Mission Statement

My mission is to explore the lives and experiences of firefighters in the quest to join their prestigious ranks.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Wildland Season is Coming to an End

We're getting away from the season of wild land fires and our wildlanders are coming home. So before I get into anything else I just want to recognize that.

Without you wildlanders putting yourselves on the line,
we wouldn't be safe in our homes in the wildland interface. 

We have wildland firefighters to thank for saving the water supply of the San Francisco area, and they have something to thank for the effectiveness of their activities.

New mapping technology was able to help the commanding officers of the Rim Fire, which was burning 250,000 acres in California, to decide exactly where to have 3 DC-10 fire retardant drop planes to place their payload.  This in combination with the activities of the ground support was able to halt the fire and save the water supply from being contaminated with soot.

This is all due to the fact that commanding officers had up to date information that has been beyond luxury in the past.  In situations like this the command posts would receive reports on paper every twelve hours hoping to keep further updated by intermittent radio traffic.

Esri, Rim Fire Map
With cell phone technology on their side, firefighters are able to paint a much more specific picture of the roaring fire. 

This is an awesome step not only to help us fight fires more effectively, but in our ability to better predict the actions of wildfires.  Which to me, the most important side effect is that it gives us the ability to protect the firefighters who are out there protecting us.


Solar Panels are now threatening the ability of firefighters to protect a structure.  Due to the fact that solar panels energy receiving technology cannot be disabled, firefighters cannot be effective in many vertical ventilation tactics (one of the ways the firefighters remove heat and smoke from a structure to make the environment safer to work in, or even safer for civilians to survive in.)

In Delanco, New Jersey volunteer firefighters encountered solar panels on the roof and had to switch to a defensive tactic.  Now just because firefighters are going defensive does not mean that if they are able to change the conditions of the fire in their favor enough that they cannot switch back into an offensive attack.  But in the case of the Dietz & Watson warehouse, Delanco Deputy Fire Chief Robert Hubler said, "Do I think we'd have had a different outcome if we could get on the roof? Sure."

This is an interesting problem because most people understand solar panels to be the clean, money saving, green energy source that will effectively fuel our electrical needs.  But they have found that even the light from a flashlight carried by a firefighter gives a solar panel enough charge to be hazardous to firefighter safety.  

An additional problem is that solar panels add weight to a roof, and if solar panels were installed after the house was build then it is safe to say the the load on the roof is not designed, or simply, more likely to collapse sooner during the evolution of a house fire.


This is an interesting challenge that firefighters everywhere are already trying to figure out how to defeat, and I for one am very interested to see what the community comes up with in light of this hurdle.

Solar panels big issue for fire fighters 


The roof is on fire: Do solar panels hinder firefighters?

On a side note, I intend in the next week to start a blog documenting my road to elite physical fitness to give myself a sort of social obligation to continue to work hard at being better at being who I need to be. I would love for anyone and everyone to be a part of the journey with me.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wildland FF Deaths, Drunk NC Driver

     It seems that every day that I check my email I hear about another Line of Duty Death (LODD) from the wildland firefighting world.
     Everyone was made well aware of the 19 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty earlier this year, as it should be. This tragedy marks the greatest loss of personnel since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  What hasn't been heard of is that throughout this summer, one for the record books, firefighters have been suffering one of the worst summers in recent history. Only 9 months through the year and 2013 has claimed the lives of 75 firefighters, only eight short of last years 83 LODD. If we are to continue on that same average then we could expect to lose as many as 112 firefighters in the United States.
     It seems to me that you only hear about a wildland fire death in the news if it occurred in an area very near you.  This seems very wrong to me.  To quote Stalin, "1 death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic." In this particular line of logic, we have a tragedy happening at least once a week in America.  A tragedy involving a person who has dedicated their live to the protection of the life, property of everyone regardless of race, gender or social status.
   The time is past due when we remember to recognize the men of the fire service in our everyday lives, not just when horrific events tremble the very identity of our country.

This is a good resource for just that, subscribe and remember who it is that comes running into your house when no one else will.

A Fire Lieutenant of Chapel Hill Fire Department is in the spotlight, in a way, for pulling over a woman who was obviously swerving and under the influence of alcohol.  Courts are questioning whether or not this was an abuse of power in the official role of a firefighter.
The mission statement of CHFD is as follows

"The primary mission of the Chapel Hill Fire Department is to protect life, property and the community environment from the destructive effects of fire, disasters or other life hazards by providing public education, incident prevention and emergency response services."

Considering that the woman was found to have a blood alcohol content of .23 I think it is fair to assume that this was an incident waiting to happen.  The reason that we have laws limiting the blood alcohol content in drivers is because of the direct correlation between intoxication and traffic incidents. I can't imagine that allowing this woman to continue driving would have been safe for the public of Chapel Hill. Might it have been prudent for the Lt. to have called for immediate police involvement? Yes, of course it would have. But is it not also possible that a woman who has habitually broken the law involving driving under the influence of alcohol was an immediate threat to public safety? I think that we can all agree that she in fact was.

I personally think that this could simply be considered incident management; but more importantly I think this firefighter absolutely did the right thing.  As it is, just because you're right doesn't mean you're going to win in court, THAT is the sad truth of it.