Fire Engineering Board Blog

Bookmark This Page! (Ctrl+D)
Subscribe to an RSS Feed of this Blog.
<< Home

I went to a second alarm yesterday. I was notified of the fire at lunch and responded code three from downtown. When I got there, we had three houses in the inner-city going. One well involved and exposures on side "D" and "B", the "D" exposure being the worst of the two.
I asked the battalion chief (Command) what he needed and he asked me to take side "C" (the rear of the fire off the alley).
When I got back there Command told me he had an engine laying down the alley to me. When they arrived, I approached the first firefighter off the engine and told him I wanted a 2 1/2" line pulled into the back yard. He looked at me and said "2 1/2" , I could pull the 1 3/4" faster!".
I immediately looked at him and said 2 1/2".

Here's this young kid, looking at me and saying he could pull the smaller line faster. I never would have said something like that to a chief 25 or 30 years ago. What do you think they are thinking?


posted by Skip Coleman
7/26/2007 06:26:00 PM

Post a Comment


Blogger Frank Montagna said...

We would never have asked such a question of the chief. The new guys are smart and used to questioning authority and often do. That is the reason you have to explain the why as they are being trained. Given this knowledge in advance they won't have to question directions and when they are unsupervised they will make better decisions.

Mon Jul 30, 08:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger NWG said...

I tend to be black and white about these things. You're the chief, I'm the firefighter. I do what you tell me to do. If it is immediately, and irreasonably, dangerous to me what you are asking me to do, then I might question it. That firefighters remark to you was just wrong. You're the tactical guy, he's the implementer. He can disagree with you all he wants, privately, but on the fireground there is a chain of command and you follow it. Period.

Tue Jul 31, 02:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger engine3chauffer said...

Maybe its the new generation of explanation. No longer can we be a military styled profession. Are we falling victims of the new kindlier and gentlier Fire Service? Is this a deadly and silent killer with in our ranks? I say yes. I agree that the chain of command must be taught very early in recruit academy. The fireground is NOT a democracy unless it means life safety. We no longer have the luxury of hiring mature young people. We must teach them respect and maturity. Not to undermine or question everything an authorative figure says.

Wed Aug 01, 12:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kirk Allen said...

Where to start?

Respect...or Lack there of?
Discipline....or lack there of?
Fire Behavior Knowledge....or lack there of?
"Measured" Fire Flow Ignorance!

The list goes on but I think you get where I am going.

Respesct is earned from our actions, Discipline established through our management skills. All to often I see orginazations that have little or no discipline in the fire house and the end result is lack of respect for higher command or anyone with authority from outside the fire house.

I believe if we would get back to TEACHING real fire behavior and tie it directly to MEASURED fire flows we would see folks focusing on pulling the line that flows the GPM being asked for.

Not sure what your operation flows from your 2 1/2" lines but I know I have seen numerous folks only wanting 250-gpm from there 2 1/2" and that can be handled no problem with the right equipment from the 1 3/4" lines. The key is KNOWING what are lines realy flow.

Had you told me to pull the 2 1/2" line the first resposne would have been, "Yes Sir!" Then I would have asked one question, which would have been, "How many GPM do you want Chief!"

My two cents worth :)
Chief Allen
Kansas, IL FPD

Wed Aug 01, 01:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Chief82 said...

I know exactly how you are feeling. As a 22 year vet and now a Fire Chief, I have grown accustomed to my directions being followed (especially by the Firefighter rank) without question and hesitation. However, as the other reply indicated, generations change and so must leadership styles. Now I'm not suggesting that we need to hold hands and explain every detail of Strategy and Tactics on the fire ground...that's not the place for that. But, as Fire Service leaders, we must recognize a changing generation of firefighters (smarter, better educated) and adjust how we train our personnel. Pre-fire exercises should include all the ‘who, what, where, and whys’ so that everyone is on the same page with the explicit understanding of S&T; philosophy of our respective departments. This should help avoid the “questioning annoyances” on the fire ground. My operational philosophy is simple; train them to the required and desired expectation, encourage input from all the members, feel free to question (some) of my strategic and tactical direction but only after the incident during the critique where it is appropriate and a detailed, clear understanding can be relayed.

Don’t be too hard on the kid, it sounds like he was just thinking of efficiency in terms of speed…he has yet to learn of efficiency in terms of better application.

Wed Aug 01, 01:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger DG said...

I cringe when I hear stories like this...and I'm not a 20 plus year veteran. I tend to put part of the blame on his officer, then his crew, then on the training he has recieved. I'm not saying this kid isn't guilty of being disrespectful either. I had a similar situation the other day when a fellow firefighter (who I came on the dept with) was bashing their probationary firefighter. I try to look at these guys (and myself) as lumps of clay. We mold them and shape them in the station and the training ground. Most of the new guys I've seen are ready, willing, smart, and extremely capable but without the right shaping they can turn to lumps of garbage.

