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Sunday, January 06, 2008

"We Got To Do Better"

"We" as in Firefighters, not just here in Roanoke but everywhere. 115 Firefighters died last year according to The website is hosted by Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder and others who are interested in decreasing firefighter deaths. However, last year seems to remind us that we have got to do better.

The reason why I am writing this right now is because of this incident below where a Scranton Firefighter was killed by electrocution during a house fire when his ladder truck came into contact with a power line. The image is from
How can this happen? I am not trying to monday morning quarterback, and no I was not there. But we got to do better. Captain Jim Robeson, a 26 year veteran, was killed in this incident. God Bless his family and his brothers on the job. We need to learn from this incident.

This is but one of many incidents where firefighters die...and shouldn't. has the breakdown of firefighter deaths here. I will post some of the statistics below.

Type of Duty:

24 Responding 20.8%
11 Training 9.56%
37 On-Scene Fire 32.1%
8 On-Scene Non-Fire 6.95%
13 After 11.3%
20 Other On-Duty 17.3%
2 Returning 1.73%

Type of Incident:

5 Wildland 4.34%
48 Structure Fire 41.7%
7 MVA 6.08%
3 Hazmat 2.60%
6 EMS 5.21%
1 Tech Rescue 0.86%
1 Outside Fire 0.86%
1 False Alarm 0.86%
41 Not Incident Related 35.6%
1 Other 0.86%
1 Unknown 0.86%

Cause of Fatal Injury:

19 Caught/Trapped 16.5%
1 Contact with 0.86%
4 Fall 3.47%
55 Stress/Overexertion 47.8%
4 Collapse 3.47%
3 Struck by 2.60%
26 Vehicle Collision 22.6%
2 Lost 1.73%
1 Other 0.86%

Nature of Fatal Injury:

16 Asphyxiation 13.9%
3 Crushed 2.60%
7 Burns 6.08%
2 CVA 1.73%
33 Trauma 28.6%
1 Electrocution 0.86%
52 Heart Attack 45.2%
1 Other 0.86%


Basically, a firefighter dies every three days in the United States. There have been 2 reported by and today is the 6th of January. I guess you could say we started this year on track for last year. Although the numbers of 2006 were a lot better.
They give these statistics:
Firefighter Line-of-Duty Deaths Honored by NFFF
» 2008 LODDs Reported to Date: 2
» 2007 LODDs: 118 - Details | Stats
» 2006 LODDs: 87 - Details | Stats
» 2005 LODDs: 105
» 2004 LODDs: 99
» 2003 LODDs: 108

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an older article by Chief Golfeder, bu it is very good.
A little food for thought from the ghost.

Who's in charge of the fire?
Chief Billy Goldfeder
Last month, we all read about the horrible death of a brother firefighter in South Carolina. Firefighter Jeff Chavis died from injuries sustained while operating at a structure fire.

These thoughts and comments are never meant to give the "Monday Morning Quarterback" attitude and, fortunately, we don't seem to ever be perceived as doing that by the thousands of you that read this stuff I write. These comments today are no different....but now a dose of reality: The FD that brother Chavis worked for is being fined by OSHA for "seven serious violations and six less serious violations"...

The two most serious violations include:

The lack of supervision by an incident commander.
Firefighters inside the structure didn't maintain contact with firefighters outside.
Seems simple huh? It isn't. Well-as you know- you and I weren't there but we have all been to fires where this occurs....and face it, it happens everyday all over the country.
I cannot imagine how the Chief and/or the Incident Commander from this FD have felt since losing this firefighter and now, OSHA identifies some "basic procedures" that weren't followed...and fines them. Honestly, I feel deeply for that IC and Chief-no doubt, this is the last thing they need now....but WAIT-whats that noise I hear??...IT'S THE LAWYERS crank'n up their engines!

Of course that will be the next step...what a horrible shame. These firefighters, officers and the late firefighter Jeff Chavis woke up one morning looking forward to a great day at the firehouse-perhaps even some of them saying "we hope we get a fire today" each of us have said.

The purpose of this is not to do anything other than to get you to ask yourself "WHO IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR FIRE? It is not directed at any FD, and certainly not our Brothers and Sisters in SC...but their situation DID get us thinking.

We make it DEAD clear to our Officers and Students (At the FD, in Command School, FDIC etc) that you are absolutely and fully responsible for getting your firefighters home safely...Chiefs such as Tommy Brennan, Jim Murtagh, Frank Montagna, Jack McElfish, Don Manno, Frank Brannigan, Alan Brunacini, etc., have said that for's nothing new.....BUT to do that, your IC has got to have the background and experience in structural firefighting!

You can't have someone in charge of YOUR fire who's "next fire is gonna be their first" ! But yet there are some communities with so-called "OIC's" and "Incident Commanders" that have no business running the fire and who's next fire WILL be their first! They don't seem to understand their responsibility and those "above them" don't seem to care either...and nowadays, many officers get promoted with less and less hands-on fire experience & fire training (and some, unfortunately) with primarily EMS backgrounds who "woke up one day" and are now in-charge of structural fires. How does this work?

Well, it's a matter of poor risk-management by those "in charge"....The problem is that some "city fathers (and mothers)" and even some Chiefs allow it to occur... Their "philosophy" is that when they (the new "Incident Commanders on the block") are on-duty..."Odds are" there won't be a structure fire..(you know, the ones who say "We are an EMS Dept that occasionally goes to a fire" and "we don't have fires anymore" etc) what happens? They feel that "everything is fine" and go about their merry way checking apparatus for dust, having the ff's wash their staff car, adjusting their collar brass, making sure there are enough IV fluids and of course, finding outdated drugs in the ambulances..... And then (suddenly and without warning-which is usually how fires come in) all hell breaks loose when they get a working fire..and they are lost! Where does that leave "those that they are responsible to get home safely?"

WHO is going to TRAIN the firefighters everyday if those in-charge don't have the experience, training and "know how" (or interest!) in dealing with STRUCTURE FIRES? I'll tellya what happens...they buy any of those videos out there and call it training! Sadly, some "Training Officers" have become "Video Tape Distributors"...that's great-they can plan for a future when they retire as an Executive with Blockbuster. Videos are a good supplement-but they are not training.

So who's gonna take care of the troops?? WHO is going to be the experienced and seasoned LEADER at these fires and command the operation? Who is going to LEAD and SHOW by EXAMPLE the firefighters what to do (and not do!) during training? Who is going to have the experience and training (real training...dirty stuff-not your annual CPR recerts) to prepare these firefighters for the structure fire...when it "comes in"..? Who is going to make the firefighters (and Officers) train constantly on structural firefighting operations & tactics, fire command/scene supervision, building construction, structural collapse, venting, fireground communication and all of the related & required tasks because they (the IC) knows what can happen if they DON'T take the training seriously?

We have always been told (usually by someone whining) that we should always provide solutions to problems we present, goes: If you know of "someone else's FD" with one of these "new age" I.C's everything you can to:

Encourage constant realistic hands on FIRE training...with full participation
Request as much OUTSIDE "live fire" training's as possible....with full participation.
Perform in-station "everyday single day" hands-on training operations so that EVERYONE (including whoever is gonna run your fire...they can do their "reports" later) gets involved and becomes familiar with each you know what you can expect from one another at the fire.
Do your BEST to encourage hiring and promotion standards that require STRUCTURAL FIREFIGHTING training and experience. Listen, I Know that EMS is critical and I am truly a big fan of paramedic & EMT-firefighters who sure save one hell of alot more lives than firefighters do--BUT, EMT and PARAMEDIC certs do nothing to assure a safe fireground operation and cannot replace an experienced, trained and competent Incident Commander who has experience and plenty of training in order to run the fire and get everyone home safely.
Who is in charge of your fire? All your troops want is to "get home safely"...even if they sometimes don't act like it. This is serious stuff. Our finest thoughts, deepest respect and hopes for a peaceful future go out to the members and especially the Officers in Lexington County, S.C. as well as the family members of Jeff Chavis.
About the author:
Chief William Goldfeder, a 27 year veteran of the fire service. He is Battalion Chief/Director of Planning and Development for the Loveland-Symmes FD, OH.