Fire Engineering: Training the Fire Service for 125 Years

Compiled by Mary Jane Dittmar, Senior Associate Editor


In Vol. 1, Issue 1 (November 17, 1877) of the National Fireman’s Journal, the publication that ultimately evolved into Fire Engineering, Editors P. Y. Everett and Clifford Thomson, of Everett, Tomas & Co., New York City, publishers, stated in their editorial “Our Paper”:

It is with considerable diffidence that the editors of the Fireman’s Journal enter upon the undertaking of providing for the Firemen of this country a weekly journal devoted to their interests exclusively … In these days, when it is the habit to proclaim all newspapers as ‘organs’ of this or that political party or special business interest, we presume the Journal will be called the Fireman’s Organ. If by that it is meant that it will watch over the interests of the Firemen in all sections of the country, and endeavor to keep them all informed of whatever occurs that is likely to be of interest or advantage to them then we shall cheerfully consent to be termed an ‘organ’ …

We commence the publication of the Journal because we believe such a paper is needed, and that, with due diligence on our part, it can be made profitable to ourselves as well as to the Firemen of the country, to whom we hope to be of some service … We shall also discuss, from an independent standpoint, the many weighty topics which are presented for the consideration of Firemen from time to time. Recognizing that the duties which they are called upon to discharge are among the gravest and most important that fall to the lot of any citizen, calling for the exercise of a high degree of intelligence, courage, skill, fortitude, perseverance and endurance only to be found among the highest types of manhood, it shall be our aim to cheer them on in their noble work; to excite them to honorable rivalry; to impress upon them the right examples of so many noble ones who have traveled this same path before them, and, to the extent of our ability, instruct them as to the best means of doing their work and bearing their burdens.

“… We shall also address those in authority, by whose action the Firemen are provided with the ways and means for maintaining their organizations and performing the duties assigned to them …


“… There has never been a departure from the publishing principles set down by the Founders. Today, after 75 years, Fire Engineering proudly continues as the Journal of the Fire Service; edited and printed for the Fire Service … The editors hope that at the close of the next three-quarter century mark, a fire service of the world may say of those who then publish the present Journal, as may so well be said of the Founders: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servants.’ “—Fred Shepperd, editor, Fire Engineering, August 1952


“It’s hard to believe, but when I was appointed to the New York City Fire Department on March 1, 1938, the starting salary was $2,000 per year. Harder still to believe is that I was soon driving a 1926 Seagrave hook and ladder. The tractor of this rig had solid rubber tires, a chain drive and two-wheel friction brakes, The trailer, which carried the aerial, was a conversion job built in 1915 that originally had been drawn by horses.

“At that time, of the 600 some odd pieces of apparatus in the department, not one carried a radio. Breathing apparatus (Draegers) were carried only by rescue companies, with the exception of two “filter masks” in every battalion car …

“By the time I hit Fire Engineering in May 1962, any fire department worth its salt had discarded the wooden aerial, installed two-way radios in every rig and was cautiously looking at the diesel engine. Then there was the newly introduced Snorkel over which there developed considerable controversy vis-à-vis the aerial ladder—a controversy long laid to rest. And, thank heaven, self-contained breathing apparatus was worn by every man who went into a fire.

“Training in the ’30s consisted of much raising and climbing of ladders and much aiming of empty nozzles at imaginary fires, with little else to while away the hours at probationary school. Training, of course, has increased in scope and effectiveness since those primitive days 40 years ago, not only at the probationary level but throughout the full range of a firefighter’s career … And for the volunteers in small towns there was only the telephone. Now we have two-way radios, pagers, encoders, computerized dispatching, and what have you.

“All in all, the fire service in 1980 is in the best shape that I have seen it since I first put on helmet, coat and boots 42 years ago. And with the advent of the United States Fire Administration and the Fire Academy, the future looks even better.”—James F. Casey, editor, “Some Reflections on Retiring,” Fire Engineering, December 1980


“[Tom Brennan’s] appointment as editor continues a long Fire Engineering tradition—naming an experienced, respected fire professional to guide the magazine. The editor’s desk, once held by Jim Casey, Dick Sylvia, and Jerry Laughlin, is in the good hands of yet another leader in the fire service …”—”Introducing Our New Editor,” From the Publisher, Fire Engineering, November 1983

December 1983: “… This is What Fire Engineering Strives For ….”

“… What could I bring to a publication known nationally for its source/reference framework within the fire service?

“I decided that trying to uphold the 107-year tradition, meaning, and purpose of Fire Engineering’s goals would be a challenge I would take on. To help firefighters cope with the tremendous decisions confronting them as they battle our national disease—fire; to bring the experiences, decisions, results, and lessons of our firefighters and officers throughout the country to the fore; to lay these lessons before our interested and aware firefighters so that they may benefit from this shared knowledge—this is what Fire Engineering strives for …”—Tom Brennan, “There Would Only Be One Man,” Editor’s Notebook, Fire Engineering, December 1983

September 1990: “Salute to a Brother’s Brother”

“… Tom [Brennan] invited me into his—your—world and made me a part of it … and taught me a hell of a lot, and not just about the fire business. It didn’t take long to come away with the lesson here: The fire service—the brotherhood—is really about loving life and about trust …”

“Success wasn’t a miracle. It took a lot of time, energy, and work from Tom and lots of people—from publisher to production and everyone in between—who shared the commitment to excellence in fire service training. But all along we were stepping to Tom’s beat … we were sharing his dream and his vision. The dream and vision were translated into a lot of dreams printed on pieces of paper, some of which were really home runs and some maybe not what you wanted to hear, but always—and he stressed this every day as editor of Fire Engineering—always it was you … The one thing that impressed me the most over the couple of years I’ve spent with Tom is his unflinching, steadfast devotion to his people—’my fire service,’ he calls you …”—Bill Manning, Editor’s Opinion, Fire Engineering, September 1990


“… Some initial reactions to the proposed NFPA 1200 standard says it’s time for some serious soul-searching in the fire service. It’s painfully clear that the problem is not the standard—it’s a fire service that intends to go kicking and screaming into the next millennium … It’s time for the fire service to face reality, realize what we’re here for, and stop running away from standards that can help improve service delivery, improve public and firefighter safety, and achieve the mission. The new 1200 can help us chart the course of a bold future of strong, responsible fire departments. Will you vote to preserve the status quo or improve public safety? If the former, what nerve!”—”The Proposed 1200 Standard: What Nerve!” Bill Manning, Editor’s Opinion, Fire Engineering, June 1997


Anniversaries, in addition to being times of celebration, are also times of reflection and retrospection. Accordingly, we have invited Fire Engineering advisers and readers to look at the fire service past, present, and future for those issues that have been “common threads” in fire service history as well as those that have surfaced as the result of current developments and events.

