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Fire experts: Charleston Fire Dept. must change

Recommendations to be adopted quickly, Riley says

The Post and Courier
Saturday, August 18, 2007

Recommendations to be adopted quickly, Riley says

Gordon Routley, the leader of the fire-review panel, said the group's suggestions should be implemented as quickly as possible. At right is Mayor Joe Riley; behind Routley at left is Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas.

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

Gordon Routley, the leader of the fire-review panel, said the group's suggestions should be implemented as quickly as possible. At right is Mayor Joe Riley; behind Routley at left is Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas.

The recommendations

An independent, six-member panel made several recommendations Friday aimed at improving the Charleston Fire Department:

STAFFING: Create three new positions: a safety officer, an assistant to the chief and a public information officer. Have two emergency dispatchers on duty at all times. Staff all fire trucks with at least three firefighters and work toward a minimum of four firefighters per truck.

COMMAND AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Follow national standards and use a formal command structure for managing all incidents. Have a specific officer monitor safety at fires. Quickly put in place a system for keeping track of all city workers at fire scenes.

SAFETY: Insist firefighters wear full protective gear, use air masks and buckle seatbelts while riding in trucks. Follow federal standards requiring that two firefighters be stationed outside a burning building for every two who enter. Reinforce safety procedures for off-duty firefighters who respond to emergencies.

TRAINING: Train all officers in incident-command procedures and ensure that all commanders are schooled in safety management. Raise minimum training standards for all new recruits.

COMMUNICATIONS: Increase the number of fire crews and commanders automatically sent to structure fires. Have one engine crew at fire scenes on standby to rescue trapped or injured firefighters. Eliminate use of numbered codes in radio transmission in favor of plain language all can understand.

EQUIPMENT: Use larger hose lines to supply trucks and firefighters with more water to douse blazes. Significantly reduce the use of small "booster" lines that have served as the primary hoses for attacking many fires.

The Charleston Fire Department has outmoded tactics and dated equipment that must undergo significant change in order to catch up with basic fire service standards followed throughout the country, a city-appointed panel said Friday.

The independent panel of firefighting experts brought in to study the department and its handling of the June 18 Sofa Super Store blaze recommended a sweeping list of changes that will fundamentally alter the way the city battles fires and immediately improve safety for firefighters.

The six-member panel, which has been on the job in Charleston for less than a week, identified what it said were numerous deficiencies, including staffing shortages, lax safety enforcement and failure to keep pace with modern national firefighting techniques.

"This really brings this department more in line with the trends at other departments," panel leaderincluding staffing shortages, lax safety enforcement and failure to keep pace with modern national firefighting techniques.

"This really brings this department more in line with the trends at other departments," panel leader Gordon Routley said. "Most fire departments around the country use different configurations of equipment than what's used in Charleston."

Many of the recommendations announced at the midday news conference closely mirror recent reports by The Post and Courier highlighting gaps between the department's tactics and widely accepted standards.

Routley, a former fire chief in Shreveport, La., said his team still intends to release a more detailed analysis next month, but he said the group's initial findings were troubling enough to warrant bringing them to light immediately.

"I think there are areas that are significant firefighter safety issues that, to us, need to be implemented as soon as possible," he said.

Another reason for the earlier-than-expected announcement is that many of the recommendations are relatively easy to put into place, he said.

Mayor Joe Riley praised the panel's work and said he wholeheartedly supported the decision to release the findings as soon as they were identified because of the safety issues involved. "We didn't wait on the studies or the investigations," Riley said. "We moved with dispatch."

He said the city will move swiftly to implement the recommended changes. He pledged to work with City Council to fund any initiatives that require additional money, such as equipment purchases and staffing improvements.

Routley complimented the department's firefighting skills but said its equipment has not been modernized to reflect changes in building construction and a proliferation of combustible, man-made materials that cause fires to burn faster and hotter. "There is not much margin for error with the equipment they have been using," he said.

Routley said the review team has not yet completed its examination of the procedures and tactics used at the sofa store fire. He said the list of recommendations is not a direct result of what happened or didn't happen on June 18.

Others say the findings are a virtual road map of the missteps that led to the loss of nine men.

"It's painfully obvious,' said Jay Lowry, a former Charleston firefighter and former city fire inspector. "This stuff links directly back to the fire."

Roger Yow, who heads the local firefighters' union that represents about half of the city's firefighters, said the speed with which the panel drew up its initial recommendations illustrates the severity of the department's shortcomings.

"It's unnerving how quickly the panel came up with such a long list of major deficiencies," Yow said. "Clearly these recommendations show conclusively that the leadership at the top of the Charleston Fire Department has been lacking in ability and execution of command for quite some time."

Yow questioned whether the department can truly move forward under Fire Chief Rusty Thomas.

Thomas attended Friday's press conference. He stood impassively, his face betraying no emotion, as the panel announced its findings. But he was quick to endorse the recommendations. "We will put a lot into effect quickly," he said. "It's something we have been looking forward to."

Thomas' comments Friday stand in stark contrast to some of his earlier public statements. In the days following the sofa store fire, Thomas defended his department's handling of the blaze, insisted he would do nothing different and vowed to carry on the department's tradition of aggressive firefighting.

Reach Ron Menchaca at or 937-5724. Reach Glenn Smith at or 937-5556.

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This article has  109 comment(s)

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 12:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Posted by burton on August 18, 2007 at 1:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Chief is now a lame duck! Chief, do the right thing and retire now before you get fired! You have done some good things in your position but there is no way you can continue to effectively lead your dept after this report and the others that will come out later. Do the right thing Chief by stepping down.

Posted by junior24 on August 18, 2007 at 1:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I for one am not gonna sit here and listen to people bash one of the finest men Charleston has ever known. I am sickened by the way people in this city have turned their backs on a man that has done so much for all of us. How dare you try to destroy a man that has dedicated his entire life to protecting you and I. To The Post and are a joke! Where were all of you when you could have written stories about the lives this department has saved under Chief Thomas' watch? Chief Thomas is one of the greatest leaders any of us has ever known. Right now I am embarrassed to be a citizen of Charleston.

Posted by Radiowave on August 18, 2007 at 1:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Here are the emails for some of the Charleston city council members. Send them a quick note, tell them they need to endorse these initial recommendations and continue to press for additional changes to keep our fire fighters safe, or come to 80 Broad St., Charleston City Council meeting on Tuesday 5:00 and tell the council and the mayor in person.

District 1 - Councilmember Henry B. Fishburne, Jr.

District 2 - Councilmember Deborah Morinelli

District 8 - Councilmember Yvonne D. Evans

District 9 - Councilmember Paul Tinkler

District 10 - Councilmember Larry D. Shirley

District 11 - Councilmember Anne Frances Bleecker

The rest of council only have phone numbers, look here, give them a call.

Posted by cfdiaffman on August 18, 2007 at 4:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Junior24, does your momma know you are out of bed. Let the big people handle this. You will understand all this when you grow up.

I agree with radiowave. Contact city council and tell them that Thomas needs to retire now. He has his time in and he will live like a king since he has been paid 400 percent more than he's worth. Also tell them we don't want another Rusty ranger in the Asst. to the chief slot or in charge of safety. We need someone that already knows what they are doing. I heard they are thinking about sliping Batt. chief O'Donald in there, that would be a huge mistake.

Posted by huntress87 on August 18, 2007 at 4:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

YEA.. finally the there is a glimmer of light being shown, and hopefully in the next weeks and few months, a star (9 of them) shall really shine through and bring the CFD into the 21st century! BLESS you CFD for still doing a job, that seems to me, is behind on most things. I wish we had known the depths of issues.. Living in a bubble can only get us so far..

Posted by Neponset on August 18, 2007 at 6:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think Joe is trying to save face - as soon as things quiet down, he will order Rusty to fade away (ie. retire)

Posted by willie8888 on August 18, 2007 at 7:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Should we train or block traffic on charleston's dieways? This is the question that should be answered soon. N Chas has answered the question.

Posted by Neponset on August 18, 2007 at 7:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Looks like several of the findings are money/resource issues, brought on in part by the major annexations by the city such as Daniels Isl. The fire dept. has been stretched to the limit. We have seen the same thing with the sanitation dept. Could it be that Joe wanted to expand the city boundarys, but didn't want to spend the money for additional personnel, equipment, training, etc?

Posted by aconcernedcitizen on August 18, 2007 at 8:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Fire department's are accredited in the way you are thinking. They are assigned a public protection class by ISO. See the link below for the information. The last time they were evaluated they earned enough points for the ISO-1 classification for the Downtown / historical areas of the city. My understanding is that the outlying areas are rated differently. ISO certification doesn't take firefighter safety in to account.

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 8:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)


There are two forms of rating a fire department. The first is what has been discussed on this and other sites: ISO, they are an insurance rating agency that rates a fire department's training, water supply, communications, equipment, and manpower. The ratings run from 1 to 9. The lower the rating, the better rates businesses and citizens receive on their insurance. Transversely, the higher the rating, the greater the insurance cost's. There is not much difference cost wise between a 1 & a 2, and a negligible difference between a 2 & a 3. After this, the costs begin to rise.

