Tactical Safety: Taking Sides

By Ray McCormack

There are only two sides to a fire building: the inside and the outside. There are those who want us to stay outside for a variety of reasons. There are those who see us as incapable of making good decisions regarding entry. There are those who fail to truly understand our capabilities employing interior fire attack.

Fire, smoke, occupancy, construction, time of day, troop strength, timing, and water issues are all valid reasons to stay outside and many can be misread or exaggerated keeping you outside. We are all-hazard–“check.” We are firefighters–“check,” but wait.  There seems to be some difficulty in pulling the interior extinguishment pin for some. If your scales tend to tip toward the outside and you know that it isn’t really necessary, then why would you continue?

Do you feel that the inside of the fire building is too dangerous for your firefighters to operate in? What happens when the exterior option is off the table? What are you going to do then? Are your tactics going to tame it? Have you sat down and figured out what your extinguishment is going to look like?

Are you operating under an assumption that our capabilities don’t include interior success? What is missing from your extinguishment platform that you have trouble handling a bread-and-butter fire? It can’t be equipment, because we all have the necessary hoses and nozzles. Do you believe there is no such thing as a bread-and-butter fire in the modern age? If so, that is a bad assumption.

To arrive at a burning home and base your operations on exaggerated conditions places most firefighters in a state of paralysis, and that must be fixed so that your people know they can be successful with either option.

Finding the tactics that you need to get extinguishment done is not an unknown, but it may take practice for some. Start by not feeding it unnecessarily and its bite will be less powerful. We need to get our people inside to find the savable and the injured. I know that I want someone coming for me if I’m inside, don’t you?

Keep Fire in Your Life

Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for FirefightersRAY 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.




  • RAY McCORMACK is a lieutenant and veteran of the Fire Department of New York. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC 2009. He is the co-creator and editor of Urban Firefighter and the an FDIC International instructor.

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