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I recently spent three days talking to Charleston firefighters in Charleston. I was there to conduct some interviews regarding the department and how they were recovering. I was very much taken by how strong and focused the firefighters and officers were about this recovery. For the interviews I did not cover the tactical aspects of the event, we are waiting for the final reports to be completed hopefully around this December. However I did get to see how these men (Charleston currently does not have any female firefighters) are coping with their tragic losses and life under the microscope.

I was very impressed with the strength and character of the men I interviewed. I know will be as well when we post these remarkable interviews. We did however have several spirited conversations off camera about tactics. We covered hose, flows, command, ventilation, training, and everything else we always talk about over a few beers. I enjoyed every minute of it. I liked seeing that even though I know that some of the guys were dead wrong--and they thought I was wrong, too--it was absolutely OK to disagree. Everybody seems to have an opinion about what does and does not need to be done in Charleston, and that is just fine. There are no sacred cows in Charleston; these guys are ready for everything and anything. I know the men I spoke to are willing to try anything, except lite beer.

I was also very impressed to find that the men were looking forward to hearing what the review panel had to say. I was able to visit with one of the panel members, who related how diligently and seriously the panel is taking the task of analyzing and reporting on Charleston Fire as compared to best practices nationwide. The full report is available here, including the reaction from the IAFF.

It is not easy coming in and doing a job like these guys have undertaken in Charleston. I am friends with the panel, so I know they are thick-skinned firefighters like the rest of us. I mentioned to my friend some of my thoughts on the initial report, and he sat stunned and said: Is that all? We expected to get a lot more feedback. You see, these guys know they cannot see everything and they are not pompous enough to be so delusional. They know it takes a long time to really understand a place, and so they are using their models and national models of best practice to compare with the current operating conditions in Charleston.

It sure is an interesting report, and well worth reading; I hope you take the time to go through it completely. I would like to know what you think of its approach and the proposed timelines. The panel is too ambitious to some and too cautious to others, but that is what makes being a firefighter so very interesting. Just when I think I have it all figured out one of you points out something I never saw before and we are off the races again.

I gotta tell you the firefighters in Charleston are good guys. The door to the houses are open, the town is beautiful, and if your are lucky they may even pick up the tab on a round or two. Let me know what you think about the report. Be careful out there.

posted by Bobby Halton
10/19/2007 06:45:00 PM

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