Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tactical Fire Problem – The backyard shed

So it is only a backyard shed, what could happen?

1.) Generally these are pretty small structures that are easily controlled with a single handling. What is the length of the stretch to reach the backyard of a residential that might already have a set back from the front yard?

2.) What really might be in that shed anyway? Make a list.

3.) Which of the following represents the most danger to you? Propane gas grill tank, 5 gallon plastic gasoline jug, 5 gallon gasoline old fashion steel can, lawn mower gasoline tank, lawn tractor with seats, tires and gas tank, acetylene tank with oxygen, or 5 bags of 90% nitrate fertilizer? You decide.

4.) This scenario has the shed a good distance from the residence but you should look around your response district to see them stuck between houses and backed right up to the neighbors fence or even their shed.

5.) Can you do it with tank water or do you need the feeder line?

Stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Discipline…..some thoughts

This week I am going to comment about discipline on a couple of levels. I am noticing a lack of discipline in many areas of the fire service and I hope we can shed some light upon them here.

I will make a bold statement that the lack of discipline is a significant factor in many of our injuries and deaths.

Discipline is an unpleasant thing for certain, especially when it applies to us!

In speaking to others in person and through e-mail, I am finding that this is not a “city” problem, or a labor management problem, but it in fact applies to the smallest rural volunteer fire departments across America. The situation in the city might be, “If I discipline FF. Smith, then I will get a grievance or have a union issue”, to the rural department that says” You can’t discipline me, “cause I am only a volunteer and I will leave!”

Lets look at some areas of discipline.

Personal Discipline

If we are going to speak about discipline, let’s look at the very root of the issue…..ourselves.

Personal discipline is closely tied to integrity. Integrity is what you do when nobody is looking.

When everyone is sitting down having coffee in the morning, do you get up from the table and check your mask and radio and equipment, or do you just sit with “the rest of the guys”

What about diet and exercise? Can you stay healthy and fit to do your job, or are you just OK doing what you are doing?

What about facing any unpleasant tasks that you may have either on the job or personally? Do you let those slip by because you would rather not deal with them?

What about your personal level of training? Is your training level up to the standard that you want it to be? Do you continue to push and pursue all training opportunities?

Personal discipline is about setting a proper example for others through your own actions. Personal discipline is about accepting your personal responsibility for the consequences that have occurred from your actions. Though, in the fire service there may be many issues beyond our control, let’s not begin by always pointing to something else being the problem, let us take a hard internal look.

Company or Supervisor Discipline

If you are a company officer do you hold your people accountable for their actions or is that too difficult for you to face your personnel? Maybe they will get angry and quit if they are volunteer or on-call, and you can’t afford to lose any more people.

Make people do their job and follow rules and regulations. It is your responsibility to enforce policies and procedures and if you do not or are unwilling then maybe you should not be in that position.

If your personnel have made an error and you have not corrected, coached, trained and disciplined them accordingly, then you should then be disciplined. Be prepared to accept it and not deflect blame onto someone, or something else.

Chief Officer Discipline

If you have departmental Sops and general orders that are currently not being followed and you are aware of it, then you should be disciplined. Don’t be so far removed that you no longer know what is going on in the streets. Many officers have subscribed to the theory that the personnel should not be micro-managed so I should leave them alone. You are about half right…..don’t micro-manage your personnel unless they need it. That’s right, unless they need it. If your personnel are not wearing their gear properly, then you need to correct that behavior, or even discipline your personnel as to why. If there is an order for daily training to be conducted and you know it is a joke and only being done on paper and in reports then you should address that and correct.

Hiding behind your chief’s badge and failing to provide corrective coaching discipline is a failure.

Discipline is about correcting behavior. It is about coaching, corrective actions, and if all else fails some punishing action in last resort cases.

Discipline starts with us.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Demonstration versus Declaration (Repost from a few years ago)

How I get to the topics for the week often are a wide and varied path. Folks often ask if it is something I ran into personally or something that someone else has sent in. This week is a variety of both actually.

It actually begins with a simple tip: Don’t believe everything that appears on YOUR own resume!

In a brief look the above statement is a bit bizarre at best but let’s take a closer look at it, and the title of the commentary. If you have to spend a great deal of he time of your professional career telling everyone how much you know, you may be setting up for a problem. How come the people your are talking to, don’t already know that, if you are really so good? A close friend and professional comrade always said, ” If you have to tell someone you are in charge, then you probably aren’t” This directly applies to the above statement. If you are able to demonstrate your fire service proficiencies, then that is probably the best way to demonstrate to folks that you know what you are doing.

