Response to Charlotte Ventilation Video

 

Firefighter on the roof gives background information

CharlotteNC

Yesterday we ran videos from the scene in Charlotte, North Carolina of the daycare home fire that showed the crew of Ladder 18 venting the roof and backing down [1]. We presented it in our usual way of prompting discussion and not bashing so that we can all learn and reflect on what we would have done in our department. It appears that this did well judging by the comment received from Guerry Barbee. Guerry provided his information in a comment to our Facebook post and we want to share it with you. 

“I would like to comment on your article because I am the second firefighter on the ladder. Yes, that’s me and no I am not ashamed of my actions on this fireground. I applaud websites such as yours and actually follow quite a few because I love my job and want to excel at it. I see videos that are posted all of the time and admitting sometimes think to myself "what are they doing?" and then I take a step back and realize we may not be seeing the whole picture – or maybe there was something else that went on leading up to that moment. You actually mentioned that in your article prior to the influx of what are sure to be negative comments. I’m sure there are numerous people that will watch this video and scream and jump up and down about the risk that we took yesterday.”

“Did I understand the risk involved before me and the other two firemen climbed the ladder? Yes. 100% Yes I did. Its lightweight construction and there is fire in the attic, heavy fire. However, there is something that I considered as I began my ascent. My Battalion Chief arrived on that scene prior to our Ladder Company and as we approached him he gave us the assignment of vertical ventilation. Now, here is where I may differ from a lot of the firefighters in our profession… I trust my Chief. He was there prior to us, he had assessed the situation and at that time he made the call to vent the roof. It is not my job to second guess him… it is my job to complete the task that he has given me to the best of my ability. I am a firefighter. I ride the back of the truck. I don’t make those decisions, he does. I have to have complete confidence that my Chief will not place me into a situation or assign me a task that he does not believe is safe or that he does not feel is imperative for the successful mitigation of the incident at hand.”

“I completely understand that there will be times in my career where I am asked to take a risk – one that very well may injure me or kill me. Honestly it’s a tough pill to swallow with three children at home but guess what… IT’S MY JOB. I signed up to be a firefighter. Firefighting is inherently dangerous and I understand that. I ride the truck with four very knowledgeable men and yesterday while trying to accomplish a task we realized that we no longer needed to be on the roof so we quickly exited and were reassigned to assist the interior crews with opening up.”

“After the fire it was found that there was a natural gas line in the attic that had burnt in half which quickly made the roof unsafe for us to operate on any longer. I understand that many of the people that read this may not agree with me but at the end of the day we all went home. We placed ourselves in a dangerous situation, realized the need to change and moved on.” [bold mine]

Thanks Guerry, your comments are valuable to all of us. It came across in the original post that I was bashing the crew of Ladder 18 and other companies of the Charlotte Fire Department. I’m not sure how that occurred as it is our intent to not simply toss out a video and not try to steer readers towards productive discussion. For the record and transparency, I’ve been on a few roofs from time to time in my service and some that I shouldn’t have been on at all. I’ve been on roofs without using my SCBA or in some instances without wearing any SCBA at all. It goes to show that I’m not perfect and understand that no one else is either. Anyone who knows me personally as a former firefighter and officer can testify to my abilities. I’ve also been a member of county department that has been known for cowboy-ish, reckless behavior in the name of “aggressive firefighting.” So what.

Been there, done that. (Bill Carey photo)

Been there, done that. (Bill Carey photo)

As we’ve always said since day one of this site, we’re not here to bash others. We don’t even allow anonymous comments and in many instances we’ve deleted comments from folks who used their name and simply ripped a department or firefighters presented in the name of misguided and incorrect references to various safety initiatives. Comments like Guerry’s which give background to the story and fills in the blanks about operations are what ALL sites and blogs need when saying ‘here, watch this video.’  Do you want to have to fish through the many anonymous posters or people with catchy user names to try and find some real facts or do you want to read of a fire and get the additional details from firefighters who were there and will fill you in in a respectful way?  Your choice and time I guess but its not the way we run this site.

Thanks to Guerry we learned what Ladder 18 faced, his confidence in his crew and chief and that interesting little bit about the natural gas line in the attic. Some people, some readers of this site, will still question their actions but I hope they do so in a respectable way or, more importantly in a way that they learn more of what transpired and why.

The fire on Devonbridge Lane was determined to be accidental and started by charcoal left against the rear of the structure. Four children and one adult were able to safely escape the blaze.

 

  1. “Fire Behavior or Firefighter Behavior: Peaked Roof Ventilation in Charlotte, NC” BackstepFirefighter.com, 24 January 2014

 

Additional

“Fire destroys home that serves as daycare center” WCNC, 23 January 2014

“Home daycare goes up in flames; Neighbors react quickly to save children” WSOCTV, 23 January 2014

“Five escape daycare fire unharmed” WCET, 23 January 2014

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Bill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.com, LawOfficer.com and FireEMSBlogs.com. Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince George's County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville where he met Chris Hebert and Dave Ianonne, the creators of Firehouse.com. Bill went to work for them back in 2001 and after they transitioned away to new, bigger projects, he was hired by them again in 2009. Bill's writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of "Fire Officer: Principles and Practice", The Secret List and Tinhelmet.com.

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2 Comments

  • Marques Bush says:

    Guerry thank you for sharing. It is a great reminder to some, and new information to others about where natural gas lines can be run. Strong work and my best too you all at 18's. 

  • Chief 108 says:

    Guerry you are 100% correct. You get "it", we weren't there & I am embarassed to admit I used to be one of those "Arm Chair " in my case Chiefs. It is easy to comment on seeing only part of the story, pile on with those who only have a desire to complain. As the years have gone by we all have been or will be put in situations where we base decisions on training,experience & trust of our Officer's. People like you are what the Fire Service needs more of.

    Chief Kelly Saunders

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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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Dave LeBlanc
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Dave - I think the reason there is a debate is because the message is so contorted. From those that have chosen to manipulate the information to suit their position, the the ISFSI own website saying different things about what the tactics truly are. I agree 100% with giving everyone the information and letting them…
2014-11-20 22:06:56
Dave Skidmore
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I'm glad you identified the "one issue no one is discussing, the lack of manpower on scene". My department runs a single apparatus, staffed with a minimum of 4 guys sometimes 5, with our second due being either our paid call or mutual aid - either option realistically being 10 plus minutes behind the first…
2014-11-19 22:01:40
Heath Smith
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Great article Dave. I agree with your comment that "they became traditions because they work." And yes if you change the focus from life safety to your own safety how about holding a town meeting and letting those you swore to protect know whats going on, I am sure they will see your point!
2014-11-19 19:28:21
Ron Ayotte
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Excellence as usual, Dave.
2014-11-19 03:39:35
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David... excellent series.
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