I Have Some Explaining To Do!

The article below the video discusses the FB video post found below. The direct link to the conversation discussed below is here.

The other day, over on The Fire Critic Facebook page, I shared the video above of a fire that was uploaded to FB. I was on the go, thought it was a great video of some roof ops at a house fire and decided to share it simply with the text “Detroit…presumably. Doin work.”. Once I got online later, I learned from the comments that the fire was actually in Chicago. I edited my text to “Detroit…presumably. Doin work. Err actually Chicago. My bad.”.

The truth is that it wasn’t a huge deal for me on where the video took place. If it were, I would have put more time into figuring out exactly where it occurred.

Instead,  I rolled with it…Realizing that there was a good chance I might be wrong about the location and with the understanding that I am a grown ass man and can handle being wrong.

To be honest, that was part of the whole share…others would comment on where it actually occurred. They did.

However, so did 100’s more. They commented on the video and what can be seen in the video.

The video, embedded above, is of roof operations at a small single family dwelling. Of the comments, many remarked about the firefighters not wearing SCBA, venting an already vented roof, not having a ground ladder in place, and some other stuff.

I found the video to be refreshing. I took everything that I know about firefighting and thought that it was a pretty well done job… From what I could see. But… I couldn’t see everything.

Here is the reason I am writing this article. I was asked about why I shared it without any other information. See below, and my reply.

Y’all can argue uselessly all day long…here’s my question? Why does the firecritic even post this video? Not a personal attack Rhett Fleitz, I’m just curious?. You repost it without explaining your perspective or position. Is it just to give all the arm chairs a voice? A tit for tat exchange of nonsense? An opportunity for us to tear down one another? It’s post like this that, without guided discussion, dissolves into firefighters belittling each other. And what educational value the video did have is lost in the process.

That’s my perspective, mine alone.

Here is my reply:

Why does the firecritic even post this video? Because I thought it was worth sharing. I thought they did a great job and I thought it was a decent quality video that was fresh and offered a great view (of one side of the roof) during roof ops. 

Is it just to give all the arm chairs a voice? A tit for tat exchange of nonsense? No. The truth is that no matter what I do, they have a voice. They are entitled to an opinion. We don’t have to agree….And actually, I have done a lot of work over the past years at explaining that one video/photo doesn’t show the entire picture. Nor do all fire departments operate the same way. 

It’s post like this that, without guided discussion, dissolves into firefighters belittling each other. And what educational value the video did have is lost in the process. You have a great point. As the editor of FireCritic.com I have a duty to ensure that things stay positive. I have tried to remain steadfast in creating positive conversation when I can. In this case, I posted it and had to walk away (I was busy with family stuff and work).  However, most firefighters who comment about SCBA non-use (probably the biggest topic on the thread) may never understand that there are exceptions and some departments operate differently in certain instances. 

The truth is that Firefighters are going to challenge what they see versus what they learn. In VA, where I live, the State fire courses don’t offer textbook answers coupled with “but in real life you will do this…”. No, the truth is that we have to educate our firefighters on the job (OJT). Not all firefighters go to fires all the time…hell, I don’t go to fires all the time and I work for an urban department.

In the case of this fire. If I had come out and said “This is a perfect example of not needing to wear our SCBA all of the time”, the comments would have changed to “You don’t have a clue what you are talking about”.

If you want my opinion on the fire… here it is:

I think that with the conditions present, SCBA was not detrimental to the operations on the roof. However, I probably would have worn mine because that is how I roll. I have no issue with these guys operating the way they did. To the people who said “why ventilate and already ventilated house?”, I felt pretty sure that the ventilation we witnessed was man-made by the firefighters on the roof. It wasn’t until about the time they got off the roof that flames were impinging the roof. They did an excellent job. It was also obvious that the interior engine crew(s) were having some issues getting to the seat of the fire because it wasn’t apparent that they had found the seat of the fire yet (according to the smoke and then presence of flames). As for the people who questioned the ground ladder, in the explanation below it is mentioned that there was a ground ladder thrown on the back side of the house….a perfect example of not being able to see everything.

