WTF !?! And I’m NOT talking about “Well Trained Firefighters”

Armbrister with arrowVideo footage of an apartment fire in nearby Radford, Va was brought to my attention the other day.

The fire occurred back on May 4, 2015 @ approx 10:07am along the 400 blk of Burlington Street. The video was brought to me because, apparently; our beloved and previous member “Rookie Randy” was one of the star firefighters in the footage.

When I watched the video, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Well,  I could believe it but maybe I didn’t understand it is a better way to put it.

Now I don’t typically “Monday morning quarterback” or “keyboard command” fires but I want, and feel like I have to say something on this one.

Let me start off by saying that I called Randy and spoke with him personally. Like in most cases, he says the short video clips didn’t tell the entire story.

Randy gave a couple explanations. He said that there were reports of occupants trapped (sleeping) in a rear bedroom. He also explained that there was heavy fire conditions in the hallway. He further described that those conditions made it impossible to enter from the front. In addition, he said that there was a hose line in place and that he was the 3rd member to enter, so he was not alone.

Now, I wasn’t there but I’m still not convinced… actually I just don’t buy it. Take a minute and watch the video for yourself so that you can form your own opinion (note Randy’s appearance @ the 1:35 mark being lifted into the window) .

Are you thinking the same things I am? There are so many things I want to say and point out in this video … so many questions I’d like to ask…. but I’m not. Nor will I identify the Departments who responded to this incident.

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What I will say is that although considered “aggressive”, my Department doesn’t operate like that. I’ll add that I also KNOW that Randy wasn’t taught to operate in that manner either. He says it all worked out, that the fire was run well, IMS (Incident Management System) and accountability were in place and that all crews operated with a min. of 4 members.

I remember being worried when Randy left for his new Department. I was afraid that that he had seen and learned just enough from us to go somewhere else and get hurt. I worried about the staffing and response issues in that Department and the situations either may place him in. I wrote about some of those concerns in a previous post. Take the time and follow (click) the link below for that article …. I believe you’ll find it worth your time…

Read “Gambling with Firefighter’s lives”

Rookie-Firefighter-Randy-Armbrister-with-Captain-Willie-Wines-Jr-of-Engine-Company-13-Feb-2012-edited-300x213Randy says they are in the process of hiring at least one new member with plans to bring on another at year’s end to raise their staffing level. He also says that they are changing their responses, halting personal vehicles to the scene. We did not talk about min. staffing on the rigs.

If everything Randy said is correct, I believe it’s a good thing and a step in the right direction.

It’s good that positive change is on the way but how long can they wait for it? How much longer will they last? How much longer will Randy make it? How long could you? How long can Departments all across the Country keep gambling? I’m sure there are other Departments all across the Country operating like this or worse.

Are the changes Randy mentioned going to be enough? It doesn’t matter if you have a crew of 20 if they’re not operating safely and with the proper tools / equipment…. if they don’t have good leadership (on and off the fire grounds and I’m not saying that they don’t).

Was what you seen in the video above an “aggressive” Department / members or unsafe tactics? Risk a little to save little… Risk a lot to save a lot … and risk nothing to save nothing… right?  Is it even possible for a Fire Company to be “aggressive” and safe?

One of the busiest Companies in the United States (Kentland) thinks it’s possible and we’re talking about more than just the fire scene here… watch the video below…

Aggressive and safe? Yea …ABSOLUTELY we can do that. Is it possible to reach the goal of “Under 50” (LODDs) ? I think it is but unfortunately, The U.S Fire Administration (link) is already reporting 46 Firefighter fatalities in 2015!

Rookie-Randy-Armbristers-1st-working-fire-2100-blk-Orange-Ave-NW-8-10-2011-224x300Our safety / survival is all encompassing … our training, air pack / PPE use, strategies, tactics, driving / response practices, seat belt use, physical fitness, overall health etc, etc, etc all play a huge roll in it. If you actually break the numbers down, we are loosing more of our members to heart attacks, strokes and vehicle crashes than we are to fire scene related injuries.

Some (many) of these things are within OUR control …. others, maybe not so much. When I look at the video of that fire and Randy getting lifted through that window I can’t help but wonder / think about how close we may have came to adding another name to that list.

I remember his 1st day here with us, his first fire (pictured right), the day he left and many days in between. It’s often said that the best thing an older firemen can teach a young fireman is how to become an old one …. I wonder if I may have failed in that somewhere along the way?

Rookie-Randys-last-day-edited-300x225Despite Randy having been a “sponge” and well on his way to becoming a good fireman, I don’t believe what I seen in that video was a Well Trained Firefighter… although I did say WTF ?!

Again, I’m not trying to Monday morning quarterback here. I’ve already said I wasn’t there. But I care… I care about Randy, the members around him and the Fire Service as a whole. I have a connection with Randy. I have a lot of “sweat equity” invested with him. I have a lot more than that invested with the job.

So what was I seeing in that video? Over aggressive firefighters? Poor decision making? Poor strategy and tactics?  Lack of training? Lack of leadership? An under equipped Fire Department?  Maybe I didn’t see enough …. maybe the clip was just too short to see / tell? Maybe I was seeing strong tactics? Maybe I was seeing Well Trained Firefighters who not only knew their limits but also that of the building? Maybe I witnessed a good stop? The beginnings of a well placed line? The fact that when I seen it I had a “WTF” response should key me (and you) in a little though.

Hey, this post is not about “bashing” Randy or the Department he went to. Randy is happy at his new home, has a beautiful wife, a baby daughter, works closer to where he lives, is making good money and still going to jobs…. he’s living the dream.

I wrote this post because Randy and I talked about this exact thing as he was walking out the door of Lucky #13. We talked about it in front of my Battalion Chief and I was up front, open and honest with him. I warned him of these situations and hoped that he wouldn’t put himself in a position to be pulled into them.

Leadership, experience, training, staffing / minimum manning, etc, etc, etc all affect our bottom line. Unfortunately, our bottom line is often the difference between life and death. Here’s one more video for you…. this one is worth the time as well (why else would I share it?  LOL) and deals with staffing.

Also read a related article from in the link below…

Read “Retaining Young Members… Our Future”

To Randy, his new Department and ALL my Brother and Sisters out there … Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines