Firefighter Training Podcast – The Collapse of the Hotel Vendome – An interview with Captain Rick Connelly BFD (Retired)

This episode we take a look at the Fire and collapse of the Hotel Vendome in Boston, Massachusetts on June 17, 1972. This tragic fire in firefighting history has many lessons that can still be valid today.

The fire took the lives of 9 firefighters:

Fire Fighter Thomas W. Beckwith
Fire Fighter Joseph F. Boucher
Lieutenant Thomas J. Carroll
Fire Fighter Charles E. Dolan
Lieutenant John E. Hanbury, Jr.
Fire Fighter John E. Jameson
Fire Fighter Richard B. Magee
Fire Fighter Paul J. Murphy
Fire Fighter Joseph P. Saniuk
Captain Connelly is also the author of the book Returning to Quarters, a history of all of the boston firehouses and companies in the city. The book is available for sale and Rick has agreed to waive the shipping for our listeners, and sell the book at $22.00.

If you would like a copy send regular mail with a check to:


PO Box 216

Stow, Ma 01775

PS: Please indicate if you would like the book signed.

To contact Rick Directly you can reach him at


Pete Lamb
Copyright 2014

Tactical Fire Problem – Enclosed Shopping Mall

This week we take a look at the challenges of an enclosed shopping mall.

1.) Conflicting information immediately comes to mind. This should be a fully sprinklered building, how did I get this much smoke showing?

2.) Is your highrise or extended lay hose pack equipped with 2 1/2 inch line? Less friction loss for long lays, hooks directly to standpipe, plenty of firepower if you need it.

3.) What are the ventilation challenges, do you understand the systems used to handle smoke? Pay attention to members working in an area far beyond their air supply.

4.) How do you handle the people, how to you “search”?

5.) Fires in these structures are rare, but consider contents, large storage, vehicles and displays in main concourses, large open areas, and always remember the possibility of a fire in a void space. A small fire in a void space can generate a lot of smoke.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2014

Traditions in the fire service

This week I am going to look at a word that has tremendous impact on the fire service today and that is the word tradition.

Who really cares what I say, let’s take a look at Webster and see what is said about this week’s term.

Tradition – 1.) Transmittal of elements of a culture from one generation to another, especially by oral communication. 2.) A set of customs and usage’s transmitted from one generation to another and viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present. 3.) A time honored practice.

Wow ! Read that one over again and see if that begins to explain anything in your mind! Think about our training activities, or station activities, our radio procedures, and maybe even our death and injury statistics.

Think for just a minute about a couple of simple issues in definition 1 about oral communication and our training practices and you might get a chuckle or two.

OK, so have you heard the firehouse talk that goes something like “…and John is a good firefighter because he would never leave you in a building, and if someone ever leaves me in a building I will…”. I have had people leave me in a building before. It does not happen every week and simply has become the legend and story we like to think about when we determine the measure and meddle of a “good firefighter”. If as many people left as times this story was told we would be standing amid rubble in this country. Put your macho in your pocket so you have something else to play with, besides your change, while your are in there.

Why is salvage always taught with overhaul? We always say that in one sentence. What the hell is that about? Oh I know ’cause that is the way it always has been taught.

How come every new recruit can identify all of the signs of a backdraft but is more challenged when asked about the signs of a flashover? He will see a flashover many more times than he is likely to see a backdraft. I am not suggesting that we ignore it, we just change emphasis.

We cut a 4 x 4 vent hole in a residential fire and an 8 x 8 hole on a commercial. Please send me an email if you have ever seen either of these occur because I got to tell you that in 30 years + I have yet to see either…..! Cut the biggest hole you can safely, with the air supply you have…that should be the rule.

These are just a couple of firehouse things that have been kicking around that maybe we should think about fixing.

Look at the way we speak on the radio and use portable designations and procedures. Our procedures for speaking on the radio have either been handed down or copied from the largest metropolitan city near us. Portable radios should be designated as the division (sector) that they are located. This enhances firefighter safety, accountability, and tactical priorities. It is simple and we don’t want to change it, “because that is the way we have always done it”.

Face the facts….I have no idea where portable engine 1 is located, or portable 100, but I do know where the crew is when the answer me “basement division”. I know where to send help, I know where the first and second line should be placed, and lots of other good things.

Definition 2 above speaks about precedents that influence the present. I am always on this bandwagon so I will be brief. We will continue to kill the same number of firefighters (100 a year) (precedent), each and every year (Present) until we decide to change our behavior and look at the risks we take.

In some cases traditional structural firefighting practices are killing our members. Class A foam, large lines, and a more defensive posture will make us safer.

Now on a more positive note….not all traditions are bad.

Some of the best traditions I know belong to the fire service and those we should, teach, treasure and cling to and make sure our newest members know them all. Further when they do not honor these then we need to apply some corrective measure to be sure they understand.

The camaraderie of firefighters…

Always being prepared and ready…

Helping at all costs in a time of need…

Compassion for others…


The humor and firehouse levity…

Eating and breaking bread together as a family….

Protecting one another…



These and many many other things are what make the fire service the greatest profession in the world and they give us …

A proud past, and a promising future

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2014

Tactical Fire Problem – Fire at the flea market

This week we don’t have specific questions, because this scenario requires you to use your minds eye, and to make you think and go out and preplan and “what if” in your own response district.

Fire at a flea market

What could this fire be? Is it a number of tables? Is it the parking area with multiple vehicles? Is it a group of lean to, canopy type structures? Is there an enclosed open auction type building?
What does it do to your apparatus placement and hose stretch for the first hoseline?

If you have one in your area, go while the venue is open and take a look.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2014

Why decisions are tough – Officer Training

Why Decisions are Tough

There is an awful lot of talk about making the tough decisions. My thoughts this week as I have recently watched the inability of some chief officers and in one small case that was recounted to me about a union leader afraid to make a decision.

While I think I understand these cases that I refer to, I am taking the point of view that we must better prepare our first line supervisors and other organization leaders to be able to make these tough decisions.

The first issue stems from becoming unpopular and not being liked. It is a natural human tendency to want to be liked. When we make a tough call, we know that the troops are going to go back to the kitchen table and talk about “what a bad-ass” we are and how we forgot where we came from.

So what? We know this is going to happen and probably has happened. Three things are going to happen after this. After a period of time they will either calm down and realize that you did the right thing and in time things will be the same again. The other thing is they may never agree with your decision but will get back to normal, and always harbor this as a negative incident in the back of their mind. The third thing that could happen is that you have made an enemy.

Let’s look at these a little closer.

In the first case you will have to feel uncomfortable for maybe a few hours to a few days. If you are comfortable and confident in your decision you can just ride it out. If you really cannot tolerate this uncomfortable feeling, then go to the affected parties and try to see what the root of the problem was. When we do not have information, our minds tend to insert the worst case scenario, so communication can bridge these simple tensions. Talk about the problem and not the people or personalities.

In the second scenario there has been some slight damage or a trigger event that will always surface or be used in the next confrontation you may have. Understand this, try not to focus on it, and when it does get raised at some future time, refocus the conversation on the present conditions. This person got over it the first time, and while there may be some initial trouble, they will get over it again. This person will always be a little problematic but you know how to handle it now.

In the third case you have made an enemy. There are very few people in the world that do not have any enemies and you just need to understand and deal with that. You can speak with enemies you can interact with enemies and you can coexist with enemies. None of it is easy but it can be done.

So whats the big deal, make the proper decision and stand by it. Failing to take an action or putting the action off to another person does not show any signs of leadership.

Remember acts of both bravery and cowardice happen on the fireground and in the firehouse as well!

How can we create a training scenario that gives a new officer this unpleasant feeling the first time, before we turn them loose in the firehouses? I am looking for ideas that are safe, but would force a person to make some difficult choices and more importanlt to live with the consequences. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2014