Listen, anyone can make mistakes, heck, follow me around for a day and you will see plenty, some personnel related, and some operational. I am not saying that we should all have perfect performance all of the time, but I am saying that any time you spend telling others about your abilities, would probably be better spent on training yourself to make yourself able to demonstrate that to them rather then just telling them about it.

Every fire department has at least one of these folks that will spend an hour telling you how busy they are, even though during the last hour they did nothing except tell you! Every department has a member who has been to every incident that is being discussed at the kitchen table. In fact some of these members have no shame and they will recount stories that occurred prior to them even being on the job, as if they were there!

These members need help from all of us if we are truly a brotherhood. If I am describing someone that sounds like someone you know, then try to help them out a little bit. These folks probably really do have some skill set in the fire service, and someone should try to guide them and gently point this character flaw to them in a private quiet sort of way. (Yeah like that will happen in ANY fire house kitchen!)

There are lots of reasons people do things like these, but my point this week is not really to look at anyone else, but to look inwardly at ourselves and see if we do this from time to time. I am sure that at points in my career I have done this very thing. If you begin to recognize it, then re-focus yourself on demonstrating your proficiency rather than just declaring it!

Make folks believe you have the knowledge skills and abilities to do your job. If we all work on that one statement, by training and gaining experience and education, things will be good in your department and the fire service.

Folks will probably like you better for it anyway!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

“Lazy bunch of bastards…”

So on a usual saturday morning routine of doing errands I am in a hardware store, and looking for something in the aisles i hear the following conversation between two men….”so we can’t have these where I live because the fire department won’t allow them, the bunch of lazy bastards….”. I don’t know what item he was talking about because I did not see it, and I walked away disgusted.

As I perused the next aisle it was eating me alive, so I walked back an aisle to where the two men were and I said” I couldn’t help but hear you before, I have been a firefighter for 35 years and I have never really thought of myself as a lazy bastard”. He commented that it was none of my business he wasn’t talking to me, and “all firemen do is sit on their ass and wait for an emergency.”

I told him I forgave him for his comment and that I hoped he never ever needed the fire department for a fire or medical emergency because if he did it would mean that something horrible was happening to him, his family or his property, and then I walked away. An old adage came to mind that said never argue with a fool, because nobody will be able to tell which is which.

As I drove home, I could not help but wonder, what toxic thing had angered this man so much against his local fire department? How many other people has he caustically spread his venom to?

Does his local department even know that that could be a public perception about them? Do they care?

We will never please everyone that we serve, and I am clearly aware of that after all these years, but I have not had an encounter like this in a long time.

You see he wasn’t just slandering his own department, he was slandering all of us. Firefighters everywhere.

Take some time this week and make sure you do not give the citizens you serve any reason to think like this man.

Do public education.
Provide home inspection and free smoke detectors to those in need.
Help at the local food bank.
Help disabled veterans, and all veterans.
Help the elderly and children.

…and many other things…

If your community is looking for a positive example, let them be able to find it at the fire department, before they ever dial 911. I know it will be a positive experience after they need our help.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Define The Issue…..

I hear and see a lot of discussion going on in the fire service about lots of different topical issues, and I think that maybe we as a group, are trying to work on the symptoms rather than the actual problems.

This week lets take a couple of these issues and see if we can get to the root cause. I am not sure that I have the correct actual cause but at least I will offer my two cents worth.

None of us have enough manpower. Career, paid on call or volunteer, I am sure we would hear a common theme that there is not enough help early on at fires. Ok, that’s the issue not enough help. I have heard a bunch of ways we are working on this problem from hiring, more help, to volunteer recruitment and retention.

My first choice would probably be to get more personnel and have the community try to solve this issue by any normal financial means available. Not a bad choice.

A second method would be to get a larger pool of people to deal with as in the call and volunteer sector.

One possible solution is that people should call and use more automatic aid on first alarm struck boxes so that sufficient and adequate help is arriving on the fire scene sooner. Now someone would and could argue that this becomes a burden to other communities. I am certain that is the case, but unless you are in a major city you are probably not having more than 12 working structural mutual aid parties per year anyway!

Your city manager, mayor, council, or selectmen, may all be the root of your financial concerns, but not one of them would accept the responsibility for you acting unsafely at an alarm. You are the professional and it is your job to arrive safely, and do whatever you can safely do to mitigate the problem before you. Maybe you, and your department have dictated that you will assume these risks, and that you can easily blame the city government, but the reality is the decision you make on the fireground as they relate to personal safety are primarily yours.

A very scary and unpopular thought, but we should at least consider it. I am not quite ready to adopt it yet but it certainly does need to be entertained.

