Dr. Stefan Svensson Insults America’s Bravest at FRI

I did not attend the class by Dr. Stefan Svensson at FRI this year or in 2007. My opinion on what I have read, heard of, and discussed are below.

This year, Dr. Stefan Svensson spoke at Fire Rescue International. He did the same thing in 2007. Both times he tore apart his view of the firefighting in the U.S. I say “his view” because if you know anything about firefighting in the United States you know that it is not the same everywhere. I could pick out some huge differences in firefighting just about anywhere I go…differences beyond the obvious like which coast you are on, staffing (# of positions in addition to being staffed or responding from home), and standard operating procedures (SOP’s).


My very first thought was that maybe firefighting in Sweden is not dangerous. Maybe, they won’t risk anything for anything and that as long as nothing happens to their firefighters then everything is peachy.

Firefighting is dangerous. We can do everything right and we still might die. We can do everything right, and put everything on the line and others may die. Not many people like talking about it, but our job is dangerous and we might lose some firefighters along the way doing our jobs. We understand that. We train, learn, teach, understand, and preplan so that we can minimize that risk…but the risk remains.

The only reason why I am writing this is because I hope that too many people don’t take his opinion the wrong way.

It is irresponsible to compare firefighting in the US to that in Sweden.

He might has well have been comparing the FDNY to a rural volunteer fire department in Montana.

You just can’t compare them.

The only place where this talk might have an application is if he were talking to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). They wouldn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but at the very worst they may think we need more funding for the deffiencies Dr. Svensson talks about.

In 2007, the article in FireRescue1.com from Svensson’s first speach offers this:

Just one firefighter has died in the Scandinavian country in the past seven years, while the United States already has more than 80 line-of-duty deaths this year alone.

Sweden has about 16,000 firefighters compared to approximately 1.1 million in the United States – but the difference in death rates is marked. 

The article on this years talk can be read here.

I need to see more data on this. More than can be offered in a class at FRI. Details like comparing firefighter death and injury rates, comparing civilian death and injury rates, comparing pre-incident value and dollar loss after fire, building codes, fire codes, building construction, as well as a complete comparison of qualifying criteria which dictate a Line of Duty Death.

I still do not think you can lump all of the fire departments in the United States into one category.

The FireRescue1.com article states (quoting Dr. Svensson):

“I see a very serious lack of knowledge in the U.S. fire service especially when it comes to fires in buildings.

“There seems to be a lack of understanding of what’s going on inside the building and what’s going on outside the building.

“Venting the fire is not always the solution; sometimes it’s the cause of a lot of the problems especially if you don’t have the knowledge.”

HUH? Speak for yourself. You are not talking about my department…not our firefighters. That is where some of this got personal. That the IAFC would allow this guy to come back and give a similar talk to 2007.

I work for a very aggressive fire department, we contain fires to the room of origin or at least the floor of origin a large majority of the time. As for LODD’s, I will not comment. I think it would be irreverant because anything can happen at anytime. I do not want to jinx myself or my brother/sister firefighters. 

Maybe I am missing something. Maybe I don’t have a clue about firefighting at all. Maybe all of the great instructors in the American fire service don’t have a clue and we need a wake up call from a Dr. in Sweden.

I will agree with the Dr. about one of his points though.

He points to health/fitness being an issue in our fire service. I WILL not fall into a trap of grouping firefighters across the US into one category. I will instead look at how so many fire service leaders utilize LODD statistics to point out that too many of our firefighters are dying of cardiovascular issues. I feel as though that this is an issue. It is something we need to continue raising awareness on.

What do you guys think?