Ray McCormack

Performing overhaul at fires is a piece of the fire attack puzzle that requires attention to detail or bad outcomes will surface, afterwards; even small rubbish fires require a level of overhaul to be performed. The point of overhaul is to guarantee that our fire operation is complete. Leaving before every stone is overturned is leaving, too soon.
Point one: Do not be in a rush or lazy when performing overhaul. When we rush for spoken or unspoken reasons, it effects our attention span and how we function. You can’t rush overhaul. Doing it correctly takes not only the physical process, but the evaluation of damage and possible hidden fire. You can tell when overhaul was lazy by observing the amount of opening up that occurred in relationship to the fire damage. 
Point two: Open up until you see clear space. Fires can work unseen, regenerating themselves slowly, as we work in other areas. When you open a space, open it up enough to observe the area fully until adjacent spaces are clear. Pulling ceilings is critical to observe possible fire extension. Ceilings are difficult to observe except for the bay that was pulled. Fire can extend beyond the original bays, so an extended space of multiple bays needs to pulled and examined. 
Point three: Plan your overhaul. Pulling ceilings down on top of smoldering beds and furniture only sets us up for a rekindle and possible hidden victims. Extinguish the fire, do a search of the area and then perform overhaul. You can always pull the ceiling or other space to chase the fire. That’s not overhaul, that’s opening up for continued fire attack.
Point four: Civilians often see overhaul as excess damage. Explain to them that we must be thorough before we allow them to renter their home. We must assure ourselves that the fire is completely out. 
Point five: Remember to save property before you start. Dumping a ceiling on a dresser full of family photos is something we can avoid with a mindful approach to our task. 
Point six: Use a TIC to assist with overhaul on hidden hot spots. Remember, sometimes we chase steam and that’s okay; open up until all are satisfied and we can safely turn the home over to the occupants. Don’t add rekindle to your name.

This Photo Tells a Big Story: The Highest Heat Level from the Fire

Ray McCormack

This photo tells a big story: The highest heat level from the fire is near the ceiling, right where the transom is located. The transom is the glass window above the door. They were designed to allow light to enter a space. If able to be opened, they allow air to pass from one space to another. This was a common building feature before air conditioning, rising crime and changes to the fire code.
In the photo, the firefighters are in the public hallway of a multiple dwelling adjacent to the single-egress stairway. The transom failure allows both smoke and more importantly, fire, to enter the public hallway and stairway. This is a major life safety concern at any fire in a multi-floor building with an open interior stairway. The first line must go inside to protect these spaces, transom or not. Smoke will migrate into the interior hallway and stairway; however fire migration must not occur. 
While transom failure can allow for water application, its failure prior to hoseline placement is the threat. This building feature is now rare on apartment entry doors. Changes to multiple dwelling fire codes in most locations eliminated this building feature.
Homes that contain interior transom windows or high open spaces between rooms or rooms and hallways are candidates for early fire extension. I have traveled down hallways past transoms to get to the fire room entry door to extinguish the fire. While you are passing fire, you are not passing the fire room. Typically, the transom is releasing high level heat, relieving the room entry door of this function. 
Tactical extinguishment choices should be based on experience and conditions present. Protect public egress spaces first. Once inside, use your knowledge to extinguish the fire. 

Battalion Notes

Don’t Judge a Taco by its Price

Erich Roden

“Don’t judge a taco by its price.” This is one of Hunter Thompson’s famous gems and a fitting metaphor to describe the types of fires that we want to go to during a tour. We all come to work hoping to get some decent work that we can brag about; to be able to tell the on-coming shift to go sniff our coats to enjoy it as much as we did; however, it’s tough to get that kinda quality, daily. Although I get to work in a town that gets daily work, not all of it is something we’d write home about – or should we?

Although everyone enjoys fire out several windows and the chance to make a grab, as a result of quick reporting and the adjacency of our companies to most addresses in their first-due areas, most fires don’t have that kind of sizzle. Furthermore, some fires find us having to chase it around in voids or stud bays and we end up peeling the place apart like an onion, rather than getting after it, post haste. You get some smoke and you get some fire, but not much else but dirty tools and an engine waiting for the truck to find it. So how can we make these “Squibs,” as they’re called in my town, worth more to us during the tour and up the price?

How about making the set-up, search and overhaul worth it at these rather benign fires? The set-up should be the same for a structure fire whether it’s nothing-showing or a lot showing. I’ll spare you the “always treat every fire like it’s the big one” platitude, but always make sure that your companies have their act together, regardless of how much fire you get to enjoy. Are your companies and you parking in the right spot (yes, chiefs can block out companies, too). Don’t let any company park differently, just to get out first if the chief starts picking them up, right away. If they’re in the block where they should be, well, then having to hang out is what comes with your order of arrival. Do you start a hoseline when the truck reports “rubbish fire in the hallway,” “dryer fire,” or do you allow your trucks to gamble with the: “small fire in the kitchen, we’re hitting it with the can?” If there’s any fire, start a line. The can is just there to keep fires in check until the line gets up there. If a company calls another truck or makes the Proby go down for another can, then a hoseline was needed before they made that transmission.

If things go according to plan, every time, at every size fire, then your Battalion is ready, including you, Chief. Consider how much you can glean from your companies and your Battalion’s effectiveness when companies come together to get it done. Are the stretches sloppy (kinks, hose tossed vs. staged, etc.)? What trucks don’t enjoy getting off the rig if the engine beats them in at small gigs, etc. You have to make sure that your officers know what your expectations are at fires, and stick to them. Remember, what you allow, will continue, and everyone likes working in your Battalion because everything seems to just go right, every time. This takes some time, but your companies will meet you there.

As you can see, you can get a lot more out of these benign fires and learn a lot about your companies by not judging a small(er) fire as a waste of your precious time and reputation. If you didn’t get much in the way of excitement, but you started a line or two, searched a building and got to go through the motions for next time, then you’ll have plenty to brag and feel confidant about, the next morning – and you can’t put a price on wins.

A Flows Path

Ray McCormack

When we open the entry door, we’ve been told to think of that as ventilation, and the effects of that action as negative. The fire service should never think of entry in a negative context. We should think about entry as creating flow. 

Flow is more than just air going to a fire or moving away from it. Flow gives us the opportunity to evaluate conditions on the inside once the door opens. Interpreting flow direction and function from this location provides an opportunity to determine if we are in a shared or single directional space.
Is the opening providing a bi-directional flow? Bi-directional flow Is low-air entry and high-level exhaust within the same opening. Is the opening displaying a uni-directional flow? Uni-directional flow is an opening where a single direction flow is prominent. A location with a uni-directional flow can function as an inlet flow or an exhaust flow.

Is the open entry door a ventilation point? Of course it is, but it’s more than that. It’s an information portal. When you open the entry door, heat and smoke will escape and fresh air will also track in low. This new flow will find its way to the fire. The route it takes is the flow path. It may return to you or exit in another area depending on its function. Understanding directional flow tells our people a lot more than simply saying something is ventilation.

Opening the entry door is required for us to size up the fire, enter and provide extinguishment. When we open the entry door, we can also close it. When you remove glass, we can’t control that opening any longer; however, doors are different, we can control doors there by controlling flow.

Firefighters know that air will feed the fire, and that fresh air will track inside low to the ground. That entry air can be beneficial to someone lying on the floor in the path to the fire – the flows path. Flow is what we’re interested in understanding, flow towards the fire and away from the fire. If you were to enter through the doorway and close the door behind you, you have eliminated that flow. 

By discussing the term Flow, we bring understanding to the movement of air, gases and fire. Firefighters need to understand that the creation of flow is not a negative, and the controlling power they have over flow. While we can’t always control flow we must consider it’s path as we operate and avoid being in an active exhaust flow. There shouldn’t be negative connotations to opening an entry door. There should be understanding of actions and the impact of those actions, so that recognition is more universal.

