The next big thing…or just another acronym?

I’ve been seeing a lot about SLICERS lately, so I had to check it out. I watched a couple instructional videos and they made me sad. Watching departments gobble the theory up hook, line and sinker and totally abandoning traditional, time tested practices is a bit disturbing.
When are firefighters and administrators going to get it through their heads that there is no magic bullet for their fire ground? Our job is dynamic. The next big thing in acronyms is not going to change that. I’m Sorry, that was a bit harsh. I’m also sorry that our job requires us to take each scene as a separate special situation with special needs. Other than some constants everything is different fire to fire. Even the companies responding can vary depending on what’s going on in your town at the same time.
There are more damn acronyms out there that do nothing but convolute simple matters. “Go in that window and look for people” became “VES” or is it VEIS now? Big fire, Big water became ADULTS. I get it, everyone wants to have the next big thing, everyone wants to claim science, advancement or patent pending with their name attached of course. The problem is overreaching application. Don’t shift your whole operation immediately because of a new shiny acronym.
I’ve seen videos of the application of the program and honesty it’s less than impressive. It looks a lot like trying to force a new policy to fit all problems. Square peg, round hole. Instead of focusing on the regular priorities of firefighting, SLICERS followers have wandered away are trying find a way to distance themselves from having to make their own decisions. SLICERS Kool-aiders are more concerned with the process than the end result, they have lost touch with the reality of their profession.
Let’s let Master Ken show us an example of using one solution for all problems:

Master Ken’s methods aren’t really new, they really are just the next evolution of something we already know and do. But truthfully, there is no way it will work in every circumstance, probably not many in the real world. You as a firefighter/officer must decide for yourself to which instances these tactics should be applied and that can only be done through practice and training.
I’m not the smartest man in the world and I am, by far,not the most experienced. But having lived through a few election seasons I have learned how to spot Bullshit. Now I’m not calling SLICERS bullshit, but the people who have been selected or who have selected themselves to push it are acting a lot like they have something to lose if it fails to become the end all be all of firefighting. We are getting the hard sell.
1. ISFSI is the only fire service organizational I’ve seen pushing it. NIST and UL are NOT fire service organizations. Just because a 3rd party agrees does not mean it’s the best practice or even applicable in your area of expertise. Most the time the 3rd party needs a fire service organization to apply the results of their testing and by default agree with the one they pick.
2. Too many generalizations that are being used; “My department is safer now”. Tell us, how much safer is your department? Are firefighter injuries down? Are fires being put out faster thereby saving property? I want specifics if they exist.
Watch this:

This is an example of making a square peg fit a round hole. A small amount of smoke coming out of the second floor and companies stay and play in the yard for over a minute before they go in and do the job. Now we don’t know how the fire would have gone had they decided to just go in and attack the seat. I hope this department watches the next video and reconsiders the tactics they used.

The difference is meaningful water on the base of the fire 2 minutes sooner. Also a backup line went to the fire and did not stay in the front yard under the watchful eye of a fire crew.
I think folks need to pump the breaks on the SLICERS thing. Knocking down heavy fire before making an entry has been around since hand pumps and bucket brigades. This is not new and it’s not the end all be all of fire fighting. Try it, sure, see how it works. Maybe now you can say we “Slicered the fire” instead of knocked the piss out of it before going in. But blanket policies will never replace fire ground decision making.
Final thought. How would the taxpayers in your area feel if you told them “Rescue is an action of opportunity” not a priority? I disagree whole hearted. Rescue is THE priority. The house may burn to the ground but we owe the people we are sworn to protect a thorough search EVERY time.
I have a collection of Tae Bo on Video cassettes if anyone is looking for the end all be all of fitness.

19 Comments

  • Albert says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, People Property Protection, is the way to do it, I’ll explain for those that don’t get it
    People- find out if there is a rescue to be done
    Property- put out the fire
    Protection-protect any secondary buildings
    this is the simplest way to put it, no matter what acronyms you put on something the easiest one for evaluating a scene is probably the oldest one, KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid.

  • Jeff Harkey says:

    A few comments on the Syracuse video:

    Given the fire load/activity showing in the top floor/third floor, I would have liked to have seen 60 seconds of deck gun action from Engine 3 as the interior teams were getting ready. That would have dropped the temperature considerably and made the interior attack safer.

