Within a period of three weeks the editor of FIRE ENGINEERING stood on the fire line of one of the West’s worst forest and brush fires, which killed eleven men, and saw its progress finally stopped with the aid of tiny flying chemical tankers; listened to experts of the nation’s Air Force discuss some of the most fantastic problems of fire extinguishment and rescue involving today’s and tomorrow’s Brobdingnagian military planes and weapons at the worldwide USAF Conference on Fire Protection and Aircraft Rescue at Denver; and finally, witnessed demonstrations of equally unbelievable new means of meeting those hazards in the form of giant multiple-use nozzles capable of discharging foam, fog, fog-foam, straight stream, flat stream and chemically impregnated stream.

Each of these several incidents illustrated two major fundamentals which the fire service should take to heart. The first is that there is no letup in the severity, complexity and destructibility of fire, whether on the ground or in the air. The second is the need for concentrating every possible mental, mechanical and material resource to develop the most effective ways and means to cope with these present and potential fire hazards.

The critical point stressed at both the Miami IAFC and Denver USAF meetings is the crying need for vital research on fire itself, its many characteristics, its predictable and unpredictable reactions; research into the causes and effects of fire in all its broad ramifications. Finally, research into the best, safest and most rapid means of detecting and reporting fires, getting to work on them and extinguishing them with least Cost and effort—and danger—to the fire service, the property owners and the public.

As we enter the new year, it is gratifying to note the progress that has been made in the field of fire detection and extinguishment—yes, and in fire prevention. But measured by the job to be done, by the tasks that lie ahead in this hectic chemical and atomic era, it would seem we’ve barely scratched the surface.

It’s a rat race—with fire, explosion, radioactive fallout and related deadly hazards on the one hand, competing with the nation’s fire service, and all others consecrated to the task of fire protection and prevention on the other.

It’s a race with which the public—and more regrettably, too many of those civic officials charged with developing and maintaining the municipal protective services to safeguard our people against these existing and future hazards—are woefully ignorant.

Research—scientific, creative, basic and advanced— is one of the vital factors upon which to build our much needed fire suppression policies, plans and procedures.

As we’ve said before, to meet the challenge calls for united efforts of private, public, municipal, industrial and research agencies, and the channeling of their findings through some centralized body to make the results readily available to all of the fire service—not to just a part of it.

The government’s Armed Forces are doing excellent work in research and development of curative measures and material. Private industry and certain groups and associations are giving increasing time, thought and energy to these problems. Our fire schools and colleges are quick to apply constructive factual material to the education and training of fire fighters. But there is one weakness about the whole endeavor. There is no comprehensive program; no coordination of effort; no planned, communal cooperation between all these interests—private, public, municipal and Federal government in a joint undertaking. ‘I he result is inefficiency, wasted effort.

The truth is, we are doing well in spite of our methods, not because of them. How much more effective could all this effort be, if we had a central authority to correlate and coordinate all this excellent individual effort and to channel it into and through the proper authorities.


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