The World is not on fire.

I recently watched a video of a politician trying to scare up support for his cause. He was saying “The world is on fire, and my opponent wants to make it worse”. He was trying to instill fear in the audience so he could sell them his answer to that fear. When a little girl in the audience started crying he assured her that the world wasn’t really on fire as long as her mommy followed his beliefs.
If you are young enough to know your way around a computer and the monster that is faceypages, go check out “Truck Floor Training” “Firefighter nation” and “View from the Front seat”. There you will find firefighters having discussions. Most of the time they go pretty well. I personally learn something every time, mostly having to do with responses with extremely limited staffing.
But almost every thread includes a fear monger or two. The person whose only goal is to spread fear and cowardice by repeating falsehoods. Why? I can only imagine like that politician they want people to turn to them for the answers to the problems they have invented. More realistically they want to somehow drum up opposition to a practice they do not approve of.
Firefighter Nation put this image up:

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Sure, they aren’t wearing SCBA’s, which via consensus is not OK. Let’s stay focused here. My department does not require SCBA on a roof. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is (most guys wear it anyways). One gentleman commented, “Just because there is fire through the roof does not mean it’s properly ventilated, professional truck crews do this every day”. Implying that some departments send a crew to the roof at every fire to check for hazards, ensure proper ventilation and keep an eye on the roof for command and the crews working under that roof.
One of the responses to that comment was:

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A comment that is solely based in fear not fact. And this gentleman gained some “likes” with this nonsense. Why try to scare other firefighters away from doing their job and doing it well. The roof in this example is not compromised or the crew would not still be there. I can only imagine the commenter said this because where he works they instill a misguided fear of roof operations.
Why generalize? Why can’t each incident be taken as a new separate event? Instead of using a blanket go/no go policy?
Comments like “Anyone who says to cut the roof is stupid” show a lack of understanding. I can understand your department has taught you to fear roofs. That could be because of staffing or lack of education/experience. But please don’t spread that irrational fear. Some departments want to control the spread of fire and will ventilate to draw the fire out the roof above it’s seat instead of letting the fire decide where it will go next. Some departments do the right thing and teach it’s members how to work from aerials and roof ladders instead of teaching fear. Fear is definetly easier to practice than skills.

Another one of the commenters on the same picture proved he does not actually know how LODD’s occur. He has been indoctrinated into the safety culture so much he actually thinks his gear will save him from everything that could befall a firefighter.

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There is NO way to guarantee everyone comes back from every call. Doing the best you can, being the safest you can, doing everything you think is right and everything you were taught is right will not guarantee your safe arrival back home. FACT. Cultures of mandated safety tend to remove personal accountability, members have to know why they are being safe. If the members are “Being safe” to avoid punishment instead of injury there is a problem in your department. You cannot predict every hazard, members one scene need to be alert to hazards.
A prime example of this is a retired friend of mine’s father was killed in the line of duty. He was a chief’s driver, nearing retirement. They were at a fire that was under control and he was standing across the street outside the collapse zone. A small part of the front of the building fell off, hit a tree, knocked it down, it fell down across the street and onto the firefighter. No helmet, SCBA or defensive tactic would have prevented that.

There is another group out there that will do everything they can to prevent attacking a fire at the seat. Too many times I see firefighters desperately searching for reasons not to go in. I understand knocking down fire before advancing but I do not however understand how anyone can claim a building with some black smoke coming out is “ready to flash”. Give me and everyone else a break. Yes, if left unchecked and not properly ventilated it will eventually flashover. How long is that going to take? 3 minutes? 7? How long is it going to take for your crew to flow water or pop a roof? And which of these would be better water on the fire or flashover? I cannot believe people advocate writing off everything and everyone inside because there is a lot of smoke. No kidding there is smoke. LEARN your job and then DO your job. Not advancing because of some overinflated fear of worst-case scenario makes no sense. Use facts. I would say use science but that word has been given a bad name lately by people who have twisted it to further their own goals.
Having a healthy fear of fire is a really good thing for firefighters to have, but fear implies a lopsided relationship that impedes understanding. We can put ourselves on a better footing at fires by having a deep respect for fire. The kind of respect that comes from knowing what fire can do and what it will most likely do. Then Balancing that with the capabilities of well trained crews puts us where we should be, professionals who bring order to the chaos.
The world isn’t on fire, it just looks that way if you focus on the hot spots. It’s the job of level headed fire service professionals to hold these fear monger’s feet to the flames so to speak. Allowing this nonsense to continue, and even worse, allowing it to spread is a great disservice to the fire eservice and poisons the minds of the next generation of fire service professionals paid or volley.

2 Comments

  • Jim P. says:

    BRAVO. Very good observations. Thanks for writing this. Decisions/leadership based upon fear or lack of training is unacceptable. These things need to be said, to counteract the attitudes that are trying to influence future generations of firefighters.

  • Scott says:

    I am not sure that the author even understands his point, he says that science has gotten a bad name? Just because one does not like the results of the scientific process does not make them “bad”. The only bad is not learning and educating ourselves in our craft. To claim that a culture of safety removes accountability is ridiculous and marginalizes any other statement that is made. Lastly- a company officers job is to be alert to the worst case scenario and take care of his/her firefighters. Do me a favor- if you want to concentrate on pulling ceiling, cutting holes, etc – ride in the back seat.

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