No Trash Talking

Cicero said it best: "We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition." In fighting fire, however, if you suggest at all that doing things differently because the science indicates a better way, you'd think we were saying that the Earth was actually round.  

Oh, yeah, that's right, the Earth IS round.  Really, it is.  Think back to those boring days of middle school, where we learned that the world being round was suggested by individuals who were then persecuted for suggesting such a thing.  And in the fire service, it is true, that if you suggest doing things differently because the science says so, you too, are considered a heretic and burned at the figurative stake on the internet.  Just read the comments and you shall see, it is true.

My father had a pretty serious heart attack this week and fortunately, was seen, evaluated, and sustained intervention for his potentially lethal LAD obstruction.  He is snoozing peacefully at his own home in his own bed as I write this, courtesy of the modern miracle of medicine, for something that in my own lifetime, pretty much would have been a death sentence.  The side benefit of these little disasters, however, is the chance to have side talks with my brother, who is on the cutting edge of the fire service in his own right, only he doesn't choose to have a nifty little blog like I do to talk about it.

We were talking about some studies in regard to the application of exterior streams to rapidly moving interior fire conditions, something that is seen to some in our business as being, let's see, "cowardly".  As I said, however, as much as I too like to roll around in the heat and byproducts of combustion, from a purely scientific standpoint, it makes better sense to apply streams to the fire from the outside to control the fire quickly, rather than try to engage it automatically from inside.  Rolling around on the inside of a burning building is not only hazardous, but in some moments, unnecessary, to achieve what it is we need to do.

Now this is certainly an oversimplification of the scenario, because there are other factors, but my point is that regardless of the science, there are those who profess to be immersed in the state of the firefighting art who think that just because they too like to get in and be "one with the Red Devil", that it actually makes sense to do so.  And I am not saying (in this post) that it is right or wrong.  

What I AM saying is, that we have many who resist the suggestion that change is warranted, not because of any other reason than their desire to do things the way we have always been doing things, and more often than not, because the changes being suggested happen to conflict with their mental image of the dashing, courageous firefighters of old, leaping into the flames and carrying out young damsels in distress and anything else that happens to make good headlines, like Fluffy, or a case of really good wine.

I guess that in the opinion of some, my father's heart attack might have been better off addressed by the liberal application of leeches, or bed rest and opium.  But then, people died pretty often from things in years gone by that they don't die from today.  You know: that science thing.

We can continue to keep our heads in the sand about advances in research, but like I have said, simply addressing the art of fighting fire from a fiscal aspect (and not an emotional one), each of my firefighters represents not only a living human being, but an expensive investment.  And while throwing bodies into a battle without regard for how many lives are lost might have been the way you win wars in the pre-Napoleonic days, we realized that wars of attrition were more practically won through strategy and prudent use of resources, being that the losses were faced by the other side, not our own.

I have been batting around some ideas for the "vision" of fire, rescue, emergency medical service, and emergency management on the FHZ Twitter feed lately and getting some interesting comments via hashtag "FRED" (#FRED) and maybe its time to have some more open dialogue over what we should or should not be doing in our quest to save lives, property and the environment.  At any means, I see this as opening up conversations that will be uncomfortable to some of you, simply due to the reactions I see when someone suggests doing things differently.  But perspective is a funny thing and unless you open your mind up to a different alternative, you are doomed to only see one way of doing things.  That one way isn't an issue if things are going perfectly, but every time I see an LODD that could be prevented, I'm thinking that isn't currently the case.

What do you have to say about this?  Are you interested in a new reality?  Are you interested in doing things better with less of a chance of losing more brothers in unnecessary and inefficient charges against an unwinnable situation?  Or are you okay with the world being flat?


  • To the central theme of this article, those who don’t support the science as validating in our profession, how do we validate out strategy and tactics; and based on what? Let’s not even talk interior vs. exterior, in general how do decide what is the most effective way to accomplish tasks? What performance standards do we use?

  • Dave Werner says:

    Do not lump all of us who oppose this movement as being stuck in the past. Myself and others are more than open to advances in our field. Our problem is when information is cloaked in political propaganda, when the ideas presented do not make sense based on current scientific evidence, and when “new information” is really something we have all known for years. Don’t just assume that we are uneducated, stubborn naysayers who have nothing substantial to add.

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