For the most part, we have found what Editor James F. Casey also discovered and reported in his editorial in the January 1977 Centennial issue of Fire Engineering: that many of the fire service problems reported in the first issue of the Journal (National Fireman’s Journal) are still viable and are being reported on in today’s Fire Engineering. Casey noted: “So it seems that the more things change the more they are the same—even a hundred years later.” That appears to be true even now—125 years later (and we might venture to guess it will be so into the future).

Even many “new” or “current” concerns/problems have as components long-standing issues such as preventing firefighter injuries and deaths, wearing respiratory protection, accountability, codes, politics, and so on.

Presented below are summaries and highlights of the comments our advisers and readers have provided, along with excerpts from past issues—predominantly the first/second issues and those marking 25-year anniversary intervals, the 120th year, and years in which there were changes of editor.


The majority of respondents affirmed the following “positives” and “tenets” of the fire service: The primary mission of the fire service is still to protect life and property, and fire still kills and injures human beings and damages property. Technology will never change the fact that personnel are still needed to fight fires and make rescues. And even though the job is dangerous, and labor-intensive, firefighters are still willing to risk their lives to serve the public. Every time they respond to a call, it is to help someone. It is an honored profession.

The fire service is still a brotherhood, exemplified by camaraderie, and functions as “an extended family.” Battalion Chief Leigh Hollins of Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue in Bradenton, Florida, notes: “The two things that have stood the test of time and have been with us since the beginning of America’s fire service are the brotherhood the fire service offers, which is unlike any other, and the respect that the citizens have for firefighters.”

“Maintenance,” however, is as necessary to preserve the brotherhood as it is to preserve equipment, stressed some respondents. They accordingly offered some tips for sustaining good human relations. Chief Brian Focht, of the Willow Grove (PA) Volunteer Fire Company, reminds us that

As times change, so must we. We must move forward working with the people coming up the ranks, while trying to retain the people that have served for years. The gold leaf on a truck or the amount of red lights is not our best resource; it is our people. A good friend once told me that it does not matter how fast you can stretch a line or pop a door; people care about how you treat them as a person.

Others emphasized the importance of courtesy, consideration, understanding, and kindness.

“Egos can eat brains,” reminds Chief Rick Lasky of the Lewisville (TX) Fire Department. “We need to remind some that there will always be someone smarter, someone better, someone with more. We just have to go out and keep trying to better our cause, to get along a little better, say nice things about each other.”


Tradition, in the sense of pride of the profession and adherence to core values, has been another fire service mainstay.

“Thank God, we’ve hung onto our tradition and heritage,” says Lasky. “I’m not talking about those things that we have hung onto out of habit or those that fall into the ‘but we’ve been doing it that way for 20 years’ category. I’m referring to those that promote our fire service pride and honor. Where we came from. What we’re all about. Why we do what we do.”


Firefighter Deaths

Another situation reported as not having changed is “the way we are killing our firefighters.” “Our culture in the American fire service in essence says that it is okay to die during firefighting operations almost to the point that it is acceptable,” says Assistant Chief Steve L. Kreis of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department. “In most cases,” he adds, “firefighters die for property. This ‘cultural’ craziness must stop. Nobody should ever die for gypsum board.”

“Every year, firefighters die; things are analyzed and researched, and it seems we still die the same way year in and year out,” emphasizes Focht. “The most concerning of all is a fatality from training or in vehicle accidents coming back from a call.”

“We still do not study circumstances involving firefighter fatalities,” concurs Captain Raul Angulo of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department. “We should learn the lessons well so we do not repeat the errors. New hires and the new generation of firefighters continue to make the same mistakes. We still kill firefighters the same way.”

“Unfortunately, one issue that hasn’t changed is … that we’re still losing way too many firefighters, and to the same causes,” agrees Lasky. “We’ve got better apparatus, better protective clothing, better training. We have all of the case histories in front of us, and yet our numbers are still way too high … Not following SOPs/SOGs, lack of an accountability system, poor fireground communication, and a lack of training and understanding in the basics still contribute to too many fatalities. We need to continue to fight this battle if we truly want to see those firefighter fatality numbers go down.”

Firefighter Terry Taylor, Local 27, Seattle, Washington, points out that firefighters do not wear SCBA during overhaul operations despite having been trained to do so—a habit he attributes to “that macho thing.” Taylor also cited the need to recognize the health hazards posed by lack of adequate hydration and heat stress. “We’ve been ignoring the advice of the health care professionals and die too frequently from heart attacks,” he says.


Funding was presented from various facets. One is citizens’ reluctance to pay for the services of a fire department. Among the reasons given for this is that people don’t realize the need for fire department services because they believe that emergencies happen to others.

From the perspective of municipal funding, respondents noted the discrepancy in funding among public services. “Our brothers and sisters in the police side of the city have little trouble obtaining funding,” says Deputy Chief John (Skip) Coleman of the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue, who points out that “the number of grants available for police in comparison with the fire service is very unbalanced.”

Angulo agrees with Coleman: “Fire department issues never have the same priority as police issues. Police usually get their funding. Fire departments either have to beg and scratch or do fund-raisers …”

“The money we need to do the things we have to do, unfortunately, is not just going to pop up out of the ground,” notes Lasky. “We have to go out and find it.” He says fire departments have to market the mission and tell the public and the officials why funding is needed. “Chief Alan Brunacini [Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department] said it best,” says Lasky, “when he said that there are Fortune 500 companies that would kill for the marketing advantage of the American fire service. We have this wonderful tool, this great opportunity; we just need to go out and make it work for us.”

Yet another aspect of funding that made the list was unfunded mandates from the federal, state, and local governments and regulatory agencies. Chief John Ryan of Redmond, Washington, comments: “Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations restrict our ability to operate on the fireground, but what’s really needed is additional training and equipment [which require funding].”

Funding distress may also derive from what Battalion Chief Billy Goldfeder, Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department, terms “shoot from the hip” responses to whatever is popular. “Are weapons of mass destruction and terrorism training important?” he asks. “Sure,” he says. “But if a fire department can’t even muster a crew to safely fight a house fire, it surely won’t be able to handle anything larger!” Moreover, he adds, even when funding is available, it is “played” with. He explains that he recently drove through a city that had built a $7 million city hall. This same city had recently cut its fire department staffing and is running two-person engine companies and a no-person truck company! “What is the priority? Goldfeder asks. “Funding is used for other ‘city’ projects with the rationale that ‘we probably won’t have a fire!’ ”


Staffing concerns are far-reaching. “… Many fire departments today (career and volunteer) have serious staffing issues,” says Goldfeder. “And if you don’t have enough staffing, nothing else really matters. Without adequate staffing on the first alarm, we can’t get water, we can’t search, we can’t rescue, we can’t vent—among many tasks—but, most critically, we can’t survive. Low staffing affects us as much as our customers! Everyone loses.”