    Second, the truck companies attempting vertical ventilation on the C/D corner: very precarious operation, and by the time that roof gets accessed, the fire is knocked. Efforts may have been better spent providing additional means of egress (which was seen with later ladder throws).

    I would certainly class this a “legacy” construction. A newer “modern” structure would not stand up to that amount of fire and there probably wouldn’t even be a roof to get on to ventilate.

    Stay safe.

  • Tony Varella says:

    I could not agree more wholeheartedly sir!!! It seems to me what has been lost are officers and firefighters who have experience and knowledge and can discern when an attack from the exterior is needed before making entry; I believe they like to call it “situational awareness” today. I especially like the Syracuse IC giving assignments to arriving units. I definitely like riding assignments and pre-determined assingments, but what I have found where I live is these assignments are, as you say, “the end all, be all”. The problem with this mindset is the officers and firefighters can no longer think for themselves when things don’t go according to the nice neat plan. Then all Hell breaks loose. Unfortunately I guess we are now in the minority, and it seems it is more important for degrees and scientific studies to determine how a fire is to be fought but give me an “Old School” firefighter with “Street Smarts” any day over a book educated “know it all”.

  • firemansam says:

    Being the guy that broke out the windows at the sofa superstore fire as well as previously being fired from the charleston fd I find it very troubling you are ballsy enough to criticize modern fire behavior and slice rs

    Next time maybe you need to do some fact checking and a little better research pal.

    In the meantime I hope you keep in mind the impact you had by creating a flow path

    • firestudent1 says:

      Firemansam,
      First off thank you for your comment, it’s always nice to know a few people are still out there with misinformed minds.

      To say that being the guy that broke the windows at the SSS fire is true but put that I was one of serveral! Also if you do your research you would know that the guys where deceased before the windows where broken out and I sought out to find if my actions caused them any harm, and the answer was no. Since you were with me at the fire that day, you would know that the two windows I broke were spidered pushing out and ready to blow if they had not been vented. Did you see how many firefighters where upfront? The outcomes that would have changed this fire would have been to have the water supply to charge the large caliber handlines that were on the ground, but you failed to mention my engine tried to do that and got denied.
      It is very sad that you have so much hatred in your heart for me but I will pray for you anyway and I wish you the best. If you are in the area today stop by since your local so we can discuss our differences like Men do and not a coward who hides behind a name.
      On the issue of SLICERS our issue is simple. We want the fire service to understand basic target flow for today’s modern fire environment is 180 gpm do you have the nozzles capable of flowing it? We also want guys to know that if you don’t understand building construction and compartmentalizations and the role they play in determining fire ground strategy and tactics you are doomed from the start. The one size fits all approach of just resetting the fire does not work, you still have to move the line quickly to the seat of the fire and completely extinguish it and if your firefighters can’t do that the basics you are right back where you started.
      I could go on but I’m not my research is done by going to fires, training, and reading. Please continue to read the site and we would appreciate your continued support. If there is anything I can do for you in the future please don’t hesitate to reach out. Stay Safe and God Bless
      Marques
      P.s. I didn’t write the piece but the gentleman who did I am damn proud to be his friend

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    A comment from Matt on Facebook:
    Nice write up on slicers and such thank you!! From authors like William Clark to Andrew Fredericks, Skip Coleman, Brennan, Brannigan, all have concluded the same priorities for our companies. Preplan your towns, Know your water systems, know your buildings (layouts and how they are built), pick the right lines for the fight ahead, know where the fire started not just showing, ventilation should happen when the line is at its place and ready, Aggressive – not wreckless work equates to a safer firegrounds, we always search and we never stop looking for signs of life period. No memory aid replaces the time that we put into books and research information. Just because we read a memory aid and say we get it…do we? What about all the authors I mentioned above? Don’t we owe it to them and our service to research how that memory became from the information they all shared over decades? Thanks for being passionate and willing to lay it all out there about never Ignoring the roots of or priorities. Stay low brother.

  • ThinkinOutsideTheBox says:

    There’s a difference between command priorities (RECEO) and fire attack (SLICERs) acronyms. SLICERS wasn’t meant to replace RECEO.. it wasn’t meant to be the new fix it all or supposed to be used in all scenarios. Why be so narrow minded. It’s just another tactic to add to the toolbox. Take it for what it is..