I have often heard at many a fire department kitchen table, “…If anything ever happens to me, I will have my family sue this city….”, and maybe that is the rightful and just answer.

I would hate for that to happen and have the city throw some decision or action we take back at us. There are lawyers that would love to do just that.

Sad but true these days.

OK another issue I hear a lot about….”These darn, paramedics just don’t act like we think they should…” Ok, OK, I watered down that sentence a lot, but you get the idea.

If the paramedics on your department feel superior, or act superior, try to find out what the issue is.

Ok we could say it is the way they have been trained, or we could say it is some culture that they don’t understand firefighters or words and phrases like a “different breed”.

Ok so what have YOU done about it. The issue is anyone will behave anyway they are allowed to and that is acceptable to their organization. It is that simple. If the paramedics behavior is not acceptable, then clearly have someone who is their superior sit down, calmly, and professionally advise them, coach, counsel and correct them to follow your department rules and regulations or standard operating procedures.

OH… don’t have any of those? Oh, you have some old ones that nobody follows? Oh, that makes the officers uncomfortable and they don’t like to talk to others about performance issues, because after all they are one of the members too?

I get it now, the ISSUE is not really the paramedics behavior, it is that we have not trained counseled and corrected their behavior, so it continues.

Hmmm, what is the REAL issue then?

When trying to solve fire service problems, let’s look at the real root or core ISSUE and try to work on creative different solutions to resolve that.

Ever been asked the promotional or oral board question, what do you do if you suspect your partner has been drinking? I was first asked that question well over 15 years ago and heard it asked just recently at another promotional exam. If we had fixed that problem correctly 15 years ago as a fire service maybe we wouldn’t still have to be asking that question.

If firefighters are getting killed while lost and disoriented, lets not only figure out fancy ways to rescue them, lets figure out how to prevent them from getting lost and disoriented.

Sometimes the issue gets lost in the argument..

Stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

National Firefighter Day – Feast of St. Florian

On this May 4, 2013 I thought it would be appropriate to repost an article written by Chief Jim Blanchard, (ret.) Saugus Massachusetts fire department.

Saint Florian Patron Saint of Firefighters

All firefighters are aware that Saint Florian is the patron Saint of firefighters. Many have purchased and are very proud to wear the Saint Florian medallion around their neck. These medallions are usually gold and many are shaped in the form of a Maltese cross with the image of Florian stamped in the center of it. If you ask who Florian was or why he is our Patron Saint, most firefighters don’t know. They assume it is because he made some heroic fire rescue or maybe he was a priest who was involved in the fire service. These answers are the typical response but neither is accurate.
Florian was a Captain in the Roman army. He was a brave soldier and a tenacious fighter. Rome recognized the danger of fire and was the first to employ a fire department. This first fire department was made up of slaves. They had no real desire to risk their lives battling the flames of their captors. Rome desperately needed fire protection. They called on Captain Florian to organize and train an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires. Captain Florian indeed organized such a group. They were highly trained and very successful at protecting Rome from fires. A brigade of firefighters followed the army and provided fire protection at their encampments. These firefighters were highly respected and easily recognized. They wore the traditional Roman soldier uniform except the skirt was green. The most famous picture of Saint Florian depicts him with a young boy pouring water from a pitcher onto a fire. This picture if seen in color reveals this green skirt.
Rome was very impressed by this young Captain and all that he had accomplished. They decided to reward him by making him a general. Generals were often given large tracks of conquered land to govern. The only rules were that they had to enforce the laws of Rome and collect the taxes. Florian’s area included almost all of Poland.
Rome began to hear some rumors about the way Florian was governing his land. It was reported that he was not enforcing Rome’s law forbidding Christianity. Rome did not believe this, but they did sent investigators to check. They reported back that it was true. Rome sent a group of soldiers to confront Florian. They warned and threatened him that he must enforce the laws of Rome and abolish Christianity. Florian not only refused he confessed that he had embraced the faith and become a Christian himself. Rome was furious. They tortured him and demanded he renounce his faith. Florian steadfastly refused. Rome ordered his execution.
Florian was to be burned at the stake. Soldiers marched him out and secured him to the post. Villagers gathered around to witness the execution. Florian begged his executioners to build the fire higher. He implored them to light the fire so his soul would rise up to heaven on the smoke from the blaze. The soldiers had never seen this kind of reaction from a person about to be burned alive. They were frightened. What if his soul did rise up, right in from of all the villagers? They could not afford a martyr. The fire was not lit. Florian was taken away by the soldiers who decided to drown him. He was placed in a boat and rowed out into the river. A millstone was tied around his neck and he was pushed over board and drowned.
After his death, people who were trapped by fire reported that they invoked Florians name and his spirit delivered them from the flames. These occurrences were reported and documented many times. Florian was confirmed a saint for his commitment to his faith and the documentation of his spirit delivering trapped persons from the flames.
It is only fitting, that firefighters, committed to their duty, and instilled with the spirit to dedicate themselves to the protection of life and property, should choose such a man as their patron saint.