“Without adequate staffing,” concurs Hollis, “so many other things are affected in the overall operation; we must keep fighting to properly staff our units.”

The severity of the staffing situation prompted Angulo to ask, “Will robotics replace firefighters? Can robotics do it cheaper?”

Some see lack of funding and lack of staffing, as well as lack of training, as issues that go hand in hand. Deputy Chief William Shouldis, of the Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department, gives one example: “Technical support (the backbone for emergency services) such as research, strategic planning, data collection, and a training division has been hard hit by budget cuts. Having members temporarily detailed to work on special projects has provided opportunities but reduces consistency.”

“In some communities,” relates Rick Fritz, battalion chief of training, High Point (NC) Fire Department, “there is a greater emphasis on ‘who’ is coming through the front door than on ensuring that all of the firefighters coming through the front door are trained, competent, properly equipped, and in sufficient numbers …” Fritz says we’re doing too much with too little. “The term for the new fire service should be the ‘Hellmann’sT Department’ because we are spread so thin.”

“Local budget dollars and funding sources are getting to the end of their limits,” says Gregory Noll of Hildebrand and Noll Associates, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “The fire service is in direct competition with the schools, police, parks, trash collection, and others for a limited piece of the local funding pie. Being an all-hazards response agency (which he terms “mission creep”)—although we are well suited for the job—has placed significant stress on our people and our organizations in terms of time management, training, and resource capabilities.”

And, members say, responsibilities will continue to increase in these times when homeland security is a growing priority and the fire service must be prepared to operate in crime-related scenarios such as terrorist attacks that may involve weapons of mass destruction and biological, chemical, and nuclear agents. To compound the problems, the fire service is losing experienced firefighters “who,” some report, “are retiring from frustration,” sometimes resulting in a lack of experienced personnel on the weekday day shift.


“The political influence of certain individuals and the activism of firefighters as a group waxes and wanes, but [it] has clearly played a central role throughout our history,” observes Mark Chubb, now with the fire service in Christchurch, New Zealand. And, few would deny its relevance for today’s fire service. “Politics/politicians are always an issue when a fire department wants to progress, and it is usually about money,” observes Hollins.

Politics is another entity that has been presented from varying perspectives. In the traditional political sense, it was reported as politicians running the fire department instead of the fire chief. In the “human” aspect, noted by John Sachen, haz mat training officer for the Delta (MO) Fire Protection District, it entails such actions as refusing to assign a task to the most qualified individual, say, from another department or shift, because “it might show us up.”

Becoming involved is another side of “politics.” Chubb points out that the fire service has “been quick to criticize building codes and those who write them but slow to become active in the process.”

This category also encompasses lack of government support, cited by a number of respondents. “Having the support of the city is where it all starts,” explains Lasky. “It all starts with the chief and his willingness to sell the leaders in city hall on what we’re all about.”

Still other definitions given for politics were “a lack of political savvy,” “a lack of cohesion,” “a struggle for power and position,” and “a lack of national focus or a core fire service voice.”

“Every effort should be made to unite America’s fire service under one front so that we can accomplish future goals. Presently, it seems that every time a major issue confronts us, the various ‘factions’ of the U.S. fire service come out with varying opinions. Who are those with the money (the politicians) to listen to? The Union? The chiefs? The NFPA? The League of Cities? The mayors? We need a common front for the big issues that will confront us,” urges Hollins.

Parochialism, Territorialism …

Terms such as “ego,” “home rule,” “career vs. volunteer,” “tradition,” “culture,” and others were used to refer to issues that divide the fire service; interfere with progress; and “hinder efficiency, economy, and good service.”

Goldfeder helps to illustrate the far-reaching consequences of such attitudes: “To me, probably most critical is the fact that many fire departments still cannot or will not work on an automatic basis with their neighboring fire departments. If a department has plenty of staffing, this may not be as critical …” But, he adds, volunteer fire departments often have staffing problems during daytime hours, and career departments may find their staffing inadequate for some responses. Both should “fix” the situation “before the run comes in,” he says, which “may require chiefs to talk to neighboring chiefs; career and volunteer firefighters to work with each other; and all those involved to share common radio channels, operating procedures, and related ‘stuff’ so that all can focus on the mission.”

Ryan refers to fire departments that refuse to cross jurisdictional boundaries to fight fires not covered by mutual-aid agreements or citizens who choose to not pay subscription fees. “The 24-hour shift schedule forces management to run a full-time business with part-time help,” he explains.

Some individual fire departments are “kingdoms,” observes Fritz. “Often,” he says, “departments are created as political factions of one department and ‘splinter’ into another department.”

Territorialism/parochialism sometimes is evidenced by attitude. “We must succeed without the help of our neighboring fire departments, even if we lose the battle,” explains Sachen, “or small fire departments duplicate efforts instead of combining forces, with the attitude that ‘if it wasn’t born here or didn’t start here, we won’t do it or use it.’ ”

Tradition was a sizeable vote getter as an element that has helped to hold the fire service back as well as keep it viable. Although respondents acknowledge that every fire department has traditions, they say that persistently adhering to some traditions has kept the fire service from moving forward. “Attempts to retain the status quo,” relates Shouldis, “have kept the fire service from embracing code enforcement, company level inspections, and public education.”

“We need to understand and remember where we came from, but tradition that stifles safety must be looked at very seriously,” cautions Coleman. “Tradition needs to be maintained, but not to the extent that it hampers progress and safety.”

” ‘Dinosaurs’ in the higher ranks have a major impact, as do firefighters and officers who fear change,” Hollins offers. “People who have all of these traits … hold us back every day.”

With regard to the career-vs.-volunteer rivalry, “The fire service is its own worst enemy,” says Fritz. “We have been fighting with ourselves since before the Civil War.”

Other factors that can impede (and have impeded) progress, according to respondents, are “ego-bound chiefs or “top brass,” personal agendas, and self-centeredness. Some fire departments are run based on what an individual likes and not what’s best for the community, some explain. These attitudes keep departments from considering mergers or sharing services because the department “would be less important.”

Lack of Adequate Training and Training Facilities

“The need for a strong foundation in the basic technical firefighting skills and mission-oriented leadership is as important today as it ever was,” says Shouldis. “The expansion of the fire department’s role and responsibilities creates a gap in training for our core mission of firefighting. Competent officers/firefighters/paramedics must have a full range of knowledge for all-risk/all-hazards situations and can no longer depend on the sheer number of emergency response incidents to gain experience. Simulations and case-study review can provide a solid base of practical information for younger decision makers.”

