Furthering Discussion of the Backstep Firefighter on the Houston LODD’s

Bill Carey of Backstep Firefighter did a bang up job in discussing the similarities and differences in the 2005 Houston LODD and the 2009 Houston LODD’s. He really spent some time writing a fine article and bringing question to various points within the post.

He asked me my thoughts on the matter and I was unable to get them to him in a timely manner, so here they are.

I scanned over the recent report on the 2009 LODD’s of Captain James Harlow and Firefighter Damion Hobbs.

While I am not as in depth as Bill is, I offer my thoughts which came to mind. My thoughts are more National in thought than just on the Houston FD.

backstepfirefighterThe report pointed to a couple of things:

  1. The lack of use of a thermal imaging camera (TIC)
  2. The firefighters leaving the hoseline
  3. The Captain not doing a 360 degree walkaround
  4. The Captain not taking his radio

1. The lack of use of a thermal imaging camera (TIC)

Most departments roll with a firefighter, an officer, and a driver. If the driver is pumping, two firefighters are going in. Two firefighters to make an attack on the fire with a hoseline. One on the nozzle pulling hose, the other helping drag hose and talking on the radio if need be.

Who is going to carry the TIC? If that is an issue, put more staffing on the apparatus. In the HFD LODD report, it does state that in this case there were 3 firefighters going in but one had issues with their mask. In my department that would be an imaginary firefighter…We run with 3 total.

I agree that TIC’s have their place in finding victims,  the seat of the fire, or possible means of egress. However, it is not the end-all!

2. The firefighters leaving the hoseline

From what I could tell, this point was processed by where the hoseline was laying vs. where the two men’s bodies were found.

I can only imagine that their last minutes on this earth were sheer terror and panic. I like to think that if I were in their shoes I would revert to training, experience, and knowledge and throw my brother firefighter over my shoulder and walk out the front door. However, we both know that we have gotten tunnel vision, fought panic and anxiety in situations less as life threatening as this.

I cannot correlate their final resting spots as cause for stating that they left the hoselines for any other reason than they realized death might have been imminent had they not.

3. The Captain not doing a 360 degree walkaround

Ah…the 360 walk-around. That ever present topic/tactic in presentations, training, and literature. That thing that I have never seen a first arriving officer do. That thing that incoming Incident Commanders rarely do.

I will put stock in this one….with caveats.

In a perfect world, we would pull up past the house getting three sides of the layout on arrival. My 2 firefighters in the back (remember that never happens in my dept.) would pull a line and force the door while I checked out the Charlie Side. I would then get back to the front of the house with my firefighters and develop a quick strategy (meaning possibly changing the point of entry upon my view of the backside of the house)

If I didn’t, the next in companies would or at least the BC upon arrival.

The truth in my department (urban firefighting hydrants/apparatus/crews bountiful on fires) is that if I were to do a walkaround, the next in engine would put the fire out before I got back up front…hypothetically.

I guess in my perfect World, if it were more than a bread and butter/room and contents fire we would do a walk-around or the BC close behind would do one and relay any pertinent information to us prior to us getting in too deep.

4. The Captain not taking his radio

He forgot it apparently. I have no excuses on this one. For the company officer, having a radio is a must. We have all forgotten something at one time or another. Did it prove fatal in this case? Maybe, there is no telling that if he had it he would have been able to get firefighters to his crew quick enough to save their lives.

Be sure to check out Bill Carey’s breakdown of the LODD here as well.