WFC News

Posted: May 1, 2013

The Seattle Hook

By Raul A. Angulo

No survival story has affected me more than Black Sunday when six FDNY firefighters were forced to jump for their lives from the fourth floor of a burning apartment building on January 23, 2005. Two firefighters were killed in the fall, four were critically injured, and only one would return to full duty.

The Bronx fire occurred in an old four-story, ordinary construction apartment building. The fire started in a unit on floor three and extended up to floor four. These firefighters were sent to floor four for search and rescue and to check for extension. They encountered moderate smoke but no sign of fire.

(1) Most bunker pants cargo pockets can accommodate 50 feet
of 7.5-mm rope, a descender, and the Seattle Hook. Designating a
cargo pocket as self-rescue pocket keeps your bailout system ready to deploy.
(Photos by author.)

For some reason the attack line lost water so the exposure line on floor four was redirected back down to floor four. Firefighter Jeff Cool had the thermal imaging camera (TIC) and opened up a wall that was registering hot in the apartment directly above the fire unit. Fire immediately started coming through the hole and spread into the room. They called for another hoseline, but conditions turned ugly in seconds. Fire extended from floor to ceiling into the hallway and the apartment, trapping the firefighters on the fourth floor.

What should have been one apartment was illegally subdivided into multiple smaller units, creating a labyrinth of walls and rooms that hid their normal egress routes to the fire escape. The firefighters were forced to four separate windows. With the intense heat and flames, four firefighters rolled out and hoped for the best. Cool, who was with his partner, Firefighter Joe DiBernardo, had a personal rescue rope but no place to tie off. After a quick argument, they decided since Cool had a wife and kids, he would go first. DiBernardo stepped on the rope and wrapped it around his arm to belay Cool as he rappelled down, but Cool lost his grip and fell 40 feet to the pavement, breaking almost every bone in his body. DiBernardo tied the rope off to a window guard and tried to lower himself down, but the rope broke and he also fell, landing feet first and breaking every bone below his waist.

Cool, though severely injured, fell only 40 feet at grade level. Because there was a basement and a below-grade walkway on the C side of this building, it added an extra 10 feet to that side. Unfortunately, five firefighters fell in this space, making it a 50-foot fall that killed Lieutenants Curtis Meyran and John Bellew and severely injured Firefighters Eugene Stolowski and Brendan Cawley. DiBernardo died in 2011 from long-lasting complications of the injuries he sustained on Black Sunday. His death was finally ruled to be in the line of duty.

(2) If your bunker pants don't have a built-in harness, you can
assemble or purchase a class 1 harness and lay it over your inside
liners and boots. As you step into your boots, you're stepping into
your harness without disturbing the integrity of your bunker gear.
With one carabiner, you can clip your harness into your descender,
which is connected to your hook. Your system is ready to deploy.

Personal Escape Systems

I saw the four survivors give their gut-wrenching presentation at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). I remember feeling physically ill as they explained in detail the fall,

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Posted: May 1, 2013

The Future Ain't What It Used To Be

By Robert Tutterow

Warning-reading this column may be hazardous to your emotional state of mind.

Two recent events have provided information that takes many of us out of our comfort zone in the way we attack fires and protect ourselves while doing it. The first event was the "2013 Kill the Flashover" (KTF) project at the South Carolina Fire Academy. The second event, two weeks later, was the 2013 F.I.E.R.O. Biennial Fire PPE Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina. In this month's column, I will cover KTF and next month the PPE Symposium.

Changing Roles

KTF, under the leadership of Chief Joe Starnes, looks at fire behavior in a different way. KTF does not claim that fire behavior has changed. Rather, it shows that through understanding air track management, the fire behavior can be managed in a way that makes for much more effective and safer fire attack. The results of KTF perfectly dovetail with the recent findings in a series of live fire burns by Underwriters' Laboratories (UL).

Based on this scientific research, the traditional role of truck companies could change 180 degrees. Rather than "opening" a burning structure, the research is revealing it is more effective to "close" and compartmentalize the structure. This method is more effective for fire extinguishment. It is safer for the occupants. And, it is safer for firefighters. Future truck company work might include installing portable doors for confinement rather than creating openings. What are portable doors? Think of a spread bar with a flame retardant fabric attached to it. It operates on the same principle as a shower curtain, except the rod is expandable. Another huge benefit of understanding air track management is that extremely hot fires can be extinguished with very small amounts of water.

Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini was in attendance at the recent KTF project. His initial comment was that the emerging information was like going to college "back in the day." He was referring to a generation or so ago when the fire service and a college education were seldom used in the same sentence.

KTF 2013 was unique in that it went well beyond using thermal couplers for monitoring the fire environment. It also had 11 video cameras capturing a visual image of the fire behavior (air track management) and subsequent extinguishment.

