“Getting it Done”Absurdity on Alabama Fireground

Video begs us to ask why isn't the message getting out and why is this thought to be okay in the first place?

There’s little information on this fire but that is not relevant. It doesn’t take a Blue Card certification, Executive Fire Officer conferment or having been accepted to present at FDIC 2013 to see what is wrong. It also doesn’t take any of those to share what should properly be done.


Or does it? Despite the ease we can see and discuss this particular fire, we should be judicious enough to realize that not every fire department and firefighter is hooked up to the web. If they are, then we need to equally judicious to know that information overload can cause even the best of training information to go unnoticed by some firefighters and fire departments.

This spring and summer when FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation carried the news that World Trade Center related cancers may or may not be eligible for coverage, many expressed with incredulousness that it even had to be debated by scientists. Still officially unresolved the need for coverage is understandable, as well as the implications, given the historic scope of the event.

But this is a trailer fire. What the hell are we doing believing that it’s okay to take a feed fighting a trailer fire, and without any PPE as well? It is 2012 and despite all the information from the various popular websites, trade shows and etcetera the message evidently is not reaching everyone.

In 2010 NIOSH, the United States Fire Administration and the National Cancer Institute began a long-term study of cancer among firefighters. The purpose is to see if firefighters have a higher risk of cancer than other occupations. While the data is collected one can look at the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for impressive data.

“At the fire scene, firefighters are potentially exposed to various mixtures of particulates, gases, mists, fumes of an organic and/or inorganic nature, and the resultant pyrolysis products. Specific potential exposures include metals such as lead, antimony, cadmium, uranium, chemical substances, including acrolein, benzene, methylene chloride, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, perchlorethylene, toluene, trichloroethylene, trichlorophenol, xylene, formaldehydes, minerals such as asbestos, crystalline, and noncrystalline silica, silicates, and various gases that may have acute, toxic effects.”

If that doesn’t spell cancer then I don’t know what does.

Regardless of how much stock you place in science, the fact is, smoke isn’t good for you.

Wear your PPE. Go on air when you’re in the smoke.

Now, for the harder part; what makes a guy like this guy in the video believe that what he is doing is okay?


Firefighter Cancer Support Network

Study of Cancer among United States Firefighters, NIOSH

Cancer Risk Among Firefighters: A Review and Meta-analysis of 32 Studies, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

IAFF Cancer Study Newsletter, Issue 1, Bill Carey, Backstep

Ray’s Story, Bill Carey, Backstep

Making it To and Through Retirement, Dave LeBlanc, Backstep



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.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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  • Ryan says:

    I would need to know a little more information befor being able to come to a complete conclusion about the video.  I did see 2 firetrucks and 2 firefighters in PPE.  While knowing nothing about where this fire was, it could be possible that each piece of apparatus responded driver only and the 2 guys with handlines (and no PPE), were passerbys who were just trying to help.

  • Bill S. says:

    It does not matter. Why do you need more information? Like the man said, this is 2012. 6,000 runs a year or 6 runs a year, multi million dollar budget or no budget at all, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for this kind of behavior. Let's just say that the first arriving truck was driver only…. WHY? what the hell are you gonna do by yourself? Either wait for somebody, or make some phone calls. Even the most backwoods, po-dunk hillbilly in the world has a cell phone now a days.   COME ON PEOPLE ! 

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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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