As noted, good training costs money and depends on adequate funding. Some members perceive a lack of quality fire training in the service. “Everything rolls down the hill to us,” says Fritz, who asks rhetorically, “Where was law enforcement during the anthrax scare? … It was the fire service that dealt with the stuff. But, who got all the money for training? It wasn’t us.”

Then, there is the issue of live fire training. Respondents point to a lack of economical and reasonably convenient National Fire Protection Association 1403-compliant live burn facilities. “This is becoming a very critical element with the emphasis on clean air and the resulting loss of acquired structures,” says Sachen. “It is virtually impossible to legally train in an acquired structure in Missouri.”

A related issue that has come up recently is fire department liability—the indictment and conviction of department members for injuries or deaths during training exercises. Some members have raised the question: “If firefighters or officers are not protected, is it worth the legal exposure?”


The quality of leadership is another ever-present concern. Weak or poor leaders, as defined by Lasky, are “those who don’t care about their firefighters or those who entered into the leadership role purely for the ego boost and trip.” Often, he adds, “the leadership within the organization led us into the problems, such as working against the guys instead of with them, failure to market our mission or not getting out and selling our profession, giving up the fight (for what we need) too easily, complacent or indifferent company officers, lack of good communications within the organization, and just plain not having that love for the job.”

Other ongoing issues mentioned were standard hose connections (“We’ve been fighting that for 100+ years!”); communications problems, including lack of interoperability among departments; water is still the primary extinguishment agent; hiring practices; handling diversity in the fire service (has been around for several decades); the need for objective and competent management in the station and on the scene; reliable equipment; and incident command.


Many individuals have worked to make the fire service an enduring and relevant institution. The contributions have been many and diverse. Among those singled out by respondents are the following (with nominators’ rationale for those cited most often):

  • Chief Alan Brunacini, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department. He has given the fire service a distinct “personality,” making humor a part of the service and urging us to “be nice.” He introduced “customer service” into the fire service delivery system. He has an affinity for the “little guy” and has managed to invert the pyramid of organizational leadership and prove that it works. For his promotion of incident command and incident management techniques, his quiet style and humility, courage, honesty in showing his mistakes and his ability to stand up and talk about them, and his willingness to listen to other perspectives.
  • Tom Brennan. Mister “tell it like it is” and a “father figure” to a younger generation of firefighters; editor of Fire Engineering (1983-1990). He made truck company operations and forcible entry sought-after arts to be practiced and mastered. He has imparted his vast knowledge of urban firefighting for 40 years—just street stuff that every firefighter needs to know. Currently a technical editor of Fire Engineering.
  • Frank Brannigan. A construction expert who truly cares about firefighter safety. His writings, including the text Building Construction for the Fire Service, and teachings stretch six decades. For his passion for firefighter safety. It’s impossible to tell how many lives he has saved over the years.
  • Warren Isman. Along with Gene Carlson, he was part of the “first generation” of haz-mat responders and a strong proponent on Capital Hill for the fire service and hazardous materials response/safety issues.
  • William Clark. Accomplished and passionate fire service instructor and the author of Firefighting Principles and Practices (“the Bible”), one of the most complete textbooks on firefighting.
  • Ronald Coleman. Major influence through his writings and work with the CFAI.

  • Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY, 1899-1911. His fight for staffing and his department as a whole. His statement “I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman” has been used thousands of times to describe firefighters’ love for the job.
  • Chief Ray Downey, FDNY. His love for the job, treating his troops like family, his commitment to FDNY rescues and squads, and his coordination of the FEMA USAR program.
  • Hugh Halligan, FDNY. Designer of today’s most-used firefighting tool.
  • Don Manno. Likeable, approachable, and passionate about training.
  • Curt Weldon. Founder of the Fire Service Caucus.
  • Bill Nelson. Superb fire research related to spray vs. solid stream.
  • Jim Page. “Godfather” of fire-based EMS.
  • Keith Royer. Superb fire research related to spray vs. solid stream.
  • Hal Bruno. Fire service advocacy and work with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
  • John T. O’Hagen. Among the first leaders to recognize the hazards of high-rise firefighting.Dennis Onieal. He brought 25 years of Jersey City (NJ) street firefighting to the “West Point” of the fire service, the National Fire Academy.
  • Robert Quinn (Chicago). The snorkel.


“All instructors who have made a difference”


“All the other well-known fire service icons who have been around for years. They make a difference because they never give up! Their ‘fight’ is in their heart. They are there screaming for all the right reasons! They never lose focus of what we are all here for.”


Respondents named the following as major changes occurring in their departments over the years (in alphabetical order):

  • Accountability
  • Computers
  • Education and training
  • Dive-rescue team
  • Diversity of the workforce (minorities, women); individuals with broad array of skills
  • Emergency medical services. Introduction of EMS, the latest EMS technology, equipment, and cardiac drugs in the field; the introduction of ALS and automatic defibrillators.
  • Fire stations, additions of
  • Haz mat
  • Incident command system
  • Internet
  • Large-diameter hose
  • Mentoring programs
  • Motor-driven apparatus; adding aerial ladders and aerial platforms; quints
  • Protective clothing; issuing NFPA-compliant bunker gear to all firefighters
  • Public safety dispatchers
  • Radios
  • RIT and the emphasis on firefighter safety and survival
  • SCBAs—introduction of and continual improvements
  • Standard Operating Guidelines/Procedures
  • Transition to fully paid department; transition from volunteer to career department (over a period of about 15 years); from volunteer to combination department
  • Work schedule: Going from 6 days on and one day off to current schedule; 24-hour shifts (42-hour a week work schedule).

Anticipated Changes for the Future (in alphabetical order)

  • Accountability—high-tech tracking of personnel at an emergency scene (emphasis on discipline in carrying out assignments and scene control)
  • CAD (computer-aided dispatch) with Enhanced 911 (E911) and AVLs (automatic vehicle locaters).
  • Critical incident stress debriefing teams
  • Improved radio communications
  • EMS—nontransport services; home care
  • Upgrading facilities
  • More dependency on mutual aid
  • Some type of “pay for service” for fire and EMS services
  • Preparing for WMD, terrorist, nuclear and biological-related events and other criminally precipitated events; natural disasters
  • PPE
  • Staffing, addition of
  • Training, multiagency response
  • Wellness/fitness programs.


What are the technological advances respondents would like to see during the next decade?

Topping the list are those that will improve accountability. Members described them as “equipment at the command post to automatically track the exact location of members working inside high-hazard areas,” a passport system, or a firefighter “locator” system that can identify where a firefighter is on the fireground. Others see it as a global positioning system that monitors and tracks individuals on the fireground tied into an accountability system or program. All want the system, whatever form it takes, to be accurate and affordable. “In our lifetime,” Hollins predicts, “we will see a system that shows us exactly where our members are at anytime while operating in a structural incident.” One respondent predicted: “We will also have a system in our lifetime that will prewarn us when we must get out of a hazardous area …”

The majority also voiced concerns about communications, specifying that they would like to see “radios work in and outside ALL buildings” and allow for interagency communication. “I believe that fire departments need to focus on THEIR radio system needs and NOT ‘piggyback’ on some public works or police system,” stresses Goldfeder. “But,” he adds, “I also believe the manufacturers of the radio systems have an obligation to NOT produce something that probably won’t work under standard, interior firefighting operations.”