The other rating is known as accredidation. I am not fully aware of all the aspects of this procedure, as NCFD is now beginning to look into meeting the requirements of this. Mt. Pleasant (to my knowledge) is the only accredited fire department in our area (guys, if there are other's, feel free to sound off). This encompasses the entire package; policies, procedures, manpower, training, etc., and is much more indepth than the ISO classification. If there are any brothers from MT. P, please give some more information to educate the masses. Thanks!

Tony Varella

PS, please be aware, many of the changes recommended by the panel could be adopted by ALL of the fire departments within the Tri-County area. Citizen's (don't be offended by this remark), but stop living in a bubble; take your head's out of the sand. There are a lot more issues with YOUR fire department's than you know. All the department's need your help in achieving these goals, because without your voices to council members nothing will change.

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 8:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ISO is an outdate joke. National accreditation is the way to go. One of the neighboring departments has it.

Rusty had to have a panel come in and tell him his ENTIRE department was outdated? He should be fired.

Posted by UberBlitzkrieg on August 18, 2007 at 8:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

CFD was NOT accredited. ISO is NOT accreditation. Two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS!

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 8:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Uber is correct. ISO is the ancient way of reward handed out by insurance companies.

Posted by Radiowave on August 18, 2007 at 9 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For those on the outside looking in, write a letter, put it in your own words, send it overnight mail, let the mayor know you care about our guys:

Joseph P. Riley, Jr
80 Broad Street
Charleston , SC 29401
Phone (843) 724-3727

Or regular mail:

Joseph P. Riley, Jr
P. O. Box 652
Charleston, SC 29402

You'd put a few smiles on some CFD members face if we have a bunch of FedEx trucks delivering to 80 Broad as we go to the council meeting next Tuesday.

Posted by Barbie793 on August 18, 2007 at 9:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How is it Chief Thomas' fault? Because he didn't chase down Mayor Riley for money? He can't pay for everything the Fire Dept needs out of his own money. County Council needs to get on the ball and make sure their dept is up to snuff.

Posted by bjp99 on August 18, 2007 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I didn't think we would be hearing any recommendations until after the election from this panel...quite surprising

cfdiaffman...I agree about ole Robert

Posted by ENGINEMAN248 on August 18, 2007 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Posted by hawneena on August 18, 2007 at 9:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To Barbie793: It is the chief's responsibility to open his mouth and ask for anything that his dept. is lacking. He is supposed to be the chief, you know.

Posted by hawneena on August 18, 2007 at 9:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To all firefighters: Do you think that the city should go outside to find a new chief? I would appreciate your opinions. You are the ones that know what your dept. needs.

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Posted by Local on August 18, 2007 at 9:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The fact that this panel saw obvious flaws in procedure and management before even commenting on the incident investigation speaks volumes. The CFD deserves better than what they have gotten for so long. I hope Neponset is right that Joe is just waiting for the right moment to usher out Chief Rusty.

Posted by Neponset on August 18, 2007 at 10:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am not a ff, but I think an independent selection committee should do a search both inside and outside the fire dept. and select the best candidate. Lets side step the good old boy network.

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 10:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hawneena, I don't think they'll have to look very far...seems like some in the fire service who post here would have the talent and knowledge it would take to make CFD the best! No names, but if you read the posts, it should be pretty obvious :)

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

sorry, above should have been addressed to bad

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 10:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Harpo, with all due respect (your posts are well written and right on the money) I don't think he admitted fault...I just think he contradicted himself once again. However, if he really means that they will make the recommended changes, then good for him! I just hope, like someone posted, that heads don't start rolling during the cleanup.
He needs to step up and do what is right for this department without taking it out on the men/women who serve in this department. I hope his comments aren't just meant to appease the people who are critical of his roll in this whole thing! Time to put up or shut up, in my opinion, Chief.

Posted by CodeGeek on August 18, 2007 at 10:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have read only the highlights in the attached P&C article, so please bear with this comment.

I'm disappointed the report doesn't address a specific, more aggressive role in protective fire inspections and code enforcement by the fire department. Regular visits by fire companies to "target hazards" are an important element in familiarizing fire fighters with the risks and at the same time protecting citizens through competent building and fire code enforcement.

In President Harry S Truman's 1947 national fire protection conference, the group recommended the "Three E's" to accomplish fire safety: education, engineering and enforcement. Education applies to the publc as well as the fire protection personnel. Engineering applies to the design and construction communities to build fire safe buildings. Enforcement is up to the code officials (building and fire) to assure the legally adopted codes are met . . . not just during building construction, but long after the building is occupied and in use.

There may be something in the report about this, but it was not included in the condensed P&C version.

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Codegeek, this report was just to address immediate issues that can be fixed quickly. There will be more to come from the panel in the weeks to come.

Posted by jammer on August 18, 2007 at 10:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

the chief himself is too outdated to run this dept., and that's why it's his "fault" if you wish to use that word

he's too far behind the 8ball to catch up in his lifetime, he should go ahead and retire... fade into the abyss...

it's going to take someone with a modern skill set that knows the ins and outs of computers because everything these days are run by it, from the training to the equipment and communication devices... not to mention already up to date on the latest firefighting skills

there's a ton of gov workers that need to be put out in the pasture to graze with their abacus, but the squeaky wheel always gets the oil first and this one's definitely squeaking

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 10:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In the case of the squeeky wheel....when it comes to the leadership of this dept, the wheel isn't fell of a long time ago!

Posted by FieldCom on August 18, 2007 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What's an 'assistant to the chief'?! Is this a PA? A secretary?! Or an Assistant Chief? (Don't CFD already have them)?! Or .... is it an opening for an external 'director' to come in and advise on the future? Or perhaps the present chief will end up as the 'assistant' and operate under a new director?! Or is it a chief's aide?!!!

Posted by meemz on August 18, 2007 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Haweena, good question posed to the fire fighters. I'm very interested in their opinions. I hope some will respond.

I'm also interested in knowing if Chief Thomas has a history of presenting recommendations to Joe Riley. If so, what were each and every one of the outcomes?

Radiowave, thanks so much for the email addresses and other information.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't know about any of you all, but I felt the Mayor is kissing babies...Rusty is backtracking on his words from the start now...effort to save face? While it is ok to change you views, it makes me wonder what his TRUE intentions are...

Word to Rusty: You made the comments from the start, don't pretend we didn't hear them...say you MADE A MISTAKE! SAY YOU ARE SORRY!!! LET SOMEONE ELSE COME IN AND CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!! For the good of the CFD, for the memories of the nine we have lost, let this department become the best ever! We are sick of this dog and pony show...WE ARE NOT STUPID!!!

Chief Tony,

My utmost respect to you, Sir...You are correct...we ARE living in a bubble, but if YOU ALL don't tell us, how can we help you? Some of us live in other jurisdictions, so help us help OUR own guys too.. I believe in what you say, Chief...encourage ALL FF to come forward...I know you don't like my Jerry Springer behavior, but at what point do we have to say enough of the lies from this man?

Posted by bvfd271 on August 18, 2007 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am glad to see the recommendations of the committee being made to improve the CFD.I have nothing against any of the CFD Firefighters.The lack of modern firefighting equipment and mandated training is not the responsibility of the Firefighters,but of the Fire Chief himself.Fire Departments across the Country have been implementing Federal Standards for decades regarding equipment and staffing.Chief Thomas once regarded the CFD as a "Modern Fire Epartment".One question that came to my mind while thinking of the Sofa Store Fire,did,or does the CFD have a thermal imaging camera that quickly allows Firefighters to find victims both in a fire and maybe lost somewhere,and if so,was the thermal imaging camera utilized?I agree that there needs to be someone on the scene to be the Safety Officer,be indentified as that person with a vest and have a radio in hand to communicate any safety hazard(s) that may exist.Also,each firefighter should also have a radio in case theyget injured or trapped,so that they may radio for assistance,giving thier location,type of problem,or injury.With the financial resources the City of Charleston has,these upgrades could have and should have begun as Chief Thomas took the Position after the retirment of Former Chief Guthke.Federal requires 2 firefighters remain outside a burning structure while others are inside fighting the fire,for rescue purposes.Was this followed at the Sofa Super Store,apparnetly not?On the subject of using larger diameter hose,for years the Volunteer Department i belong to has used 5" hose and it has more than paid for itself by requring less use of a pumper,sometimes not at all,depending on available pressure on the hydrant,depending also on the size of the water main.We have laid 500' of 5' out,supplied 2 pumpers and a ladder truck on a a fire reently involving 3 structures and plenty of pressure avasilable,I hope Chief Thomas is sincere about his promise to quickly make changes as recommended by the Committee.These changes cannot be made overnight as funding cannot be just pulled out of a hat.Equipment has to be priced,and ordred first.I personally knew of the Firefighters that was killed in the line of duty and while it is terrible that he and 8 fellow firefighters died to get these recommendations,at aleast they are finally.Rest in peace Brad.

Posted by jifdeng3 on August 18, 2007 at 11:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I just want to mirror Chief Varella's comment that ALL fire departments look at these reccommendations and try to meet them. It is quite difficult for some of us smaller departments, but with the tax base that the City of Charleston has, it should not be too difficult to institute the changes. It will take someone to go in there and hurt some peoples feelings. I do not think that Chief Thomas can effectively manage CFD any longer, nor can any of the battalion chiefs. It is going to take someone from the outside that is strong willed, thick skinned, and is not afraid to institute change in the face of lots of opposition from the present command staff. CFD has the potention to be a great fire department, it just need foreward thinking leadership.

Posted by SavFF574 on August 18, 2007 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have a question for the CFD folks, I was told that you have 1 or 2 staffed stations that do not have bathrooms inside. That you have to go outside to a Port-A-Jon and the stations have been this way for along time. Is that correct? Yes, I know this is a bit off topic, but if it's true, it speaks to the City's willingness to invest in the fire department.

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The chief officers no longer command respect here. They may be in charge but they have been exposed.

A new chief needs to come from the outside with no ties to the Mayor (The mayor and Rusty's Dad are friends). It needs to be someone with experience in managaing a fire department.

Please contact the mayor and tell him.

Posted by mac0cm4 on August 18, 2007 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

All good recommendations by the panel. All except that plain-language crap that's been the fad lately. It's inefficient, takes up more air time and leads to 'redneck rambling.' Don't believe me? Listen to Berkeley County on any channel.

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Did you listen to the start of his (reelection campaign) speech about the preliminary findings on the state of the city of charleston fire department, "World Class, the Best in the Country, did he say.", it could be, though it is not at this present time.

What is evident is that actions by an uncaring city of charleston mayor and his hand picked lackey fire chief put the brave firefighters lives at risk. And with that, the worst possible outcome happened. If they really cared and had looked at the city of charleston fire department, things could have been different. The "experts" were brought in, by the city of charleston mayor, to buy time and to cover his A$$. Don't you, the residents of the city of charleston, think that its time you stand up and demand his immediate resignation and the firing of the lackey fire chief. Time to rebuild the city of charleston fire department by people that really care.

Here is a protest chant you can use at city hall. "Hey Hey, HO HO, joesph riley has got to go, Hey Hey, HO HO, joesph riley has got to go"

Posted by flipzilla2001 on August 18, 2007 at 12:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Plain and simple it was complacency. Yes chief was a good guy and saved lives over the years. Time changes though and people in a leadership position are suppose to be always learning about there jobs. Things can be done more safer, and more efficiently. Leadership is taking responsibility, and to have a panel come up with so many problems with the way business is done there tells me someone was just relaxing and sippin on tea.

Posted by FIRSTDUE on August 18, 2007 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The recomendations the panel has arrived at are standards that almost every fire department in the nation uses. These recomendations are published and taught in the fire service
from entry level ff classes to officer classes.These are not secrets that were passed when Chief Thomas was aspleep. They have been discussed debated, and reviewed by FDs for years before becoming standards many of them decades ago. The panel needed all of three days to find out that CFD ignored the use of all of these practices. Any 3 year guy in the fire service could of wrote these recomendations with a day to spare. The big queston is why the CFD hasn't adopted these policies and why must the taxpayers pay 150,000.00 to show that thier FD is a horse and buggy operation operating at least 30years behind the rest of the country? The answer to that is that Chief Rusty Thomas has personally opposed every one of these policies since he became chief.
He has often joked about Large Diameter Hose and has a very well known history in his department and around area fire departments condemning its use. The man has a big heart and a thick skull but his opportunity to update his department ended June 18. A new chief is needed that is committed to change and has an education and background that show it. The chief that impliments these changes must
be a person whose history leaves no doubt that he is in favor of all these changes, not a person who has spent half his career fighting these changes and now has a gun to his head and is being told to change. I believe that many departments would of lost men at that fire if it was thier department but it is a trajedy that we will never know if policies the rest of the county uses could of made a difference if they had been used at that fire. God bless to my friends at CFD and all other FD. Lets all come out alive every time.

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is the city of charleston mayors web site. One spot, Ask joe, asks for your comments. Well, city of charleston, do you have any for him. I wonder if any will actually show, or will all be censored as was mine.

Posted by ssm on August 18, 2007 at 12:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You just said it all Firstdue.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 12:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Exorcist...when did you post it? Is it possible it is being monitored, that they read them, to make sure there aren't potty mouth words in it? ;-)

Just asking...I will post as well as see what happens...thanks for the site!

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 1:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

nickiegarbeil - Did want to be stopped on my next trip to the city of charleston, so i was on my best behaviour. Simply asked, yesterday, if maybe he had been their to long and was it time to go.

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry - Did "NOT" want to be stopped

Posted by FiddlerCrab7 on August 18, 2007 at 1:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does the CFD have any trucks that enable FF to ride with SCBA? These are the trucks that have seats designed so that ff can hit the fireground running with SCBA already on?

If not, should it have them? Would this make a diff in the more serious fires? Is it something that citizens should push for?


Posted by FiddlerCrab7 on August 18, 2007 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The irony in how the city attempts to position itself vs. stark reality is offensive.

Charleston should not attempt to position itself as a world class city unless it has the infrastructure to back it. The pain of losing 9 dedicated ff is beyond comprehension, but have citizens fully considered the "what ifs" for a fully occupied, multi-story building, especially since sprinklers aren't required?

Here's the vision statement for the 2007 budget -- it seems disconnected with reality. Notice that *public safety* is the first item mentioned (2nd sentence):

"The City of Charleston's mission to preserve and enhance the quality of life for our citizens provides the framework upon which the budget is built. We emphasize *public safety*, quality services, our physical place and regional partnerships."

Here's the main budget site:

Here's the specific fire mission statement:

After the report, I hope the City will reallocate resources reponsibly and truly in line with its vision.


Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes we have scba seats on the new apparatus.

oh and a new place for firefighter training in the lowcountry.

Posted by FiddlerCrab7 on August 18, 2007 at 2:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Glad to see the lowcountry training Web site, oldcap.

With regard to SCBA, is there anything else that would facilitate consistent use of SCBA, other than training and safety protocol? Are there *enough* SCBA trucks?

I also want to clarify my post about infrastructure -- my statement is aimed at citizens and officials and not ff. I'm sure ff have considered various worst-case scenarios, i.e. occupied, multi-story structures, but I'm questioning whether the city has enough resources to back them. Stay safe,


Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 3:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)


That is one of the sad realities of the fire service. For too long we have been asked (expected) to do too much with too little. See the fire service isn't as skilled as Law Enforcement in making their voices heard. For too many years the fire service has been crying-out for changes not only locally but on the federal level as well. But on too many occassions, we end up with a lot of infighting and bickering that we can't even agree on things that benefit all. NFPA 1710/1720 is a perfect example. This is the standard that regulates the manpower available on a first alarm assignment. It has been proven that the greater number of personnel to arrive on-scene, the greater the chances of a successful out-come. However, the standard was a long time in coming due to arguements between paid departments and volunteer departments. In the South we see a tremendous amount of small rural volunteer fire departments. It is very difficult for them to recruit, keep, and even to have enough personnel to respond on calls. In the North East, the volunteer service is much more appreciated and organized, and doesn't face as many difficulties as those in the South. This led to many heated arguements over the wording and requirements in the standard, and the final outcome was a standard which addresses paid as well as volunteer departments with 1710 covering paid, and 1720 covering volunteer departments.

Also another huge problem facing the fire service is a total lack of manpower. In too many departments throughout the United States, departments operate engines with only 3 man crews. Many operate with only 2 man crews. Truck companies operate with usually 2 or 3 personnel, but can operate with as little as 1 or none, with a firefighter leaving an engine to man the truck if needed. You also see this a lot with smaller departments that provide EMS; when the "Bus" as it's called is dispatched for a medical call, a firefighter will leave the engine to staff the medic unit thus depleting the engine crew.


Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Quote FiddlerCrab7 "Does the CFD have any trucks that enable FF to ride with SCBA? These are the trucks that have seats designed so that ff can hit the fireground running with SCBA already on?"

This is another area the Fire Service is changing, more and more fire departments are putting the SCBA back into outside compartments with quick release brackets. It has been proven that it is much safer for the firefighter to be buckled in safely and take that extra few seconds to don his SCBA at the scene. There have been more and more Fire response traffic deaths than ever and the majority involve not wearing seatbelts.
In my department we DO have the SCBA's in the seat brackets but our Chief has mandated(policy) that we buckle up enroute and get into the SCBA harness once we arrive on scene.

I have been in the fire service for a long time and I have done it both ways, it does not take much longer to don the BA on scene if they are mounted correctly. We can't help anyone if we don't arrive alive! We have actually had a couple of firefighters fall out when responding due to malfunctioning doors, luckily they were not hurt too badly, but the outcome could have been worse.

Like I said watch the trend, BA's will eventually be back in the outside compartments

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 3:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BattChiefNCFD Sorry for jumping into the middle of your continued post! :-)

Posted by NIMS800Chief on August 18, 2007 at 3:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Remember that with the inception of incident command, safety officers, accountibility, staffing, and resources, training must be the upmost concentration. Evaluation is the key to maintain the cutting edge. Harry Truman's first report on America Burning shows the 3 E's as stated. There needs to be 2 more E's and that is evaluation and enhancement. This is where training becomes the key and evaluation and enhancement involve the input of all personnel. Please note that our profression is dangerous and even with implementations of safe practices of incident management, we are not immune to the perils of the unpredictable behavior of fire and gravity. Nothing is full proof nor can we really say this will never happen again. We can build safeguards but we are at the mercy of deteriorating conditions. Francis L. Brannigan, a noted fire protection & structural engineer stated that "Gravity is the eternal enemy of any structure." The panel assembled a quick fix and then a cursory evaluation of the whole perspective of what happened that fateful day. This is a smart way to get CFD on track. Not to mention all fire departments across the nation can learn from this as well and re-evaluate what they have done since 6/18/07. This also bolsters our safety initiatives of the "Everyone Goes Home" and "Firefighter Safety Standown." God bless to the 9 Heroes, family, and the brothers and sisters of CFD.