Ray McCormack – FDNY

Erich Roden

I’m in a Gypsy Cab, headed up the West Side Highway in Manhattan to 143rd St., “Between Powell and Douglas,” I say to the driver. You couldn’t get a Yellow Cab to take you up there, back then, so you had to take a car. It’s the Fall of 2003, I think – I can’t recall the first time that I had made this trip – I’m with my usual NYC Trip Suspect, Sean, on our way up to the famed “Harlem Hilton” in West Harlem. Ray McCormack is up there waiting for us, about to start the easy-side of a 24, the 9 x 6. We arrive, with requisite pastries and pies, planning to say hello, hang out with friends for a bit, bust balls and head back down to Soho and The Village to make some more bad choices for the rest of the evening. As usual, that is never the case when you visit the gang at The Hilton – and I already knew it. That’s why I love that shop. After downing some coffee, telling stories of the night before’s antics and comparing other notes, we’re squeezing into Engine 69 and Ladder 28 with six other guys in each, off to a vacant.

We arrive to a ubiquitous, Old Law Tenement building that is under demolition. The neighborhood is being bought back up by investors after years of neglect and enduring some of the nation’s heaviest fire-duty during the famed War Years, till present. We get off the rig, exchange some pleasantries with the contractors and for the next few hours, assist in demolishing the building, starting with some doors and locks, then onto making holes in some walls to escape into an adjacent room, if trapped by fire. Since we were onto the whole escape thing, some of the fellas decided to play around with what were some of the remaining, original personal escape systems in the FDNY at the time. They all had them on, of course, because Engine 69/Ladder 28, right? After watching them bail out the 5th floor window a few times, we headed back to enjoy the meal.

I don’t remember what they made that day, but they covered every inch of the plate with food that they put in front of me. We enjoyed a great meal, caught up on all-things FDNY and how the men were holding up from more than a year of working on the pile, attending funerals and rebuilding the largest fire department in the world. Captain Bob Morris, who worked there in 28 when I first started visiting The Hilton was leaving soon to go rebuild Rescue 1, and Ray was still in Engine 69 at the time. I was always amazed at the level of expertise there was on the floor in that firehouse. That’s one of the reasons that I loved going to that place. It exuded experience, tradition, and the proper development of a firefighter. Essentially, if you sucked, you got tossed. Period. There was no other place like it that I knew of, including any place in my own fire department, at the time.

We sat with Ray, hashing out the goings-on in the rest of the world for a while, and decided to head back down to the City, since Ray’s tour was almost over. Yep, we spent the entire day there before we knew it. That’s how it goes up on 143rd St. You never come empty handed when you visit a firehouse, and you never leave, empty handed. We bought up half of their shirt locker for friends and family and walked to down the street to find another Gypsy Cab for the return trip.

I have many of these great memories like these of my visits to The Hilton to see Ray. In fact, I have thousands of other great memories with Ray McCormack, too – perhaps it’s because we’ve been partners in crime for twenty years, now. It has gone by fast, and so has Ray’s career with the FDNY. I think you know why I’m giving you a dose of this nostalgia. That’s right, Lieutenant Ray McCormack has called it a day and has officially retired from the FDNY after 39 years of service.

Let’s all take that in for just a second: 39 years

I’ll bet Ray’s pension that most people reading this aren’t even that old, or that your second wife isn’t even close to this age. That’s a lot of years, and in this job, real experience. Ray has worked in the FDNY a third longer than most of us will ever do in our own jobs, and that’s not because he didn’t know how to find the bridge exit to the Pension Office, it’s because he truly enjoyed the work and what it was really about. Ray is cut from a different cloth, and that’s okay with him. And if you know Ray, you know exactly what I mean. So what does 39 years look like on a one-page resume? Let me give it a shot:

Ray McCormack was appointed to the FDNY on November 7th, 1981 and assigned to Proby School.

Graduated Proby School on December 19th 1981 and assigned to 24 Truck in Midtown Manhattan, near Madison Square Garden.

On May 14th, 1991, Ray was an integral part of the most daring and famous rope rescue in fire service history with Rescue 1. Ray held Firefighter Kevin Shea over the edge of a building with the rope tied around his waist as the only anchor. See the story here and the Rescue 911 video reenactment:

Ray was promoted to Lieutenant on September 3rd, 1994 and assigned to the 16th Battalion where he covered in firehouses all over New York City.

On June 14th, 1997, Ray landed a spot in 69 Engine where he worked for the next ten years

Ray crossed the floor to 28 Truck on June 30th, 2007, where he stayed until his retirement on April 29th, 2020

During his 39 years, Ray worked on several projects for the FDNY and is leaving today after putting the final touches on the new FDNY Engine Company Operations book. This book will surely be the most sought after publication on all-things Engine, and look for its release, shortly.

Whew, now that’s some legacy…

What’s telling about his career in the FDNY is the tenure that he had in the companies he was assigned to. While many departments have their own way of transferring people around, the FDNY lets members work in a spot until they promote, decide to move on, or some else decides that for them. Ray was a Firefighter for 13 years and a Lieutenant for 26 more. He spent 10 years in Engine 69 and 13 years in 28 Truck. That’s a lifetime of experience for any firefighter, but none of that experience was lost on Ray. Ray took that experience and the very best about this job and also put in on paper, and started writing for Fire Engineering over 25 years ago. That’s where the rest of the story continues.

Ray started writing about the job when no one really thought it was cool in big towns to write about the job. Of course there were some stalwarts on the pages of the trade magazines, but very few that got down to the compartments on the rig or the tips that every firefighter should know. Ray paid attention to everything going on at work and took good notes. It’s easy to get lost in your rank, the position that you’re assigned to for the day, or simply the company that you’re in and only what it cares about. Ray’s focus was more eclectic and holistic about firefighting, and although he came from a prestigious truck in his humble beginnings, it was the engine that became his true calling. Why? It’s because he realized how little attention was paid to the most important unit in the fire department. Go ahead, say I’m full of it on that. I’m right and Ray knows it, too. Ray became one of the greatest ever to write about the engine. He talked more about the engine than anyone in history and taught us things that we would never even think about in this kind of company. Ray made being in the engine important again and brought back the peonage of being great in this unit.

Ray also personifies what it meant to be an aggressive, interior firefighter. Many boasted that they were, and still do, but none with the gravitas, longevity and experience that he has. In fact, Ray gave a keynote speech in 2009 that turned the fire service on its ear and challenged the narrative of many special interests. Not to be a contrarian, as he was accused of being, but to be the voice of skepticism and a logical approach – to hit pause for a moment on a national movement of misinformation and misinterpretation. Ray was both vilified and deified at the same time, that day. A fire service Civil War that was brewing erupted, and put Ray in tough spot for a while; however, heads cleared and everyone realized that Ray actually did everyone the greatest favor with that speech: He got everyone talking, not just the special interests at the time, and we still are, today, as a result.

Ray and I were both regulars at FDIC when we met, loved and hated the same people, and knew what was missing in the fire service trade magazine space. Ray and I began work on a top-secret project that was launched as Urban Firefighter Magazine in 2010. It was hard to keep it under wraps, but we managed to pull it off. With some dedicated authors and media talent, we were able to flip the Apple Cart over and give the urban firefighter a voice, space and medium to talk about fires. This was a great time in our lives and some of Ray’s and my proudest memories. Although it was short-lived, it still inspires people to bring everyone the very best training and experience to others, to this very day. I wish you could have all have been on that journey with Ray and me at the time. Having Ray as an editor of that magazine made us all feel like the real fire service was in the right hands.

Ray continues to teach at FDIC and around the country. He is also on the Advisory Board of Fire Engineering, and has recently been on the Advisory Panel for UL FSRI’s Fire Stream Attack and Coordinated Fire Attack studies. He’s not slowing down by pulling the pin at the FDNY. In fact, there’re about 1,000 people that’ll keep him busy, including me. Ray is revered by everyone he taught and collaborated with. He tells it like it is, and you can love him or hate him for that, he doesn’t care. I asked some of our fellow Fire Engineering Advisory Board members to say a few things about Ray and here’s what a few of them came up with:

Bill Gustin, Captain, Miami-Dave Fire Rescue:

Ray McCormack is a highly respected and admired fire service educator throughout the USA because he “gets it.” What I mean by that is that Ray understands that the American Fire Service is not the FDNY and tailors his instruction to be relevant to fire departments of all sizes. Ray gets it because he is a great listener and is genuinely interested in what firefighters think and how their departments operate; especially as it pertains to engine company operations. Ray is an extremely humble man. I knew him for years before I learned, not from him, that Ray was the man on the other end of the rope that lowered Kevin Shea down the side of that building to rescue a trapped occupant. Over the years, Ray has produced dozens of training videos for Fire Engineering and Elkhart Brass. I can think of no finer example of Ray’s passion, experience and insight than his Elkhart Brass “Brass Tacks And Hard Facts” video on the nozzle position firefighter. If you have ever met Ray or attended one of his classes, you know that video is the embodiment of Ray McCormack. Ray has been a wonderful mentor to the young fellas on my company and they look up to him, as I do. Every firefighter who has learned and been inspired by Ray is a better firefighter because of Ray McCormack.

Glenn Corbett, Fire Engineering:

Ray is truly the human anchor, in both the literal and figurative senses. His part in the famed 1991 roof rope rescue cemented his place in FDNY history and lore. His more recent activism in the world of fire behavior research into flow paths and ventilation has forced the fire service to make a more critical and practical assessment of what the research actually tells us in practical firefighting terms.

Congratulations on your retirement, Ray!

Dan Madrzykowski, UL FSRI:

Sometimes “the senior man” likes to rest on their laurels. In other words, they are satisfied with the experience that they obtained during their glory days and they make no further effort to make sure that they have relevant information to share with other firefighters. That is NOT Ray McCormack. Ray, who has significant experience and street cred, also has been investing his time and energy into the most current firefighting research. Ray volunteered to be on the technical panels for UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute projects on Fire Attack and Coordinated Attack. From day one on the tech panel, Ray was all in. He participated in the meetings, traveled to witness experiments at the UL lab and in acquired structures, and most importantly reviewed the data and the reports. Being a tech panel member is a lot of work. Ray has proven that he has been a student of the job over his career, and that is what makes him a valuable teacher and mentor.

Jack Murphy, Fire Engineering:

A ‘Tip for the Helmet’ for your 38 years of service as a firefighter and fire officer in the FDNY. Over the years, your broad knowledge of the job has been a learning & training benefit to all who participated in either your hands-on training evolutions, classroom sessions or the many firefighter conversations you had with your fellow firefighters.
Thank you for all your contributions at the FDIC conferences.

Wishing you the best with your new endeavors!

Becki White, Fire Engineering:

I attended Urban Essentials at FDIC with Ray, ten years after starting in the fire service. I had learned the skills individually before, but my skills were brought to a whole new level with the instruction from Ray and his team. It was also my first introduction to FDIC, which has become an annual trip.

I have also had the opportunity to spend lots of time taking to and learning from Ray in a less formal setting. I have found him to be very compassionate and thoughtful. He listens and provides advice based on his years as a firefighter and fire officer, but also on a personal level, which has helped me through some challenges in my career.

Robin Nicoson, Indianapolis Fire Department

It was great working with you—your work truly made a lasting impact, with so many brilliant and creative ideas and suggestions that I’ve lost track. But you are one that has changed the fire service for the better in so many ways. I always appreciated how you were readily available to lend an ear and help solve any problem. We will miss you very much, but I wish you the best in retirement! Thanks for everything!

Frank Ricci, New Haven Fire Department:

Ray has and will continue to have a large voice in the fire service. He is a hard charging, salty Lt. who drives a Prius. He asks the hard questions and has a reputation as a great instructor and for challenging the latest trends. Debate, asking why and challenging trends is at the heart of Fire Engineering’s mission dating back to it’s early days as a Journal. We all wish Ray a great retirement from the fire department.

William Shouldis, Philadelphia Fire Department:

Ray, thanks for your dedication to being a “role model “ for all first responders. Best wishes and consider us fortunate to have been a part of the “best job“ in the world. I hope you will find great satisfaction in sharing your experience with the next generation of firefighters.