From the incident management standpoint, a computer-based Pictometry program will enable the incident commander to visualize from a remote location the environment in which companies are operating (such as the type of structure and the exposures) while having a bird’s-eye view of the entire area, explains Chief Jack Parow, Chelmsford (MA) Fire Department.

Members would like to see “refinements” in thermal imaging systems, including thermal imaging built into the SCBA facepiece or as part of the helmet, where it does not conflict with the wearer’s ability to perform; and lightweight (“something that flips down over one eye when needed”), and thermal imaging goggles.

The PPE/clothing list includes lighter gear, easy-to-use SCBA,”bunker gear that will allow a firefighter to survive a flashover,” “less stressful” protective clothing, and the integration of various sensor technologies into PPE (“with heads-up display capability similar to what fighter pilots now have”). One member says he’d “like to see safety clothing and equipment engineered by one manufacturer to fit and work together from the helmet to the footwear, gloves, and breathing apparatus.” Turnout clothing and breathing apparatus will continue to become lighter and more protective and will monitor for impending danger to the wearer, some predict.

Some participants expressed the desire for affordable equipment that monitors firefighters’ health and fitness.

“Networked computers communicating continuously with one another on an impressive scale could offer us some incredible advances in fire safety,” points out Chubb. “Imagine,” he says, “a fire protection system that’s so integrated with the systems and appliances in a building that it either detects and corrects hazards before they threaten building occupants or it notifies firefighters automatically and transmits a rich and continuous stream of information about the conditions present straight to the cab of responding fire apparatus.”

A fire extinguishing system that will continue to evolve into nontoxic extinguishing agents and at a cost that will make them attractive for single-family dwellings.

Parow suggests that the fire service involve itself in a serious research and development program. Perhaps such a program might help bring about other technological advances such as the others proposed by the participants: the ability to see through smoke, a new and lighter firefighting median to replace water, point-of-sight monitoring equipment that will make it possible “to point a beam at an area some distance away and get a chemical analysis or reading,” next generation smoke detectors that notify the fire department when activated (set up in a matrix style system to avoid a false or minor activation), hoselines with glow-in-the-dark directional indicators pointing to the way out, smoke detectors that can’t be disabled by taking out the battery, and high-pressure water-cutting nozzles that can cut through concrete and steel.

Additional Changes Anticipated Within the Next 10 Years

Following are additional anticipated changes and constants: a greater awareness of the construction features and deficiencies in the high-rises in the jurisdiction; more customer-oriented and friendly service; offering “less traditional” services such as home health care and checking on the well-being of the elderly and sick, which will be billable services; a more profit-driven fire service; more incident-specific training and diversification of our “do all, be all” approach to neighboring departments; increased fire prevention and public safety education programs; continued staffing problems; increase in all-hazard emergency response; improved radio communications; better use of ICS; better use of mutual aid and outside resources; robot fire extinguishment and rescues in untenable areas; planning for terrorist-related events in conjunction with law enforcement, hospitals, public works, and public heath officials; improved firefighter health/safety and welfare; and attempts to attract more highly qualified staff.


A number of participants say they do not expect much to change in the way of responding to high-rise fires, at least tactics-wise. “We are already suffering staffing cutbacks, ignoring building codes, and refusing to retrofit the fire service,” says Fritz. “Unless the political arena changes, we will continue to respond just as we have since the mid-1800s. Building construction techniques are getting worse from a fire service perspective, not better,” he adds.

“The real answer is to make it so that high-rise fires are handled through planning, construction, and internal systems vs. expecting us to climb 100 stories,” says Goldfeder. “To build a big building outside of the building code and then have two planes hit it, what’s the response? What would be the results? We saw them on 9-11-01. The answers to 9-11-01 should have been arrived at beforehand—proper defense, communications between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and related organizations, high-rises built to codes, and so on.”

A number of respondents believe that, for the most part, the changes in high-rise response would be minimal for agencies that already have effective operating practices in place. The event of 9-11, they point out, was a “rare exception” in comparison with high-rise incidents to which most departments respond. Moreover, they say, the cost of having every fire agency with high-rise buildings fully prepared to handle these “exceptions” would put an end to most training and equipment purchases for everyday fires and incidents, although they see training for multiagency responses for “all types of incidents” a “reasonable cost.” “If such training were developed around the typical incident management system model, with adequate flexibility for regional variations, the cost and efforts to implement it could be reasonable,” Sachen points out.

But, it was noted that improvements are needed in communications—better radios; “in building” communications; interoperability; interagency cooperation, especially between the fire and police departments; and accountability.

And, it was acknowledged that 9-11 most certainly will influence how the fire service will look at high-rise fires in the future. “Every incident commander in the world will think differently when he pulls up to a burning high-rise,” says Hollins. “The location of the command post, accountability, the time until collapse—all these things will be affected.”

Shouldis anticipates changes through “strict enforcement of the check-in policy for base and staging at high-rise incidents.” He adds: “I’m not convinced that the command post should be a distance from the fire control room. I still support a lobby-based command post. Emergency response personnel must get into harm’s way when lives are endangered.”

In addition, respondents noted, incident commanders no longer will consider remote the chance that the structural members of a high-rise building may be weakened from fire impingement and fail; first-in officers will consider the possibility that the high-rise fire may be the result of a deliberate criminal activity; the “safe haven” approach to occupant safety will be reevaluated and more attention will be focused on civilian self-evacuation; and command post locations (outside vs. inside) must be considered at some fires—command post and operations sectors may have to be set up outside the building and beyond the collapse zone.

Angulo adds that private fire brigades, made up of occupants, will be better trained in evacuation and in sizing up the fire so that they can give a radio or phone report to the fire departments and determine which stairwell will be used by occupants and which by firefighters. Other predictions include increases in high-rise evacuation drills; multiagency training drills; fire service terrorism training; joint training with the military and National Guard; the reviewing and revising of SOPs and SOGs, “self-deployment” issues, and accountability procedures.

Effect of 9-11 on Building Codes

Experience, realism, and cynicism are reflected in respondents’ expressed views concerning how much of an impact 9-11 will have on building codes. Many of the responses can be summed up in phrases like “very little,” “not much,” and “none.” The rationale for this position included explanations such as “The construction industry represents large political lobbies” and “If the choice is money vs. firefighters, firefighters lose.”