Posted by NIMS800Chief on August 18, 2007 at 3:43 p.m. (Suggest removal) bad >.<

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Following is an education in the fire service for John Q. Public. There are several different types of apparatus within a fire department. The back-bone of the department is the Engines. They are the ones with the hose and their primary job is to stretch smaller attack lines into structure fire to make a quick attack on a fire or to place a line between the fire and trapped occupants. They deal primarily in extinguishment. The Work-horse of the fire service is the Truck Companies (I hope all you Truckie's are happy). Their primary job is to perform rescue, forcible entry, ventilation, placing ladders, locating the fire, and performing what is called overhaul. (when the fire is out, they go through and open walls and ceilings checking for any smoldering or hidden fires. The Glory-Boys would be the Rescues. The truly are the Jacks-of-all Trades, they specialize in rescue techniques ranging from water rescue, trench rescue, confined space, etc. their primary purpose is to rescue trapped firefighters. FDNY began the rescue company in the early 1900's. While each of these apparatus and crews perform separate functions on paper; in reality, a lot of fire departments don't have the manpower or equipment to operate these apparatus. Many that do don’t utilize them properly. Most people see a building burning and see a lot of firefighters running around and really don't have an understanding of what exactly we are doing. Allow me to break it down for you: when you arrive on the scene of a fire, many things must happen immediately upon arrival and almost simultaneously. An engine must stretch a hose line into the structure to the area involved in fire in order to contain and extinguish the fire. However, in order for the engine to accomplish their job successfully, in many instances doors need to be forced open; enter the truckies. Also, a very important, but often over-looked aspect of fire ground activities is ventilation. This occurs when the structure is opened and the fire and smoke are allowed a path-way of exit from the building. This is performed in several different ways, but must be done in a coordinated manner with the hose team, or the fire can spread to uninvolved areas, or trap occupants or firefighters by spreading fire, or a flashover. This function is also performed by a truck company. The utilities must be secured whether at the breaker box or where the meter enters the residence. Usually this is handled by the driver of the first due truck. If the building is multi-storied, a truck crew must enter the structure to search the location of the fire, and once located, notify the hose team, then they must go to the floor above the fire to make sure it does not extend vertically (this is one of the most dangerous positions on the fire ground due to fires naturally tendency to burn upwards, and most times, truck crews go without a charged hose line).


Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ah yes, no edit feature, but we all know what you meant:-)

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 3:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Also, on the outside of the structure, ground ladders are placed at all 2nd floor windows to allow a second means of egress. A second engine is usually tasked with establishing a water supply and will locate the nearest hydrant, hook a supply line to the hydrant and lay the line to the scene of the fire. Once the supply line is tied into the attack engine, the hydrant is charged and a continuous supply of water is provided. A search of the structure must be performed to check for occupants, and then if an "all clear" is given, a second search is conducted in order to confirm the findings of the primary search. While all these activities are on-going, a team must be assembled outside the residence in order to respond to the "Mayday" call of any firefighters who may be lost, trapped, or are in trouble.

As you can see, this requires a great deal of personnel just for a fire I've described as a structure, but in reality is a single-family residence not a commercial structure which would require a great deal more personnel. I won't even get into a high-rise fire. The reality of this scenario is that most fire departments (especially in our area) respond with only 8-12 firefighters and their objective is still the same: Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, and Property Conservation. So it doesn't matter that there are less than optimal numbers on scene to accomplish the tasks. The fire isn't prejudiced, it doesn't care what color, how wealthy, how many or few firefighters you have on scene, it continues to grow and consume whatever is in its path. So in conclusion, yes we do need to toot our own horn more. But again, the sad reality is we continue to do more with less; and unfortunately, because we do such a good job, the public isn't aware of the deficiencies or needs of their local fire departments because all they know is that the fire goes out, the firemen go home, the fire truck is in the station each day as you pass by, and the firemen are there playing cards, or watching TV which doesn't happen like most people think. We have daily duties to perform each shift such as: cleaning the station, bathrooms, kitchen, waxing floors, checking off trucks, cleaning equipment, performing pre-plans, life-safety and educational functions, as well as hose testing, hydrant maintenance, and daily training which could include a daily station training assignment, or a drill in the field. So please for all of us who are the "Red-headed Step-children" of our cities (because we are only an expense, not a source of revenue) bring these points up to each of your council members and demand changes for Your fire departments. That's the greatest thanks anyone could give us! Thanks!!!!!

Chief V

PS: Charleytowngirl; thanks for the kind words. I was sending you a reply Tuesday evening, but responded to a fire, and then was at the port all Wednesday until 4:00 am Thursday morning.

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 4:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Guys, no problem. I type like I write; fat & slow, so I take up a lot of space.

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 4:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Very good writeup Chief Varella. Obviously you are well established in the IC system, just looking at how you wrote things. Terminology, such as "Primary Search", "All Clear" shows that the ICS is well engrained in your department. It becomes second nature the more you use it, even on the smaller calls as "Practice makes Perfect"

Posted by Boosterhose on August 18, 2007 at 4:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Really, most of what you wrote is IFSTA essentials material. Shouldn't be any reason not too have it in the SOP's for any well trained department. Unless of course, the training officers first responsibility is to make sure the men wear their hats during preplan.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Whew...what a lesson! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I am going to beg the editor in charge to come up with a LARGE PRINT version! LOL I think I am getting old...

I have a document that a retired FF sent to me from another state...It seems to be more geared to the lay person, but might take a few posts to get it all on here...

Tony, thank you for posting that information...Keep it coming...Let me ask however, in your professional opinion...Do you feel the panels recommendations will go way more in depth? What do you think they MAY say? In your humble opinion, of course...

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is the article written by a FF for the lay person:

There is an old saying among firefighters that describes how they do their job, and that is to put the wet stuff on the red stuff. Many people outside the fire service do indeed believe that firefighting is not much more than spraying large amounts of water on a fire until it is out. But there is much more to it than that.

The most common fires fought by firefighters are those in residential houses. Houses that the average American like you lives in. Fires in private homes are hazardous, in part, because of the number of such incidents. If firefighters respond to more residential fires, then there is a higher probability that they may suffer injury or death either at or responding to those fires. Most fire related injuries to both civilians and firefighters happen in the ordinary house fire.

Just what is it that those firefighters do when they respond to a fire in your home?

In order to understand what happens at a house fire, it is necessary to understand some of the equipment and vehicles that the fire services uses. There are four basic types of vehicles used by most fire departments in the United States: which are the engine, the ladder truck, the rescue truck, and the chief's vehicle. All have very different functions or assignments.

The fire engine (also called a pumper) usually carries four firefighters and three types of fire hose: supply lines (large diameter hose that transports water from a fire hydrant to the engine's internal main pumps); and attack lines (smaller diameter hose that stretch from the engine to the firefighters in the burning building.) The supply hose is typically two and one half inches to five inches in diameter and the attack lines are usually from one inch (booster hose) to one and three quarters inches in diameter called woven jacketed hose. The attack line works like a typical garden hose in that it transports water to a nozzle that adjusts from a solid, straight stream to a wide spray. But the attack line and nozzle on a fire hose are, of course, much larger and flow much more water than a garden hose. As you might guess, the attack line is used by the firefighters to actually attack the fire. The main responsibility of the firefighters on the engines is to go into the burning structure to the seat or base of the fire and extinguish it.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The ladder truck carries from three to five fire fighters, a complement of ladders of various sizes, and a variety of other firefighting equipment like fire axes and smoke ejectors, which sometimes are called exhaust fans, and ceiling hooks etc. The ladder crew's job is to give support to the engine crews so that they can extinguish the fire more easily.

The rescue truck usually carries four firefighters who are usually emergency medical technicians or paramedics trained to give emergency care to firefighters or civilians who may be injured at a fire. They may also be trained in high-level rescue, confined space rescue, and water rescue etc.

The chief's car carries two firefighters: the battalion chief, who has overall responsibility for direction of an emergency scene, and his aide, who drives the car and acts as the eyes and ears of the chief at the fire.

The following is a typically scenario of how firefighters deal with a residential house fire. The tactics used will vary from city to city but this is how it happens in Anytown, South Carolina when firefighters respond to a house fire.

When a 911 operator receives a call from a citizen who says that there is a house on fire, the 911 operator transfers the call to the fire department control center. The fire department control operator takes the call, determines quickly what the nature of the emergency is and enters the address in a computer. The computer then quickly advises the operator about which fire department vehicles to dispatch.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Contrary to common belief, all the firefighters that respond do not come from one fire station. One fire station will normally house one engine and/or one ladder truck. Some stations will also house a rescue truck. In one of these stations a battalion chief’s vehicle will be housed. For the typical residence fire, emergency vehicles from as many as two to four fire stations may be involved.

The first response complement for a residential house fire is two engines one ladder truck a rescue truck and a battalion chief; 18 firefighters in all.

Anytown Central sends tones to proper stations, then Central would say: Engine 5, Engine 10, Ladder 5, Rescue 7, Battalion 7, respond to a reported house fire 1232 Maple, Street.

In most situations, the first vehicle to arrive at the fire is an engine. If heavy smoke is evident to the firefighters of the approaching engine, the officer in charge will order one member of his crew, the hydrant man, to jump from the engine at a nearby fire hydrant, grab one end of the supply hose from the back of the engine and connect that supply line to the hydrant. The engine can then proceed to the fire, laying the hose in the street from the hydrant to a location just in front of the burning house.

The officer on the engine then pauses in front of the house to radio in what is termed a size up. The size up is very important in that it informs the dispatch center and the incoming firefighters what the situation is. This allows the other responding company officers and the battalion chief to plan strategy as they approach the fire scene. The size up might sound like this: Engine 5 is on scene; we have a one-story frame residence, with heavy smoke showing. Central designate this as Maple Street Command. We are laying a 5” supply line to the front of the residence and putting an inch and three quarter line on the fire.

There are now only three firefighters left on engine the fourth crewmember is still down the street turning on the hydrant and charging the supply line. While the engine officer is transmitting the size up, the driver prepares to activate the engine's pump that will receive the water from the hydrant, pressurizing the water and sending it through the attack line that two firefighters will advance into the burning house.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

By this time, the second engine and the ladder should have arrived at the scene, followed closely by the battalion chief. As soon as he has a good view of the scene, the chief will assumes command: Battalion seven to Anytown Central. Battalion seven is on the scene at 1232 Maple Street Battalion seven is assuming command. This is working fire; start me an additional engine as a FAST unit to this location. The FAST team (Firefighter Assist and Search Team) is the crew of a third engine that is dispatched to the incident. The FAST team's job is to don protective clothing, secure an additional attack line, and stand near the chief, ready to respond in the event anyone needs to be rescued. This is a federal mandated OSHA regulation 29CFR1910. This is called the Two in Two out rule.

From this point on, the battalion chief will be referred to as Command. Having assumed command, the chief must now establish priorities and make assignments.

The first priority at any structure fire is rescue. The chief must make a determination about whether there is anyone in danger from the fire and whether firefighters should be committed to searching for and rescuing those in danger. Clues about the need for rescue can be as obvious as a civilian telling the firefighters that someone is trapped in the building, or as subtle as a car parked in the driveway at 3:00 a.m., indicating that people are probably home and possibly still asleep and/or trapped. To affect the rescue, the chief would establish the first of the many working assignments. The transition to the arriving rescue truck may sound something like this: Command to Rescue 7; give me a primary search of this house. This informs the crew on the rescue truck that it is their responsibility to go into the building and conduct a search for victims. The rescue unit would respond: Command, Rescue 7 copies start primary search.

Since Engine 5's crew has already committed to fighting the fire, the chief would assign that crew as the Attack crew. This means that the first engine crew is responsible for locating the fire and extinguishing it.

At this point, the chief still has many assignments to make. The next priority to consider is the protection of the buildings on either side of or behind the burning house, commonly referred to as exposures. In order to protect the exposures and best utilize remaining personnel, the chief might assign the second engine’s crew to protect the most vulnerable exposures, and the ladder crew would be assigned perform ventilation.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The buildup of gasses and heated materials in the burning building creates a very dangerous environment for the firefighters and any civilians who may be trapped in the building. In order to mitigate the hazard from the heated air and toxic gases, the firefighters must expel the heat and gasses from the house. This is does this by assigning firefighters to a Ventilation sector, which can open the building up by chopping a hole in the roof or removing windows. Ventilating the building makes it possible for the trapped gases and superheated air to escape, making the interior of the burning building safer for firefighters and civilians inside. The chief would transmit his command for the Exposure and Ventilation sectors as follows:

Engine 10, you are the Exposure sector. Secure a hand line and protect the east exposure. Ladder 5, you are the Ventilation sector. Ventilate the roof over the fire.

The chief's directions to the firefighters are intentionally brief. The firefighters don't require detailed instructions since they are highly trained and know what to do once they are assigned to a sector. If they are assigned to ventilate or search the building, they know what tools to use and which procedures to follow.

Back at the dispatch center, the control operator reacts to instructions from Maple Street Command, the chief at the scene. Since the incident has been declared a working fire; by command, the dispatch center should automatically dispatch additional personnel: The department safety officer (or an additional battalion chief to act as safety officer), the FAST team, and the tactical support unit.

The safety officer's responsibility is to go to the scene of the fire and help ensure that the firefighters there are following safety procedures. He monitors whether all personnel have donned protective clothing and the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that allows firefighters to breathe safely in toxic environments. The safety officer also watches for unseen hazards like possible roof collapse, holes that may have been burned in the floor of the residence, or walls that are at risk of collapse. The safety officer may also monitor the quality of the air, measuring levels of carbon monoxide.

The tactical support unit (TSU) is a vehicle that carries additional air tanks that may be used to replenish the air tanks exhausted by the firefighters at the scene. The driver of the TSU will stand by at the scene and assist firefighters in changing their air tanks. The TSU also serves as a rehabilitation center at fires that last long enough to take a toll on firefighters. Modern firefighters wear almost 100 pounds of protective gear and the exhausting work can quickly wear out even the most physically fit firefighters.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Once the chief has made all of the assignments necessary, he must begin to think about a new set of priorities. If there is any evidence that the fire was intentionally set, he must ensure that arson investigators and police officers are called to the scene. If arson is a possibility or if anyone is seriously injured, the incident becomes a crime scene and the chief must secure the area and preserve as much evidence as possible.

The chief must determine whether there are any code violations evident at the scene. If so, then code enforcement personnel are called to the scene to determine what action to take.

The chief must also consider temperature and the wind direction. If the temperature is very hot or very cold, it may be necessary call in additional personnel to relieve the firefighters. Strong winds can spread the fire to nearby structures.

The chief must also attend to safety concerns at the scene. Are all of the firefighters wearing the correct protective clothing? Are they using their air masks? Is there a danger from downed power lines? Are there too many firefighters on the roof? Should the firefighters abandon the burning structure and concentrate on protecting exposures only?

As the firefighters settle into their assignments send updates command by radio. Below are some examples of these transmissions.

Search Sector: Command from Search Sector. Command: Go ahead, Search.

Search Sector: The primary search is complete. We have one slightly injured civilian.

At this point, the chief would acknowledge the message from the Search sector and notify the EMS Medical personnel to prepare to treat an injured person.

Ventilation Sector: Command from Ventilation sector. Command: Go ahead, Ventilation.

Ventilation: We have opened the roof and are ready for another assignment.

Command: Command copies. Ventilation, take fans to the front of the building.


Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This means that the ladder crew has placed a hole in the roof above the fire, creating a make shift shaft, which allows the toxic gases and superheated air to escape from the burning building. As a result, the conditions in the building change dramatically, since much of the smoke and heat will rush out the ventilation hole making the atmosphere inside of the building clearer and the location of the fire more evident to the attack crew.

Inside the building, the attack sector, wearing breathing apparatus, which is their only source of air, is struggling through a totally black environment trying to locate the fire. Unlike a fire in the movies, in a real house fire the visibility is zero because of the thick black smoke. The firefighters usually work in total darkness. Frequently, the firefighters must feel their way through the building by crawling and running a hand along the floor or along a wall. Dragging the heavy attack line through the structure is dangerous and difficult, since the water pressure of the hose causes it to resist the firefighters. The attack crew must also be aware of hazards like floors that have been burned out from under them or ceilings on the verge of collapse.

Once a hole is cut in the roof and the building is ventilated, it is easier for the attack crew to find and extinguish the fire.

Attack Sector: Command from Attack.

Command: Go ahead, Attack.

Attack Sector: We have knocked the fire down. The fire is out.

Once the fire is out, the chief will instruct the firefighters to begin a more thorough, secondary search of the building to ensure that no one else has fallen victim to the fire. He will also have crews begin to overhaul the building. During overhaul, the firefighters use axes and other tools such as pike poles sometimes referred to as ceiling hooks to open walls and ceilings to look for hidden embers that might re-ignite the fire. Overhaul of the building is frequently the most physically demanding of all the work the firefighters do.

(cont) Almost done, I promise!

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 7:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

During the final stages of the incident, the firefighters investigate the rubble to determine the cause of the fire. They also check for signs of arson. The chief must determine whether the occupants are in need of assistance or shelter for the night. He must establish accountability for all firefighters and make sure that none of them are in need of medical treatment.

The fire described in this scenario would be considered a smooth operation by firefighters. Experienced firefighters know that every incident is different and that a multitude of problems can occur during the chaos at the typical house fire.

Once firefighter accountability is established, the cause of the fire is determined, and the house is overhauled, the chief will notify dispatch that the command is terminated; all units will go back avaliable. The firefighters, having put the wet stuff on the red stuff, are ready to return to their stations to await another call.

THE END...and for those who wonder, I DID have the permission of the author to use this information...

