FIRST ARRIVING NETWORK
First Arriving Network
Powered by the First Arriving Network, Reaching 1M+ First Responders Worldwide

Could you have left him to die?

Last week, a Wyoming man fell a couple hundred feet into an abandoned mine shaft just outside of Reno Nevada.

Rescue efforts were organized and operations undertook.

At some point (I hope early in the incident) a camera was lowered into the shaft. This was rescue vs recovery … the man was ALIVE.

What were the odds? What were his odds from that moment on? Who knows .. I guess it’s debatable but bottom line … he was ALIVE.

At some point, they attempted to lower a rescuer or rescuers into the shaft. Apparently, they knocked some rocks loose and a rescuer was struck by falling debris.  There’s a huge surprise … falling rocks in a mine shaft (it’s like heat in a fire … the two go together).  Anyway, the powers to be decided that the risk was too much. The risk was too much or the “reward” wasn’t worth the price.

Too risky? Wasn’t worth the risk?  We’ve all heard the sayings … ” risk a little to save a little … risk a lot to save a lot (a life) and risk nothing to save nothing”.  This is our job … it’s what we do!  Firemen go into fires … they’re gonna be hot. Cave / mine rescue people go into caves … rocks are gonna fall. At what point did that human life in the bottom of that mine become a “nothing”?

Check out a couple articles on the incident   HERE and   HERE

Who decided?  At one point it’s a life … living breathing (talk to any anti-abortion person as to when life is life or not). I don’t want to get into a life debate here but WHO decided this person is gonna die anyway? How did they do it from a few hundred feet away and did they make the right decision / call?

We often get reports of someone trapped in a house fire. We find the fire fully involved and know that nobody could survive the blaze. We never have to see that person trapped while alive … we never have video of them awaiting rescue. This had to be a difficult decision.

My good friend, fellow Blogger and Fire Service Leader Chris Naum has been talking about this for some time now… Rational Aggressiveness,  Survivability Profiling,  Tactical Patience  and more.  Read Chris’ article  Combat Engagement from his site The Company Officer.

I can’t say if the call was right or wrong … I wasn’t there. What I will say is that we all need to be educated and prepared to make such decisions. Educated in many ways. Although I often agree in many ways with Chris, I always add that we need to maintain a certain level of aggressiveness. EDUCATED AGGRESSIVENESS.

If we don’t, then we serve no purpose.  Why even call the cave / mine rescue if it’s too dangerous for them to go into?  Why call the Fire Department if all they are gonna save is the foundation? Why give the Fire department more funding, staffing, new equipment etc for “surround and drown” operations?  Was Ray McCormick so far off ?  I think not.  We need to get back to not only a “culture of extinguishment” but to a “culture of rescue” as well. We just need to do both smart, aggressively and safely.

I’m not advocating killing members or putting ourselves needlessly at risk  but I will remind you that our job is dangerous … we save lives and property (and a lot more).

I received several e-mails on the photo I posted yesterday. This was a house fire that I was first due on from Engine #9 back in 2008.

My Lieutenant, Rob “Bugg” Reid somehow snapped these photos while performing his duties. The pic to the right was just after arrival.

I was met at the Engine by 2 citizens who stated that homeless people were staying inside this structure and that they were (or may be) still inside.

We stretched in. The members in the front yard are from the 1st in Medic or 2nd due company… we (the Melrose Misfits) are stretching up the attic steps at this point.

I took a 1 3/4 … not a 2 1/2. I needed to get there fast.  We carry 500 gallons on the rig and had a hydrant on the corner next to where we positioned.

I didn’t search … I wanted a line between where the people may be and the fire was. I wanted water on the fire to give the truck company a chance to locate and rescue any victims.

I knew the situation … the conditions .. evaluated, made a plan and put it into affect within seconds.

Who these people were was of no consequence to me. Their social or economic status had no impact on my decisions that night.

The good news is that they were not there. All searches resulted in “all clear”.

The even better news is that there were no firefighter injuries.

Why’d we go? It’s our job. That’s what we are expected to do .. what we’re paid to do. It’s why those folks came up to me and told me someone was still inside .. they knew we’d go get em.

Was it a wise choice??? Again … who knows? I didn’t have a video from the interior of the structure showing it empty or the victims screaming for salvation.

I had to take it all into account. The fire was in the attic. It was vented. The heat, smoke etc was going out the top. These homes are rough sawn construction … they hold.

If I put water on it, the smoke, heat and steam will go up and out … not down to the living space.

Hitting this fire gives anyone trapped a shot. All this was decided in SECONDS.

That brings me back to the mine rescue. These guys had DAYS. They had video of the victim ALIVE. Then … THEN … they decided it was too dangerous. Were they not trained to the level they needed to be? Some will say they were and displayed that by calling off the operations. Did they not call the needed resources? Pride? Again… I don’t know … I wasn’t there..

Maybe they should have called the Fire Department.

Just working your brain … or wasting mine.. LOL

Stay safe and in house!

Captain Wines

Comments - Add Yours

  • http://twitter.com/leatherheadff Philip Cane

    Great post Cap. I feel like I understand exactly what you’re saying, and where you’re coming from. I don’t understand why they gave up the rescue effort, and after reading more about this incident, I have even more questions then I did before.

    My dad always says, “sometimes, the best thing you can do for the people inside is put the fire out first” and I tend to believe he is right. I think the situation from your 08′ fire illustrates that perfectly.

    Take care, – PJ

  • BurnsGVFD

    I think the most correct statement you made was “I don’t know … I wasn’t there..” Its not easy for any group to call a rescue to dangerous. You’re fire was different in every way, which you laid out very well above. You weren’t there, neither was I, but I believe there are more dangers in a 100 year old mine than just falling rocks, and I can only assume the rescuers made every decision with as much time thought as possible.

    • http://ironfiremen.com Iron Firemen

      I agree … thanks for following and taking the time to comment