On the other hand, respondents thought little could be done in this regard because 9-11 was “an anomaly.” “I don’t know if buildings should be built to withstand the effects of jet fuel fires,” Coleman relates. “The overengineering and construction to put up buildings that would be safe from aircraft, explosive devices, and other acts of violence would be cost prohibitive and ineffective,” notes Ryan. “In reality,” says Goldfeder, “not much can be done except maybe for New York City and some other large cities … The building industry is very powerful and, unfortunately, most city hall types are close to that industry, which renders many chiefs ineffective in dealing with the problem.”

“We probably could build buildings that can take a hit from a jumbo jet and be expected to survive it,” notes Hollins. “Today’s high-rises have proven they can take (normal) raging fires and even earthquakes; 7 WTC was the first high-rise in the United States to collapse because of fire only, and the circumstances were nowhere near ordinary,” he explains. “With the present building construction techniques, adequate fire forces to respond, and built-in fire protection features, the high-rises of the future will perform well.”

“Someone or something can always destroy something made by man …,” observes Angulo. Nevertheless, he points that the firefighters who died at the World Trade Center wouldn’t want the fire service to “simply to give up and not even try. I think they would want us to learn as much as we can … and would expect us to lead the way in high-rise construction reform,” he adds. As an example, Angulo says that perhaps we reached the point where lightweight construction is light enough and that it would be morally wrong to go lighter and cheaper, totally disregarding human safety.

A number of respondents believe that there may be some safety-related changes in future high-rises such as more efficient fireproof coating for steel members; the addition of sprinkler systems; the incorporation of wider, remote, and multiple stairways; improvements in “in building” communications; dedicated firefighter emergency elevators; more redundant building construction systems; height restrictions; independent (floor-by-floor) fire suppression systems; and a review of truss construction. Chief Richard Marinucci, of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department, notes that there will be continued study to look for better construction; but, he adds, “like everything else, the further we get from 9-11, the more challenging it will be to make changes.”

Also, say respondents, architects and fire officials should review building codes and make inspections. Company officers and firefighters must know the new construction and protection systems in their local district. The key to safer operations, says Shouldis, is more company level involvement (after some formal training). And, adds Chubb, entire communities must recognize that they have a stake in the buildings in their area, not just owners and occupants. In this way, he adds, civilians would be more prone to accept more stringent security requirements and their relation to the cost of construction.


Ronald Kanterman, chief of emergency services for Merck & Co. in Rahway, New Jersey, notes that “we will be talking about the same issues 10 years from now.”

Fritz sees “a disturbing trend toward the nationalization of the fire service with the fire service answering to and taking direction from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Sachen sees a period of from two to four years that will not be very positive or effective. “There are too many personal agendas and divergent factors being promoted to have meaningful progress,” he explains. He anticipates an era of “many purchases, training, back slapping, press releases, and very big egos when what is really needed,” he says, “is a work group of chiefs—nonrepresented career, represented career, and volunteer service—to look objectively at the needs of the fire service nationwide. This work group,” Sachen adds, “should consider the same, similar, and unique needs of rural, small city, suburban, medium, and large city fire agencies …”

Preparedness will mean much more than engine and ladder practices at structural fires, observes Shouldis. “The fire service will be more involved in nonfire emergencies such as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, mass-casualty incidents, and terrorist attacks. Future incident commanders will gain much experience from scenario-based training sessions. In the past,” he notes, “many officers simply waited for the ‘big one’ to practice on-scene management skills.

“After 30 years in the fire service, working mainly in the operations and training sections, I believe that the cuts in administrative units have reduced logistical support for the operational units,” explains Shouldis. “The key for the future incident commander is to match resources to the particular conditions. Often the necessary resource does not have the privilege of wearing a firefighter’s badge.”

“The fire service will adapt to its ‘type’ of call load and provide the proper human and equipment resources to get the job done safely and efficiently over the next decade,” according to Hollins. “At the same time,” he adds, “they will be refining the things they are already good at. All this will be accomplished through additional funding, new technology, and the highly experienced and educated leaders we now have in our ranks.”

Evolution of Fire Engineering

  • November 1877—Born as the National Fireman’s Journal.
  • 1879—Name changed to The Firemen’s Journal.
  • 1886—Name changed to Fire and Water.
  • 1904—Name changed to Fire and Water Engineering.
  • January 1926—Name changed to Fire Engineering. (Fire and Water Engineering was separated into two publications: Fire Engineering for the fire service and Water Works Engineering for the water works field.)

March 1997: “How Progressive Are You?”

“The definition of the ‘progressive’ fire department and the ‘progressive’ firefighter is subjective. Nevertheless, here are some issues that may help tell if you’re on the cusp or doomed to play catch-up.

“Have you completely explored and implemented fireground rapid intervention teams …?

“Have you explored the idea of a regionalized or statewide fire service response to natural and man-made disasters …?

“Have you stayed current with federal initiatives in the area of preparedness for terrorist incident response …?

“Have you dealt with standards and regulatory compliance issues, or are you still treading water, or even drowning …?

“Are you aware that NFPA 1200, Standard on Fire Service Organization and Deployment, has been drafted and currently is in the comment period …? Get a copy of this document from the NFPA and have input into the future of the fire service …

“Are you still playing the staffing charade? That a three-member crew is just as safe and effective as four?

—That responding, say, a total force of nine firefighters and chief officers on three apparatus is an adequate response to a working fire in a busy suburban business district?

—That you can rapidly extinguish heavy fire in a strip mall with a common cockloft with 10 firefighters?

—Does city management know exactly what you can accomplish with these nine or 10 firefighters? Mutual aid is not a panacea!

“Are you aggressive with respect to fixed fire protection technology …? Do you have

—A comprehensive firefighter fitness/wellness program in your department?

—Comprehensive standard operating guidelines issued to every firefighter? An accountability system that isn’t just for show?

—Community and internal risk management programs?

“Are you an empowered firefighter? Have you been provided with and have you sought the level of training, the education, and the latitude you need to be a professional risk manager …?