Wed Aug 01, 04:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Denver Lieutenant said...

As a company officer, I would never question the cheifs call on something like that and would not expect any of my crew members to do that either to me or to a chief. As officers and firefighters we may not understand or agree with the immediate tactics but we must remember that the IC has a plan in action and we need to follow that. As long as it's not a MAJOR safety issue we can't question orders. A wise person once said, " A goal without a plan is merely a wish."

Wed Aug 01, 04:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger safetyman said...

safetyman: I have been in the fire service for 40 years. I have been on the EMS side and firefighting. I am a fire instructor and teach basic firefighting to recruits. I always have my students use a 2 1/2" line to make sure they understand the signifcance of it in firefighting. All instructors should endeavor to impress on their students the significance of ICS and respect for the officers in the fire service. Respect for officers will eliminate the off hand comments the chief received.

Wed Aug 01, 05:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Psyd Effex said...

Please allow me to respectfully respond to this issue. Although I am not a firefighter, I am a social scientist fairly well versed in expert and novice group interaction behavior, especially under extreme conditions and environments. I have always directed my studies towards fire fighting scenarios, and I believe much can be learned from looking at the subject matter expert (such as a seasoned Chief), as well as the fresh novice (a rookie) during critical incidents. I have also attended numerous fire conferences, including wildfire, and I have met with social scientists from around the world from such fire-prone environments as Australia and Spain. Why? Well, fire fighting psychology has always been my area of interest, and I hope to make a difference someday in working with the development of training materials, and looking into helping to lower the "100 fatalities per year ceiling" that we can't seem to break. Also, my father is retired LAFD, and my son is currently with LACoFD, so you can see I also have a personal interest. So now that I have qualified myself to post a comment on this blog, I would like to respond to the question. I completely understand how a CO would be offended by the questioning of authority from a rookie. This is not only generational, but it is about a well-earned sense of expectation on the part of the expert. The expert has more experience, is wiser, and knows better than any boot right out of training. What I believe is starting to change in this generation is something that is entirely rooted in respect and a sense of cooperation, not at all the authority-disrespect that some people may be feeling (although I understand why that feeling exists). I think it is the current climate in a new way of dealing with group hierarchies, and interjecting something called "human factors" into the fire fighting community and SOP's. There have been recent attempts by some fire trainers to implement something called "Crew Resource Management" techniques, something taken from aviation in order to save lives. Its main premise is that everyone involved has the duty and the responsibility to "speak up" or act when appropriate, and not be chastised for doing so. And this is absolutely based on respect for the rank order, but removes the fear of speaking out of line if you are the rookie. This is, of course, a very abbreviated version of the idea, and with all due respect, I encourage everyone to take the time to look into this approach. Especially those in charge, as these people are our gems, our experienced people, whom all others look up to with the utmost regard, and who needs everyone on the crew to participate in the vigilance and not be afraid to report something that they feel may be amiss. The wise expert may see and hear the rookie's concern, and appreciate where it comes from, and not be threatened by the remark as he may later explain his reasoning. He can later use it as a teaching opportunity. But, what if, on the other hand, the rookie points out something critical only HE saw, or perceived, and this information saved someones life? Or what if he didn't speak up, and someone died? This strategy has also worked on Naval aircraft carriers; during a critical incident, all rank hierarchy goes "flat" and everyone has the authority to shut down a take-off or a landing, from the top dog to the deck hand. Why? Because there may not be time to go through the chain of command in a critical incident, and everyone is trained to keep constant vigil in time-sensitive operations.
So, this kid may have thought he was doing a good thing, not by trying to be "smarter", but by wanting to help someone he looks up to just get there faster, thereby showing his respect for his boss with his help.
Thanks for listening.
Pam Montazeri, M.A. Human Factors Specialist Candidate

Wed Aug 01, 06:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger CABelle74 said...

Questioning decisions/direction of a Chief Officer or any Officer as a less tenured Firefighter, is disrespect on a level that is beyond words.

I know, eventually, a Firefighter must assert him/herself to show the ability to be autonomous thinkers. However, unless that Firefighter has demonstrated knowledge, skill, and leadership beyond his/her years of service to superior Officers, decisions/direction from an Officer should not be questioned, I feel. Of course, unless the situation is unsafe and/or the Officer is known to being unsafe. The statement should be in the form of a suggestion with explanation.

Thu Aug 02, 12:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Past Chief Beisang said...

After having served for 16 years and having held all positions on the fireground from FF through District Chief and now back to FF...... I find it distasteful that an order like that is second-guessed. I read with interest the posting by Pam Montazeri. I feel SOME things she says are on the money with a HUGE caveat.... the countermanding or questioning must be done in a thoughtful information based manner. This sounded as if were an instantaneous reply to an order. The kind I used to get from my 15 year old. This has no place on the fireground. Yes it would be appropriate to alert your crews and command structure to safety issues but to question tactical commands is out of the question. Especially in this case, the exposure control and potential for spread far exceeded the smaller line. In fact it may have even warranted a master stream such as a stinger. If that had been the question like "would you like us to also pull a master stream after placing this line?" would have been appropriate. Even that should have been through the crew chief not FF to sector commander (chief).