    • anchorpoint1 says:

      First off, thank you for your comment.
      But I’m more confused now than before I started my research into this. What did Chief Eddie Buchanan mean when he said “S.L.I.C.E. – R.S. stands for Size-Up, Location of the Fire, Isolate the Flow Path, Cool from a Safe Distance, Extinguish and then Rescue and Salvage are added in as necessary…. This is all about HITTING IT HARD FROM THE YARD FOR 15 SECONDS THEN GOING INSIDE AND PUTTING IT OUT! ….. “The acronym is designed to replace the well known RECEO VS method that has been widely adopted by the fire service over the years.” The link to that quote is here: http://pennfire.org/2013/10/20/s-l-i-c-e-r-s-by-chief-eddie-buchanan/
      Why would he say that? “Replace RECEO” must mean something different in different parts of the country. Are you sure you understand the acronym? I don’t.
      I’m also confused/offended by your assumption that I am narrow minded. Is it because I don’t buy the next big thing on the infomercial? Please post some links to successful real world applications of this acronym. Trying to get a straight answer out of anyone that loves SLICERS is like trying to nail jello to the wall; “That was not the proper application, that department did it wrong, it wasn’t meant for THAT”
      Help me understand why it seems like this concept is so complicated.
      Flowpath is part of the acronym and I understand AND embrace that. You might say I have even bought into it. I keep it in mind now, especially windy days.

  • Milton says:

    maybe in the first video they had conformation that the house was unoccupied and it was room and content fire? Shot from the yard and then making entry was less than 30sec(?) no!? I think both videos are/were well executed.

    • anchorpoint1 says:

      The line is dry on the ground at the :40 mark and gets to the front door at the 2:38 mark, 2 min. The only assumption we can make is that after they hit the front door everything else would take the same amount of time (advancing up the stairs, finding the seat etc). I would never Monday morning quarterback, but some assumptions can be made. I don’t think we can say if the companies had confirmation on evacuation, based on this video so I won’t. I also would not want anyone to think I’m saying anything disrespectful about their department, that is not my intention. This looks like an application of SLICERS which is why I chose it. Thank you for your comment.

  • Bobby Halton says:

    Friends,

    At the risk of sounding a bit stodgy I think that we are to quote the Muse that we are making much to do about nothing. First of all I emphatically support the use of the acronym slicers and openly admit that I am not the most experienced firefighter in the world, nor am I a scientist, or a fire service organization or even in the least bit qualified to speak to the efficacy of acronyms. But I have found them useful in my career. Acronyms like slicers are incredibly useful when were teaching people tactics and when we are helping people to learn how to make decisions and how handle dynamic”naturalistic” situations. That being said acronyms have been used for thousands of years and will continue to be used. One has but to spend a little bit of time with the military and you will understand that the use of acronyms is alive and well and extremely useful.

    In regards to the evolution of VES to the VEIS I strongly supported that evolution. Because the point of isolating the room we were searching greatly enhances firefighter and victim safety and survivability. By closing the door we stop the vent point of the window we entered from drawing the fire gases to us and any potential victims. That was a good thing to add the I. I don’t think it convoluted anything nor do I think that it was a quantum leap for any of us to add the word isolation to the acronym.

    Before I begin the rest of my comments I must say that using words like Kool-Aid drinkers to demean or ridicule folks who disagree with you does not help support your argument. Just because someone disagrees with you does not make you wrong and it does not make them wrong it simply means you disagree. I find it far more constructive to be respectful when disagreeing then being rude or mean when disagreeing. You have some great points in this blog, and you have many things in this blog that I disagree with respectfully.

    All that being said I love the slicers acronym for several reasons. First and foremost I think that it is helping a lot of people to understand the concepts of flow paths and heat release rates. Second although it was stated in this particular blog that the concept of exterior water application prior to making entry has been around for centuries as a tactic. I absolutely agree although one must acquiesce to me that during the past 20 or 30 years exterior application was frowned upon as a tactic, in much the same way as some folks are now frowning on resetting the fire or transitional attack. There were for many years tremendous debates about thermal balancing, pushing the fire and boiling potential victims like lobsters.