“For in truth, the fire department that has sacrificed its firefighter professional development program (its training program) to service expansion or budget cutbacks or whatever has mortgaged its future and ensures that the line-of-duty firefighter injury and death rates per fire will continue long into the next millennium.”—”How Progressive Are You?” Editor’s Opinion, Bill Manning, Fire Engineering, March 1997

Defects of Small Fire Department

By An Old Fireman

April 13, 1878—It is probable no branch of the average village government is so generally neglected as the Fire Department, and while it is the general opinion that a small village needs less efficient and reliable apparatus and membership than the larger towns, a close examination of the facts either fails to establish the idea, or proves the contrary. Few persons who have not given the subject attention, and especially those familiar with the discipline and equipment of the larger departments, can conceive of the utter absurdity, and absolute inefficiency of some of the burlesques called country Fire Departments. The average village department usually consists of one or two engines, either hand or steam, with a membership often scattered over a radius of two miles. The apparatus being seldom used, is often neglected to such an extent that when a fire takes place it is absolutely unserviceable. The water supply, one of the first and most important points to be considered, is really always inadequate, and, in many cases during the winter, inaccessible. The supply of hose, which in the case of an isolated and limited water supply is supremely important, is usually limited, and often in part unreliable. The membership being scattered and the means of alarm uncertain and tardy, a fire nearly always attains large dimensions before the arrival of the apparatus, and the usual absence of means of applying water before its arrival renders it almost certain the building in flames at least must be consumed. It is sometimes the case a village from false notions of economy will purchase a small size and small power engine, or the discarded and worn-out apparatus of some larger town, under the impression it is large and good enough for a small village …

The writer is personally cognizant of a case where the steam fire engine owned by a village was for nearly a week absolutely unserviceable from the neglect of the proper authorities to provide wood and coal! … In country Departments, where actual fires are few, frequent practice meetings should supply their place in supporting proper discipline …


Charleston, S.C. proposes to reduce salaries in fire departments as follows: chief engineer—from $1,000 to $900; three assistants from $300 each to $250; each of fourteen steamer companies to receive $1,500 instead of $1,800; hand engine companies to receive $600 instead of $800; hook and ladder companies $500 instead of $600.—Random Sparks, National Fireman’s Journal, January 26, 1878


“… In short, death won’t wait until search is made to locate the kind and amount of respiratory safeguards requisite to meet the diversified hazards encountered in today’s stepped-up, complicated fire protection.

“It is time municipal officials awoke to the fact that we are living in a new era, an age of chemicals, plastics, refrigerants, new and different gases and volatiles; an age of closed construction where reliance is placed solely on mechanical, artificial ventilation and air conditioning for breathable air; and age of sub-basements from which poisonous fumes cannot escape, and to which breathable air cannot penetrate; an age that spells increasing danger to firefighters.”—Fred Shepperd, With the Editor, Fire Engineering, October 1952

APRIL 1983

“… Now ask yourself, whatever your rank: If you see anyone on the fireground who didn’t have the time to wear protective clothing, what is your responsibility?”—Jerry W. Laughlin, editor, “Do You Have the Time for Safety?” Editor’s Notebook, Fire Engineering, April 1983

June 29, 1927: “UPHOLD THE CHIEF”

“It is not only the duty but it is also a policy of the utmost wisdom for the city authorities to stand behind and uphold the chief of the fire department in his various acts for the good of the service and the discipline of the department. Only by this means can it be demonstrated both to the members and also to the general public that the chief is firmly seated in the saddle and that no ‘nonsense’ will be tolerated …”—With the Editor, Fire Engineering, June 29, 1927


“We see the same problem of fire service fragmentation on the state level as well as the national level. Beyond that, there is much to be done to unify the fire service on county and regional levels … If the fire service organizations fail to agree on an important issue, that leaves the page blank for someone else to write the conclusion their way—not the fire service way … What the various segments of the fire service have to realize is that by the age-old process of bargaining, they can reach a compromise that provides a solution they all can live with because it is voluntary and not imposed.”—Richard Pratt Sylvia, Editor’s Opinion, “Fire Service Speaks With Too Many Tongues,” Fire Engineering, July 1981


“Once you let politics get its grip on the department, efficiency and dependence will be things of the past. Members of the department and all who have its interest at heart must maintain constant vigilance if they would keep the department’s slate clean.”—”Politics at Its Worst,” Fire Engineering, February 23, 1927

MAY 1985: “I’d Probably Put the Fire Out”

“I was surprised that most of you support the slogan ‘No subscription, no suppression service.’ [Ed. note: in response to an editorial addressing the incident of a subscription fire company that withheld suppression services because the annual fee had not been paid.] I was shocked and dispirited. How could anyone who swore to protect and preserve life and property stand by and watch another’s possession destroyed? …

“The act of not responding (regarded as deviant behavior by most departments on both sides of the Hudson) could serve as one dramatic measure that, if properly publicized, should enlist the subscription donations of the ‘holdouts.’ However, once on the emergency scene, it was agreed that some action must be taken. This would not only strike a blow for humanity, but would divert the negative publicity away from the firefighters and onto the ‘system’ under which those firefighters are forced to work.

“A system that permits, if not demands, this organization to do nothing to reverse the fire or emergency conditions to which it responds must be changed. The emergency responder should never be faced with a decision to serve or not to serve based on the payment record of the human being he strives to protect.

“If legislation is necessary to mandate adequate funding for firefighting services, then let’s all demand it. There is probably no more powerful group within our states than the emergency responder and his sympathetic and enthusiastic following. A following that grew and flourished because of the dedicated efforts of all of you who, when asked point blank what you would have done if you had the nozzle your hand, answered: ‘I’d probably put the fire out.”—Tom Brennan, Editor’s Opinion, Fire Engineering, May 1985


“There was little standardized mutual aid before World War II. New York sent a contingent to Baltimore for the 1906 conflagration. The message to the units said, “The City of Baltimore is afire. Proceed to the foot of Liberty Street.” Steamers lit off their boilers, thinking the fire was on a well-known passenger liner. They ferried across the Hudson and were loaded on flat cars. Fortunately, Dr. Harry M. Archer, the legendary honorary medical officer, was with them and had taken money to buy food. At Baltimore, they found the couplings did not fit the hydrants. This led to efforts to standardize couplings.

“Fall River, MA, had a huge fire. Boston units responded in subfreezing temperatures with men hanging on the back step.

“There was a big fire in a saltpeter factory in Jersey City. Some politician called New York for help. The fire was subsiding as FDNY Chief John Kenlon led a third-alarm assignment up Pavonia Avenue. He saluted the Jersey City chief, ‘Here we are, Chief.’ The chief turned and said, ‘Who the hell sent for you?’ Kenlon turned around and said, ‘Take up.’ “

—Francis L. Brannigan, SFPE (Fellow), author of Building Construction for the Fire Service, Third Edition, editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering


Knowledge never disqualifies a man for anything and the more knowledge he absorbs along the line of his particular vocation the greater his ability to render not only intelligent but more efficient service.—Assistant Chief James E. Granger, Fire Department, Cleveland, Ohio, “Does It Pay to Train the Fireman?” Fire Engineering, August 10, 1927

“… The question of hose couplings is a broad one, but the merits are like a jug handle, all on one side—that of a uniform size of thread …”—Correspondence, National Fireman’s Journal, Apr. 13, 1878

April 1981: “Training Is Too Important To Be Treated as a Luxury”

“If a man convinced a corporation that he could improve production by 5 percent, top management wouldn’t let him out the door before they signed a contract with him. In the fire service, that man is the training officer. The quality of a fire department’s ‘production’ on the fireground is a direct reflection of the quality of training in that department. However, when it is necessary to shrink the budget, too frequently fingers walk through the budget items until they reach ‘training and education,’ and there they stop like they had found a home.

