And You Call Yourself Professional…

x fire 5 bw sqWatching a video today, I saw what was intended to illustrate that sometimes the people recording the video get a little too close.  The proximity of the videographer to the situation was MUCH too close.  As a photographer myself, I understand the shooter is more likely focusing on the picture and not on what is happening around them.   They had real reason for concern though, because frankly, the firefighting skills of the crew with them were so shoddy, I really didn’t think the episode was going to end well at all.

I don’t know for sure what department it was, but looking at their gear type and the number of personnel, it was clear they were a career department, and most likely a metro department.  I could probably narrow it down to region and maybe even city, but that all is irrelevant.  My opinion was that watching that, it would be no surprise to me if they didn’t have a few fatalities under their belt.  There were easily eight, ten people on this roof, with black smoke under pressure coming out from vent pipes, every time (multiple times) they cut a hole, smoke and soon, fire, was coming out under pressure.  Not that fire coming out of a hole signified anything, because they cut a few more random holes just for kicks, I guess.

I’m an experienced truck captain and I’ve been on a roof or two. At some point in the exercise, one needs to take a look around, see all these holes, and wonder what the hell just happened.  Not these guys.  They stuck around with fire eating away at their multiple vent holes, I guess getting one last Instagram, until it got a little TOO hot, then the rush to the exits got a little crowded. Situational awareness be damned; I don’t think ANYONE was paying attention to what was unfolding around them after turning that roof into asphalt covered Swiss cheese.

This isn’t a safety post so much as an observation that even those who we consider “professional” are sometimes not so.  There are a few departments out there who stake their reputation on “ballsy” firefighting, when in reality, their actions are just slightly short of total whackerdom.  As Ray McCormack said (I think he said it, at least) Andy Frederick* famously said, the garbage man doesn’t turn the corner, see a bunch of garbage in the street, and start doing backflips.  Work is work and we should treat it like it is: dangerous, risky, nasty work that requires a lot of professionalism and very little emotion.  Have you ever seen an offensive lineman let a linebacker keep hitting them after the whistle? No. They hit each other until they don’t need to inflict pain any longer, they stop, and they go on to the next task.

Standing in the fire products makes as much sense as being that lineman and allowing the hitting to go on after the whistle.  Professionals see fire, regard it as potentially affecting them, and do the job of extinguishing it without rolling around in the ashes for a Facebook shot later.  This stuff doesn’t just burn, it causes cancer.  If we hang out too long, we run the risk of falling through the roof, or falling off.  It’s an easy concept: When and if we go to the roof, we find the best place to make a cut, and we cut there. Then we leave. We don’t let everyone on the roof take a turn using the saw so they can talk about it to their girlfriend.  We do the work and we get the hell out of there.

Real professionals don’t revel in the fight. They treat it as necessary for their job, they accept it as “part of the job”, and they just do the job.  Anything else is less so.


*NOTE: I was reminded that the late Lt. Andy Fredericks actually was the originator of that quote.  My most humble apologies…

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