Friday, November 23, 2012

Dont have a meeting on the stairs.

I would be willing to bet that 99% of you have been to some sort of fire involving stairs be it a low to mid rise building all the way up to a 50 story high rise, as well as the common basement/cellar stairs that we all just love to go down right. Like these below.

But the point of this piece is to reiterate on how we can do the job without jamming up the stairs, and how to train for fires involving these conditions

There are many problems involving tight staircases as well as burned out and or burning stairs. If you take the stairs from the above picture FIGURE 2 they are burned up really bad so at that point would you want to proceed up the stairs with 12 other guys? I know I wouldn't want to be on them! Or FIGURE 1 with six guys packed in there and need to get out now due to worsening conditions, be it fire conditions or building conditions? Lots of people have died from overlooking the obvious.
Why do we pack them tight with people? Why do we go and cram ourselves into this death trap so to speak?
I believe it comes down to a couple of reasons one of which is the ease of use and the second of which is a lack of "thinking outside the box".
Lets go over the ease of use first. Now lets face it folks, going up the stair case is in most cases the most direct and the easiest way to get from point A (first floor) to point B (second floor) that's just simple common sense you know. That can give folks a bad sense of "that's the best way during this situation" that's not always the case. Like I have said if the engine crew is using the stairs or if they are burned out, well you can see there may be a faster way to get to the second floor.
The other issue is a lack of "thinking outside the box". By this I mean are you thinking all possibilities, for instance FIGURE 3 which shows how to VES.
This brings up the next section. Strategies and Tactics for getting up there.
This topic is rather simple to explain, in fact all of this is basic skills nothing fancy like tight roping from building to building, right?
VES is a real good method again FIGURE 3 this works very well. If your not familiar with VES this is it below.

So as you can see you can get up there.
A good 360 can also show you alternate stair cases leading to the second floor.
JUST REMEMBER, DON'T BUST OUT THE WINDOWS IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO!!!! Yes, if you need to take them to get in, then by all means do it, but if you don't need to, don't. Kinda like the old "try before you pry" regarding forcible entry
In closing there are always alternate routes to the second floor if the engine has the stairs occupied and or they are burned beyond use, go with the alternate route. And please don't go and have a meeting on the stairs. And Happy Thanksgiving........... Next time we go over super realistic hands on training centers and props....

Thanks to Curt Isakson and County Fire Tactics for the use of there photos

and thanks to Gabriel Angemi for the use of his photos from his blog at

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dont be an Employee be a Firefighter

You know I won’t forget when I got my start in the fire service. And that's what this piece is going to be about.

You know when your a brand new fire fighter coming on to the job there are several things that can make or break you. And the two I'm going to talk about are mentors and the need to fit in.

Let’s cover the need to fit in first. Before someone has an MI let me explain. I have seen some new guys and girls come in and they fall in with the “in crowd". Yes it’s important to fit in with your crews you have to be weary of going and falling in with the wrong crowd. Don't be trying to fit in with the ones who are say employees, they are the ones who don't care for training don't have any pride in there company, rather sit around and watch TV than get out and drill to better themselves. That's not who you should strive to be like. Don't be the kind who is there just to collect a paycheck or badge if you’re a volunteer. Get your rear up off the couch and train, drill, STUDY!!!!!!! What's even more to your advantage is the Internet. We have information out the ears on every topic you can think of from ventilation to hose line selection. We have YouTube and helmet cams now on the computer so you can watch a fire that occurred in say California while sitting around your kitchen table in Kentucky. This allows us to see what they get and how they handle it. For instance the way they deal with a balloon frame fire may be different from what your department does it is a great way to learn new things and learn from other people's mistakes. The other deal is, who are the folks you should look to or who should be your mentors. Let me tell you about one of my mentors Captain Eddie Crews from Lexington. Capt Crews is always open to give you a bit of advice but he does it in a way you won’t feel like an idiot if it’s a simple answer. That advice thou does not have to be just about fire behavior or line stretches but also about the issues like career advancements and by showing an interest in your career. Basically he shows you he cares about your career as a firefighter. Folks that’s a mentor nobody has to care about you, and you will find some who don’t care whether you make it as a firefighter or you fail just as long as they collect there check, or badge and light and siren permits. But a mentor wants to help you succeed in your career (be it a paid career or volunteer career) they want to be there to help you with this and help you thru the problems you come across and things that will also save your life in the long run. They don’t have to always belong to your department, yes it helps but it’s not mandatory. There are lots of folks out there who are willing to help you out with your career.

