Let me first start off by saying, I am not against aggressive firefighting. I mean, its what we all came here to do right? But lately I have seen the phrase “aggressive firefighter” thrown around and it starts a debate between the fight fire from the inside group vs the hit it hard from the yard group.
So I wanted to give my opinion on how using this word can actually be dangerous. I would rather use the phrase, “tactically aggressive.”
My fear is that our own peer pressure can get in the way here. One of the reasons firefighters delay calling a Mayday is peer pressure. Fear of looking weak, fear of unable to handle a tough situation, fear of hazing, reputation, being made fun of. We are supposed to be tough, we are supposed to be aggressive.
Now imagine this mindset of a young officer who is making a fire ground decision to go in or not. He might think that if his crew doesn’t go in, and be aggressive, they will be seen as weak or even, non-hackers. Which could lead to hazing, rumors and other firehouse chatter.
So does this young officer make a bad decision so he doesn’t appear weak?
I think that it’s possible, we when beat this, “I am aggressive” drum. No one wants to be the crew that backed out. No one wants to be the one that says, “Don’t go in.” Because going in is what we do, right?
About 6 years ago I was in a trailer fire, yes we still go into trailer fires, talk about aggressive. The back bedroom was fully involved and we went in the front door to search and push down the hallway. We made it about 6 or 7 feet in and it was hot, I mean, really hot. I remember thinking we might want to back out. But I didn’t want to speak out because I didn’t want to be “that guy.” Soon after the other firefighter I was with said, “Hey, it’s really hot, we should back out.”
Afterward I jokingly told him that I was glad he said it, because I was thinking the same thing. I mean, we just backed out of a trailer fire.
With all the debate about fire dynamics and flow paths and hitting it hard from the yard. We have created a dividing line on how to attack the fire. By the way, I have seen Steve Kerber’s presentation, live, from him. It’s science, you should really see his presentation.
So, yes let us be aggressive. But we have to be smart. Let’s be aggressive, but know when it’s time to back out.
It takes courage to do that. It takes courage to make a decision that might make you look weak or not aggressive. Anyone know who Chief Michael McNamee is?
Let’s be aggressive on training and mayday procedures. Let’s be aggressive learning fire dynamics. Let’s be aggressive with our RIT drills. Let’s be aggressive with our diet and exercise programs. Let’s be aggressive knowing our strategies and tactics. Let’s be the whole package.
Be aggressive, be smart, be safe. Make good decisions based on aggressive training and not, “that’s how we’ve always done it.”