FIREMEN: “We’re Not Robots, We’re Movie Stars”

Posted: November 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

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“There’s more than one way to fight a fire, supply water, perform a rescue. 
Remember, you’re always being filmed and uploaded for ALL to see.”-Brian Butler

It’s not really a title, it’s just a phrase I share anytime I am teaching a class or discussing strategy and tactics with someone who had to throw the books out the window to properly mitigate an incident or a difficult situation. Other times I have shared the phrase with that ‘handjob’ who doesn’t budge on their views of using what they believe are the proper methods of doing things (even though they have never tried any other way).

It’s hard to deny that almost every incident we go to, even a boring CO residential alarm, people are recording the fire departments actions. What you do during a car fire, house fire, EMS call, extrication incident, or even when placing a ground ladder up to a window to enter a home with a pot on the stove- it’s being recorded. If the person recording is a real loser, he/she will even upload it online for everyone to see just how bad you fu**ed up (if you fu**ed up) or how great of a job you did opening that roof. But the worst part comes when the keyboard critics start questioning what you did and criticizing you and your department. It’s just something we’re going to have to deal with. And guess what? Who gives a shit. We’re all going to eventually forget about it, right? (Unless you’re that guy who falls off the ground ladder on a snow covered garage in Quebec cutting a roof that didn’t need to be cut). Someone is generating some ad revenue with that video because it went so viral.

We must constantly remind fellow firemen who we work with that there’s a good chance that every call we go on will be recorded. It’s just the world we live in. So yes firemen have become in a way “movie stars,” just broke-ass movie stars…

Now let’s get to robots….ugghhh…..This one gets me into trouble, but since most are on my side- sit down. We probably agree more than we disagree…

True Story: My first working fire assigned to a Ladder company in 1997 was a top floor job, so I knew I was opening the roof with the older guy I was working with. I immediately got off the truck all excited and grabbed the chainsaw. I was about to grab a ladder when the older guy said to me, “it’s a slate roof.” So I put the chainsaw down and said to myself, “dumbass, size up the roof next time.” I was in ROBOT MODE from the academy and because MOST roofs in the city are NOT slate! That’s okay, minor mistake, we went up and chopped a hole.

How many times have you: Seen a firefighter wearing turnout gear at a water rescue?!?

Hypothetical: Fire on the first floor of a 8 story MFD with standpipes. Well, the pumper is close to the building, can I use the preconnect? I was ALWAYS told to “hook up on the floor below” so maybe I should just go to the basement and hook up to the outlet and stretch UP the stairs to the first floor and go to the fire, right? (Please don’t agree) Maybe hooking up on the fire floor isn’t a bad idea if conditions are not that bad and the 2 hour fire rated enclosed stairwell offers me protection. I can reach the fire apartment from the fire floor stairwell, but not the floor below, should I wait a few more minutes adding to my already-long reflex time with fire doubling in size every minute or so? My point:

“There’s more than one way to fight a fire, supply water, perform a rescue.

Now for my random rant-

NO- We don’t always need to “lay-in” to a structure fire. That’s what tank water is for. Obviously if you’re in bumblefu*k USA and the 2nd engine is 34 miles away AND the warehouse is heavily involved- Have at it!


NO- We don’t ALWAYS have to hook up on the floor below during a highrise fire. Although we SHOULD when we can, there are SOME circumstances and situations when it may be a better option to use the one on the fire floor or go from the apparatus (nursing home, hospital, underground parking, top floor of a parking garage, mezzanine trash chute, basement laundry room, loading dock compactors, lobby level community room). This should ONLY be done when certain conditions allow for it, and if the officer making the decision believes it will have a successful outcome. Obviously a fire in a 19th floor public hallway in the Bronx is not a time to connect to the fire floor at the outlet IN the hallway. Common sense applies…


NO- We shouldn’t ALWAYS have to wear an SCBA on the roof.  It should be an option. I am willing to compromise on this; maybe some common-ground (such as only on connected structures) I believe based on statistics there’s a far bigger chance of falling off of a peeked roof (SCBA throwing off your balance) than falling through one into a burning attic (most who wear an SCBA are doing it to comply and many do not even have the facepiece on). It hinders the job of getting to the roof, quickly making the cut, and getting down. In urban areas, taking 35’s through exposure homes, over fences, cutting built up roofs etc…it would be much easier without it. Should be a choice..