 And a big shout out to the new Lexington Fire Department Explorer Post!!! Never forget you to are in the public eye and are a part of the department (you just might not be able to do as much) all of the above applies too you as well. As a former explorer I will tell you I always wanted to be "one of the guys" but just like the new firefighters you got to earn it. SO GET OUT THERE AND EARN THE RESPECT OF THE FIREFIGHTERS SHOW THEM YOU WANT THIS DON'T BE A SLACKER USE THIS AS A STEPPING STONE IN LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!! In closing I want to leave you young firefighters AND EXPLORERS with this. Train hard, and train often. Train as if your life depends on it. Never ever forget that you represent a brotherhood don’t embarrass it. Don’t be the employee be a firefighter!!!  There is more to being a firefighter than crawling down hot smoke filled houses, EMS, making grabs, and busting down doors. Good luck and God bless. And welcome to the greatest calling in the world brothers and sisters...
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if that don't work use this link TRUST ME YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS!!!! Not just you young guys and girls but you seasoned guys and girls as well!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

redlights+speed+tunnel vision=death

You know I constantly see where there are firefighters dieing all over the place due to driving. The below link is to a news story involving a kid who died GOING TO A BRUSH FIRE!!!!!!! And guess what is too blame (according to the article)?SPEED! The POV he was in struck a pole and then overturned.
Or there is this one
And if your like me and have dealings with water tenders theres this one
tailboard on a tanker.......enough of those
Whats the problem here? Lets take POV's (personally owned vehicles).
Should we be giving out lights and sirens permits to these people so they can respond to the stations? Or for that fact, do they really even get us there that much faster? In my experience no maybe seconds to a few minutes but in all honesty you will loose that again putting your turnouts on or getting out and too the rig. Even then you may have to wait for more FF's. So what is the problem? In my opinion, its a combination of things. Lack of SOP's, lack of training, tunnel vision, and a lack of calls are some of the main ones. The lack of calls may be the one I listed that may leave you scratching your head so I will explain. When you have maybe 10 runs a month as a volunteer department there is a "craving" so to speak to make that rig, its like the brand new probie wanting jobs. When they come in for the paid guys there right at the station for the volunteer they may be miles or so from the station and so you essentially haul the mail to make good and sure they get your spot on that rig. Which leads to speed.
Two of the links I listed involve POV incidents I don't know if there were SOP's in place regarding driving speeds, light and siren regulations, and consequences for poor driving habits. And if there were policy's in place, was there training involved with that? What department turns guys and girls over to driving the tower ladder or engine with no training on that piece of equipment .  I don't know of any departments that does that, and hope I never do hear of any. Its just crazy. So why not the same thing for POV's? I mean we train our crews on safe operations with the rig and how to handle it. How is the POV with a light and siren different? To me when your using your POV to respond to a call it becomes another piece of apparatus no different than say a mini rescue or brush unit. We train our folks on them and that's a pickup more often than not. In some cases I have seen people with POV"s bigger than what our brush trucks are. But we still train them to that rig don't we.
Now lets look at speed issues how can we stop this nonsense? I believe that you need a strong set of rules and regulations, SOP's, SOG's, what ever your department goes with. You need to have a plan on how to deal with these incidents, a stern talking to may work for some but often times I have seen it not work. What I have seen is the need to pull driving privileges as a firefighter, EMT, Medic, etc make it where they can't respond to runs using lights and sirens.
This is not just volunteer departments paid departments are just as bad. The biggest difference is 9 times out of 10 they wont have a POV accident for the simple reason that they don't drive POV's to the station when the tones drop, they are already there at the station. But you will see them in wrecks involving the rigs like this on Yes, some things you can't control; drivers who don't pay attention and hit you etc, but a lot of times these incidents can be avoided.
Tunnel vision is hard to deal with, its something that everyone will get at one time or another one thing I have found that helps me is to keep reminding myself " Chris if you don't get there at all you wont be able to help at all" it sounds cheesy, but it works for me. I also like to distract myself from the call by focusing on driving. If I need to catch my own plug (hydrant) worry about that when i get there This is where training comes in see when you train for success and train hard, it should not be hard for us to get to the incident and then go to work, in short you wont have to focus on the job while driving. You just have to focus on driving.
  So Please drive carefully out there don't become another NIOSH report.
Stay low....And go
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview with Steve Kerber.