Mike McEvoy, Fire Engineering:

My best memories of Ray McCormack are from our Fire Engineering Advisory Board meetings. Ray takes a lot of information in, much the way Alan Brunacini always did. When he voiced an opinion, it was (again like Bruno), invariably something very thoughtful and well spoken. Ray also, in my opinion, was a firefighter’s firefighter. He taught nothing that he did not do or could not do himself. Leading by example is not a common characteristic in this business. Ray always leads by example.

So what’s next for Ray? Don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere. Ray always has a lot of ideas and things on his plate. His retirement from the FDNY is simply a large chapter that is closing. Imagine the time he’s going to have to teach, write, consult, train, etc. when he’s no longer in an hour and a half and three bridges, each way, car ride into the firehouse. I expect he’ll be back at it, tomorrow morning, in being a part of what you read, hear and do on the fireground and in your firehouse, forever. That’s what Ray is all about, and that’s enough for anyone.

Godspeed in the rest of the story, Ray!

Erich Roden

For Better Understanding, Stand Under It

Ray McCormack

Water mapping is a term that grew from a portion of the https://ulfirefightersafety.org/research-projects/impact-of-fire-attack-on-firefighter-safety-and-occupant-survival.html UL study. This sub-study was done to document where the water from our nozzle was going and how it dispersed, depending upon stream placement. 

Different diameter hoselines with different nozzle pressures and flows were all tested, because the American Fire Service uses various nozzles. Ceiling strike depths were also tested and evaluated to see if variances occurred, if they occurred and what they were, and that’s important information.

Fire departments have choices as to how to fight fires and have options for accomplishing extinguishment based on those choices. Many fire departments have yet to do a deep-dive on water mapping. This is possibly the single most important aspect of gaining extinguishment that there is. We need to understand our hose streams, their capabilities and their progressive effect on fire attack.

Taking the smoke away from how our streams work only leaves the mirrors to deal with. The mirrors are there to show if you’ve trained on this or not. If you train, the image reflecting back will be one of interest in the craft; if you don’t train on it, the image will be one of stagnation. There is more work to be done on water mapping and stream placement, but the real work is always the same continuous training.

I’ve been doing water mapping and stream placement review for years watching firefighter operate their nozzles, the good, bad and ugly. You must access the information to gain knowledge and practice the different stream placements to build it into your nozzle operations. Formal training in this should be done at every fire department and be part of every new firefighters training curriculum.

You may be blinded by smoke as you operate the nozzle, but the water is always line of sight. Always find out what it’s doing and where it’s going. Don’t stand on the sidelines of this valuable firefighting training component stand under it for a better understanding.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Standpipe Operations

Ray McCormack

Listen to Ray McCormack’s latest FDNY Pro Podcast where he discusses standpipe operations and subscribe to FDNYPro.org/listen to hear more:

FDNY Pro: Even in a vertical city like New York, high-rise construction continues to expand into the outer boroughs where fire companies need to be ready to respond. Thirty-eight year veteran fire officer, Lt. Ray McCormack discusses the Department’s Standpipe Operations and Training. Battalion Chief Brian Mulry hosts. Please note, this episode was recorded prior to the COVID-19 emergency in NYC.

UL Releases its report on the Exploratory Analysis of the Impact of Ventilation on Strip Mall Fires

From UL’s FSRI:

Check out our newly released report on the “Exploratory Analysis of the Impact of Ventilation on Strip Mall Fires.” Access the report here: https://s.ul.org/2RCxzdi

The purpose of this study is to increase fire service knowledge of fire dynamics and the impact of firefighting tactics through a better understanding of how suppression and ventilation are coordinated on the fireground in acquired commercial structures.

This report provides a fire dynamics analysis of each experiment, a discussion of ventilation and pressure, and tactical considerations developed with the project technical panel.

