We are not saying you should be reckless, unsafe. We are saying you should be realistic.
For three years we have been running a small page titled "Why We Search". Its content is links to news stories mostly regarding firefighting in vacant, abandoned structures. Some are stories of rescues and some are more important stories involing how departments and citizens are dealing with the dangers of these structures. It is important that you know how such buildings are being treated across the country. Marking, demolition and occupancy all play a part in your operations and safety.
It is wrongly assumed that our mentioning of these fires, particularly when a squatter is rescued, is encouraging firefighters to widely assume that all vacant building fires have a great potential for finding trapped occupants. That is in correct. Instead, our page is meant to reinforce that there are very few absolutes in the fire service and, as we have always stated, your search should always be based upon your department's operations as well as if the conditions and resources allow an immediate primary search.
Despite the ease that our technology allows for news and training information to be disseminated, we still find firefighters, company officers and chief officers who advocate for a strict no search whatsoever policy regarding fires in vacant, abandoned structures. They argue that in general, conditions in these buildings do not allow for anyone inside to survive, much less allow for firefighters to risk their safety by entering.
We say, as evidenced below in a recent news story today, that this thinking is faulty logic.
Are such fires rare? In the averages of occurrences are they extreme? Possibly, but there are no detailed specifics to prove this one way or another. What this does show is that such fires are possible. You can find this out for yourself or you can review our page, "Why We Search." There's no deep investigating done to find these fires; just a daily search on Google.
Operate with respect for your officers and department, carry a safe, smart attitude and learn with an open mind.
Photo courtesy of Brian Slattery/FITHP.net used with permission.
Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.
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