    We now know that sufficient water application to the seat of the fire from the exterior can lower the temperature in the room considerably making our interior attack much more efficacious. We also know that if we have our flow path controlled that we will not push the fire given we use straight stream or smooth bore correctly. And we also know that should a victim be in a well involved room of fire that the survivability profile is extremely low. If they are in an adjacent room with the door closed then the chances of their survivability when we lowered the temperature or greatly enhanced.

    The point of all that being that there was a stigma applied to those who hit the fire from the exterior prior to entry and I believe that slicers helps remove that stigma. It is as many before me have stated just another tool in the toolbox. Another tactic for thinking firefighters to utilize when approaching a fire.

    I could not agree more that every fire requires a thorough size up which implicitly means that the thinking firefighter must then weigh all of the factors that they can assess and then make decisions for them based upon those factors. Many other things will come into play in those decisions, resources, training, experience, water supply and on and on and on.

    If you really just don’t like acronyms that’s fine but I think that for those of us that do please just grant us a little slack here.

    In regards to the two examples you showed I think that both departments there did a fine job. I was not there and I don’t know what the exact context was experience level or resource available to those two departments when they arrived was. But what I do know is it looks like both of those fires are handled in a professional and efficient way.

    I will agree with you that I don’t like the word opportunity with rescue as well. We should probably look forward to the evolution of the acronym slicers with a better word than opportunity. Not sure that any of this helps but for me slicers is a useful tool, VEIS is a useful tool and maybe that makes me an acronym guy and I’m okay with that. Thank you for thought-provoking blog and I would welcome the discussion with you about slicers and acronyms any time. I have access to a website and the invitation is yours if you would like to sit down with me and one of my friends and you and one of your friends and talk about slicers and acronyms the offers on the table.

    Your friend Bobby

    • anchorpoint1 says:

      We are honored to have you comment on our little blog, Thank you.
      I do not like acronyms, a checklist it’s more accurate. I was in the Army for 7 years, I am very familiar with acronyms. Much ado about nothing maybe, but yet, here we are.
      I recently watched a video that described the difference between using an acronym and a checklist. The video described the key difference between surgeons and pilots. Pilots use checklists, surgeons did not (they are now do to insurance etc..) the reason was the pilot was committed, the surgeon goes home no matter what. If a fire service leader cannot remember his/her priorities that’s fine, but they need to use a physical checklist, not another acronym which requires the mind to translate meanings.
      I would like to address the “Kool-aide” part of your comment. I agree, it was petty and did nothing for my stance. It was however an observation on the attitude given off by the SLIC-RS camp; If you aren’t with us, you are against us. I take offense to that because THAT is the main reason I am not a fan of the acronym. If the ISFSI would have instead put their information out as “Here is what we think is right,try it out” maybe it would have been better received. Instead they chose to alienate anyone who disagrees and regale them to “outdated” status. I have only been in the fire service for 13 years and cannot imagine myself an “old guy” or as having an outdated mentality.
      I am a small fish in a small pond and would get eaten up on your website. I thank you kindly for the invitation but I don’t think it would benefit either one of us at all.

  • Ken Willette says:

    Good, robust discussion, but Bobby has put perspective on it , let’s agree to disagree. Some of us may remember the dust off when high pressure fog and red line fire attack was challenged. The development of NFPA 1500, 1710, and 1720 created huge discussion and yes, division with the fire service. But over time, everyone comes to the basic principle of firefighter safety and having adequate tools to achieve it. SLICERS is that, a tool, not a way of life .

  • Bobby Halton says:

    Anchor point, I to detest ideologues, there are no silver bullets, there is no one size tactic that fits all fires. I find it absolutely distressing that recently a friend of mine called those who disagree with some of the tactics being suggested as a result of some of the studies from UL and NIST as being “deniers”. With an attitude like that we may as well return to the methodologies employed during the Spanish Inquisition. I agree wholeheartedly with Thomas Jefferson who said “question boldly even the existence of God…………” It is important that we continue to question everything it’s how we learn, it’s how we grow. A great example in our political world today would be the radical progressive ideologues who embrace the extremist measures related to climate change or global warming theories. There is probably a great deal of truth in much of what they say about climate change but there is also a great deal more to be discovered by science before as the political ideologues say “the discussion is settled”. There will be revisions in our ideas about climate change and man’s contribution to it for many generations to come. Those on the political side of that coin simply want to progress their agenda as if the ends justify the means. And you’re right there aggressive and demeaning tactics adopted from Saul Linsky’s rules for radicals makes it very difficult to try to listen to their arguments.