Bob Beisang
Past Chief
Caledonia Fire District
Caledonia, NY

Thu Aug 02, 08:12:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Chief Tom said...

This seems to illustrate the dogged realization that schooling equates to fire service experience. It doesn't, and never will but the system puts that into these youngsters minds and they become "certified" experts by virtue of the number of classes they pass. So they begin to comment on the order before they really know why the order was given and what it really was to accomplish.

Thu Aug 02, 08:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nicholas said...

This type of attitude has been around since the beginging of time. To blame this incident on this or that generation is not really looking at the problem. Time changes, and while some things shouldn't (like chain of command and following orders) some things should and thats how you view "younger people". There is growing talk about his generation gap in the fire service. I don't see it. I am a young guy (29) and I have been blessed to work with some really old crusty firemen. Don't get me wrong, I am different than these guys, but I have learned a great deal and take the pearls they leave. Just like talking with a grandparent or elder there is special bond that take place despite the age difference. One thing I do notice about these very special crusty firemen I knowis THEIR ability to relate to younger people. Yet again, another concept as old as time. Its these people who can teach and listen to other people and brigde this supposed gap. I say learn from these guys so next time when someone does something like quesiton a simple order on the fire ground, generation gaps aren't blamed.

Fri Aug 03, 12:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger BRICK said...

OH THE EGOS! Is this all that we’re teaching chief officers anymore? Of all the statements that have been posted to this blog, the vast majority are from “offended” company/chief officers that take exception to the fact that someone with less rank would dare to question their authority. Oh the egos!
In fact all of these “superiors” have missed the point Skip was trying to make. The article is called, “What was he thinking”? Well friends, the answer is plain… he wasn’t.
Poor tactics, poor training or the lack of any training and years of departmentally accepted and tolerated sloppy firefighting have all served to reinforce bad habits on the fire ground in many a young firefighter.
The firefighter’s comment was that he could stretch a 1 ¾ line faster than the 2 ½. He made no attempt at usurpation; he made an observation, and that my friend is not insubordination-it is his right.
Whose fault is it that a new/young firefighter is so deceived by the smaller 1 ¾” lines ability and places far too much faith in their limited capabilities? The answer- the training officers, company officers and chief officers that have taught this information through their use and constant reliance on the smaller hoses and through the lack of continuing departmentally administer education.
Those in charge should be ashamed at the realization of their own failures and ineptitudes to properly indoctrinate, inculcate and educate the newest members of our profession. The kid in this story was regurgitating the months or years of improper information and preprogramming that has been given to him, whether by accident or design, by watching and listening to his company officer, his training officer and his chiefs. Above all we must lead by example.
The moral of the story is; once you are a senior firefighter, company officer, training officer, fire chief or any number of individuals that has even an infinitesimal ability to become impressionable to the newest, youngest members of our trade, you have inherited; number one- the responsibility (like it or not) to learn the business yourself, and number two- the responsibility to pass that information on to others through classes, indoctrination AND by example.
Be a leader and stop thinking of yourself and your own perceived self importance. Be a true leader and start thinking about your responsibility to those you serve. That’s right; you serve and are responsible for your charges; their welfare, training, their actions and abilities. You are the designated adult.
So, are you offended as a leader; is your new collar brass tarnished? Are you just waiting to get to the end of this rant so you can post your response? Listening without hearing? Or are you taking this to heart as a good leader should?

Mon Aug 20, 02:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Rick Fritz said...

Right wrong or indifferent. It's happening. It's not the firefighters fault. Training has become touchy feely and we are losing the grit of our senior trainers. He probably said he could pull the 1 3/4" hose faster, because in training they made hose handling and line asdvancement a game. whatever teamk could deploy the line the fastest won whatever, a day off, a by on a quiz, whatever. no thought was given to what line should be pulled, in order to 'win' the fastest line would be pulled to win the contest. We continue to train the new guys using games and all winners, no losers mentality. We are not teaching our new inexperienced firefighters the Why and wherefores of what they are doing, as long as they do it faster than anyone else that's good enough. We must train firefighters to THINK. Are we still training firefighters with 100lb 2/1/2" lines that splatter them all over the training ground? or have we taught them the skill needed to adsvance a large line effectively?

Wed Aug 29, 11:00:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Tongass said...

My question is why is a chief Officer giving Fire Ground Orders to the nearest firefighter that he can find was there not a company officer who is responsible for the management of her company. I think this was a question on a lot of entry tests (Your Company officer gives you an order and the Deputy Chief of fill in the blank gives you a different order)

Thu Sep 06, 02:31:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home