Firefighter Casualties: When “Old-School Firefighting” Doesn’t Work

Issue 3 and Volume 163.

BY ANTHONY AVILLO From time to time, you hear the phrase “Old-School Firefighting” and the need to return to our roots—i.e., hard-nosed, get-down-and-dirty, get-in-there-at-all-costs firefighting. Although many times this approach is warranted, failing to recognize when it is not warranted can and has cost firefighter lives. A cavalier approach to structural firefighting all the time, every time, displays a gross misunderstanding of risk management and usually results in more casualties than are acceptable (and none are acceptable!). No firefighter is tougher than a fire, a collapsing building, misbehaving electricity, or a moving vehicle. Your job as an officer is to keep your subordinates from testing that theory. Unfortunately, the biggest theory testers are often company officers who arrive first (the initial incident commanders) and operate without looking at the big picture, often getting themselves and their crews into more danger than they bargained for. It is then up to those…

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