Saturday, November 5, 2016

Then & Now - How Do We Bridge the Chasm?

In an excellent article in on the first of this month, Chief Ronny J. Coleman, a CA State Fire Marshall (ret.) and a well-experienced fire professional, brought up a topic that many avoid or are to quick to pass over, "Your Daddy's Fire."

In his article, Chief Coleman posits that in some ways, the "efforts" of firefighting today is not all that different from the earliest self-organized efforts of throwing buckets of the "wet stuff on the red stuff," from as far back as the 17th century and since. We've simply evolved different methods of doing the same thing using the methods that each time-period's technology, allowed. Of course, we have also seen that our fires today are not all "Class A," which has required fire-science experts to develop new materials, tools, chemicals, etc. to quench those fires as well.

One of the greatest aspects that I, and I believe many others, have found in the fire service, is to be a young upstart, rookie firefighter and listening to the "war stories" of those that "were there" before us. They told us of their grand exploits, running into the roaring inferno of an occupied apartment building without the benefit of a hose, rescuing adults and children alike. Or perhaps they were on the third floor and found themselves without an exit, save one window. They rigged some hose around the leg of a dresser and bailed head-first out the window. We sat there mesmerized, looking forward to our own opportunity to live the life of these heroes.

As we progress through our learning curve, we learn many new methods that have been developed to allow our generation to meet the challenges of fighting the "Red Devil." Different tactics, new combinations and yes, even safer ways to do our duty. However, as Chief Coleman states in his outstanding article, the differences and similarities converge to raise the question, "Are we teaching the past or are we teaching the present?" (Ronny J. Coleman, "Your Daddy's Fire," FIRERESCUEMAGAZINE.COM, November 1, 2016.)

He continues by stressing the need for that what was/is old to be updated to include, that which is new. However, we have to ask ourselves, "Do we do it and if so, do we do so enough?" This is an imperative if we are to be able to continue to do our duty. There can be no truer words!

By the natural "biology" of the fire service, there will always (or almost always) be a mixture of, what I will simply say as, "rookies," (0-1 year) "experienced," (1-5 years) and "well-experienced (5+ years). This can be seen both in the firefighters who enjoy the challenge of being on the front-line for their entire career and by those who yearn to learn climb the leadership ladder and rise to the higher ranks of officers.  Add to that mix are those who are retired/disabled, but still dedicated to the service, and willing to contribute what they can to help today's fire service grow into tomorrow's.

Perhaps there might be a way that departments, on their own, in regional groups or through national resources,  could bring the "old" and "new" together. This should not be seen as a "stroll down memory lane," for the "old-timers" to try and mesmerize the "young 'uns," with amazing tales. Rather, these scheduled and specifically organized events, should allow for the clear and concise exchange of information from all parties, that will benefit both those in attendance and in turn, those who will be  their future audiences, as well. Let's take Chief Coleman's words to heart and assure that we use our past experiences as tool towards providing the best possible service we can in our firefighting careers.

As philosopher and novelist, George Satayana warned, Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Stay safe and let's make sure that everyone goes home.

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