Mount Up or Shut Up

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”

Will Rogers was correct.

I'm at a barn watching a show and browsing the net, taking in all the unsolicited advice the experts have, equestrian and fire service. Wrong bridle; wrong seat; didn't lunge enough; lunged too much; elbows out; inside leg too far forward; it's all over. Such is competition. One, maybe two judges in the ring and dozens in the stands, some who never showed a day in their life, much less pick out a hoof.

The same goes for the fire service. Not an incident goes by that is in our news pages, forums and blogs where Anonymous chimes in with all the facts and corrections laid out. It's not wrong to immediately question and reason why, especially when things go bad, but I believe it is disrespectful to do so under a veil of anonymity and without willingly laying out one's background. Countless opinions are given which eventually are found to be tied mostly to predetermined beliefs and have very little factual support. 

So while watching and hearing all the ring "advice" I'm reading "advice" on Asheville as well. The investigation is hardly out of the gate and the questions have already started:

Why were they in there when they had no water?

Why were they in there when everyone was reported safely out?

Why don't they have competent incident commanders who can properly gauge the risks?

You and I can't prevent those questions and rightly so. We will certainly go down a slippery slope if we begin limiting what can be asked of such deaths. The problem is that they lack tact when asked before the embers are cool. They also lack respect – given and earned – when asked in anonymity.

Captain Bowen's grave isn't even dug yet and people are already judging him, others and the department from the comfortableness of home or firehouse.

- – -

The horse pictured is mine. I don't show so I don't offer show advice and answers. I know my horse, but not others as much, so I don't offer horse advice either. If asked, I can give an opinion based on my experience and knowledge, but in the end it's only an opinion.

With every line of duty death – well, at least the glamorous firefighting ones – demands for answers come faster and faster and respect is kicked further down the curb. Opinions are pressed to be accepted as fact without even a glance into the presenter's experience. Differences of opinion do nothing more than divide us when fail to put our own history on the table. Much like racing and religion we push our favorite horse, our favorite belief. The problem is that many people do this and have never publicly mounted up or never publicly taken up a cross.

That crap has to stop. If you feel so strongly about your opinion that you need to publicly state it before the first shovel tosses dirt in the grave, then get a pair and show your name and department wherever you comment. Even if others disagree with you, they will have some respect for you.

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5 Comments

  • Jason says:

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said.  Not to rob from you, but I have a write up of my own regarding this same subject I plan on posting tonight.  It's amazing at how many annonymous experts we have in the fire service. 

  • Bill? The Internet expert Anonymous sure has a lot to say!

  • Mick Mayers says:

    Excellent post. Well said.

  • Jim Williams says:

    Well stated and everyone should read and pay attention to . It is 100% correct and until the facts are known, we should all keep our mouths shut and learn from the incident once the facts are known.

  • MIchael S. Sullivan says:

    Amen, I could not agree with you more… I although never directly employed by AFD spent many years serving with a VFD that bordered the city.  I can tell you that they are a professional, well trained organization, and quite well respected in the region.  Although I never personally had the pleasure of working with Captain Bowen, I have had the pleasure to train along side several of the members of the department, up to and including Chief Burnette and I can very safely assume it was not a lack of training that led to this tradgedy. 
    As to the questions posed above, I will say this… Water flow to the fire floor HAD BEEN established.  They had used the tower lader as an alternate means to do so, but the crew from E-6 was hitting the fire…  Captain Bowen was on Rescue-3, and his company was tasked to search the fire floor for victims, although searching without a charged line is rough, it can and does happen every day in this country (Truck/Rescue perform entry and search operations while Engine Co. hooks up and sets up for fire attack).  Just because reports say everyone is out does not negate our responsibility for Primary and Secondary search of the building.  With regard to the competence of the I/C, and evaluating "conditions" several others were on the fire floor and the conditions were not fatal to them, thus until the official investigation comes outI find it hard to blame the conditions…
    In closing, I agree totally that anyone who criticizes without benefit of the fact is serving no purpose and only pouring salt into the wounds of Capt. Bowen and the rest of the AFD family….right now all we need to do is show our support to both of Capt. Bowen's families both at home and the entire Buncombe County Emergency Response community as they recover from this tragic loss…. there will be plenty of time for finger pointing later…

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Backstep Firefighter

“To provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.”

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Comments
Ron Ayotte
What is Experience?
Excelent post. Evey day of duty and every run should be a learning experience. Far too many firefighters just look at the duty tour and incident as what I like to call "the shampoo mode"... wet hair, apply shapoo, lather, rinse and repeat".. Our version is put on the gear, get on the truck, go…
2014-10-31 14:23:15
Bill Carey
What is Experience?
You're correct Ed. What did we do with that experience? Did we take as many lessons from it as we could or did we simply file it away as a run in the logbook. Thank you, Bill
2014-10-30 12:55:18
Ed
What is Experience?
Excellent post. The same question may be framed for other than working on the nozzle (e.g., if delivering pump operator training). In addition, even if you went to a lot of fires on the nozzle or as the first in company officer, what did you do with that experience? Reflection and integration of the experience…
2014-10-30 12:37:50
Bill Carey
Wanted: Honest Discernment in Our Fire Service Discussions
Thank you Ed.
2014-10-22 14:26:50
Ed Hartin
Wanted: Honest Discernment in Our Fire Service Discussions
Excellent article Bill!
2014-10-14 12:47:14
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