Maybe it’s because of movies like Backdraft, Ladder 49, or some other movie or YouTube video that we have seen showing a firefighter entering a fully involved building wearing only half of their PPE, only to return with the victim under one arm, still alive, and without any burns or other serious medical conditions. Maybe it’s because of the heroic image that firefighters have been cast in for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why, when, or how the definition of being an aggressive fire department also meant you needed to be reckless at the same time. I also don’t know when in the name of safety that we seemed to have stopped fighting fire.
I am all for an aggressive offensive attack, I believe that it is our job to go into burning buildings and put out the fire. I feel some have taken the idea behind “risk alot to save alot and risk a little to save a little” too far, and beyond its intended message. No I haven’t fallen and hit my head. Because I am all for an aggressive interior offensive attack does not mean I am willing to risk my life or anyone else’s with wanton abandonment. However, I am not going to let a room and contents fire turn into a structure fire and ultimately a hole in the ground just because there is no one reported to be inside the building.
Let’s face it, the majority of our calls where there is a working fire do not have anyone inside the building. If having someone inside of a burning building is our only measurement for deciding whether we go with an offensive or defensive attack then we might as well trim down our forces and sell half of our equipment because we do not need all of those resources for surround and drown operations.
When we are called to a working fire we are being asked to do more than just save someones life.  Have we forgotten the second part of our job, we are to save life & property. People are not stupid, emotional – yes, but not stupid. If there house if a large ball of fire they are going to understand why it burned down and why we didn’t go inside of it. But, when it is a mattress on fire and we don’t go in, they are going to raise some questions. Everything they own is in that residence and they expect us to save what we can. It is not our job to be judge and jury as to what is valuable enough to save, we should make every attempt we can to save their property.
Now before all of you naysayers, safety cops start with all of your “what if”s” – let me repeat myself, I am not advocating offensive operations for a building with truss construction that has fire blowing out the windows or the roof. For those that know me, you can appreciate my committment to safety. However, I feel that somewhere along the line we swung the proverbial pendulum from the reckless ‘Backdraft” image to the we can’t go in there because it is unsafe image. I want us to bring that pendulum back towards the center. Get back to training outside of a classroom without the books and projector and using a common sense approach to fire ground operations.

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