The "illusion" of death!

** WARNING ** VERY graphic photos contained in this post !

So early into 2012 and so many “issues” already. These issues aren’t new by any means but for whatever reason, they are weighing particularly heavy on my mind. Actually, they always have and now it’s my turn to “weigh in” … a “rant” if you will.

The ” Illusion of death ” …. HA !  There is no “illusion”. Death is VERY real and nobody knows that better than those of us in the Fire / EMS service. We see it often .. sometimes daily. What we see is not the drama coated “Hollywood” death but the REAL thing. It’s not pretty!

It’s ugly. For the most part, people don’t die peacefully … we see that … most folks don’t. If you’ve been on the job for any length of time, you have images in your head that can’t be erased. Odors you can never forget . Questions and emotions that will haunt you forever.

I had a great conversation with a good friend last night. He’s a Department Chaplain for a very large Police Department.  In talking about the differences and similarities between Poilce and Firemen, the emotions we face and the shared need for Chaplain programs, I made the statement that Police Officers are sometimes forced to physically “kill” people. Though not directly by our hand, for a fireman; it’s often our actions or inaction that cause death. Yea .. what we do or DON’T do can, will and does KILL PEOPLE  and I’ll go back to my statement above .. “it’s NOT pretty”.

Sometimes we place ourselves in these situations … other times, it’s our Department of government administrators who place us there. Watch this video …..

A single man Engine / Ladder!  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I get so mad I could explode!

The Brothers in that video were wearing IAFF shirts so I’ll assume they are “paid”. With that assumption, it’s safe to also assume that it was their Department that placed them in the situation to respond with only a single member.

I don’t even have the words to describe how I feel about someone placing those members in a position like that! What good could he have possible done????    NONE !

What if he had taken the Engine instead of the Ladder??? The out come would have been the same.

They shouldn’t have even responded!

What did the citizens think? The tax payers, their “customers” …. the people we really work for. What did they think when they heard the “Q” siren winding up and spotted the Ladder rounding the corner?  Most likely it was something like….Thank goodness … here comes the Fire Department … everything will be OK .

Can you imaging driving that Ladder, rounding that corner, seeing 3 floors heavily involved and knowing people were trapped? HE WAS BY HIMSELF! From the time he left the station, he was a bystander … just like everyone else watching this tragic event unfold… it’s all he COULD do!

Running with 1 or 2 SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN in the United States! Paid or volunteer … urban or rural. Our job is almost impossible with 3 and shouldn’t be attempted with anything less.  Some will argue…more members were on their way??? Who cares ..too little, too late.

Responding to the scene shouldn’t happen either. Just this week we had yet another LODD while responding  in a personal vehicle. UNACCEPTABLE.

I don’t care that you have 20 guys responding to the scene. What will the first one do when he/she gets there with heavy fire showing and people trapped? Put on their gear and direct traffic? What if the Rig arrives first? Will it play out like the video above until other members arrive? Respond to the station …staff the rig and respond.


Maybe we should start educating our citizens on what death REALLY looks like.

Maybe some of our own members could use that same education.

They place graphic pictures of mangled bodies and traumatic injuries in the EMT / Paramedic books but none of fire fatalities in the Essentials book!

I’ll say it again … our actions or INACTION directly affects whether or not people live or die!

In this morning’s headlines, I heard a lady say that she expected the Captain of the Costa Concordia   to “go down with the ship”. She EXPECTED that of the Captain … a  “boat” Captain. What do you think people “expect” of a FIRE Captain?

Think about that … what does the public EXPECT of you as a firefighter? If they expect the boat Captain to go down with the ship, they will certanily expect us to enter a structure. To search or not?  Offensive or Defensive? If we’re not going to (or can’t) do anything… why go in the first place?

Remember all the ruckus surrounding the Obion County, Tn “pay for spray” fires? ( Refresh your memory by clicking HERE ). If you’re not going to work, DON’T respond! It not only looks bad on you and your Department but on the Fire Service as a whole as well.

The “perception” being made is on those who vote on our budgets…. the equipment we purchase, the salaries and benefits we receive.

A (paid) Department or Governmental agency  forcing you to operate in this manner is one thing. If, however; you choose to operate like this then you are asking for trouble. Trouble in the worst way. KNOW YOUR JOB … DO IT RIGHT or don’t do it at all.

I had someone contact me a short while back. He wanted to know if I could mention him here on the site. You see, elections were coming up in his Department and he was running for Chief. He wanted to “get his name out there” to round up popularity and votes. ARE YOU KIDDING ME ?!?  The Chief of a Fire Department is a “popularity contest”? WTF?

How about putting the most qualified person in that position? Someone with the interest of the Department and the people whom they serve as top priority. Someone who knows and can do the job. WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO PLACE OURSELVES IN THESE SITUATIONS?

Back on January 6, 2012 I posted about a “Close Call” in one of my own neighboring communities. The Chief of a local volunteer Department was in ICU after being shocked by a downed power line while operating on the scene of a working fire.

The Chief arrived to reports of a trapped occupant and exposures at risk. The mobile home of origin was well off.

Read that previous post HERE

Thankfully, it was later discovered that all occupants were out. Good news for the Chief.

I say that because what if someone HAD been inside? Was he able to go in after them? Was the scene adequately staffed? Was the Chief properly equipped? What kind of “seal” do you think his mask would have had? If this is the condition the Chief responds in, what state of preparedness are his members in (are they “Battle Ready”) ?

Is this Chief the “most popular” or most qualified? I don’t know. What I do know is that we ALL have to be 100% ready at all times. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Well trained, well equipped and adequately staffed. Death is NOT an illusion … we face it EVERY DAY!

Stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines