In Your Corner

Ray McCormack

Many people think that the Door position on a handline attack is a rigid position, relegating that firefighter to station themselves at an assigned door buck. While the door position’s name speaks its primary position, it entails more. Allowing movement in any position has benefits and risks and requires balance to work effectively. Needing to be at your post is important and so is needing to fulfill the duties of that post. Many firefighters just get lucky with leaving their post and are sprung back into position when the call for more line is announced – we can do better than that.

If you stay at your post, you may be perfectly fine, depending upon the length of the stretch, or the placement of additional people on an extended stretch. Sometimes, departments don’t want the originally-assigned firefighter replaced at their assigned position. If an extended stretch occurs, or a multiple turn stretch is in progress, the door position often needs to be more fluid. The ability to either move up and cover another area or, handle multiple turns at once, is a common responsibility. I would say most firefighters can cover two turns without falling behind on hose advancement if they know how to stage hose. 

The door position is the helping hand to moving the line forward and it often requires staging hose for advancement. This becomes especially important when distances get longer and pairs of turns are encountered. Staging hose can be accomplished anywhere room allows. Some will create a vertically ring of hose while others simply lay it on the floor. I’m not a big fan of vertical hose storage, but that’s for another post. Staging hose is done when there is opportunity during the advance, when firefighting becomes stationary or the advance is interrupted. The door firefighter should be already thinking about staging hose before its need arises. 

When two turns are encountered and both would impact the advance you need to stage hose past the first turn, eliminating it as a friction point. You can now move up to the most forward turn, which becomes a managed friction point. Tight turns are the enemy of hoseline advance; this is why hoselines are not stretched tight to turns. Extra space around turns allows us to advance and supplies cushion time to handle the next crisis.

The door firefighter needs to also check on room extinguishment for the nozzle team as they move past it to other points of attack. This job entails evaluating the attack as it relates to fire regrowth potential, and if it’s necessary for the nozzle team to return or not. This is the primer for calling for the backup line. You are free to move about just don’t forget where you came from as the original need may pop up again. Support and protect your fire attack by having a door firefighter in your corner.

Keep Fire in Your Life

LODD, Summed-up in a Sentence

Ray McCormack

A line of duty death is a tragic event that impacts those closest to it the most and cause ripples throughout the fire service. The causes are usually one of several reoccurring factors. Many times, it is a short series of mistakes or omissions coupled together or layered on top of each other that trigger the event and its conclusion. The fire service typically examines these crushing losses so that everyone else can learn from their fellow firefighters’ sacrifice.

What the reports often feature is a list of standard causations alongside needs assessments that can often mask the nitty-gritty of what really occurred. These reports do investigate down into how the department operates and specifically on that day but the bottom line is often buried. 

Typically, something occurs which is known by some, but not all, and this information itself is not enough to raise an alarm. Something else occurs which again isn’t highlighted or communicated or considered attached to an escalating event. Then there is the piece that joins the others, and this last segment triggers the event and now it’s a battle within a battle for us to overcome and sometimes we just can’t do it.

These reports are very long and in depth. These reports should be read by every firefighter working today as a silent tribute to their fellow firefighter’s last call. Pay the respect forward, learn from the tragedy and look at your own department to fix what’s wrong there. Many times, the actual cause is not an error on the firefighter’s part but the departments lack of SOP’s or attention to best practices or policy short comings. 

Sadly, there is also human error which is a fickle thing at fires, we know they occur and the vast majority of times they don’t amount to much but sometimes they do. For a LODD, the correction comes too late. Strong policies allow everyone to be raised under one roof of expectations and while a search rope could be forgotten, not having one because they were never purchased, is another thing, entirely. Report depth should give you those details because causation matters.

The problem with many reports is boiler plate. What should be readily apparent is the string of events that led to the loss. Is it crass to whittle a death or deaths down to several sentences as to why it occurred? Hopefully not, but when the bottom line is hard to find is a new report writing style all that’s required or do, we prefer broad causational categories to carry the burden of authenticity?

While ambiguity may to help us move on emotionally the lessons must come through. They are the gift that the fallen impart to us and we need to see them clearly or those may be lost too.


2021 Fireground Civilian Rescue Research Project

Brian Brush EFO, CTO

2021 Fireground Civilian Rescue Research Project

Brian Brush EFO, CTO

To date, the American fire service has not officially collected the number of or means of which civilians are rescued at fires. The result of this information gap is a service unable to quantify if or how, presence, actions, or operations result in saving lives. For the fire service to deliberately improve outcomes and not just reduce loss, the mission (saving lives) must match the metrics (lives saved). Until then, the operational impact of the American fire service will remain unknown.

The purpose of this graduate research project is to demonstrate the scope and value of fireground civilian rescue reporting using qualitative survey methods. The results will support an improved understanding of fireground operational influence on outcomes. A clearer vision of the nation’s fire problem for the future includes the knowledge of both the parameters of our problem (loss) and the dimensions of our success (saves).  

January 1, through January 31, 2021 Report

160  Residential structure fire incidents with fireground civilian rescues by fire departments were reported in U.S. news media or by department press releases.

292  Civilians were rescued from residential structure fires and transferred to emergency medical  through the direct actions of U.S. firefighters. 

73%  Survival rate for civilians who were rescued from residential structure fires and transferred to emergency medical through the direct actions of U.S. firefighters. Survival rate calculated from the 75 direct follow up Firefighter Rescue Surveys.

213  Estimated civilian lives saved from residential structure fires through the direct actions of U.S. firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

106  Single family dwelling and mobile home fire incidents had fireground civilian rescues yielding a total of 158 victims. For single family dwelling and mobile home fires with victims, it can be anticipated that there will be more than one potential victim.

