Future Demanding New Attitudes, Greater Cooperation, FDIC Hears
Speakers at the 49th annual Fire Department Instructors Conference at Memphis accented the direction the fire service must take to ensure a responsible future and they also stressed the need for increased cooperation among all segments of the fire service to make this future possible.
The FDIC, held March 22-25, also heard speakers discuss such topics as the work of the National Fire Academy, management by objectives and the handling of pesticide fires and spills.
Looking to the future of the fire service, Assistant Chief Carl Holmes of Oklahoma City called for the adoption of a business apprQach to the management of fire departments as they feel the increasing influence of budget problems, union contracts and federal guidelines. With the days of the six-man engine companies and the eight-man ladder companies a thing of the past, there is a pressing need for fire department operations to become more cost-effective, Holmes observed. He explained that this means “we have to conduct the fire service like any other business.”
Alternative is destruction
“The fire service will be destroyed right under our feet by personnel directors and general managers if the business approach is not adopted,” the chief warned.
He referred to the Rural/Metro Fire Department, Inc., that protects Scottsdale, Ariz., under a contract with the municipality and said that this shows that the fire service can be placed on a business basis and that the fire service of tomorrow will have to do this.
Limited money and resources are the challenge and they “will force you toward standardization of equipment,” Holmes declared.
He added, “We can no longer afford the luxury of customized equipment” and predicted that the fire service will be “forced to get more efficient equipment.”
Taking a slap at the argument that local conditions are unique and require individual solutions, Holmes maintained that a house in Georgia is the same as one in Texas and “the fire officer who doesn’t think so is not very professional.”
Calls for fire prevention
Calling for the fire service to become a fire prevention service, the chief asked, “Are we going to remain an after-thefact organization?”
In this connection, he urged joint efforts by fire prevention bureaus and fire suppression forces, and he saw the need for the development of an adequate data base because “we need to identify what our fire incident problems are and what we can do about them.”
Holmes also warned, “Our training needs have to be more clearly defined as to what we expect from each particular rank” because “if we don’t, the feds may.”
He declared that the fire service must start to make changes today rather than leave them for the future. Holmes also called for more meaningful conferences in these days of limited budgets. With less travel money available, he commented, the social life at conferences is doomed because maximum use of the time must be made for the communication of ideas.
More rescue work urged
Also viewing the future, A. E. Anthony of Spearfish, retired South Dakota state fire marshal, urged fire departments to become more involved in rescue work. He voiced the conviction that more lives can be saved through rescue activities than through fire fighting.
He saw little change in the continuing budget problems and the lack of fire prevention activities, although he felt that some departments are making progress in fire prevention.
In regard to handling the problems facing the fire service, Anthony advised, “Don’t sit around and wait for the National Fire Academy to solve all your problems,” and he cautioned that the “federal government can’t give you but what it has already taken from you.”
A plea for more communication and greater cooperation between the paid and volunteer fire services was made by James W. Morgan of the Wisconsin State Firemen’s Association and also an organizer of the National Volunteer Fire Council and its first vice chairman. He referred to the volunteer service as “the most highly organized, disorganized group” in the nation.
“We damned well better learn to communicate and cooperate fully,” Morgan declared, because both paid and volunteer fire fighters will be around a long while. At the same time, he berated “those who would pit paid against volunteers and volunteers against paid.”
“The plain fact of the matter is that there is a lot of work for everyone,” he observed, and he pointed out that many small communities must depend on volunteers because they just can’t afford paid men.
Fire academy report
A report on the work of the National Fire Academy was made by David M. McCormack, its superintendent, who discussed the academy’s planning assistance program and the academy’s immediate objectives. He reported that during the first year, 13 states participated in the planning assistance program, which was funded at $300,000. Four of these states worked on master plans with an average funding of $50,000 from the academy and nine other states developed organizational designs with an average funding of $11,000.
“For too long, there has been petty bickering among fire service organizations and that has to stop—has to be controlled,” McCormack declared.
He saw the organizational design work, which involves the identification and assessment of all organizations in a state primarily or secondarily involved in the fire problem, as a means of establishing improved communications and understanding among the organizations.
His promise that a master planning guidebook would soon be available was made good soon after the conference with the publication of the “Urban Guide for Fire Prevention & Control Master Planning” by the National Fire Safety and Research Office of the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration.
McCormack said that the national academy is concentrating its efforts in developing instruct ion programs for use both at the academy and in the field, devising an arson and fire investigation program, and working on fire prevention management. He explained that the instructional programs would include executive development for people in the fire service and educational methods designed to develop instructors. The latter is based on the multiplier principle that the widest effect on the 29,000 fire departments in the nation can be attained by the academy training instructors who in turn will return home and train other instructors who will teach in the thousands of fire departments.
The academy’s goal in the arson and fire investigation field, McCormack explained, is to implement the objectives established by the arson conference conducted at the Battelle Columbus Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio, in February 1976 (see Fire Engineering, June 1976, page 28). The superintendent said that the academy’s interest in fire prevention management would range from public education to codes and enforcement.
“If we aren’t doing something the way you think it should be done,” McCormack declared, “we want to hear about it. It’s too easy to become insulated.”
Management by objectives
The usefulness of management by objectives in a fire department was described by Assistant Chief Dean E. Filer of Tempe, Ariz. He cautioned that the successful implementation of MBO hinges on full support by top management.
Filer said that he holds a yearly planning meeting with his division heads, and after they develop an agreement on objectives and priorities, they all sign it. He also warned that feedback on the working of the system must be specific, timely and relevant. As a check on progress, Tempe fire companies are evaluated semiannually on the basis of safety, accuracy and the time of evolutions.
The entire fire department must be kept informed on the directions in which progress will be made, Filer stated, and for the fire fighter, “personal growth and development is very important because if he does not find this, he will look for it somewhere else.”
Advice on handling pesticide fires and spills was offered by William Currie, training officer in the operations division of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. When hose streams are operating on a fire involving pesticides, “a good spray is more effective than a solid stream,”he said, because solid streams are more apt to break up packages and bags of pesticides and thus increase the contamination problem.
“Let pesticides burn when appropriate,” he advised, explaining that most pesticides burn to a less harmful material.
Fire fighters should wear full protective clothing at pesticide fires or spills, Currie stated, and fire fighters, their gear and apparatus all must be decontaminated.
Pesticide truck spills can contaminate soil and pollute water, and he advised, “Use as little water as possible and contain the water within dikes.”
He also warned against flushing pesticide off a road or into a sewer.
Pesticide teams available
When assistance is needed at a pesticide incident, the speaker said, a phone call to CHEMTREC (800-424-9300), the national chemical emergency service, should be made and CHEMTREC will contact the Pesticide Safety Team Network. If more than advice is needed, a pesticide safety team may be sent to the scene.
“Skin absorption is the most common type of poisoning” from pesticides, Currie commented, adding that any feeling of discomfort or illness may be an indication of poisoning.
The degree of toxicity of a pesticide is indicated by the words “danger,” “warning” or “caution” on the label, Currie stated, explaining that “danger” indicates the greatest toxicity and “caution,” the least.
Currie said that the EPA is developing a packaged course in handling pesticide incidents and that the 12-hour course could be presented in appropriate time segments for fire fighters. The course will include slides, tapes, scripts, handout material, overhead transparencies, case studies for team problemsolving, student handbooks and an instructor guide.
Handling vehicle fires
In a slide presentation on vehicle fires, A. William Westhoff, fire training coordinator, University of Missouri at Columbia, recommended extinguishing auto trunk fires with minimal damage by inserting a bayonet applicator into the taillight assembly to get water into the trunk. If a regular fog nozzle is used, then the taillight assembly should be broken out, he advised, to keep repair costs at a minimum.