    So likewise in the fire service on issues of tactics and fire behavior the debate is never settled. In science the discussion is never settled otherwise it all would’ve all been over with Newton and Descartes, but as we know their theories on reductionism were just the beginning.

    I regret that you feel that some of us who embrace the slicers acronym have been acting ideologically. I can assure you on behalf of myself and my friends at the International Society of Fire Service Instructors that that is not our intent. Our intent is simply to pose a new look at an old tool (exterior attack), new information on the effectiveness of that old tool (cooling effect and flow paths) and ways to make that old tool more effective at today’s fires (reduced manpower and increased heat release rates). I hope I didn’t offend you in any way it was not my intent. I hope that you’ll take another look at slicers for what it offers in terms of education and training, for what it does to help in eliminating the stigma and some of the misinformation regarding exterior attack. Thank you for your response and I remain your friend Bobby

    • anchorpoint1 says:

      As you can most likely tell, I am in favor of the questioning. Thank you for your concern, but I am not offended. This arena does not lend itself kindly to the soft skinned. The purpose of this site is the discussion. Seeing how other departments operate and comparing that to how your department operates. I think the ISFSI missed a massive swath of the fire service with the manner they choose to express their theory. If they want better buy in they need to address that. Thank you again and this may be overreaching, but I hope Fire Fighter Basics can continue to generate meaningful discussions that can help the fire service.

  • Fyrfyter19 says:

    Though hitting a fire from the outside lowers the temperature in the room, it raises it closer to the floor. I’ve been a firefighter for 14 years and work for an inner city department. You’d better be damn sure there are no victims in the structure anywhere near where those heated gasses are going to go. And in my experience being mostly a search and rescue truckie, when a fire is being hit, depending on its size, will darken down anywhere it can travel, e.g., hallways, other rooms. The gases that have come down on me and my partners many times away from the fire room, is not only making near the floor hotter, in some instances made search efforts more difficult. Slicers as its been being presented by proponents is BS. Slicers as another tool? Sure, in very few circumstances. The best way to cool a room while having the best possible chance of victim survival is to hit the seat of the fire coordinated with search & rescue and controlling flow path (drafting). BTW the fire fighters in those videos need to get their shit together.

    • Met Fan says:

      Actually it does not seem to raise the temperatures at the floor in most cases. Do you feel feel different after attack begins? Of course you do. Steam is produced when water hits the fire and you feel the humidity through your gear. This is going to happen regardless of whether the stream entered a window or was done by an engine advancing through the inside. You can run through UL’s training programs especially the one on the burns done on Gov. Island in NY and you will see that. There are cases where a line was used from outside and an occupant was in proximity of the fire and they were removed and revived. If a short application of water from the front yard can knock down the fire or prevent flashover it’s a good tactic. I think that the increased knowledge has given us more tools in our toolbox and more options on the fireground.

  • Ret. Capt. says:

    I’m not sure how the Portsmouth, VA FD normally operates but that is an embarrassment. I am not understanding any part of why the hose team did not make entry while one other member broke out the window with an extension ladder to provide quick ventilation. From what is seen, and the conditions present, in the video, there is no excuse for this type of fire attack. This looks like something you would see years ago from a middle-of-nowhere fire department, operating with their 30 year old, 300 gallon truck and jeans and T shirts.

  • Engine66 says:

    Came across this thread and was relieved to find that I am not the only one skeptical about SLICE RS. I am not a proponent of REVAS either for many reasons. To this day after 31 years on the job, (20 as a Captain) I’m still a faithful follower of Loyd Layman’s RECEO V/S. (Although Loyd Layman’s original series are dated.) I’m all for a progressive approach to our profession for safety and successful outcomes of our mission, but need something pretty substantial to convince me that what worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow. Not to get off-topic, but PPV is another acronym for Positive Pressure Attack…NOT A FAN!

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