54  Apartment and multi-family dwelling structure fires had fireground civilian rescues yielding a total of 134 victims. For apartment and multi-family dwelling incidents with rescues, the average is 2.5 victims per incident.

January 2021 Fireground Civilian Rescues by State:

Alabama – 4Delaware – 1Indiana – 6Michigan – 6New Hampshire – 8Oklahoma – 1Utah – 2
Arizona – 2Florida – 14Kansas – 11Minnesota – 3New Jersey – 6Pennsylvania – 22Virginia – 3
California – 5Georgia – 3Kentucky – 1Missouri – 16New Mexico – 1Rhode Island – 2Vermont – 2
Colorado – 2Iowa – 4Louisiana – 1Montana – 1Nevada – 1South Carolina – 3Washington – 18
Connecticut – 4Idaho – 4Massachusetts – 14North Carolina – 11New York – 20Tennessee – 8Wisconsin – 12
DC – 3Illinois – 22Maryland – 16Nebraska – 2Ohio – 13Texas – 13West Virginia – 1

Twelve Years and Counting

Ray McCormack

We all know that social media relies and thrives on sharing information. That information includes the written word, photos, videos and other media. There is, however, a vast difference between sharing something and altering an author‘s work and claiming it as yours.

Plagiarism is defined as “Using the language of an author without authorization and  representation of the author’s work as their own.” It came to my attention, via social media, that something I had written twelve years ago was presented as someone else’s work.

There are many components of this infringement that I find disheartening. The first is that I just became aware of it, twelve years too late to fix it. So this man has had a long run, half a career’s worth of falsely claiming something I wrote as his. 

Theft in the fire service is a taboo that breaks public trust and gives us all a collective black eye; however, this theft was perpetrated by a high ranking officer, not by a young misguided firefighter. 

Why did he modify and take my name from the piece and then claim authorship? I don’t know,maybe because it’s easier than coming up with your own ideas. I discovered the theft in an online discussion group. The firefighter that posted the piece had no idea that this Chief had pulled a fast one on him and their department.

Imagine plagiarizing someone else’s work and then distributing it to your department. The gall, and he got away with it, too!

The person who brought this to my attention did so harmlessly, he was a victim, too. He saw the piece as inspirational and kept it around for twelve years. It helped him form a deep respect for a man who thought stealing my words was no big deal. 

You have only your reputation on this job, protect it well and stand up to those who would damage it.

I didn’t include the names of the principles, because that would limit the scope of this to them. This is about all of us who create work and those that read it. Intellectual property is real that’s why it’s protected. 

Flattery is when you include the author‘s name. Theft is when you claim someone else’s work as yours, twelve years and counting for him.


Never Put The Can Ahead of The Nozzle

Ray McCormack

Many departments are finally discovering what the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has know for decades: that the can is a useful, first-strike extinguishment tool. Even the term “Can” comes from FDNY. The pressurized water extinguisher is carried by a firefighter as part of their assigned tool compliment. While it may enter the fire area ahead of the nozzle, it should never be mistaken for a handline attack.

Imagine advancing down a hallway with an 1.75” line and the can firefighter jumps ahead of you to take over fire attack. I know it’s happened, well meaning, but poorly thought out. The 2 GPM flow contained in the can is no substitute for the 150 or more GPM flow attached to the nozzle firefighter‘s hip.

The can can do an amazing job under certain fire conditions. I know it’s capabilities because I carried and used one for years as a firefighter. I directed and supervised it’s use as a company officer for many more years. 
The can presents the fire service with a great opportunity to search prior to handline application. The can is not built for fire attack, that’s a handline‘s function. The can is a limited water resource tool. You cannot think that a fire attack water supple of 2 gallons is sufficient. 

So the Can, like any other tool, has its place in the fire service. It should be carried, if possible, by those firefighters who enter the building first. Including the can as part of the search allows containment and knock back capability. 

What you should not do is think the can is all that you need. When you use the can for extinguishment, you must be extremely diligent that extinguishment has been achieved. Don’t be lazy about stretching, because you have a can or two on-scene. If you find that the can is being used as a handline substitute, be careful, because now you’re putting it ahead of the nozzle. 

Hallway Inclusion

Ray McCormack

When we enter a hallway through a door or stairway landing, we evaluate that space. Smoke contamination is common and will vary in saturation. When heat is detected in the space three situations are possible:

  1. We have a fire in the hallway.
  2. We have a fire in a space and the door to the hallway was open, but not anymore.
  3. Fire has extended to the hallway and expanded the fire area.

You must recognize this fire area expansion into your fire attack approach. Heat and smoke are automatic indicators that the hallway is either on fire or will be. We handle visible fire easily by a universal approach of an open nozzle. We must also use this mindset for the approach to the fire‘s origin. 
You are traveling in a path that may contain hidden fire above you or is getting closer to a rapid fire development event. You must control this space with water flow. You are there to protect the advance. An engine that doesn’t flow is performing poorly on the fireground. 
During the approach, you can flow water using two methods. During the UL interior attack study, we examined both the Flow and Move and Stop and Flow techniques for gaining control of the hallway.
Stop and flow is a method that incorporates only flowing in a stationary position and then advancing with the nozzle shut down until you open up again. 
Flow and move is a method that incorporates flowing during the advance without stopping or shutting down the nozzle. This approach eliminates temperature rebound and provides for continuous cooling. 
Do not cheat on water application during your approach. Surface cooling, gas contraction and delaying or the elimination of temperature rebound and crew safety are some of the benefits of an open nozzle.
If you want your attack to be successful, flow the line. Don’t walk a tight rope of hope that you can get it done without flowing before room entry, that’s a fools errand. 
Remember water damage eliminates fire damage.