Friday, February 27, 2015

The Greatest Risk, Taking No Risk At All-Dave LeBlanc


There is a debate that rages, on a daily basis; aggressive versus safe – interior versus exterior – searching versus waiting.  Depending on where you work and what your experience is, you no doubt have an opinion about these topics.  Some hold a very strong opinion, that the safety sallies (you know, those that advocate safety above everything) are ruining the fire service and that there is no room for their thinking.  There are others that feel the nomex hoods and bunker gear are the equivalent of standing outside on the front lawn and think transitional attacks are two steps below selling Mary Kay Cosmetics.

There is a whole section on Backstep Firefighter dedicated to “Why We Search.”  In this section there is example after example of good firefighters making rescues from buildings.  Many of these rescues are from buildings that are vacant, or would otherwise be assuming to be vacant.  How can that be?  You ask.  The book says that boarded up buildings are unoccupied and unsafe.  Unfortunately, these people that were rescued didn’t read the book.  That is how this happens.

The UL and NIST studies have created a whirlwind of discussion.  Flow paths, ventilation controlled fires, attacking from the outside.  Steve Kerber and Dan Madrzykowski have suddenly become firehouse-hold names, although I think everyone just calls Dan, “Dan”.  Everywhere firefighters are talking about wholesale changes in tactics.  Others are trying to understand exactly what is different.  And then there are those that still think nothing has changed.

There is a re-focus on the basics, especially hose handling.  We all know that GPM kills BTUs, so our goal has to be getting as much water at the seat of the fire as fast as possible.  How we do this is where the discussion comes from.  Big fire gets big water has a much different meaning depending on where you work.

To be an effective fireman, or firefighter, you must be a student of the game.  It is critical that you understand what we used to do and why, what we still do and why and what we might need to do and why.  Change is inevitable.  To sit here and argue that today’s fires are the same as your father's fires is a failure to grasp the current fire problem.  That being said, an old Tom Brennan quote still fits, “there are very few new ideas in the fire service, and many new ideas are soon discovered to have not worked in the first place.”  Notice this isn’t an all or none statement.

"He weighed the risks, and they seemed reasonable. Besides, he thought at the time, this is not how we work, reducing risk to zero – otherwise, send accountants up there." 'Slab' US Navy SEAL; Task Force 11 – 'MAKO 30': Operation Anaconda from "Roberts Ridge"Calculated risks are the bread and butter of the fire service. Knowing when you can do what, that's what sets you apart.
So what are you going to do when you get there?  That’s right, I am asking you?  Suppose it is your fire, you are in charge, what is going to happen? First things first, like any good recipe, what are your ingredients?  What is your manpower?  Your resources?  Their Training?  How do you operate? 

It doesn’t do any good to say your truck company is going to search for victims, if your truck company is one firefighter.  It doesn’t do any good to say your truck will VES if they have never been trained to.  It doesn’t do any good to plan for a direct attack with a smoothbore nozzle, if the engine only carries combination nozzles and your people are trained to use the modified combination attack.

It is your fire.  You are the only one that has been in Command of this particular fire.  Sure many others may have had a similar fire, but no two fires are the same.  What is important is that you are prepared to operate as your Department operates.  Spending all you waking time advocating for searching ahead of the hoseline is pointless if you arrive on scene with only three firefighters.

Another huge factor in your recipe is what the fire.  What is burning?  How much is burning?  What is the building like?  What type of construction?  What type of condition?

You can only fight your fires, your way, with what you have been given. Some guy across the country might have a better way, but is he on the line backing you up?  FITHP/Mark Filippelli photo
You can only fight your fires, your way, with what you have been given. Some guy across the country might have a better way, but is he on the line backing you up? FITHP/Mark Filippelli photo

When you plug all the variables into the equation, or ingredients into the recipe, you get your fire. You can only do what you can do, based on your manpower and resources and the conditions you face. Somewhere, long before you ever got on a piece to respond, someone needed to decide what your basic plan of attack would be. This SOP would give you the framework of a plan to operate from.  Now something may happen that makes you deviate from the plan, but the SOP should have been written to cover most situations you will face.

So armed with you basic plan, you arrive on scene and now what?  This is where the blankets statements always seem to come into play.  “We don’t search vacant buildings?” or “we go inside on every fire.”

Before we continue a question?  For those that say they don’t search vacant buildings, will you fight the fire in a vacant building?  Putting aside the fact that many vacant buildings are in fact occupied, if you arrive on scene and a building is obviously vacant, will you wait until it burns to the ground to put out the fire?  This question is important, because if you can go in to put out the fire, then you can also go in to search for victims.   

Back to our discussion, as we said above, when you arrive you must make a decision and operate based on your manpower, resources and the conditions you find.  It really has to be just that simple.  If you arrive with a crew of three, and your second due is 5 minutes behind you with three more, you can’t expect to operate like an urban truck company and search ahead of the line.  You may not even be able to accomplish your stretch with your crew and therefore you have to wait for the 2nd engine to arrive.

All the debate about what to do doesn’t matter one bit at 2 a.m. in Yourtown, USA.  None of those professing to know what is right will be standing next to you.  None of them will be making your decisions.  This is why it is so important that your Department establishes solid procedures that work in Yourtown, and then trains with those procedures and on the basic skills so you can operate tactically as you are set up to.

If it sounds simple, don’t worry, there is a catch.  No matter how prepared you are, how thorough your SOPs are, how well you train; something can go sideways.  There has never been an SOP written to cover every circumstance.  It would be impossible, because every fire you face is different.  However, if you are well versed in your procedures and you train constantly, you will be better prepared when things go astray. 

If your mindset from the moment you hang your coat on the rig is to avoid risk, you are in the wrong profession.  Risk avoidance places someone else at a greater risk.  By being a smart firefighter, by reading, learning, training over and over again, you will learn to manage risk.  Your training needs to be about not just getting it right, but training until you can’t get it wrong.  Your training needs to be realistic, repetitive and relevant.  It must be based on your SOPs, your environment, your resources and equipment.  If you train like this, then you will know that the preconceived notions of todays Fire Service are no way to manage a fireground.  Taking the path of least resistance, because you think it is safer and because of a blanket statement, not based on fact is unacceptable.  It isn’t what you signed up for, it isn’t what your citizens expect and it creates a dangerous mindset that will eventually lead you to be ineffective as a firefighter/fire officer, and possible more dangerous than those ‘cowboys’ you call out.

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Of Falsehoods and Angels-Dave LeBlanc

Every day there is discussion about the “new” tactics and how we should be embracing change and improving our understanding.   Every day someone tells us to stop complaining, that we are dinosaurs and unwilling to accept how different today’s fires are and how our tactics are out of date. When we push back we are stuck in our ways, unwilling to accept how dangerous our job has become.

Let me explain where our “resistance” comes from. It comes from the constant barrage of misinformation as posted below. It comes from people advocating for transitional attack, telling us it is an option, then posting statements like “…it is about ‘hit it hard from the yard’ at every fire.” That is not made up, but a description used by the ISFSI and some guy named Eddie.

It is about posts like the one pictured above. “Flashover forces bailout”, yet neither was mentioned by the PIO in the original post. Just another example of making the incident fit the cause, to advance an agenda. When pressed, the conversation often results in both sides not being that far apart.  If unchallenged statements like the above exist forever and many firefighters will never know the difference.

No fireman I have ever met, or discussed this profession with, has ever had a death wish. All acknowledge we need to be as safe as we can, while staying committed to the mission. That mission is lives and property. If you can’t accept that, then go find another job. It was on the brochure when you signed up and it is what we are supposed to be doing. Yes there is risk involved, but the risk should always match the benefit of the action taken. Your safety is not my safety. Your fire department is not my fire department. Stop telling me I have to do something. Stop telling I am wrong for thinking and acting a certain way. Somewhere along the line the UL/NIST research results have been twisted into a message of safety above all else. Quite frankly that leads to more risk not less.   If you go out the door with the mindset that you will die on every run, you really will never be capable of doing your job effectively.

“Being tentative makes Johnny a poor fireman ultimately less safe.”

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Humpday Hangout Sponsored by Key Hose - 2/11/15: Fire Ground with Bill G...