“Too often, training is treated like an orphan who should consider himself lucky to be allowed to sit at the table and eat the leftovers. Training is invisible to the public and usually is conducted by one or two persons, so it is easy to cut without arousing any loud complaints.

” … In a fire department [cutting the training budget] is the first step to more injuries, higher fire losses, and eventually public disenchantment with the quality of fire service.

“Training is a necessity that is too important to be treated as a luxury … Frankly, if training is to get its proper share of the budget, training officers have to make a convincing case for training in reporting to their chiefs. In turn, chiefs have to relay these compelling reasons to the municipal administrators. It’s the reasonable way to go … Training doesn’t need friends half as much as it needs fighters who will battle for it.”—Dick Sylvia, Editor, Fire Engineering, April 1981

March 30, 1878: “Spray vs. Solid Stream”

“… To undertake the extinguishment of fire by throwing a spray instead of a solid stream would be folly, unless in a close compartment where there would be no possible chance for steam to escape and in close proximity to a fire …”—Letter to Editor, National Fireman’s Journal

“Many things, including the dangers and hazards of firefighting, will not change until firefighters embrace fire prevention over firefighting. And I just don’t see that happening …”—Captain Raul Angulo, Seattle (WA) Fire Department

“When firefighters or medics need to communicate, they can’t wait for a busy signal [or afford to] have their transmission sound as if they are under water. Most of the new digital systems are about as good as the cell phone you use.”—Chief Billy Goldfeder, Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department

November 1990: Flashover

“… Flashover is what happens when people build boxes out to wood or brick or whatever and cram them full of furniture and furnishings that burn hot and fast when exposed to the heat of fire, and there’s nothing phenomenal about that …”—Bill Manning, “The Flashover ‘Phenomenon,’ ” Editor’s Opinion, Fire Engineering, November 1990

November 8, 1902: Fireproof Materials

“… The best methods of fireproofing are not adopted in many hotels, apartment (or tenement) houses, and quite exceptionally are any adopted in such buildings as do not come under the purview of the law relating to the compulsory adoption of fire-resisting materials. For example, sufficient care is not always taken to protect steel and iron columns from the action of the flames. It is true that it is still an open question as to what is the best covering to be employed for the protection of such columns, girders, and beams so that they shall be able to withstand the action of both fire and water together or separately. In the case of wooden posts or girders, the structure stands as long as there is sufficient material to resist the flames, while in the case of the iron or steel column, the structure collapses as soon as the temperature has reached the danger point. Tests made under the auspices of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1896, on full-sized steel and cast iron columns, loaded to their safe capacities, showed that the steel columns fell at an average temperature of 1,150° Fahrenheit and the cast iron at an average temperature of 1,300° Fahrenheit—the failing occurring after exposure to the fire of from twenty-three minutes to one hour and twenty minutes, or an average duration of about fifty minutes …

“Up to the present time the best fire-resisting material in which to imbed, or with which to incase the surface of such columns, girders, or beams would seem to be a concrete-cinder mixture of one part of Portland cement, two of sand, and five of hard coal cinder (soft coal cinder does not bind well). If too much cinder is used, corrosion of the steel or iron so threatened may set in, and, as this material is cheaper than cement, its employment has interfered with the fire-resisting process of the concrete, and disastrous results have supervened, owing to the warping of the iron or steel when heated to excess by fire, or to its weakening through rust and causing the downfall of the floor, sometimes of the building, even under the load it was guaranteed to bear. This is a common danger to which all so-called fireproof buildings are exposed, unless the concrete referred to is diligently and conscientiously examined by the official inspectors …”— Fire Engineering, November 8, 1902

August 10, 1927: “Necessity for Building Construction Knowledge”

“The practice of requiring a knowledge of building construction and nature of the contents of buildings has in some instances been condemned. This requirement does not mean building construction from an engineering standpoint. It means rather the location of stairways, elevators, and other vertical openings, skylights, scuttles, penthouses, fire escapes, fire doors, sprinkler valves, drains, and standpipes. A knowledge of these will enable you to advance to the seat of a fire and operate with greater safety, more intelligently, more quickly and efficiently. The only method by which you can accomplish this is by inspection and a study of conditions …”—Assistant Chief James E. Granger, Fire Department, Cleveland, Ohio, “Does It Pay to Train the Fireman? Fire Engineering, August 10, 1927

“Our ability to respond to large-scale incidents will, unfortunately, be tested again; we need to be prepared. We need to continue to train our firefighters through live-fire training and provide more programs pertaining to the basics of our job.

“To be even more successful, we need to implement more officer development programs and academies. These measures, along with improving codes and passing more sprinkler ordinances, will enable us to provide better service to the public and, more importantly, save more firefighter and civilian lives.”—Chief Rick Lasky, Lewisville (TX) Fire Department


The latest buzzwords to invade the fire service are ’emergency first responder,’ and unlike many of the predecessors, these three give promise of becoming useful to the fire service in the immediate future …

Emergency first responder … holds the promise of being the concept that can put a spotlight on what the fire service is all about—dedication, responsibility and public service … The problem is that while they may be recognized by municipal policy and budget developers, these officials have only a nodding acquaintance with the effect of these fire service characteristics on the well-being of the residents of a community.

Throughout its history, the fire service has been accepted as the first responder to fires. Firefighters know that they are first responders to many other types of emergencies—medical emergencies, vehicle extrication, hazardous materials incidents, and floods, to name abut a few. While the public is vaguely aware of these non-fire responses, they remain part of a shadowy concept …—”Emergency First Responder Role of Fire Service Needs More Extensive Recognition,” Dick Sylvia, the Editor’s Opinion, Fire Engineering, February 1981

Preflashlight days, lanterns lit the way for firefighters. (Fire Engineering, 1905.)


“Rubber hose is very much heavier than leather, and we could cite you cases where the ‘Boss’ cotton hose has rotted out in less than three months. Leather is the only durable kind, and you will make no mistake in setting down the fact.”—Samuel Eastman & Co. (Fire Engineering, 1877.)


A chief’s car. How fast could you get to the fire in this? And where does the pullout command tray go? (Fire Engineering, 1921.)


This gas mask probably would fall short of today’s NIOSH standards. (Fire Engineering, 1935.)


EMS training: “The proper method of caring for the injured.” Note the rescue truck in the background. (Fire Engineering, 1950.)


FDIC then (1941)…


and now (2002)



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