Honoring Our Past Makes Us Appreciate Our Future
James L. Blanchard, Saugus Fire

You can hear about this article and. More from Chief Blanchard in our podcast on history and traditions at The podcast page.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Concealed space and void space fires

This week just some random thoughts so that you can create a drill or sit around the firehouse and discuss and expand upon the topic of fires in walls and ceiling areas as well as other concealed spaces.

* Generally difficult to fight and in many cases lead to large loss fires.

* If you enter a structure fire without any visible flame your first thoughts might indicate basement fire or fire in the walls.If smoke is throughout the building it is more likely a cellar fire.

If there is little or no smoke on floor 1 and 2 and large volumes of smoke on upper floors and attic then the fire is more likely to be in the walls and partitions.

* While the use of a thermal imager is warranted here early on, the older signs and conditions of a fire in the walls should still be taken into consideration: These include, browning wall paper and paint in older structures, smoke from wall outlet openings around baseboards, moldings and door trims an frames.

* Get lines in position on all floors and get a line to the topmost floor as soon as possible.

* Consider rooftop ventilation early if the fire has reached the attic area and prevent it from banking down and mushrooming across the entire building.

* Do not delay or hesitate in opening up very agressively these interior wall areas. The damage from the fire will certaainly be worse than the damge caused by you opening up.

* Pull ceilings very agressively. This will take manpower as it is a very exhausting job. Try to hold up as long as possible from applying hose streams in the room where the ceiling is being pulled. This will maintain good visibility and better conditions in the room. The line should be operated when all the ceiling area has been exposed and the working crews have backed out slightly. The line must also be operated at any point where the operating crew might be in any danger. There is a tendency for a crew with less experience to want to spray water as soon as the first pulls expose fire. An experienced officer may guide them to held back a little longer.

* Although it is somewhat rare there have been cases where there could be the possibility of a backdraft happening when a concealed ceiling space is opened.

* Consider fire spread in all pipe chases and electrical openings and raceways.

* After the source of the fire and fire spread has been dealt with, overhaul the building slowly and methodically to prevent any hidden fire from redeveloping later. Use the thermal imager in any and all areas that you have questions about.

Stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Boston Marathon response, Police Officers, and Georgia

I am sure that like most Americans I was horrified over what I saw in Boston at the Marathon bombing. I also know that as I re-watched everything time and again, I was reminded of a quote by Mr Rogers the children’s TV show host who always told children watching a tragedy “to look for the helpers”. There were plenty of them.
As a firefighter I empathized with the fire and EMS response and reflected on training which is my passion. We have all been to MCI drills and maybe even handled a few accidents with a couple of mini vans, or a bus, but how many of us have ever been exposed to 170 patients and many, many losses of limbs and critical patients? Sure there have been a few but most responders have never been there.
A lot of America watched this and marveled at the response, as it was truly something to marvel at. What most people do not know is how extensive the planning and preparation is for the marathon. the Boston Athletic Association hosts over 20,000 runners and the plans for handling this over a 26 mile course involves thousands of first responders, civilian volunteers, amateur radio operators, doctors, nurses, private ambulances, public services, police and on and on. The planning and preps paid off, and although I am sure they had discussed things like this, they did not have this outcome first on their mind on a beautiful day in April.
I was also heartened to see so many civilians trying to help one another. Any fire, police or EMS person will tell you it is not hard to work in the face of danger. It is what we do. Instinct, caring, experience and training kick in and you just do it. But for total strangers to jump in, get covered in another’s blood to help save lives, makes me proud to be an American. These responders and civilians also worked in the unknown, wondering if there were more devices left behind.
The police response to the act of terrorism, and monumental crime scene was phenomenal. I have many friends who are police officers, and a few police chiefs, and over the years I have made more than my fair share of cop vs. firemen jokes, but I can say that after watching the combined response of the police in their efforts and handling the incident, and the subsequent investigation and capture of these suspects, I am speechless. I made an analogy about how many EMTs had experienced 170 patients, well how many officers outside of their military experience have had “hundreds of rounds” firefights in their communities? I have done some pretty dangerous things in my time as a firefighter but my respect for these officers digging in and returning fire with determination redefines courage and brings honor to their profession. From the Red side to the Blue side I salute you!
I also wish to express my condolences for the loss of life of an MIT police officer Sean Collier who was executed and an MBTA police officer Richard Donohue who was critically wounded in this firefight.
As I mention our police brothers and blue, I would be remiss if I did not mention the police effort in Gwinnett County Georgia where a tactical team went in and rescued 4 firefighters who had been taken hostage. The training, experience and perception of those officers moving in at the right critical time clearly saved lives.
Even though this is a fire and emergency services blog, I must take time to recognize the doctors and nurses who served both along the marathon route and also back in the hospital feverishly working to save lives and fix broken bodies. I sit and think here this morning of nurses on duty who yesterday cared for victims of the bombing and who now today must put away their feelings and emotions and care for the man who caused all of the pain and suffering they have had to witness. If you see or know a nurse, make sure to acknowledge what they do.
And please remember that as we “celebrate” (if that is even the right word) the capture of bomber # 2, many people have had their lives changed forever. People have lost their lives, have lost limbs, some remain in critical condition, and civilians and responders alike will have mental scars for a very long time. In the spirit of the fire service and America “WE MUST NEVER FORGET”
Be grateful for the things you have, never take today for granted, and say thank you to all of the “helpers” that you know and meet.
I am proud to be an American, I am proud to live in Massachusetts, and I am proud to have served as a firefighter.
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Podcast Information – Firefighting History and Traditions