The Undeniable Truth - Fire Engineering Training Community

The Undeniable Truth - Fire Engineering Training Community

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Funeral Arrangements for Kenneth Stanton (LODD)

Visitation for Kenneth Michael Stanton will be Wednesday, February 18, 2015 from 5:00pm-9:00pm at the Sosebee Funeral Home located at 401 North Main Street, Anderson, SC 29621. The funeral home contact number is 864-296-5656. The funeral home will be open for the entire night for anyone that may not make the visitation. Due to the limitations of downtown parking we are asking that no large apparatus be brought to the fun...eral home and to carpool. Recommended parking is the West Whitner Parking Garage, located at N. Murray Avenue and W. Whitner Street. Additional parking locations may be located on the City of Anderson website:

Funeral services will be Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 12:30pm at the Anderson Civic Center located at 3027 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Anderson, SC 29625. The burial will be at the M.J. “Dolly” Cooper Veteran Cemetery (140 Inway Dr. Anderson, SC 29621) immediately following the service.

The apparatus procession will start at the Anderson Civic Center and end at the M.J. “Dolly” Cooper Veteran Cemetery. Apparatus that plan to participate in the processional should be at the Civic Center no later than 11:00. If you plan to send apparatus contact 864-276-6441 and let them know what department is attending and how many.

From the chief:
The members of the Sandy Springs Fire Department and the Anderson County Fire Department are all devastated for the loss of Firefighter Kenneth Michael Stanton. Along with FF Stanton’s family, we appreciate all the thoughts, prayers and continued support from Anderson County over the past several days.

In lieu of flowers, memorials maybe made to the Sandy Springs Fire Department, P.O. Box 216 Sandy Springs, SC 29677.

Monday, February 16, 2015

LODD-Sandy Springs Fire Dept. (Sta #26)

BFD Training - January 2015

Training during the month of January consisted of honing our basic firefighting fundamentals.  The fire service, like any other organization, ties its success to being fundamentally sound before graduating to advanced skills.  The focus for these drills were exhibiting solid communication skills while replicating functions that take place on every fireground.  Firefighters donned PPE, stretched hose, raised ladders, performed firefighter rescues, tied knots, and worked on several different hose loads during a team event.  We will build upon these core skills to ensure we are thoroughly prepared for the most important call.....the next one!

We Want You!

Drop by the Belton Fire Department, or give us a call, to find out how you can help your community. You can reach us at 864-338-7048 or 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

AnMed Lifelight - Anderson, SC

It's been more than 5 years since AnMed Health Life Flight flew its first mission. After more than 1,000 medical flights, the crew has often been the difference between life and death. One of those occasions came when Tori Benecchi was in a terrible automobile accident. Watch flight nurse Jen Clark recall the events of Tori's accident.  Click on the link below.


The Belton Fire Department prides itself on having a staff of truly dedicated volunteers that make up the majority of our fire-rescue force.  We are always looking to add community servants, like you, to our amazing team.  Please call us at 864-338-7048 or email us at and we will gladly let you know about our rewarding opportunities that you can be a part of.  Please feel free to stop by the fire station on Zion St. behind City Hall and talk with our career staff to learn more about our daily routine and to check out the trucks/equipment. 

Firefighters have several duties, the most important of which is selflessly serving their communities at all times. They respond to emergency calls and requests for help, attending to emergency events such as fires, road accidents, and floods. Our department also provided medical first responder care to assist EMTs and Paramedics.  They also are responsible for educating their communities about fire safety.  As you can see, there are a number of areas to serve and we can use your talents if you are willing to share them.  Read below to see how you can help.

Administrative Support
Administrative support staff provides technical and professional support to fire departments. They typically assist with the business and operations of the corporation, managing human resources, record keeping, maintenance, and help with social media and website development.

First Responders/EMT
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are trained to respond to emergency situations and perform lifesaving techniques until a patient is able to be transported to a hospital or treatment facility. They are also often responsible for transferring patients via ambulance to the closest medical facility.

Auxiliary Firefighters
Auxiliary Firefighters support the fire departments in many ways, driving trucks, maintaining and cleaning the fire equipment, and assisting in fundraising and community awareness efforts. They dedicate their time and skills to whatever area the fire department needs assistance.

Explorer/Junior Firefighters
The Explorer/Junior Firefighter Program is open to members who are under 18 years of age. They are able to experience firsthand what it is like to be a volunteer or full-time Firefighter and Emergency Service Provider through training and ride-alongs. The primary goals of the program are to give young adults a look into possible career paths and to challenge them to become responsible citizens within their communities.