NO- A 360 size up is NOT always possible, and not always needed. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t if we can, but it’s not always realistic. See article below:

NO- A 2 1/2 handline is not ALWAYS the best choice for a fire in a “commercial” building. That’s bullshit to keep repeating that “all” commercial buildings require a 2 1/2 line. We can’t treat a well advanced big box store with heavy fire in the middle of the night the same as we do a fire inside a small liquor store in the hood. It confuses young firefighters who then become drones and believe they should be dragging  2 1/2 lines into a 25 x 40 hot dog shack or hair salon (a wig shop is a different story!). Consider a taxpayer bodega, small office etc… an 1 3/4 line easily maneuvered and flowing almost 200 GPM may be a better option. Pictured above- The Engine Captain used the proper line (1 3/4) for the configuration of the building with shelving and narrow aisles present during a compartmentalized store fire that had to be located in low visibility. Dragging a 2 1/2 around in this store would’ve been so counterproductive. This was an interior attack without heavy fire conditions present on arrival.


NO- Not ALL vacant/abandoned structures are outside jobs. A hazardous building shouldn’t ALWAYS be defensive. If occupants- especially children are inside, a careful, strategic, methodically calculated attempt must be made to save lives and adjacent properties-SAFELY of course- but to say ALL should be outside jobs- not true…

NO- Freelancing is NOT ALWAYS bad! Some of the best firemen on the fireground are really good freelancers and accomplish a lot of shit in a short amount of time. They don’t have time to be micromanaged, they have shit to do. This doesn’t mean I am encouraging everyone to go off and do their own thing and hide their cute little accountability tags (uugh) it just means that when shit hits the fan, there are some good aggressive firemen who maybe don’t have a particular assignment at the time they dismount the rig, and see something that needs to be done. It’s NOT ALWAYS bad is what I am saying. Those guys can make the chief look good! Stop acting like it’s all irresponsible and shit….

NO- Constructive criticism is NOT “harassment.” It means someone is trying to help you because maybe you suck at something and they want you to not suck at it anymore. I have received it MANY times, and if it’s said sincerely by someone who is’t a douchebag and who doesn’t suck more than I do, I will take that advice and work on improvement, not get a lawyer and sue like a bitch.

NO- I do not need to be lectured on what will happen if I do not decon my gear after a fire. I don’t care what the class said, I really don’t…

NO- 30,000 lb trucks with several hundred gallons of water shouldn’t be used for medical calls. Do I really have to say that?

NO- RIT/FAST assignments should NOT be a “one size fits all” operation. (And what the hell is up with the tarp thing?)


YES- Many of the “safety” rules go out the window during rapid rescues. We should not be writing guys up and criticizing them because they didn’t completely comply with safety procedures or wearing ALL of their PPE or waiting on “2 in 2 out” when seconds count and they’re attempting to save a life..

In closing- Knowing that you’re always being recorded sucks, BUT it’s a reality nowadays, don’t give people ammunition to criticize. If they do anyway, fuk’em…

Let’s teach the younger firefighters (the ones who want to learn because you can’t teach to those who are only there for a paycheck or a title) to not become robots, and teach them how to improvise, adapt, and overcome. That there’s more than one way to complete almost any given task. That they should make it a habit of always having a plan B and C. That it’s okay sometimes to take some calculated risks, break some rules or stray away from an SOP/SOG if it will save a life and have a successful outcome. Let’s help them develop the mindset and skill set to think outside the box if faced with a unique challenge not presented to them during their time in the fire station or fire academy.

Make them “movie stars.”


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