Thanks to the City of Fairborn, Ohio – Municipal Government Fire Department for their support in aquiring these structures and providing suppression crews. Project funded by the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. Online training to follow! #ULFSRIFairborn

Coordinated Fire Attack Requires Study

Ray McCormack

How the UL fire studies impact the fire service and individual departments is a very interesting topic of discussion. The initial reaction from many departments, after studies are published, has often been a declaration to change.

Many in the past have seized upon what they felt was a good fix without a more complete perspective. A rush to judgement should ever be applauded in the face of hundreds of pages of documentation. We have learned more about previous tactics, the more they are put to the test, under varied conditions. Additional study on things we do at most, if not all fires, is important for the fire service to mull over. Fire departments need to take a tactical pause regarding broad changes they plan on making without a full picture.

As time moves forward and more areas are examined, a more complete picture is drawn. No final story has be written on any topic so far. Our operations are multi-faceted and will require additional study, as the layers are uncovered, revealing more questions than less. I believe this study, Coordinated Fire Attack, will add critical building blocks for tactical improvement.

Only the private home portion of this study has been released; there are two additional portions commercial and multiple dwelling still to come out. Waiting is the best advice; waiting until the entire study is released before instituting anything prudent.

For panel members, who have intimate knowledge of how these studies work and have taken part in internal debates, we like you, wait. Discussion is always good, it creates questions and moves us forward with new ideas and a search for answers to come.

We should remember that rapidly implemented change may not be the best takeaway from any report. Utilizing all of the information from a completed study and positioning it alongside your current tactical framework with an eye towards improvement is the goal.

We must never be bound by what is presented to us. Let the initial dust settle and be mindful to revisit the information again to discover what may have been overlooked, or requires more attention. I believe we should embrace tactical development over change and foster implementation through informed consensus.


Ray McCormack served as a panel member on both the UL Study of Coordinated Fire Attack Utilizing Acquired Structures and Impact of Fire Attack Utilizing Interior & Exterior Streams on Firefighter Safety & Occupant Survival Study.

THE Captain

Doug Mitchell

The Captain

Heard in the kitchen: “Yo bro, who’s the boss coming in tonight?” “Ah, think it’s the Captain.”

A Senior Captain once told me that this rank has both extremely unique challenges and rewards.  He said: “The Captain is the Captain.”  I know that sounds redundant, but when you look at the dichotomy of the position, it makes sense.  

In our organization, uniquely, the rank of Captain is the only one for which there is just one.  Each company has a Captain. With 25 firefighters assigned to each company, for each member, the Captain is the Captain.  Each company also has three Lieutenants. To them, as well, the Captain has no equals.  Even in the level of management above the Captain, the Battalion Chief, four Battalion Chiefs are assigned to each Battalion. 

The Captain has responsibilities in function and form that other officers do not: A balance on the fire floor, and in the office, of leadership, motivation and mentoring.  As the Company Commander, you set the tone and policy for the company.  They are ultimately responsible for the actions and inactions of the members on and off the fire floor. A trusted Captain simply stated: “It is better to keep them out of trouble… than get them out of trouble.”  The Captain needs to know his people…

There is a point in pretty much every day that I wish I was at the firehouse.  The reality of it is, whether I am there or not, management style aside, when you are the Captain you’re the Captain.

For more information about Captain Mitchell’s work, instruction and how to contact him, please visit the following links, and be sure to check out his amazing book, ’25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD’, from Fire Engineering Books:



Captain Douglas J. Mitchell, Jr.

Fire Department City of New York

Doug is a Captain in the New York City Fire Department with 27 years of fire experience, the last 21 with the FDNY. He is currently assigned to the Bronx’s 7th Division. Doug served as the FDNY’s Executive Officer of the Probationary Firefighters School and is a member of the FDNY IMT.  He was a Lieutenant in the Bronx, a Fire Marshal in Queens and a Fireman in Manhattan. Doug previously served for Fairfax County Va. Fire & Rescue Department and with Howard County MD Fire and Rescue.

He has lectured and conducted hands-on-training programs nationwide and at the FDNY’s training academy.  He is a principal member of the NFPA 1400 committee. He co-wrote Fire Engineering’s “25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD” in 2013. He has a Bachelor’s degree from University of MD Baltimore County.