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Stay Out? Not Me! – Commentary

Can Firefighting Be a Risk-Free Activity?

Someone from the USFA is pushing the end of interior firefighting. We all know there are winds blowing that way but it is a little bracing to see it stated so bluntly. You can sneer at the fact that he was talking to the Volunteer Chief Officers Section of the IAFC but that is really not the point. There is a battle for the soul of the fire service being fought between those who think any LODD is one too many and those who think that, in general, firefighters must die for the fire service to do what it should. Specifically, protecting lives and property.

I happen to be among the latter. I don't want to die, I don't want anyone on my crew or in my department to die, and I don't want any firefighter to die. And I will do everything I can to prepare and be very good at my job in the interest of preventing a LODD. But I know that property and lives are important and protecting those properly will require firefighters to do things that have a likelihood of causing so many injuries per thousand fires and so many fatalities per thousand fires. There is just no way around that.

The USFA official's statement that buildings are disposable is correct in the abstract but irrelevant in the specific. If you work in an affluent suburb then perhaps the buildings are more disposable than you might at first think. Insurance, savings, and tight social networks cushion any blows suffered by homeowners and residents. But in other areas the people have no safety net, no insurance, no savings, and live paycheck to paycheck. Losing houses and business in some areas is nothing short of catastrophic. It is both disrespectful and incorrect to say that those buildings and the property in them are disposable. The lives in them (which cannot be saved by exterior firefighting) are certainly not disposable.

So I say, stand up for property and for interior firefighting and saving lives, property, and livelihoods. If we decide these things are disposable then why do we exist?

………. Patrick Mahoney

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