As many of you who have read my blog, I talked about doing an interview with Steve Kerber who works for Underwriters Laboratory and has lead numerous test involving the fire service. Steve has been involved with the testing of light weight construction and the effects of being on a floor constructed of light weight material above a fire. He has been involved in testing of wind driven fires and how to handle these fires. To the newest test which covered everything from basement fires to transitional attacks, Steve is not just a scientists, Steve has many years involved with the fire service. He is an honorary battalion chief in the FDNY (they don't pass that out like suckers in a candy store).
As one of us, he knows what it is like to crawl down that hot and smoke filled hallway.
ME: Steve, I understand you have a background with Volunteer Departments, can you tell me about that?
STEVE: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was a volunteer with the local volunteer department in Delaware County from when I was 16 up until I left for college. Then I joined the College Park Fire Department in Prince Georges County in college for about 11 years, until I moved to Chicago.
ME: With what you did with CFD and FDNY regarding wind driven fires, have you seen wind driven fires being confined to high rise buildings in the city and not a concern for smaller volunteer departments that don’t have any high rise buildings?
STEVE: That is not the case. You’re just as likely to have a wind issue while fighting a fire in a single family dwelling house fire as you are in a 50 story high rise. Granted a high rise is a different situation being the wind is often unimpeded but as Houston Fire Department unfortunately seen, wind can have a devastating effect, even on a single family dwelling.
ME: Now we do a lot of transitional attacks here where I am located. I heard you on the Mikey D and Mikey G show talk about transitional attacks and how the thought of pushing fire is not always the case. Can you talk about what you have seen first hand out of these tests?
STEVE: We have been looking at transitional attacks by directing a stream into a compartment from the outside and we are getting up near a 100 test amongst our selves, NIST, and some others. And everything we are seeing is the fire gets better when you put water on the fire.
ME: Now I heard you talk about basement fires and how the traditional route of going straight down the interior stairwell isn’t always the greatest option.
STEVE: Well the traditional thought of stretching a line into the first floor and protecting the interior stairwell and the search as well is not necessarily accomplishing what we thought it was. What we are seeing thru test is when we introduce the stream into the basement onto the fire first thing it makes the situation better throughout the house much faster. Remember when you go on to a floor with fire below it, the two main things you need to worry about is 1)collapse and falling thru the floor, and 2) getting caught in the flow path of the fire in the basement and the open front door you just came thru. Getting between the fire and where it wants to go. Both happen in an instant and you cannot possibly know everything you need to know to tell yourself whether one of those things will happen. You can’t control the flow path, you just don’t know how long that fire has been burning, so unless you can get a good look underneath that floor to see what shape its in which in itself is nearly impossible, you don’t have a real good reason to be on that floor because of the incredible risk, hopefully its calculated and thought out.
ME: If you can for me, talk about what you did test out with the FDNY on that study you just did. And some of the observations that you saw first hand.
STEVE: The FDNY had a great opportunity to use an island being renovated from a military base. We have done some test regarding wind driven fire stuff but in this we had two story town houses, there purpose was to bring UL and NIST together along with some of there members and test some of the conclusions regarding test done over the past five years or so basement fires, ventilation, and pushing fire. The mood was, lets get a bigger set of data and in different structures, different furnishings with the basement fires, try and push the fire up the stairs be it thru a window or thru a bulkhead door we also simulated a fire at the top of the stairs simulating trying to hold the stairs. On the first floor we looked at the pushing fire theory closer. Be it thru a door way or thru a window. We also looked at a popular style of construction called a railroad flat which is where you got a series of rooms in alignment on one side of the structure, there we looked at what happens if you flow from the floor below and flow into the first room can you wrap the fire around the room and it come behind the crew or if you put water thru the front window will you push it around or thru the structure. Then we looked at second floor fires where we were looking at the 2.5 gal cans ability to knock a bedroom fire back allowing the can man to shut the door and buy some time for the engine crew. Then we looked at some attic fires. What happens when you vent an attic fire does it localize it or allow it to spread, we also used a cockloft nozzle which is designed to flow water in both directions thru an attic hatch in an attempt to wet a large surface area. So we tested all these different things and like I said with the pushing fire theory we didn’t see it as readily as people expected to see it of course the testing instruments which consist of TIC’s and Thermo couplers etc will show the true data gained but the initial indication that we observed was that we didn’t see any fire pushed rather we observed fire actually pulling back towards the hose line which was very interesting. Some other things were if you vent a ventilation controlled fire it’s going to bigger, which shouldn’t be a surprise. On basement fires we saw a lot of creating a flow path from the stairwell to the front door on the first floor which created a very dangerous situation in which a crew making the push would be very hard pressed to make the stairs. We also saw a lot of issues around making it thru the front door and you protect the stairs the fire communicated to the first floor was not via the stairwell rather via the pipe chases in the kitchen and would come up behind the crew and creating a floor collapse situation in the kitchen area which would have been near the access to the basement stairs.
ME: Let me ask you how did that 2.5 gal can work?
STEVE: Well under the conditions we had which was a flashover bedroom it looked like potential was there to buy you enough time to get the door shut. But its not much time and its very temporary once out of your 2.5 gal and there’s not a continuous flow of water behind it, the fire comes back just as quickly as you darkened it down.
ME: Alright well let me ask you if there’s anybody reading this is there a good way to get a hold of you if they have questions regarding some test?
STEVE: Sure they can reach me at my email at or via our website at While they are there they can look at free online training programs. And due to a lot of request we are now giving CEU’s for the program for a small fee you can take the course and get good CEU’s if you need them for your training hours.
ME: Well Steve, I appreciate your time and thank you for your work.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

