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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Aerial failure: amazing that it doesn't happen more often

Incidents like this make us pause and reconsider how much risk we want to expose residents to at fun events

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Because they are well engineered and safely operated, aerial units don't often fail. But that they do fail should make us carefully consider risk levels at pubic events, Chief Adam K. Thiel says.

First, I'm sure all of our readers join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this incident.

Unfortunately, aerial ladder failures are nothing new in our business.

It's actually amazing that it doesn't happen more often, considering the physical forces involved in, quite literally, defying gravity under extreme conditions. The fact that catastrophic failures are newsworthy, given the frequency of aerial ladder operations, is a testament to the engineering that goes into modern fire apparatus, and the skills of well-trained firefighters.

Still, accidents can happen.

It's too early to know exactly what caused this failure. While investigations by the fire department, manufacturer, and state Department of Public Safety are all underway, it is likely to be awhile before we have a clear sense of what happened.

Regardless, this story made me think hard about things we take for granted while interacting with our communities under non-emergency conditions. Like many of you, I expect, I've been up in the bucket countless times with civilians during open houses and other events. I never really gave it a second thought.

We know, as trained professionals (career and volunteer), about the risks we face around fire apparatus, portable equipment and charged hoselines; that risk doesn't go away because it's supposed to be "fun" (versus a firefight).

With Fire Prevention Week just around the corner, maybe we should reconsider the level of risk to which we expose residents during community events. It's a tough call; what do you think?

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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David Cress David Cress Thursday, August 23, 2012 1:59:14 PM This article states in part..."is a testament to the engineering that goes into modern fire apparatus, and the skills of well-trained firefighters." With this statment I can only agree but, You forget to mention the highly trained and often over worked maintenance staff that maintain all of the fire apparatus being used each and every day. If it were not for rigorous maintenance practices by those of us who are dedicated to keeping you - our uniformed fire service personnel safe each and every day that you come to work, the newspaper headlines would be far busier with reports of those like in Boston a few short years ago where a preventive maintenance program was not in place, and no higly skilled and dedicated shop presonell were there to carry out the tasks. I honestly believe this was an accidental oversight on the part of the author and / or editor, but a correction is due. Yours in Service, David L Cress. Master EVT & Master Ambulance EVT. City of Seattle Fire Garage. Seattle, WA
Jonas M Smith Jonas M Smith Thursday, August 23, 2012 2:11:35 PM That's right. We firefighters don't call you Super Dave for nothing!
Kristopher Holien Kristopher Holien Thursday, August 23, 2012 3:16:58 PM I think this article should be posted at 3 Truck... AGAIN!
Babe-Joy Albertson-Witter Babe-Joy Albertson-Witter Thursday, August 23, 2012 5:55:08 PM Head Mechanic speaks the thruth.....Super Dave, you are not only an awesome Master EVT, but a great human being. Your dedication and devotion to keepin us safe is appreciated. "Super Dave.... because firefighters needs heros too"!!!
Tim Taylor Tim Taylor Friday, August 24, 2012 8:36:35 AM Dave, as a maintenance guy in the Air Force, I know where you are coming from and can not express enough how appreciated and valued the work you do is to the overall mission. Without Super Dave, we'd be a bunch of pedestrians with bad facial hair and chips on our shoulders.
Anthony Bulygo Anthony Bulygo Monday, September 10, 2012 1:50:39 PM Accolades to Super Dave. I know your talents and applaud you for your bringing the posting to the light of day. Nicely done. All too often we EVT's are the unsung in the fire service. Also, not stated in the article is that kudo's should go to the Green Valley Fire District for the proper deployment of safety belts for fall protection. It was indicated in a statement by a firefighter in the platform that one individual, had he not been wearing fall protection, would surely have fallen from the platform to the ground. We know the results of fall from that height. As a stickler for safe operations, I applaud the GVFD for adhering to the safety standards. Thanks, Super Dave, for all you do.

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