Posted by Wilmot on August 18, 2007 at 7:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Whatever happened to Ronnie Steele? The guy that was after Rusty's head. Did he turn up missing?

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 7:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Yes, I do feel the panel's recommendations will go into much greater depth. Many of the recommendations will mirror the recommendations found in many other incidents where firefighters have lost their lives. This is the nature of the beast. In most recommendations you will find: Lack of command and control (which means a lot of free-lancing), lack of accountability, poor communications, lack of proper manpower, etc. This is one of the real tragedies of firefighting; while we don't ever want to lose a brother, there are times when we do, and in most occassions, things weren't done according to standard. This isn't only a CFD issue, but an entire fire service issue. We have to learn when to commit firefighters, and when to pull them back. Retired Chief Alan Brunacini of Phoenix Fire Department describes it best in his Fire Command Course: Risk a lot to save a lot; risk a little to save a little; and risk nothing to save nothing. Check the National Fallen Firefighters site, or the USFA's site (United States Fire Administration) they will have links to reports of LODD's. You'll be amazed to read some of the really STUPID things we do to get ourselves killed.

Posted by concerned_NC on August 18, 2007 at 8:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BattChiefNCFD - As a citizen of the City Of North Charleston, let me ask you this. What things do our firemen lack, need or require to keep themselves safe and protect us properly. Are they receiving the proper training they need.

Politicians come and go but its our firemen and our policemen that are important to our safety.

Posted by concerned_NC on August 18, 2007 at 8:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BattChiefNCFD - I for one don't mind calling City of North Charleston leaders and pushing them. I'm sure other NC residents will get on them too.

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 8:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

From the quote that you quoted Nickie " There are now only three firefighters left on engine the fourth crewmember is still down the street turning on the hydrant and charging the supply line. While the engine officer is transmitting the size up, the driver prepares to activate the engine's pump that will receive the water from the hydrant, pressurizing the water and sending it through the attack line that two firefighters will advance into the burning house."

Hit the nail on the head here Nickie, the case for 4 firefighters on the truck. Does the Captain go in alone, no way, do you forget the hydrant and depend on the maybe 500 gal of water you have in the tank and hope the next incoming truck isn't delayed, if it is, the two firefighters inside could lose their water supply very rapidly.

FOUR FIREFIGHTERS IS A MUST ON A PUMPER TRUCK, to do the job safely and properly, thanks for doing the research and posting this great article. It will hopefully help the residents of Charleston understand what we do!!!

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 8:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, mayor riley your reelection web site has been up and running for a few days now. I keep clicking on the indicated line to see all the other questions the people are asking you. Nothing there, mayor riley. Had to censor their questions too, to many disparagingly worded questions not fit to publish, were there.

You and chief rusty will have lots to talk about down at the job center.

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 8:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

concerned_NC as an experienced firefighter from another area away from the Carolinas, in my opinion you probably don't have any major worries. Just from reading what BattChiefNCFD has been writing and the things he has been saying, I believe those of you in your City are well protected.

No Fire Department is perfect, we will all learn from this tragedy, I am sure your Department as well as thousands of others will make improvements.

That will be the legacy of the Charleston 9.

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 8:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Suprised on Mayor Joe's website that there is nothing about this in the "issues" section. Seems like following up on this tragedy should be an issue this upcoming election.

He is still on about that ISO rating and we all know what that is all about.

Maybe under the issue button, getting these rcommendations in their entirety implemented ASAP should be on the list.

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 8:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The city of charleston, mayor rileys reelection web site.

Posted by charleytowngirl on August 18, 2007 at 8:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I went to the mayor's website also.....what a freakin' joke

Posted by bickleseagrave on August 18, 2007 at 8:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Responsible Fiscal Leadership.
"The financial condition of our city has never been stronger. Property taxes are at a generation’s low. In fact, Charleston’s city taxes are lower than in adjacent jurisdictions. Thanks to Joe’s fiscal leadership, the city has lowered its property tax rate, consistently balanced its budget, and earned the highest bond rating in the state."

AT WHAT COST??????????

Posted by exorcist_pencocky on August 18, 2007 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The city of charleston, mayor rileys reelection web site.

Click on Ask joe

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 9:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)


You really sound like you have your "sh!!" together...healthy attitude, great knowledge base, able to express the realities to the lay person...can we entice you into CFD? LOL Kidding, I am sure you are happy where you are...(just in case, apply now!)

I have read much of the LODD information...outside of the ever popular heart attack(YOU MEN NEED TO EAT BETTER!!) the accidents and deaths are unreal...

Not too long after our fire, Ohio lost a man inside the station who was loading the hoses on the truck when he fell off and was killed when he hit his head on the floor...Three days or so after our fire, a young man on NYFD fell off of a ladder carrying a saw down from venting a roof....he died later from injuries...there are so many tragic events...two more last week or the week before from a home collapse...the list is never ending...something has to give...the rescuers cant rescue if they are dead...

You are right Tony, this ISN'T the only department with problems, but these are like a gash in an artery..if we don't demand the change these men will bleed out and has to stop here...

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And two more today in NYFD..Thoughts and prayers to the families..

Posted by cfdiaffman on August 18, 2007 at 10:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

nickiegarbeil - I know you meant no harm about the comment "outside of the ever popular heart attack(YOU MEN NEED TO EAT BETTER!!) the accidents and deaths are unreal..."
Do a little more research and you will find that a large amount of the heart attacks suffered by FF's are due to work related stress and phycical activity such as fighting a fire or training and has nothing to do with eating habits. Also, we are seeing a huge increase in work related cancer deaths. I'm not offended, just thought you might want to know.

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 10:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Yes we too face many of the same problems found throughout the US as do many of the other departments in the Tri-County area; too few firefighters on the trucks. We currently ride with 3 personnel on 11 Engine Companies, 3 personnel on 3 Truck Companies, 3 personnel on 1 Rescue, 2 personnel on 1 Service Truck, and 2 personnel on 1 Squad or Mini-pumper. The department will soon place in service a second Rescue unit within the next month, but at this time we don't have sufficient manpower to man it. At times there are several apparatus that are manned with 4 personnel, but for the most part, it's 3 man crews. For many years we only rode with 2 person ladder companies. That changed in 1996 with the addition of the former Navy Base when the Navy/City purchased a ladder truck to provide protection to the base. This truck was to be manned with a 4 person crew, but now is manned with 3. It has just been within the past 2-3 years that the other two truck companies have been manned with 3 person crews. Three years ago when the department replaced the Ladder Truck at the Northwoods Station, and last year with the replacement of the aerial at the Dorchester Rd. Station (near the Air Base Gate). In 1985, just before I started, the truck was manned with an officer a driver, and at least 1 firefighter (in years past we only had one truck & it was manned with a compliment of 4 personnel); however, the officer's were removed from the truck's and the trucks were manned with only a driver and a firefighter from mid-July 1985 until May of 1996 with the addition of Truck #2. But as I said, until the past 3 years, the other two trucks rode with only 2 personnel, and on many days one or both trucks would be shut-down due to manpower deficiencies. As I said in a previous post; as long as the public rides by and sees the trucks in the bay, they think all's well. They don't realize that on any given day one of the trucks could be shut down, and the next closest truck would have to respond (this is not to say that a station was shut down; only that the stations with multiple apparatus one of the trucks would be shut down; usually the ladder or the squad). I would say beside pay issues, this would be the NUMBER ONE complaint from the guys. We need more people on the trucks.

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 18, 2007 at 10:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)


As far as equipment; we have very good equipment. We have been replacing an engine every year for the past 4 years. We have replaced two ladder trucks; one which was 22 years old, and one which is 34 years old (the back-bone of the department. This girl is still running & passing service tests). A Rescue truck with a second to be delivered within the month. Every station has a Thermal Imaging Camera, and every apparatus within the department has an AED. Our training is also good. It's long been a running joke with area departments that they don't call us North Charleston Training Department for nothing. Does all this mean we are a perfect top-of-the-line department? Nope, not at all. We still have a long ways to go in a lot of areas in order for our department to improve. One of the most important is in the area of Fire Prevention, Public Safety and Education. This has long been a neglected area, but within the past year-and-a-half we have made greater strides than any of the previous years I've been in the department. It's no secret that NCFD fights a tremendous amount of fire, but if you really look at it, is this a good thing? If a department is fighting a lot of fires, are they doing all they can in the areas of Fire Prevention and Life Safety and Public Education. We didn't feel we were, so this has been a huge push within the department to make strides in these areas. Another thing, in too many situations, we would suffer a civilian death as a result of a fire, only to find the residence either did not have a smoke alarm, or they had one, but it wasn't operational or the battery had been removed; immediately afterwards the department would inundate the neighborhood installing smoke alarms; kind of putting the cart before the horse. Within the past two years we have proactively hit High-Risk neighborhoods on neighborhood sweeps installing and checking smoke alarms. We have just recently received an award (from the NFPA or NFA I can't remember which one) for the amount of smoke alarms installed. So, while we may be making strides in some areas, we are still struggling to catch up in others.

Probably the final area we are deficient in would be the number of stations for the size of the city. The city has built only one fire station within the past 23 years, yet the city has continued to grow from a population of around 60,000 to just fewer than 100,000 over this same span. Our department underwent an ISO evaluation two years ago and lowered our rating from a Class 3 to a Class 2. The deficiencies which kept us from reaching a Class 1 rating were manpower and stations. I hope this brings some light to the citizens.

Posted by oldcap on August 18, 2007 at 10:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

God Bless the brothers in New York. Two died today.

The bottom line here in the city is leadership. Departments can overcome many deficient areas, but not leadership.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 10:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)


I meant no insult to you or any other was a sad jab at humor, I admit. I have done research...I also grew up in a Fire Department and I KNOW their eating habits..and while food is not the ONLY contributing factor, I can bet it plays a part in some way...How many times are you eating on the run? Fast food? FIREHOUSE chili?? It wasn't an insult...just my observation...

And stress? YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY correct...the stress is WAY high...We are watching the CFD stress daily...

My apologies if I offended.

Posted by concerned_NC on August 18, 2007 at 11:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you BattChiefNCFD, I will call the City of North Charleston Mayors Office on Monday morning as well as my Council person.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 18, 2007 at 11:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Amen Old Cap...all around

Posted by cfdiaffman on August 19, 2007 at 12:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I just noticed the local 61 site just put a new poll up. This one should be interesting. Go to:

Posted by FiddlerCrab7 on August 19, 2007 at 2:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Having a good showing at the City Council meeting is important. Perhaps people should talk to friends, colleagues, media, church friends, etc about attending and maybe even put up some fliers around town.

We need to advocate for change and make sure the city lives up to its budgetary vision statement, particularly the public safety part:

"The City of Charleston's mission to preserve and enhance the quality of life for our citizens provides the framework upon which the budget is built. We emphasize *public safety*, quality services, our physical place and regional partnerships."

Has anyone asked if the city is equipped to fully support its tourism industry, particularly cruise ships and hotels? Or are cruise ships not under the city's jurisdiction?

Anyway, people should not let this report go without pressuring for real change.


Posted by NCarolinaFF on August 19, 2007 at 10:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a FF in North Carolina I have been following the story of the tradegy in Charleston. I just recently returned from two weeks at the National Fire Academy and my third year in the Executive Fire Officer's Program. The class was two weeks of NIMS training. As I was in class, I thought to myself how the entire fire service needs improvement regarding incident management. In a large fire or hurricane we all need to better job coodinating our resources.

Reading all the previous post caused me to think about the fire service in general. We are always too reactive versus proactive. Many fire chiefs do not recognize the need to prevent fires and unintentional injuries before they occur. If the fire service doesn't need to respond, should we not realize this corresponds directly to FF safety. Not responding keeps FF's at the station doing more productive duties such as pre-incident surveys, public education, child passenger safety seats checks, and last but not least, training.

We tend to focus too much on extinguishment. Someone mentioned the "Three E's" in an earlier post. This report is now sixty years old and we have still not taken the lead to prevent an incident from occuring! When are we going to wake up and see the light. The IAFF is always talking about FF safety. What better way to keep FF's safe than to prevent the problem.

Where do most fire deaths occur? The home!! We should be promoting residential fire sprinkler in new homes. But no, this would upset the all the homebuilders. We know they have a very powerful lobby trying to stop this life safety improvement. They had the same arguments in the 70's and 80's concerning smoke alarm requirements in homes. That one item has saved many people but, if the batteries or smoke alarms are not replaced after approx. ten years, they either do not, or may not function properly. We need to educate the community and the fire service on the benefits of residential fire sprinklers. Yes, I said the fire service. We know how commercial sprinkler systems work and how they protect property but, how many firefighters who build houses on their days off understand how residential fire sprinklers work??

Reducing community risks is what the fire service should be doing. If we respond to the incident (auto crashes, medical calls, drownings, etc.), we should be part of the solution. That's what community risk reduction is all about! Chief Varella hit the nail on the head when is said the fire service does it's job too well at times. If there are few problems (fire deaths), the funds may not flow. We have to change the CULTURE of the fire service to a new way of thinking. I guess only time will tell?????

Oh well, I could probably continue my rant but reducing risks is what the fire service should be doing. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone effected by these deaths and also use this event as a way to prevent future FF deaths. God bless.

Posted by Fire_Inspector on August 20, 2007 at 9:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Something that is missing from the Analysis so far is how CFD and the other Fire Departments in Charleston COunty do NOT have a lot of responsibilities that other fire departments in a similar situation would have:

1) The Charleston Rescue Squad (volunteer) provides a lot of specialized rescue equipment, manpower and expertise which SHOULD let the CFD focus on FIRE. They have a base on Dorchester Road that has to be seen to be believed. Rescue Trucks galore, a dozen (? a lot anyway) jaws of life, boats, gators, an "air boat" and such.

2) The Coast Guard here provides some water rescue and firefighting capabilities.

Issues that are also looking for a solution:

1) Why do we have multiple dispatch operations? Multiple Fire dispatch centers, EMS has its own dispatch, multiple police dispatchers?

2) No college level fire technical and management curriculum except for the basic stuff at trident.

3) CFD doesn't require a degree. The police do. EMS requires you to be an EMT or Paramedic before hiring...

The list goes on and on.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 20, 2007 at 10:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Fire Inspector,

I agree with you on some points, but I would have to respectfully disagree that CFD should possibly require college degrees(if I understood you correctly). There are many many fine men and women in fire service that do not have degrees, and making that a requirement might make the job of finding enough fire fighters to man the stations nationally that much more difficult. Just because they have a degree doesn't mean they can handle the job specifically...Now, if you are referring to the upper crust positions(Chief and Asst. Chief, etc), I might be swayed to agree, by virtue of the fact that (as has been explained to me)the job of the Chief of the department is the administrative aspect...paperwork, grants, management of the men and women, etc...this type of job does require an understanding of "business management" for lack of better analogy. Barring a college degree for that position as well as Assistant Chief, they at least should have WAY more training as has been seen in our fair city.

Respectfully speaking...

Posted by UberBlitzkrieg on August 20, 2007 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Harpo said - "And, of all our nation's 88,000 fire
departments, Charleston's fire department is
one of the 37 best." This after suffering the
largest national loss of fire fighters since
2001 due to poor training, dated equipment,
and faulted policies. Even as he acknowledges
shortcomings exposed by the investigative
panel, he stubbornly holds this dubious
statistic up and points to it."

There have not been 37 Class 1 FD's in 10 years. There are 55 now. 4 in South Carolina alone! Riley should have his information straight when he talks to the public. It makes the situation worse than it already is when you rail off old and erroneously antiquated facts.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 20, 2007 at 2:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, information has just come out that the two panel recommended positions have been filled from INSIDE the department...Imagine that?

I certainly hope these two gentlemen are willing to stand up for what is right...

Posted by BattChiefNCFD on August 21, 2007 at 9:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Here's the reason the fire service in general must require college degrees. Would you consider firefighting a profession? We do too. However, we are not considered a true profession in the way a doctor, lawyer, nurse, etc. are considered. This is because we do not have national standards that require us to continue our training and to re-certify yearly or obtain CEC's (continuing education credits). See, as I've stated before. We are our own worst enemy. We suffer from entirely too much in-fighting to rationally come up with recognized national standards that apply across the nation to our firefighters. We are viewed in many people's eyes as a couple of Bubba's (sorry to my Northern, Mid-West, & West Coast Brothers for the Southern term) not requiring an awful lot of technical training or schooling in order to obtain or keep our jobs. This is another area we have dropped the ball in. Within the past 25 years, the fire service has changed so dramatically that the days of just fighting fires are done, gone, finished, over with, will NEVER come back. You see, I remember as a little boy chasing fire trucks with my dad, going to fires, and sitting in the car for an hour or two while he fought a fire. Now we are faced with medical calls (which account for almost 60% of departments calls in the US), hazardous materials (which 25 years ago, you hardly knew the word haz-mat), technical rescue from trench, confined space, high-angle, water, etc., to the ever present terrorist threat, hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, you name it WE ARE THE ONES WHO ARE CALLED TO MITIGATE THESE DISASTERS. That's what it means to be a first responder. Not to step on PD's or EMS's toes, but in all actuallity, the public knows when there is an emergency all they have to do is dial 911 & 9 out of 10 times, the fire department is going to show up, and they show up a lot faster than the PD or EMS. A poll was taken a few years ago asking people who they respected/trusted the most; the number one answer was . . . firefighters. See the one thing we have in our defense, is we don't care if you're black, white, pink, red, poor, rich, whatever. When you call, we come, and we are expected to have the solution to your problems. Problem is, we have been expected to do all these things and more with ever shrinking budgets and manpower. So the amount of skill and training required to become a firefighter today is far more demanding than in years past, and in order for firefighters to truly be considered Professionals, I think nothing less than a degree is required. I believe my youngest son will one day follow in mine & my father's footsteps and join the fire department, but I told him he must get at least an Associate's Degree before joining. As he advances in rank, the further his education should advance. I truly believe this is the wave of the future for the fire service.

Chief V

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 22, 2007 at 1:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)


I can certainly see your point, and in some respects I agree. However, not everyone is cut out to go to college..Just does't mesh with everyone...Where does that leave the rest of the guys who are FANTASTIC FF's? I do agree that it would definitely help the upper brass positions...and thinking about it actually makes me think it could help with serious nepotism problems...That would have made a huge difference in CFD, and probably elsewhere as well.