UL and the FDNY

I was looking to do a piece on the recent study on the UL and NIST test with the FDNY and how it will effect our fire service out here in the burbs and rural America.  I was also looking to call them up and ask any questions you may have. All you need to do is post email me or leave a reply I would be glad to ask any questions you have about this test. So please feel free to drop me a line......until next time stay low and go and take care...just got word Saturday night I will be talking with Aaron Fields of The Nozzle Forward on tuesday as well, let me know if you have any questions...  and come join us on facebook at!/groups/284915104947007/ stay low and go.... Chris

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is this the FDNY

You know I always hear how "this is not New York, or Chicago, and if you want to do things like that move there." Have you ever heard this in your department? And while I agree with them (to some extent) yes we are not the FDNY, NO IT IS NOT A SIN TO LOOK TO OUTSIDE AGENICES TO BETTER YOURSELVES AND YOUR DEPARTMENT!!!! It burns me up how we as firefighters often get in the groove of "this is how we have always done it and it puts out fire so we don’t need to change." Do builders say this? Shoot no they don’t, they go and come up with these things called a truss, and wooden I beams, no big deal right (hint of sarcasm) do it the same way we always have right. And while this is occurring all over the country I have often noticed that it is mostly in rural America among volunteer departments. I have heard of we do this our way not that way and yes having company pride is great having too much pride can get someone hurt, what if your too proud to call for mutual aid, who suffers? The homeowners, and your firefighters. Why let someone’s house burn down because your department has never used an automatic aid and therefore when all your volunteers are away and your 15 minutes or more from the location of the call, when you get there its gone. And then some people wonder why we get called foundation savers out here in rural America. If you want people to respect the fact we are fireman as well then act the part don’t put the citizens in the middle of a conflict between your department and another’s, get off the truck ready to go the list goes on. And at this point you may say what does this have to do with the FDNY well let’s look at them for a minute ok. When they get off the truck or engine do they look like a bunch of buffoons running around like chickens with their heads cut off? NO! Do they get off and have to wait for orders from there officer to go to work, or do they know their jobs ahead of times? NO, they don’t have to wait. YES they know their jobs from square one. Or what about Chicago Fire do you see them sitting around playing with their thumbs, are they always on the offensive ready to go and test out new theories?? They test out with UL and NIST don’t they. So you see you don’t have to live in a big city to be just as professional as them. And there is nothing written saying you can’t take and use them as examples of how you should be fighting fire you owe it to the ones you swore to protect. I picked the video below as an example of a good little visual to wrap up my thoughts pay attention to what the end says you will see it.
Untill next time Stay low and stay safe

Monday, September 10, 2012


This being my first blog wanted to introduce myself.

My name is Chris Willis I am a firefighter/emt up in northern Kentucky just outside of Cincinnati Ohio (in between Cinci and Lexington). I got my start thru the explorer program which for those of you who do not know what that is I will explain. The Explorer program is a branch of the Boy Scouts of America essentially it is a co-op program. I started in 2002 as an explorer and in that amount of time (2002 to present) I have obtained the rank of Station Captain, and Explorer advisor. I obtained my NREMT just a few years ago, along with all my NIMS, BSAR, and Hazmat Ops Certification.
I have had a few mentors that have really made me what I am today. The first of which is my dad (my station chief at that) without him I would not even me in the fire service I really want to thank him for introducing me to the greatest job in the world, he was always there to give advice to me when I was a young company officer and was always there for me thru the EMT program, and some of the mistakes I made as a company officer, and as a firefighter in general, thanks dad. Another one is my good friend Eddie Crews from Lexington Fire Department here in Ky. Eddie has been a huge mentor for a young guy wanting to be the best at this job. Always willing to share his knowledge and swap stories. The main thing with Eddie is Eddie always has his ears open Eddie is the very definition of a mentor in the fire service thank you Capt.
The next guy I want to mention is VERY WELL KNOWN Chief John Salka, he is the reason I am writing. And the reason I am likely so hung on engine work.
The Good Lord and the ability he has given me to be able to run and help people and for everything I have accomplished in life are due to him.
There are so many more like Bill Gustin, Aaron Fields and many more.
So now you may be asking what kind of stuff am I going to be typing about? Well being I am in small rural volunteer department I am going to be writing about rural issues like tender specs and such, you can expect to see a lot about training and drilling with the guys and girls, expect a lot about modern studies like the one the FDNY just did and how that effects the rest of us rural and suburb fire fighters. One thing before I sign off here is PLEASE feel free to contact me with any issues, concerns, questions, comments, or topics you would like discussed. In short just give me a shout out : ) 
Until next time
Stay Low and Stay safe