This post will talk a little bit about using podcast episodes to get the most training benefit for yourself.

Today’s Episode and all previous and future insides can be found, here at this website and blog, you can subscribe in ITunes, on your Blackberry, at Zune and Microsoft, and Stitcher radio.

If you download the app on the appropriate device you will have access to the podcast each week automatically.

Put it on, do some other work and you do not have to be tied to your screen, you can just listen. Stop it rewind it, and get the information you really want.

Today’s episode can be found Here at Stitcher

Or play it below.

Thanks and stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Commercial Building Fires – Some Thoughts

For the purposes of this weeks review we will define this topic as any of the following: mercantile, business, industrial buildings. Supermarkets, department stores, shopping centers, doctor’s offices, business offices, factories and manufacturing.

Things to consider:

Firefighter Safety

In addition to all normal considerations of safety, the size and area will pose greater accountability problems as well as greater fire volume problems. Access and entry points should be monitored closely. There should be multiple rapid intervention companies available on different sides of the building, but certainly the point of attack and any area that may give alternative access. Sprinklers operating will deteriorate visibility considerably. High rack storage poses a possibility of collapse and entrapment. Extremely high interior ceiling heights can mask the extreme heat buildup of flashover.

Search & Rescue

Search and rescue in these buildings will be extremely labor intensive and problematic. This is not like searching a residential occupancy. People that are in these structures tend to enter by the entrance they usually use. This can be of some assistance to firefighters searching. Time of day is also significant as occupancy may be low or non-exisitant.

Exposure Protection

In strip malls and downtown areas exposure protection can be a real challenge. Downtown business districts have buildings with apartments above (internal exposures) and close buildings (external exposures). In strip malls common ceiling attic or basements areas can lead to very serious fire spread horizontally.


Use large volumes of water and the needed rate of application. 7 1 3/4 ” lines is not always equal to an appropriate number of well placed 2 1/2″ lines or master streams. Large volumes of stock piled material will add a significant fuel load. Also consider standpipes if avaialbe and do not fail to supply the existing sprinkler system.


While commercial buildings tend to have a lot of roof openings opening up can be difficult. Consider the use of positive pressure ventilation if you have the ability and the training to do so.There has been a lot of talk about trench cutting roofs. Trench cutting is a valuable tactic for preventing horizontal spread but it does take manpower and resources and a little bit of time to achieve.


Overhaul in commercial fires can be very dangerous and time consuming. After fire has been knocked down, you should consider letting the building drain for a brief period particularly if large caliber streams have been used. Rotate crews often, keep ventilation going to prevent smoldering buid up of carbon monoxide and other toxins.


Commercial occupancies present the greatest potential for salvage if you have the manpower and resources to do it. Any valuable stock or products that can be saved from fire water and smoke damage will be greatly appreciated. I am not saying now, and will never say risk your life for property, but if you can operate in an area remote from the fire, or floor below than you should make an attempt to safely do what you can WITHOUT RISK TO PERSONNEL.

Take these pointers, review them with your troops and go and preplan one of your own buildings in your community all the time thinking about these points listed above.

Also contact someone to obtain a good Firefighting Tactics and Strategy Book such as the one published by Delmar Publishing or John Norman’s Handbook of Tactics.

Thanks and stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013