The reason why I don’t always offer my opinion is because I wasn’t there. Hell, for all I know a plane could have crashed into the back of this house. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

I speak about Facebook Firefighters when I travel and talk about social media and improving morale. I can’t wrap my head around it. Instead of saying “WHERE THE HELL IS THE SCBA…THE SCBA…WHAT ABOUT THE SCBA…OH MY GOD…THE SCBA. OH THE HUMANITY” Why not instead say “What are the operating procedures for truck companies operating on SFD’s for ventilating roofs?” Hell, you never know, you might learn something.

  • Rhett Fleitz, The Fire Critic

If you want some opinion on the fire from someone with the department who was at the fire, read below:

Hi everyone: I just wanted to clarify a few issues, as this is not the first debate over Chicago Fire Department Roof Operations to occur in “expert” land (aka facebook). I have to laugh at some of these postings, but I think much of this can be understood with proper explanation. Standard Operating Procedure in the Chicago Fire Department is to not wear SCBA when operating on a roof. The purpose of this is quite simple…the costs outweigh the benefits. We pride ourselves on aggressive interior attack. In order to accomplish this successfully, vertical ventilation is a priority. Rapid work on a roof is paramount (get on, cut a hole, get off). Wearing an SCBA on a roof (especially a peaked roof) is cumbersome and extremely dangerous when operating tools and negotiating obstacles, such as chimneys. Not only does it throw off your center of gravity with a saw or swinging an axe….but also having a face piece on forces you to tunnel your vision to a very small area, which causes you to loose much of your situational awareness. Not to mention the fact that vision could be completely lost if the mask fogs up, which we all know happens. These are not issues crawling a hallway in a fire, where we work by feel anyway. Those costs far out weigh the benefits….(note the agility of the guy who slipped and how fast he was able to get to the ladder). We train extensively on roof operations, and staying upwind of smoke while working. A roof is not an IDLH environment, as some have said. We are avoiding the smoke….not hanging out in it. What the member on the roof ladder was doing was attempting to cut a “trench cut” to expose the knee wall voids which commonly hold a lot of fire in these types of buildings. By opening the roof from the peak to the soffits, the conditions become much more tenable for engine company members to get into these voids and put water on the fire. If you notice, the member on the peak realized that the smoke was lighting up from the original hole on the back side and was yelling at his partner on the roof ladder, who was focused on cutting the trench on the opposite side to expose the knee wall. Once his attention was grabbed they got off that roof in a hurry, as conditions changed rapidly. Now….for those of you talking about the second means of egress…..you are absolutely right. There was a ground ladder in the rear, as is SOP for the second truck. However, I have never been on a fire where all things went as they are rehearsed. For what ever reason, the roof team decided to cut on the front where they did, and to me it looked like a wise move…..the peak is still negotiable back to the main ladder, even though there was not a ground ladder right below him. As far as tag lines on roof teams, and blowing water into the hole, I’ll just leave that one alone. Another key that I think many of you overlook is that we understand our buildings. This is a Type III ordinary constructed building, which will withstand an incredible amount of fire before becoming structurally compromised. Older Type V wood frame buildings will do the same here in Chicago. Again, we train, we know our geography and building construction, and our tactics are based on that. We do not follow other departments, because we have honed these tactics over decades of training and experience. What you will not see, is us doing this on a lightweight constructed building, which I believe is very common in other parts of the nation. Some have pointed out that they needed to put water on this fire…..absolutely….I believe the engine and truck inside had some issues getting to the fire, but trust me when I say that the fire went out soon after the end of this video. Furthermore, the house was saved, with as little damage as possible. Fundamental to a well coordinated attack is venting-lifting and extinguishment in very rapid sequence (which I know is not common for the low manpower crews that are re-adjusting their tactics to the new UL/NIST studies). So as an extension of the olive branch to all the bloggers on this page, please ask, before you condemn. Our guys certainly know what they are doing, and know enough not to be in bad smoke or IDLH atmospheres without SCBA. It is not hot dogging, it is the way we operate, and there are valid reasons for it. Jon Newton, Fireman, Hook and Ladder 41, Chicago Fire Department