Thermal imaging cameras (TICs) were a key tool in KTF. The fires were constantly monitored from both the interior and the exterior. It occurred to me that at least three TICs should be used from the "get-go" on every structural fire. The first arriving unit on the scene should use one while conducting the 360-degree fire size-up. A TIC should remain in use on the exterior until extinguishment. In fact, a TIC should always be used any time firefighters enter an immediate danger to life or health (IDLH) atmosphere. Of course, the interior crews should have a TIC. And, the rapid intervention team (RIT) team should be equipped and monitoring the scene with a TIC.

Air Track Management

The principles of KTF come from the research and teachings of John Taylor from the United Kingdom. However, the basis of his work stems from working with the Swedish Fire Service. He is the author of the book Smoke Burns, which every student of the fire service should read. Taylor has given presentations throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and the United States. He attended the 2012 KTF as an advisor.

An understanding of air track management will keep firefighters out of dangerous environments, hence the name Kill the Flashover. It calls for aggressiveness but not foolish aggressiveness. It also advocates applying water as soon as possible, even if it requires the initial attack stream to be made through a window.

One observer, who attended KTF and the PPE Sympos

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Posted: May 1, 2013

Getting Water to the Fire

By Richard Marinucci

Since the use of a bucket brigade, the objective of fire departments, in most cases, has been to get enough water on the fire to extinguish it. Because of advances in technology, the bucket brigade is no longer used. There are other methods that have been improved and tweaked in equipment, apparatus, and fire pumps. From the bucket brigade, departments went to fire pumps powered by humans. Then steamers replaced people, theoretically, because firefighters were not needed to operate the pump. Obviously there have been many more advances to the point that fire pumps today can deliver more water than most departments can apply on a fire-with only one person required to engage the pump.

Besides the fire pump, other elements of water delivery have improved. Synthetic hose has replaced cotton to improve efficiency and reduce friction loss and weight. Different diameter hose is available. Nozzles have been improved to deliver more water at reduced pressures to help with deployment and maneuverability. Water additives and foams have been developed to improve water's extinguishing capabilities. Water can be delivered in more ways than ever: through deck guns, elevated streams, special nozzles, and other specialty items.

So, you ask, what does this mean? There are a few things to think about and consider.

Increased Choices

Obviously there are many more choices to make today. Organizations need to study and investigate all their options and choose based on their circumstances. Not everything available will help improve every department's capabilities. Besides knowing capabilities, organizations need to know their limitations. They also need to understand the benefits being gained and whether or not these benefits are worth the cost.

As with virtually everything being done in today's fire service, training is more important than ever. Having the appropriate equipment does not get the water to the fire. Properly trained firefighters make that happen. They must be efficient and effective in their operation. They need to practice with all the components to the point that proficiency is maintained based on acceptable standards established by the department. The training must also include lessons in determining which options are best to use in various situations. Although the basic premise of getting water on the fire seems simple, the equipment, apparatus, and staffing available create multiple choices. Add to them the changing fire environment, including construction and contents, and you begin to see that the simple process of delivering water can be more complex when considering efficiency and effectiveness.

Water Delivery

Let's start with the apparatus and pump. What size pump do you really need on your vehicles? The trend is to get fire engines that deliver the most possible water, and most vehicles today exceed 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm). Although it may be difficult to argue against getting the most capacity as the cost of increasing pump size can be relatively small, organizations should at least consider their capabilities based on staffing and water supplies.

There are some organizations that, because of water supply limitations or inadequate staffing, cannot deliver 1,500 gpm from a single apparatus. To carry this further, they may not have a fire problem that requires this capability. But, I doubt if many departments consider their capabilities and try to match their equipment, apparatus, and personnel. This could be because it is a minor issue in the overall scope of the service. Yet a professional organization should not get in the habit of always doing what it has always done just because.

Hose Deployment

Deploying hose is something personnel should continually practice to improve efficiencies and time. Organizations should know the amount of time it will take to stretch various h

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Posted: May 1, 2013

Who Will Make the Next Move?

By Richard Young
Performance Advantage Company

The January issue of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment contained the Editor's Opinion, "Apparatus Crashes Are Plain Unacceptable," which was very good but did not emphasize the personal responsibility of the driver and officer. How many firefighters recognize the extent of their own personal responsibility if they drive recklessly? The facts of what it costs to drive stupid have to be hammered home.

Spartan Motors provided to the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) Apparatus Symposium its compliance leader, Wesley D. Chestnut, to talk about emergency vehicles and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I was in awe of the complexity of emissions controls on fire trucks. He further commented on what must be done to meet guidelines set up by others who think they know what is best for fire trucks. Frankly, I feel nauseous looking at the complexity of firefighting tools, which is exactly what a fire truck is.

Richard Marinucci's January 2013 Chief Concerns column, "The Fire Engine's Expanding Mission," hit the nail on the head. The first concern of fire apparatus design is to have available the multitude of tools and equipment they must carry. Guess what? The space lost from accommodating emission control equipment is priceless. The ever expanding mission, as Marinucci calls it, is growing daily. As it becomes more of a challenge for short-staffed volunteers to properly respond to all kinds of emergencies, the fire apparatus they need must have "everything but the kitchen sink" on them. Where do you put all these essential tools?