Westhoff pointed out that catalytic converters and fuel evaporation control systems in autos are hazardous. He warned that inasmuch as catalytic converters reach temperatures of 1300 to 1600 degrees and even exceed 1600 degrees with a rich fuel mixture, they can ignite dry grass or other vegetation that the car passes over. He also said that the chassis area near the converter should not be undercoated because of the ignition danger.
With closed fuel systems to prevent evaporation, Westhoff stated, it is important to cool the gasoline tank of a burning auto with a fog stream because any overpressure of the tank during a fire will be relieved by violent tank rupture.
For those seeking to institute fire simulator training, Division Chief Frank Kelly of Huntington Beach, Calif., advised designing the program around the combat officer.
The approach to simulator training must be realistic, Kelly said, advising, “Don’t give yourself an inflated image. See yourself as you are.”
He stressed that you must really know the capabilities of the companies and battalions as well as the entire department. He noted that quantity, quality and time are the three elements used in measuring a department’s capability.
Kelly emphasized that slides of local buildings should be used to get the most out of simulation training because then the fire problems that are solved are the ones those participating in the training can reasonably expect to face, adding reality and validity to the exercises.
Mask training course
How a volunteer fire department adapted a smoke diver course to fit its own breathing apparatus training needs—and later the needs of other departments—was told by Deputy Chief William Anderson of Greensburg, Pa. (See Fire Engineering, May 1976, page 24.)
If we are going to stop fires while they are small, we have to get in fast and therefore, we must have “efficient, well-trained mask men,” Anderson asserted. He also said that small departments need “planned, realistic training” to make up for their lack of fire experience.
The 30-hour course he helped develop in his department, Anderson explained, teaches men to work under stress, become proficient in using small tools while wearing breathing apparatus and use the buddy breathing system. The amount of air used by each man during each exercise is recorded and this, Anderson continued, is one of the methods used to provide the challenge and stimulation needed by young fire fighters if they are to attain proficiency. Old buildings are used in the training to provide realistic conditions. Anderson estimated that some 800 fire fighters have taken the 30-hour Greensburg course or an abbreviated version for teaching the basics to other departments.
Importance of instructors
Greeting the FDIC as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chief Myrle Wise of Denver declared that what instructors are doing will make better fire fighters not just now but for the next 20 years.
“We are professional fire fighters,” Wise said, “and the men who make that possible are you, the fire department instructors.”
Fire Marshal Dan J. Carpenter of Mechlenburg County, N. C., told the FDIC that arson is responsible for 30 to 50 percent of the nation’s fire losses and is a reflection of the fact that “we live in an age when being dishonest and not being caught is a national sport.” He observed that getting away with arson may encourage others to set fires for profit.
Carpenter reported that FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley opposed making arson a class I crime under the FBI nationwide crime-reporting system because a research group recommended in 1930 that the number of class I crimes be limited to ease the burden of compiling statistics. Fire marshals and other fire service leaders have urged upgrading arson to a class I crime to gain greater attention to the magnitude of arson through publicizing of national and local major crime reports in the news media.
The potential fire problem that a volunteer fire department can face was cited by Chief Robert Turner of Rockton, Ill., who also is a founder and secretary of the National Volunteer Fire Council. The chief described the Rockton Fire Department, which protects a population of 2100, as consisting of 46 “non-paid professional fire fighters.” Their major fire problem is the Wagon Wheel, a convention center and recreation complex of several wood frame buildings containing half a million square feet of floor area, in addition to the convention hall, other buildings include a 420-room motel, a bowling alley and a theater.
Pre-fire planning and drills increase the effectiveness of the initial response of seven engines (three of them automatic mutual aid responses) and a ladder truck, and the fire problem has been reduced by the recent installation of sprinkler systems.
Turner said that through frequent drills, the volunteers are able to be pumping water at the Wagon Wheel 5 1/2 to 6 minutes after the receipt of an alarm. He explained that tandem pumping is used to take advantage of the large fire flow available and that five 1000-gallon tankers hauling water from a hydrant three blocks away have shown the ability to maintain a 1000-gpm fireground flow with the use of folding tanks.