And Yet It Moves

GalileoOne group hails it as proof of the science.  The other, the “pussification” of the fire service.  There are those who say, “This isn’t new stuff, we were taught this years ago.”  Others say, “This is cutting edge knowledge.”  It seems that there are as many who want to assail the tactic of exterior streams as those who praise them, so maybe it is a very thinly divided line like it seems our politics are these days, or any other polarizing discussion.  God forbid you don’t have strong feelings in the discussion, because that is nearly as bad as being on “the other side”.

If you are familiar with the story of Galileo, he was tried and found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition in 1633 for suggesting that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe, and that the Earth and other heavenly bodies actually revolved around the Sun.  As a parallel, to me, the results of the NIST studies on firefighter tactics weren’t so much NEW news, but scientifically proven news. But in the American fire service, knowledge seems to often be confused with science. Dare I say it?  While scientific proof is equated to modernity and exposure of best practices, in the American fire service, if you say that what we know to be true today is incorrect because we have done a scientifically sound experiment and proved it otherwise, you are still called a heretic. So imagine my thinly-veiled surprise when I came upon the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth while watching a video from Portsmouth, VA, courtesy of my old friend Dave Statter’s site.

I’m not calling attention to this video for any other reason than it’s the one I happened to click on while scanning my Facebook feed. But it really does go to prove my point, that science is bad, and the tacit knowledge shared at the knee of our crusty senior officer trumps scientifically proven, explicit knowledge every time. Right?

A funny thing happened: Even with the VERY weak exterior stream that was played in the second floor window to soften up the interior, the fire was knocked down a little and the crews came in behind it and mopped it up.  I’ll admit, if they had gotten a better stream on it and went thirty seconds, or used foam, the fire probably would have been out. But it wasn’t a disaster.  However, I played it again. I must have missed something, because in watching it again (because the comments made me begin to think I missed something), it occurred to me that these guys put the fire out without a whole lot of drama.  Yes there were some “slower than desired” efforts, but nobody was getting excited about it.  With the exception of that stream development issue, this was a non-event.  So why the angst?

The answer is that when someone comes along and challenges what we hold as sacred, even when we can see that it is wrong, we are reluctant to let that go.  Especially if that concept is what we have based our lives on- you know- “No Fear?” “We go in deep and put the wet stuff on the red stuff?” “We go in where everyone else is running out?”  That’s a lot of self-identification to step away from, because it really does question if what we are doing, what we do that makes us different from everyone else, is even necessary?

At the beginning of the United States Civil War, troops used Napoleonic strategies for engaging in battle.  Fighting from a concealed position was considered unmanly.  By the end of the Civil War, soldiers weren’t worrying about being unmanly, they were interested in efficiency and survival.  We learned the hard way, many did, and even after that, it took a while for the United States military to see that adapting to the conditions of warfare was smart warfare.  But there were plenty, and they carried the same tactics into other wars, who were reluctant to give up the old ways.  Because it was “pussification” of the military, I’m sure.  Tell that to the Navy SEALS, the Army Green Berets and Rangers, and the other special operations units out there, that what they do is “pussification”.  They learned to fight smarter, they learned how to think differently, and they took a more efficient approach to their missions.  That’s not pussification, that’s good soldiering.

Anyone who questions the status quo will undergo a certain amount of resistance.  But the resistance we continue to see on this particular subject leaves me wondering: If we can tell you, and show you, and it makes you safer, and it makes the survivability factors for victims better, and it is more efficient, why do we continue to resist it?  When a concept continues being portrayed as “the way we do this”, yet flies in the face of the science, it isn’t an issue of doing things right.  It is an issue of doing things the way we want to, because we can’t stand the thought of the alternative.


  • Mark Cummins says:

    Very well said, and thank you for mentioning foam as one of the choices for structural applications.

  • Jason Sparks says:

    Very well stated sir!

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you. I’m not a firefighter, but have worked as a paramedic for a fire department for quite some time, and I’m married to a firefighter who likes to train. For years, while he studied fires and prepped training videos, I’ve been forced to watch YouTube video after YouTube video of fire scenes. Even before the release of the UL studies, I would watch these and notice that sometimes the guys pulled a hose and put the fire out or knocked it down while other crews prepped to gain entry. Then there were the angst-producing videos of crews who ran about breaking windows (never made sense), taking “forever” to pull hoses, get equipment out and finally go in all the while the fire got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. When listening to discussions at the station or reading the FB comments, it’s like chemistry and physics are great – in the classroom. That stuff doesn’t apply at fire scenes. (It’s ok – paramedics are the same – all those studies are whatever, but I had this call once…. Or, that cardiologist is an idiot, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, patients are different in the field. Or ,obviously if some oxygen is good more is better…you get the idea). I realize many would say I don’t have a say in all this. I do. I don’t want any firefighter to die unnecessarily. Any citizen would tell you that their property is NOT worth a firefighter’s life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *