December 3, 1999 – Worcester Massachusetts

During this time we must pause and remember what happened on the night of December 3, 1999. The city of Worcester Massachusetts lost six of their own.

Firefighter Paul Brotherton 41 Rescue 1
Lieutenant Jeremiah Lucey 38 Rescue 1
Lieutenant Thomas Spencer 42 Ladder 2
Firefighter Timothy Jackson 51 Ladder 2
Firefighter James Lyons 34 Engine 3
Firefighter Joseph McGuirk 38 Engine 3

The story is now a familiar one for members of the fire service. If you do not know the details, please research in any way possible so that you know what really happened. Two firefighters from Rescue 1 went in to search and verify reports of homeless people that might have been in the building. These two firefighters got disoriented and low on air, and four additional firefighters were lost during the search for these members. There is a book published called 3000 degrees which covers many of the details and stories of that fateful night. In addition to the lives lost, there were many extraordinary acts of bravery, determination, and courage shown by many. These traits were demonstrated in extreme hostile environments, in stairwells, and from operational commanders.

The outpouring of support from the fire service was unlike anything I had seen previously from a LODD. The President of the United States was there and it was an emotionally overwhelming and unforgettable sight; to have taken part in that ceremony is not something I shall soon forget.

Many firefighters in Massachusetts and for that matter around the country now have a small decal or sticker on their helmet, or a small pin that is in memory of “The Worcester Six”.

The fire service pledges always to “Never Forget” and I believe that is true today some 13 years later.

These men did not die in vain. In the year following the tragedy the State of Massachusetts launched a massive training initiative, and a statewide equipment grant system to provide necessary training and equipment to many departments.

Around the nation, the fire service talked about and studied this incident at great length, resulting in a flood of rapid intervention training, thermal imaging training, and wide area search techniques.

The firefighters from Worcester lectured at national seminars and in fact they sponsored a number of safety and survival seminars in their own city.

On Monday December 3, 2012, resolve to do something at the company level, or station level to remember these men. Do a drill, review the case history, have a moment of reflection,or say a prayer. The actions and loss of these men have taught us all lessons, that may have already saved the lives of countless firefighters around the country.

I started this post with a picture of the members, and I will end it that way also, because it is about them.

Never forget them, never forget their families, never forget the circumstances of how they died, and most of all never forget what they taught you.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Think about why you are in the fire service.

My title for the commentary this week is a simple one and really needs no explanation, but sometimes when I am at a loss for what to write something falls across my desk and makes it easier.

I had such an experience this morning when I was forwarded and email and in the email was the tag line after the signature that read… can’t be a hero if you don’t take risks, or something like that I might have paraphrased it slightly.

Yes that’s right you can read it again if you want. I began to think about the statement and I reflected on how the fire service has changed. I also wanted desperately to know the origin of the quote because it really needs some background.

Here is my point. If that quote comes from a 30 year veteran metro firefighter, then I think it is right on point, I get the context whether or not I agree with it. If that quote is from a younger person then I am a little bit rattled. I have been in the fire service for 35 years and my thoughts and attitudes have changed dramatically. When I joined the fire service as a youngster I certainly was enamored by the adrenaline rush and at that time it was a few years after the book Report From Engine Co. 82 had been published, and the stories of the big city firefighters was a form of excitement, but never did I envision myself to be a hero, nor was that one of my goals. You see I am truly a bit old fashioned and a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to that. I just wanted to help people. I still desire just to help people. Even though I had the desire to help, it took many more years before I really got the concept of the word “service” …you know as used in the term “fire service”. It is about helping people, and about helping our brother and sister firefighters. There is no more, and no less.

Now after starting as a young volunteer, I went on and made a career in the service and I am certainly aware that we all have to be cognizant of our pay and benefits etc.. Sure we need to protect ourselves and our families, but that is where it being about us should stop. It is about helping others on the worst days of their lives.

I am not so sure I agree about the entire “customer service” aspect of the fire service, but I certainly agree that we should just simplify things a lot, by a couple of simple thoughts.

If you are here to take risks and become a hero, you might want to reconsider that thought. Think of your family and other members that might have to rescue you and disrupt fireground operations and maybe lose a civilian life, because of your risk. If you are more concerned about going out in a blaze of glory and a dramatic funeral, please rethink your position.

Lets all just put the service part back into the fire service. The taxpayers don’t have to like you, the politicians don’t have to like you, and really you may not like the persons you serve. But your job is to serve and that is what you signed up for. There is no mandatory draft service for the fire service. You selected it, fought for it, competitively tested for it, and now some of you are mad that you are here and nobody can do enough for YOU! Your fellow members, the citizens, the mayor and everybody cannot do enough. NEWSFLASH!!!!! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about the team, the community, and helping others

This first part of December 2012, just stop, take a breath, and get that spark back that originally made you want to be a part of the greatest profession in the world.

Refocus today, what if the MAYAN calendar is right?

Stay Safe, help when you can, and make your engine or truck company, make your station, make your shift or group, or make your department the best that they can be.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App For That? – NIOSH Chemical Guide

There is not a lot of detail to go over on this app as it is very straightforward.

This is the NIOSH pocket guide chemical reference.

This tool is great for an IC, the science person at a Haz mat scene, a fire inspector and any first responder that needs some detailed information that is beyond the DOT guide book.

As with any Haz mat reference this should be only one of the three to five references that you might want to use when identifying a substance.

Lets take a look.

The program starts with a pretty simple interface and then when a specific chemical is selected you get a detailed information page.

This is a great program, a great way to have this excellent reference tool with you all the time, in a very easy to use intuitive interface.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical fire problem – Passenger Bus

Lets take a look at a significant fire on a passenger coach bus. This really could be any variation of bus including a school bus, or a transit authority bus.
Lets look at this scenario.

Some considerations:
1.) How many people are threatened? It could just be a few if it is a light day, 60 on a school bus or 40 +/ – on a charter or more. Most departments today do not have enough manpower under normal circumstances to make a rescue of 3-4 never mind 40. What about the smoke toxicity and the people trying to self evacuate? What about the traffic hazard of operating in the middle of the street? (Yes I know traffic will be controlled but I would bet you would have some gawkers in a hurry trying o pass the flaming bus)
2.) How familiar are you with getting into the bus and dealing with emergency exit windows, air bag suspensions, and the operations of the doors?
3.) What is the fuel source for the bus, gasoline, propane, CNG?
Speaking of CNG, take a look at this VIDEO CLIP for the results of a CNG bus fire.
Would you be ready? If you ever have the opportunity to train with the local charter bus company or transit authority please do so. Ask them when they are getting rid of busses for scrap if your department can get one or training, but then make sure you are training Inge safely when you get it.
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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