Safe? Maybe We Picked The Wrong Word For Firefighters…

Paul combs does an amazing job telling an entire story in one illustration. Check him out at

Paul combs does an amazing job telling an entire story in one illustration. Check him out at

Stop the press…everyone take a deep breathe and read an article or two.

Over the past several years, I have witnessed this continued distaste for anything to do with the word “Safe” in relation to firefighting. We now have science competing with proven strategy/tactics and even tradition. How dare you bring science into the mix…after all…tradition trumps all doesn’t it?

No…no it does not.

For all you fanatical traditionalists of firefighting who don’t want to move forward and progress our profession, I will gladly provide you a bucket and cart so you can go start putting fires out the way it used to be done.

Oh boy am I holding myself back from some great commentary right now…ha

I really don’t care what you are arguing. Whether it is solid vs. fog, going on air on the roof, running in a fully involved structure without dampening down the flames, or wearing 3/4 boots…I don’t really care. I simply don’t.

And this is why…

Most of you don’t fight fire with me… at my firehouse… in my department. We fight fire the way we have learned and the way we progress. We use the tools we have at our disposal to do it the way we have learned and continue to learn how to do it the best we can. We are not in Manhattan nor are we in rural Kansas. We rely on our abilities, our tools, our techniques, our environment, our knowledge, and our firefighters to get the job done efficiently every time. We continue to learn from successes and failures.

I commend the UL/NIST studies for doing research into the science of firefighting. I cannot wait to learn what they have found out. In the mean time, I will simply read what they share. I commend firefighters for making new tools and coming up with new techniques for tasks. I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication so many put into the fire service.

What I don’t like are all of the douchers out there who simply puff out their chests and say we don’t need anything new we’ve been doing it the same way we always have…which is a huge lie. They haven’t been doing it the way it always has been done. If they were, they’d still be using buckets. The unfortunate part of this is that I have visited firehouses who do more with less and have for years because budgets don’t allow for decent “basic” equipment.

I saw a comment recently about a new tool. Maybe it was a thermal imager camera. I found it amusing that a firefighter said it wasn’t necessary and that T.I.C.’s don’t put fires out. Hey pal, if my house ever catches fire….just stay at home.

The real truth is that very few fire departments are capable of outfitting firefighters with all of the gear they may need to do their jobs. Our tools may be task oriented, and those tasks can be a myriad of emergencies. Placing knowledge based on research in our minds might just begin to help us be smarter firefighters.

Smarter firefighters…

That is where I think we went wrong…in the delivery. I have said this before, but now I am able to put my finger on it.

Many will understand that the word “Safe” doesn’t mean that we have to fight fire from the comfort of an ice cream truck. Most of us are smart enough to understand that “Safe” in a profession which can be very dangerous is a relative word.

However, the word “Safe” could have been replaced with “Smart” and even the dumb firefighters who think that “Safe” is trying to keep us all in the yard would understand it’s intentions…even if they can’t comprehend what the knowledge means. All we can hope for is that they have strong leaders.

I seriously doubt that most of the very “Smart” firefighters I know who are actually trying to better the fire service pay any attention to the Facebook firefighters out there…I do think the delivery could be better for the masses and that even the narrow-minded guys who cling to a past they do not know and do not realize they aren’t a part of.

No one is saying that firefighting isn’t dangerous. No one is saying that you can’t be safe and still make the hallway. No one is saying you still can’t risk a lot to save a life. This is still the fire service. If not us, then who?