The Commander’s Intent


We at Fire Engineering were recently asked to “kill” an article that was scheduled to run in the magazine because the theory the article was based on made a friend very uncomfortable—the concept challenged his view of best practice. We told him we could not honor his request.

We often confuse our opinions and feelings with science and research. In firefighting science, research and the debates over best practice will never end. Because we are passionately driven from time to time, we fall into the trap of believing that we have “the” answer. If it were just that easy, we would not be known as “The Bravest.”

For any endeavor, having a well-crafted and clearly articulated mission statement can keep you from losing your way on the journey of continuous improvement. The Army says it all in three words: “Duty, Honor, Country.” That works for us as Americans, but where is the fire service mission statement focused today? What is the “commander’s intent”?

In responding to our friend about his misgivings, I had a very well-crafted “commander’s intent” to guide my actions. The mission of what we now know as Fire Engineering is stated in our founding paper. The decision to run the controversial article was not mine; it was made by the original Fire Engineering commander 133 years ago in the first issue of Fire Engineering, then called The National Fireman’s Journal.

“Devoted to the Interests of the Firemen of the Country”
Saturday, November 18, 1877, page 8.
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. But we have been urged to embark in the enterprise by many veterans of the fire service, who, feeling the need for such a paper, and knowing that we have had much experience in fire matters and in writing thereon, have promised us their countenance, sympathy and support. 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.” But if it shall be intended to convey the idea that the JOURNAL is the tool of any clique or ring, for the promulgation of any particular ideas, or for the advancement of the special aims of any person or set of persons, then we most indignantly repudiate the term, for the JOURNAL will never be an “organ” in any such objectionable sense.

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. While striving to furnish entertaining matter for their perusal, and gathering the news and gossip of the different departments into one common receptacle, that all may read of what their neighbors are doing, 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 bright examples of so many noble ones who have traveled the 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.

Another important part of our mission, as we regard it, is that of addressing the general public in the interest of Firemen, and endeavoring to excite a better and more complete recognition of their services. 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. In these respects, with the co-operation and support of the Firemen themselves, we hope to accomplish some good in our way. With this foreshadowing of the course to be pursued by the JOURNAL, we launch our enterprise, asking for it that forbearance which is, by courtesy, accorded to a “first appearance.”

Today, fire service leaders are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to modify the operational/fireground behavior of firefighters across North America, but they must first understand the issues without bias. The answer is to have a true leader, a commander who must state a clear commander’s intent—that every community has sufficient numbers of well-trained firefighters, that every community has officers trained to make decisions in dynamic conditions, that every community has healthy firefighters supplied with the best and safest equipment.

We affirm that we will be true to our founding commander’s intent to present all views on the issues, to allow the good men and women challenged locally to adopt the solutions that best fit their conditions. We will continue to support the art of rhetoric and respectful discussion. We will oppose the cult of personality and nonsense of “one size fits all.” We remain devoted to the interests of the firefighters of the world.


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