When I was president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA) more than 45 years ago, there was a major change coming to the fire service that no one in the industry could foresee. All of a sudden, the Department of Transportation (DOT) insisted on clearance lights on fire trucks along with reflectors. None of the truck builders could even imagine such a thing happening. Even FAMA, which was a singular association then, decided we should join the truck body and equipment association, which had information desperately needed by FAMA members.

Back in about 1966, I was asked, as president of FAMA, to make a presentation to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in Wentworth by the Sea, Maine. I advised the group that new regulations were forcing truck manufacturers to add clearance lights and reflectors to all fire trucks. It was shocking to have the president of the IAFC accuse all fire truck manufacturers of joining together so we could charge them more money for a fire truck. The main point of this story is that no one in the fire service, including the IAFC, saw this somewhat foolish requirement coming. What's more, there was no input from the fire industry. Everyone was caught flatfooted.

Oppose Where Proper

Speed up to the present runaway emission standards. The imposition of this very debatable requirement seems to have been accepted by the fire service-without opposition. With no opposition from the fire service itself, the fire apparatus manufacturers have no choice but to do whatever is required. The added costs are burdensome to manufacturers as well as buyers of apparatus. I may be wrong, but I will bet that meeting emission standards for fire trucks has not cost millions of dollars but that the cost is in the billions.

Can anyone regulate emissions from a junk yard fire? How about a tire storage facility? How about a 2,000-acre wildfire? Why burden fire trucks so much that a great mechanic cannot keep them running without a computer? Why should the fire service accept mechanical complexity that is pure nonsense and in many ways exceptionally expensive?

Maybe I don't know what is going on, but I see a need for a technical commi

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Posted: May 1, 2013

Look Within

By Chris Mc Loone

It's not easy to turn on the news without watching or listening to a story dealing with the federal budget. Many fire departments rely on various grant programs to secure funding for apparatus upgrades, personal protective equipment (PPE), firefighting and rescue equipment, and other aspects of their operations. One piece of good news recently is that sequestration will not affect FY2012 or prior grant awards. FY2013 is another story, however. For any fire department that has not sat down to take a hard look at how it operates, now is the time. Sequestration and fiscal cliffs are simply examples of the dangers of operating without a plan for what to do if government funds evaporate.

I recently spoke with Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment "To the Rescue" columnist Carl Haddon on my radio show, Talking Trucks & Equipment. I asked him to come on the show to talk about the challenges rural fire departments face regarding apparatus and equipment. As the show got underway, Haddon related how his department is prepared to operate at a structure fire for at least the first 45 minutes because the closest mutual-aid company is 22 miles away. Additionally, its first-out apparatus is a 1982 Ford/Darley. The conversation turned to personnel, funding, training, and equipment. In short, it isn't easy running a rural fire department these days.

That is not to say that it's any easier running a large municipal department or a medium-size volunteer department. We're all experiencing the same issues, but for our rural departments, these problems are exacerbated by their locale, population, and tax base.

What struck me during our conversation is that Haddon's department is not slowing. It continues to move forward, maintaining what it has, taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, and doing this always with the safety of its firefighters in mind. There is no question his department uses aging equipment and may at some point be forced into a situation where it has no choice but to bite the bullet and upgrade an apparatus based on need, not desire.

No fire company should be operating based on an influx of federal funds that could, realistically, disappear at any time. Grant funding isn't easy to come by. There are fewer dollars, and the requirements to qualify for them are more stringent today-many times tied into training, which is a whole other piece of the puzzle. Whether it is equipment, apparatus, firefighting equipment, or PPE, fire departments should be planning responsibly.

With that said, Haddon cited an example of how things do happen unexpectedly that force companies to completely reevaluate their plans. His department had been saving for some time to replace one of its apparatus. All of a sudden, it found itself in charge of the Mustang Complex fire of 2012. In one day of paying for mutual-aid resources from outside the area, the company wiped out $100,000 of its savings for a new truck. So, even the best-laid plans can be blown up when you least expect it.

Operating a fire department goes beyond funding. Even well-funded fire departments can easily find themselves in trouble if they are not responsible and they do not plan. Planning is key. Set budgets and stick to them. Applying for grants can be part of any plan, but don't base the rest of your strategy on securing the funds. Grant funds should be part of Plan B.

Look into group buys. Another point Haddon made was that he discovered there are many fire departments just like his. If you look around, I'm sure you'll find fire departments similar to your own. Contact them. Meet up with them and investigate how setting up a group purchase might help you replace some of your PPE or self-contained breathing apparatus at a reduced cost.

The next time you spec out an apparatus, don't build a parade piece. There are many "nice to have" options, but are they

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