Big City thoughts for a Small City

All over the internet we see video and pictures of big city fire departments, the amazing structure fires they have and the seemingly endless amounts of manpower they are able to provide. Type in any big city that is near you and you will more than likely find a video or two or several that someone has taken. FDNY, over 11,000 videos on you tube. Chicago has over 900 videos. Los Angeles Fire, over 2,000 videos. These are just a few departments that I look up real quick.  They see the “big” fires on an almost daily basis. They have the opportunity to see fire every shift. Everyone big or small has the opportunity to see fire every shift.

For the most part these departments have it together when it comes to fire ground operations and other various jobs that are performed in our profession. Watching some of these videos can provide some very valuable information. Some will show good ways to perform various functions such as roof ventilation, forcible entry, and auto extrication. Some videos show the not so good side of firefighting. The point is that there is something to learn from every video. Good or bad.

If you are in a small town or city department, do not have the mentality that the big cities do things any differently than you. The biggest difference, is that the big cities have the opportunity to perform firefighting operations on a larger scale and more often than smaller ones. Do not let this discourage you from learning from the bigger department and taking something away from them. On the other side of that, big cities can learn something from the smaller departments to. Ventilation is ventilation. The big cities do not ladder the building, use any special saws, or cut the hole any differently than you would at a smaller department. Forcible entry is performed the same way. A pump is a pump. The bigger department pumps pump the same way as those in a smaller one. Extrication is extrication.

One of the biggest things that I believe is wrong is training. If you train your people, there is no reason that you cannot have the mentality that you can do exactly what the big city departments do. In reality, we do. We do the job just the same as the big department do. Fire is fire. Water is water. An engine is an engine. A ladder is a ladder. A rescue is a rescue. Just because you are in a smaller department doesn’t mean you cannot have a big city mentality. A friend of mine is a Lt. in a smaller volunteer department and they have adopted the “Metro” mentality. Train, learn, and share. By doing this we can all learn from one another. Big or small, we all dress the same. We go into burning buildings and put the fire out the same. Stay safe and train like you fight.


  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    I have a friend on FDNY that is fond of saying, “we aren’t the best, just the biggest”…..

    One issue with the “metro” mentality is that often their manpower is not what small town USA’s is. I am not disagreeing with training, training, training and then acting agressively and decisively as the conditions allow. But we have to make sure that we operate in a place where our manpower and resources can work effectively.

    In my own situation, I cannot committ to seach and suppression immediately. It has to be a choice, because our manpower doesn’t allow for more. The missions and goals are the same, it is just the path to get there is different.

    You play like you practice, so get out there and start training. Just make sure your training is the the R’s. Relevant, Realistic, and Repetitive. (Thanks Ray for that one.)

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    My dept does have the good fortune, at least for now, of 2 engines out of the same house. If both companies arrive at the same time, we can make an effort to do search and supression. I agree with Dave, we may have to make a choice, that comes with a good boss knowing their job, crew, etc. Our mission is simple, protect life, property, and put the fire out, while being mindful of the big picture we are facing. Train and Train some more, while keeping in mind the 3 R’s. ( again thanks Ray)

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    I have to agree with the FDNY guy. The biggest difference is the size. If us big city firefighters need more help, we call for it and it’s here in couple of minutes. How far away is your mutual aid? We know what our job is when we get to work in the morning “I’m open up today”, If you are a volunteer when you get there you do whatever needs to be done next. Another difference is if we have a guy that is dead weight, we have enough guys to work around him. Some people know they don’t have to do their share of work because there are plenty of people around to do it.
    We don’t see fire every day. Nobody does. Sure there are 900 videos out of Chicago but there are also almost 100 firehouses. divide that by work groups and how does that math work out? (I’m not picking on Chicago, just an example)
    I think being on a small department is harder, you are required to know and do more.

  • It doe’s make sense , we have been known for years as an aggressive in terior attack department, we have been fortunate enought that we get 2 engines and ladder out on most of our structure calls . We do have resoucres to pull from when it’s a structure call . Training is the Key to all of this and putting it to use. My first goal at any structure is Life safety , when we know there is no one we go in and put the fire out, if we have victims then my priority becomes getting the victim out and then suppression.

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