March is the month we celebrate our Irish Heritage. Apparently, during the Gold Rush days of mining, the miners who struck gold seemed to all be of Irish descent. This created the phrase “the luck of the Irish.” For firefighting, we don’t want to depend on luck to survive the fireground. We will rely on skills from training and experience to help manage our risk. Therefore, firefighter survival starts with the basics!
This month we remember Firefighter Oscar Armstrong from the Cincinnati (OH) Fire Department. Firefighter Armstrong was on the first line into a single-family dwelling fire when the fire flashed over. The fire at 1131 Laidlaw Avenue was considered to be Cincinnati’s “bread and butter,” but it took one of their members. How did this happen? The Laidlaw Investigative Committee produced a comprehensive report on this incident. Click here to read this report. One of the recommendations from the committee includes this excerpt:
Fire fighters should always try to maintain a sense of direction when performing interior fire fighting operations. When structures become smoke-filled and the visibility is poor, fire fighters can become easily disoriented. A hose line, rope, or some other type of guide or reference point can assist fire fighters in maintaining a sense of direction in case an evacuation becomes necessary. Fire fighters should always make a mental note of the location of the closest hose line, rope, or other type of a guide or reference points in case conditions change.
-Page 53, Lessons Learned and Reinforced
Can you find your way out using the hoseline or search rope? This month’s skill/drill is to practice this lifesaving skill. You will need two to three sections of attack line with a nozzle and a search rope. Start with the search rope bag in the “fire room.” Attach the end of the search rope to the attack line. Have a member gear up with a blacked-out face piece. Get the firefighter dizzy by having them spin around and tell them to get out. The member will feel around for the search rope. When they find it, direct them to find their way out. The goal…follow the search rope to the hose, follow the hose to get out!
Practice this skill/drill and honor the memory of Cincinnati Firefighter Oscar Armstrong. To learn more about the department, the incident, and Firefighter Armstrong, watch the March Mayday Monday podcast below.
Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.
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