Centennial

By Michael N. Ciampo

Writing this 100th column, I realize I’ll never remember every incident I responded to, the experience gained and lessons learned from each run. I’ve had other firefighters say to me, “Remember that job?” and once they start the story, the memories came back to me. Over the years, my passion has been to connect with the fire service through sharing stories and presenting tips on tactics and street-smart experiences. My goal has been to allow you to learn, recall, or pass on the knowledge. Looking back over the past 100, a few stand out.

First Column: “Who Had the Nozzle?”

Funny, a guy who spent seven years as a volunteer and the past 32 years as a career firefighter with two years in an engine is talking about engine work. That column’s goal was to remind everyone in the company that without everyone’s dedication to performing their tasks at the highest and safest level, the nozzle might never get in place to extinguish the fire. So, for the chauffeurs: Respond safely; if we don’t arrive, we’re useless. For the firefighter backing up the nozzle: Support them, get them line, encourage them, and be the rock for them to lean on. Remember, when we all perform up to our highest standards, we’ll be able to accomplish great things but only with training, dedication to duty, knowledge, and working as a team. Do your part!

“A Different Sea of Blue”

Often, we have to put on our dress uniforms and attend line-of-duty death funerals. During the aftermath of 9/11, many have lost count of the funerals they attended. When you join the fire service, you’ve joined another family; your real family might not fully understand that, but they’ll learn. Attending funerals is part of the lifestyle you now own, and it might not be for one of our own. Firefighters are always doing for others, whether we are visiting sick children in hospitals, making a child’s wish come true, volunteering at Special Olympics, Filling the Boot, or adopting a cause to assist someone in need in the community. That’s who we are.

“What Did You Do Up There?”

No firefighter likes to take in a multiple alarm and stand around, but sometimes standing back, getting an overall picture of what’s going on, and doing something to help the situation are called for. Having too many saws running and firefighters all around the vent hole working feverishly to open a roof or trench cut without someone being a safety is stupid. Someone has to watch everyone’s back or hold onto a member if he’s bending forward, thrusting his hook down though the top-floor ceiling. Plus, who’s listening to the radio over the saw’s engine while it’s running at full revolutions per minute? Don’t be afraid to hold onto the tail of someone’s coat or drive your hook’s head into the roof and hold the handle on an angle to create a barrier and support. You can’t always be the one leading the charge, so remember to support the troops.

“Remember One Piece of Equipment (ROPE)” | Part 2

Many of us respond on a daily basis to multistory buildings or ones with enclosed shafts, setbacks, or even no access for apparatus to reach them. So, what type of insurance policy are you equipping your members with to ensure everyone goes home? Sure, personal escape devices are expensive and might be cumbersome, but they can be updated and made lighter. It may take a little time to do that, but hopefully time won’t repeat itself with another six firefighters jumping out the windows. Bless their departed souls.

“Derailed”

Training for mass-casualty events will assist you in responding to train derailments, airplane crashes, and building collapses. Arriving with numerous walking wounded and trapped individuals can overburden any first-arriving company. Having a designated major emergency signal notifies responding units that they will be possibly operating for a long period with specialized equipment. Working in unison with police, emergency medical services, and other companies will assist in making the work easier and flow more smoothly.

“Start a Second Line”

Speaking as a truck officer often going to the floor above, if conditions immediately warrant a second line to be stretched upstairs, it will be called for. Firefighters must remember there shouldn’t be any “one line stretched fires.” The second line is stretched to back up the first in case it can’t handle the fire load, the first line bursts, the nozzle breaks or becomes clogged, or a short stretch has occurred. It is also there to protect the members operating on the floor above or to extinguish fire that’s extended there. So, don’t ask; STRETCH it! It’s an insurance policy for us! Plus, you could always use the practice; and if we don’t charge it, there’s no harm done.

“Training Outside the Lines”

When I was told I had been chosen to write the back page and had the freedom to choose what I felt like writing about, I was flabbergasted. Originally, I thought it was a venue to present random thoughts on fire. Little did I ever imagine that 90 columns later I’d have to write the hardest column I’d ever write. My dear friend, chief, and fellow instructor committed suicide. It was and still is devastating. In addition, as I write this 100th column, my firehouse just laid to rest our fifth alumni from 9/11 cancer. We train so much to fight fire and respond to emergencies, but are we giving our members behavioral health instruction, peer support, and grief counseling from the start? Please know that if you need help and support, it is out there.

The real testament to a centennial is remembering those who graced the company before you; who laid the groundwork of duty, honor, and courage; and who trained the next generation to be better and capable firefighters.

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 32-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladders and Ventilation chapters for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and the Bread and Butter Portable Ladders DVD and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com.

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