I'm leaving the infighting comment alone! LOL Bad mojo...

I also agree that FD's typically earn far less...I attribute that to the ever growing popularity to require degrees in law enforcement...Education pathways for many jobs have increased by leaps and bounds...I guess that should be a message to City Councils everywhere to bump those budgets to pay for the college qualifications...$6k isn't going to cut it now is it?

Posted by FIRSTDUE432 on August 22, 2007 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As long as we have volunteer firefighters in America we will always battle low pay, regarless if we have degrees. In the mind of city/county officials, why should they pay much for a service men are willing to give for free? I'm not against degrees as I am currently studying for my associates now. The truth of the matter is I'd still do it today for free! Most of us would.

Posted by Fire_Inspector on August 23, 2007 at 11:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

NickieGarbeil and BattCheifNCFD

1) I guarantee you can find qualified degree holding applicants to the CFD. BUT you won't find all of them playing baseball on James Island...
2) As for "not being the type" I am unsure what you mean. If you are going to have a real training program and recruit school they will be doing the equivalent to getting an associates in Fire Science anyway. I know because I was a certified FF3 before I earned my associates in Fire Science. BUT, if you have a joke training program with cheating on tests or "gimme" questions, yeah you might do fine until you come to a situation where some of that book knowledge might be handy.
3) A fire science degree is about useless for a FIre CHIEF. Labor relations, accounting, budgeting, electoral politics, and such are all more MBA stuff than Fire stuff. And the kind of person you WANT as chief should have been getting this kind of education as they worked their way up from firefighter. Just like a Police Chief needs more than the Police Academy training they got as a recruit.
4)CFD doesn't perform technical rescue, the local volunteer rescue squad does. Nor do they make any appreciable numbers of EMS first responses I understand (I have no first hand knowledge, just what I have heard).
5) CFD makes VERY few runs compared to the police and EMS. EMS runs their butts off on runs. I think the normal ratio is 3 or more to one EMS to Fire runs.
6) How many runs does a CFD company make a year? Most Busy? LEast? IIRC Dennis Smith in "The Report from Engine 82" was making literally over 8000 runs a year ON ONE COMPANY.

Posted by Fire_Inspector on August 23, 2007 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

7) If you had your training staff (240 firefighters need more than 1 full time trainer) affiliated as "adjunct Professors" with a local college, you could make their training and recruit school count towards an Associates Degree in Fire Science. For example, At trident you get 5 credits for EMT class. And IIRC, the First aid requirements for Firefighter 2 just about require that amount of training anyway.
8) Volunteers are great until you reach a certian level of runs and such that overwhelm their spare time. 300 runs a year would be manageable. 1500 wouldn't. I don't know the amount of responses CFD faces. The advantage of VFDs is that your manpower is basically free (except for turnouts and training expenses). The disadvantage is they are notoriously random when you try to plan for certain levels of response. A possible solution might be to have some volunteer companies in Charleston and have them as BACKUPS to the paid staff (union issues?).
9) I have listened to all the tapes and it still appears that there were definate leadership issues. On scene and, now coming out, in administration.
10) I wonder how well qualified the new appointments are for their positions. I don't doubt they are terrific firefighters and people, but being a safety officer takes a very specific skill set and mental process.

Anyone have real info on CFDs number of responses per company? EMS first response policy? Technical rescue capability?

Posted by Fire_Inspector on August 23, 2007 at 11:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Other issues I think need to be addressed:

Dispatch shouldn't calling people sweetheart/ lover/ buddy.

Where were the locations located on a "box alarm" or whatever situation? A street address is FINE for Savannah Highway, but lots of address are more obscure. How about "Engine 1,2, 3, Truck 4 and Chief 5. Report of a structure fire. 678 main street. Box number 1011."

What about "extra alarms?" I have always been told that if you call for reinforcements and don't do so on an "extra alarm" basis you are screwing up by the numbers. The "box number" a given location is in should have the stations that are closest (say the closest 8 stations). NOT company numbers, because trucks move to fill in. And extra alarms might be the neighboring FD (like St Andrews).

What the heck was St Andrews doing "self dispatching" when they saw a big smoke cloud yonder? It was a good thing as it turns out, but what the heck?

Why don't CFD trucks have doors for the jumpseats? Progressive FDs haven't bought trucks without doors for 20 years or more.

Why does charleston have MOSTER TOWER QUINTS when most of the city (the VAST MAJORITY) has road access issues? How about some tractor drawn aerials? Or short wheelbase tower trucks? I'd hate to try to shoehorn one of those giant E1 tower trucks into a neighborhood. Or get it around back of a big minimall store.

Posted by nickiegarbeil on August 23, 2007 at 2:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am certainly not an expert, by far.I have always admitted that, despite what others have accused me of trying to do...So bear with me while I explain my thoughts.While I agree with you that the fire Chief needs to be geared more toward the business degree, I personally feel that he does need to be someone with an MBA as well as Firescience.It only makes sense to me that the person running the department not only have the management skills,but also the skills/experience to know and understand what the Department REALLY needs.Anyone can balance the checkbook,but if he doesn't have a working understanding of the fire service, then efforts are worthless.I know CFD has degreed people inside, but the problem with hiring from within is a serious lack of trust.People have been pitting one against the other inside there for a long time.I am told the morale is low since the appointments.How would promoting from within be positive?I see that as perpetuating the problem.Not that someone CAN'T do it,but given the circumstances,I would be leery,or promoting that way.My comment on "type" was to BattChief.I didn't understand completely whether or not he was referring to everyone in the department having a degree or just the upper brass.I was trying to clarify.If he was referring to all, I don't think it is a good idea at all.Not everyone wants to go to college,and a very large number of fantastic FF's might actually be left out of the fire service if that were to become an issue.Like I said, I was clarifying only.I also made the comment regarding unprofessionalism in the dispatch after the tapes were released.There needs to be obvious training.The CFD is NOT the only area that needs improvement in light of this tragedy.The issues run across the board, from the policies within the CFD,to the mutual aid with the CPD(communications), to the power company, etc. As for St. Andrews "self dispatching".I cannot speak to that, except to say my opinion is that there does need to be stronger mutual aid agreements in this area.Maybe Chief Varella can speak to that? If I have ever introduced technical information it was on the advisement of members of the fire service and or CFD, and only when they felt they were unable to speak it themselves.My focus is,and needs to be, ensuring that people become familiar with,and stay aware of the constant issues these firefighters face daily.There are national standards in place to better ensure their safety.At this point these things seemingly are optional,and it is my interest to see them made a requirement.It is also my OPINION that with the placement of a new progressive Chief and possibly upper crust with him, that the equipment, trucks, alarms, etc. that you speak of would fall into place.As I said,I am not an expert, never claimed to be, but I am a concerned family member and citizen. My respect for the firefighters of this and all fire departments is unwavering.They truly are heroes, and most often times unsung...Respectfully

Posted by fyrmnjim on August 23, 2007 at 11:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

fire insp: does this help?

Posted by hardsuction on August 24, 2007 at 10:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

hi hard suction hee

Posted by raines96 on August 25, 2007 at 4:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I do not believe anyone is at fault. It was an accident that everyone has had to learn from. The firefighter could have done everything by the book and had the right equipment. That does not mean the out come would have been any different. They risk their lives everyday and they make mistakes. They also learn from this. As for Fire Chief Thomas he has to carry this with him everyday. He has had to face all these men’s families. I believe he has learned a lot and probably realizes what needs to be changed. I am impressed with they way Fire Chief Thomas seemed to know his firefighters. My husband is firefighter and I am part of the auxiliary. I know how hard it is to get the money and support the fire department needs. Our department had just gotten the jaws of life in 1997. When they where raising money people laughed and said why do you need that. The money is not always as easy as people seem to think it is. The store could have also made unknown changes to the building that helped this fire move through the building. So I would not put the burden on the Chief. But show support for everyone involved they are the ones that will carry the biggest burden wondering what should have been done differently. Nothing can bring those heroes’s back. Just honor their memories! While everyone is rushing out of a burning building a firefighter is the only one rushing IN!

Posted by Fire_Inspector on August 27, 2007 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"It was an accident"

And that is exactly what the investigators are determining. Just as OSHA finds the vast majority of work fatalities are caused by human error and as such are preventable.

1) A decent ICS would have known where these guys were.
2) A decent sized hose would very likely have knocked down the fire and prevented the collapse.
3) Decent sized supply lines would have allowed large "master streams" to be used earlier.
4) THe tapes make clear that the operation was uncontrolled and haphazard.
5) A better grasp of firefighting tactics would have better used the resources available.

The sum total of the above tends to show the attack was poorly executed and lead.

If you look at

it is clear that CFD is not overburdened with runs and is slack in its prefire planning, ,training and other issues.

6500 runs a year with 20 companies is a LOW level of responses. 6500 / 365 days means less than 20 runs a day. Even if the AVERAGE is 3 trucks respond on each call (a vast overstatement) then in 24 hours the firefighters are only responding 2 or 3 times a day. So they have lots of time to train and inspect.

I know of VFDs that make that many runs on a "per capita" basis.

75 smoke detectors inspected? 3000 preplans for 20 plus companies (3000/ 365= less than 10 a day by 20 companies?)

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