The Best Job In The World

This is a repost of an article I wrote from a few years ago…..

Today I thought I would reflect and get us all to think about the fire service in general. Why did we get involved, what is it all really about?

In the movie Backdraft, one of the characters asked the other…”What’s this job really all about, Brian?”

There are those of us who may have had a family member in the fire department or were influenced by a close neighbor or family friend. We got involved in the “job” (paid or volunteer) because it was interesting, exciting, and we wanted to sincerely help others.

There are others who got into the job because it was a secure job and paid benefits for your family, the schedule was great and it allowed the ability to explore another job with minimal risks.

Maybe it was just for the thrill and excitement of interior structural firefighting.

Whatever your initial reasoning you actually made a conscious effort to join. You were not drafted, you probably jumped through several hoops to get here. Maybe it was a physical ability test, a written test, or whatever process is used in your organization.

When you joined the department what did you agree to? What did you sign up for? Have you forgotten?

Let’s review a couple of things:

You agreed to join a structured paramilitary organization that has rules and regulations. You do not have to ever like them. You do have to follow them.

You agreed to be inconvenienced to help and serve others on their worst day of their life. Your on duty time is never your own, and you are there to answer the calls presented to you, no matter how trivial they may seem to you….they are serious to someone else.

You agreed to join a team. The mission of the team is greater than your personal issues all of the time. If you are not a team player then the team might as well play without you.

You agreed you would keep yourself ready at all times to play with the team. You must be physically and mentally ready to be engaged while on duty.

You agreed that as a member of the fire service you would participate in whatever was thrown at you. As structure fires decline, other issues such as EMS, and prevention have come forward and they may not always seem as exciting as what you believed. They are part of the job you agreed to do.

You agreed to see tragedy, pain, and suffering and injustice and knew that it would have some impact on you and your family.

You agreed to work with and for the public, in a microscope of public opinion, where your name, salary, and all are public information instead of private.

There are many other things you actually agreed upon when you signed up for the Best Job in the world, the fire service, but we don’t even have enough time to go through them all.

My point was to make you refocus on these issues and when you are feeling like the city, town, or community “owe” you something, remember they may not really “owe” you as much as you have agreed to “owe” them.

Sure I know, we wear the “low bid” when we run into a fire, and there are equipment and manpower injustices that all departments face, but there is nobody that can convince me that this is not the most rewarding job in the world.

I am proud to be a member of the fire service. I make sure the people I meet know that. I make sure and work hard so I try to not make a blemish or a mark on the fire service.

If you are having a bad day at work, or have just had a rough company volunteer meeting, take this out or post it and remember why we are really all here.

Let’s put the “service” back in the Fire Service!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Box Truck Fire

This week an exterior truck fire near a building.

1.) A modern truck will have a number of fiberglass body parts and pretty good fire load within the cab.

2.) It appears by smoke from the roof of the box truck that there has been extension into the box. The side indicates it may be from a lumber company. Besides lumber what else might be carried in the truck?

3.) By knowing the businesses in the area you would know if the trucks are generally loaded from the night before, ready for morning delivery, or are they stored empty?

4.) If this truck becomes fully involved what additional problems exist in this scenario?

5.) What problems could exist in a truck fire that might be different then a standard automobile fire? Hydraulics, tires, rims, piston sizes etc.?

When you are out looking around your response area, don’t just focus on the buildings and access but look for other things like vehicle storage or outside material storage. The building fire you respond to my have started from the outside in!

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Blog feature – Voice Mail !

I am trying out a new feature that some of you might have noticed. It allows readers to send a voicemail, to interact with the tactical fire problems, or to contact me and request I formation.

On the right side of the blog there is a gray tab that says send voicemail.

It is a lively experiment and we will see how it goes. If it works I will keep it, if not, out it goes!

It is powered by speakpipe.com.

If you are interested give it a try, or as always you can always email at pete@petelamb.com

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Basement fire random thoughts…

* After locating any victims that might be threatened by fire, locate the source of the main body of fire. If this fire is in the basement the entire structure is exposed and threatened.

* If this is a new residential structure immediately suspect lightweight construction of either truss or wooden “I” beam. This will fail extremely rapidly and firefighters can be dropped into infernos underneath them during initial advance and entry.

* If this is a commercial basement then consider large stockpiles of material, narrow or limited access. Also consider that with a significant fire load as described heavy large streams may be needed.

* Always expect high heat conditions and extremely limited ventilation options.

* In older residential and in many commercial basements be extremely suspicious and suspect of shaky wooden stairways that can easily fail under the weight of a firefighter and hoseline.

* In warmer temperatures, smoke coming from a chimney can be an indicator of a basement fire.

* Smoke universally on all floors can be an indicator of a basement fire.

* Basement fires can present challenges for initial attack. The first hoseline should generally protect interior stairways.

* Basement fires can present Rapid Intervention challenges, rescue of a firefighter up stairs, out of a basement window, and rescue from holes in the floors with and without fire.

* Basement 1/3 of height above ground. Cellar is less than 1/3 above ground. Small casement type windows as opposed to a full window.

* Learn how to open, force, and cut, steel bulkhead doors.

* Do not forget the use of cellar nozzles, baker nozzles, bresnan distributors as a last resort.

* During initial advance get to the base of stairs as quickly as possible….do not remain in the chimney! Have a backup line cover the stairway and your means of egress.

* If operating in the basement be aware of collapse of floor above that can trap you and block way out.

* Beware of rapid fire extension to upper floors and attic and loft spaces in older structures.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Training and speaking requests

I have been receiving some email request about whether or not I go out and conduct individual training sessions for departments.

The answer is yes!

I do programs on leadership, safety, tactical operations, command, simulation exercises, emergency management, and using technology (iPads, etc.) for the fire service.

I have also been doing some motivation discussions for business and private industry.

Please feel free to contact me for scheduling or hosting a class in your department.

In addition, I am just about a month away from offering online custom training programs for your department training night. There will be more information about this coming up.

Feel free to contact me @ Info@petelamb.com

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Tactical Fire Problem – Attic Fire Ranch House

I am hoping that this week’s problem is an easy one, but we should still review it to see if it can be a refresher. This is an attic fire in a ranch house.

1,) Daytime fire, relatively low square footage dwelling, good open space with limited exposure problem. How many people do you respond with during the daytime, and what tasks need to be done here? (NFA fire flow formula) (NFPA STD – 17 personnel)

2.) The fire is directly under the roof deck so roof ventilation might be in order. The question is, in your department, can you get a ground ladder, a roof ladder, a two man crew and get there before burn through? Have you even considered the time it takes and use your limited manpower to do something else when you know there will be a vent? This is radical thinking! The fire will always vent at the highest point directly above itself. In this photo, how much time before we begin to have a burn through?

3.) In a small ranch house what is the access to the attic space? Small scuttle opening 2 x 2? A pull or drop down stairway? How substantial are those pull down stairs for 1 or 2 firefighters and a handline?

4.) What decision making process do you use before you have firefighters enter the attic area? (Read, confined space, IDLH, flammable toxic environment, with a restrictive single exit)…,…or do we just go, because that is what we always do?

5.) Other attic fire considerations…..does the attic floor have plywood down, or is it joists and insulation? What is the storage situation like? Is the attic space a narrow space surrounded by “stuff” packed right to the eaves? How does that affect overhaul?

Think about this, stay safe, and stay thinking!

Feedback and discussion welcome at pete@petelamb.com

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Search and SCBA Training

This week I am asking for information as much as sharing information. The topic is basic firefighter search and rescue training. My question and ideas that I want to explore are pretty easy and straightforward as well as the questions that I am asking.

* About how many hours of actual SCBA training do your new firefighters receive before you allow them to become ‘interior”?

* What are you teaching them about “oriented search techniques” such as keeping a member in a stairwell or protected area, or such as using a person with a thermal imager to guide rescuers?

* What facilities or techniques are you using? Fire station with obstructions? An actual Maze or maze trailer? Acquired structures? Training facility building?

* Are you using live smoke, Roscoe machines with theatrical smoke? Blacked out masks?

* For obstructed masks there is black spray paint, crushed waxed paper, Nomex hood on backwards…and what else is out there that works and is effective?

* Have you done any experimentation with how much area a two person search team can search in about 15 minutes or one air bottle with escape time? What square footage can be searched? Is it different in a residential vs. a commercial?

* If you use search ropes what techniques are you using? Knotted rope? Un-Knotted rope? Knots every 20 feet? Knots every five feet? the one and two knot system? What guidelines are you using for when to use a rope search?

There are a lot of firefighters from a variety of departments that read these pages. I would hope if you have any questions you might email me and I answer any and all questions personally.

I hope I have made you think about some of these issues.

Stay Safe, & Stay Thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Hotel

This week we are taking an interior view. This simulation is broken into three logical parts and I encourage you to watch about 20 seconds, pause the video and make some decisions.
You are a four person crew and have just walked up from 2 flights below to get to this floor to investigate an odor of smoke, reported by someone from a room on that floor.
Take a look.


1.) The type of call here is strange because you are receiving a call before the detection system has sounded. Does this mean the caller could be in the room of origin or an immediate adjacent room. Think rescue!
2.) Is the building sprinklered and what impact will that have on your operation, and smoke spread.
3.) What suppression equipment do you take with you when investigating alarms of this type. Do you always carry a “can”?
4.) How will you handle taking the window in the fire room? Does the interior crew take it or can you properly direct a ladder company from the outside? Or a combination of both attempts at the same time?
5.) It is a four person crew operating in a well constructed modern building. When a member goes to low air, what do you do? Does everybody leave? Does the member leave by themself because of the construction of the building and possible safe areas of refuge? Do two members leave and two members make the push and knockdown into the room? Send you thoughts to Pete@petelamb.com
Stay safe! Stay thinking!
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

"Changing the fire service, one mind at a time"