, Synthetic material, etc. should not be options for any firefighter (career or volunteer). Here are just some thoughts or insights on how to keep you safe yet keep you aggressive.

1. Show up ready to work, with maximum personal protection in place. This will protect you for the what if, and allow you to go right to work with little lag time.

2. First in lay in, be self-sufficient with your water supply. This will allow you to get beyond your tank water, and have the ability to make that push you want to.

3.  Come of the rig with appropriate tools. You’re in an engine company then you need to bring something to put fire out, or something that can be set up to put fire out (water can, hose pack, dry cross lay). You’re a truck company? Then bring the beat and bang tools appropriate for the occupancy.

4. Hose line selection. I know I have said this before and I harp on it but hose selection is in my opinion one of the biggest mistakes we make on the fireground. Remember the ADULTS acronym and get the right lines in the right place. Do not be fooled, a lot of fires go out with smaller lines because they have already burned the majority of the fuel available. There are low man power techniques for the 2 1/2 just look here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjFvL7xebqw

5. Train, Train, Train. Get out there pull lines, do searches, read, and watch video. Mess up before you ever get to the fire and do not rest on past success. This also includes formal education. We are in an age of synthetic material, and lightweight engineered construction, we have to evolve our tactics to meet todays enemy. The ISFSI (International Society of Fire Service Instructors) just released a comprehensive program directed toward that very topic. They are recommending that the fire service reboot and start over with building construction education.

6. Lastly wether you call it situational awareness or soemthing else keep in mind where you are and what you are doing at all times. This starts by doing district training and knowing the types of buildings you will be called to serve in. The best chance for this are those pesky EMS calls we hate so much.

So that’s what I think, I want to know what you think. Too many brains, not enough balls? Vice Versa? Or some other combination. Leave some feedback in the comments section and as usual tell your friends about the blog!

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