By Ray McCormack
The newspapers love a fire rescue; crews love a fire rescue, and so do those saved. These events are dramatic and put firefighters at risk, but they don’t necessarily happen every day, at least the dramatic ones don’t. However, the saving of property and all that goes with it–value, memories, and compassion–happen so frequently we don’t give ourselves enough credit. The real credit that the fire service fails to capture for itself is the life saving we do for each other and the public in the form of organized fire attack.
Every time we put out a fire, search for life, and make sure the fire is out, it is a prevention event. If the line is in position to cut off the fire from extending or controls the fire so you can make a search down a hallway or up a flight of stairs, that’s prevention of injury to our people. It’s time to blow the horn three times in honor of operations that flow correctly. We search, we extinguish the fire, and we save as much property as possible, all in a day’s work. We use a repetitive approach because it works, not because we lack progression. When we experience anomalies in our standard approach, we have to closely examine the contributing factors, not just be in a rush for system overhaul.
We need to reset our values in the fire service. Remember cultural change? Well, let’s start by examining our value a bit deeper. Every fire you go to is not just doing your job. It’s an intense effort, while at risk, to save what is savable from destruction. We are on a mission. We are a force. We have the capabilities and we have the will. All we need is to put them all together and watch it develop. What develops is the quelling of panic and the reemergence of stability, lives saved in the form of firefighters who go on, a public spared from event escalation, and property reclaimed that is central to their quality of life.
When we are responding to a fire, we are on the suppression side of prevention. The suppression forces will attempt to prevent scene escalation, save lives and property from fire, and utilize tactics that have a track record of reducing issues for firefighters. We do this every day, week, and month of the year and the public sees that message. Isn’t it time we saw it too?
Keep Fire in Your Life
RAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine. For more on Urban Firefighter, visit http://www.fireengineering.com/urbanfirefighter.html.
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