First, I know you all join me in wishing Lt. Bell a complete recovery from the injuries he sustained during this incident.
While I'm not sure we have all the information we need to fully analyze this specific event from the news accounts released so far, I do think there are some important points raised by this story.
Early in my fire and emergency service career I worked for a department where several of us career firefighters routinely responded to calls alone, with the idea that we would receive timely back-up from on-call volunteers and mutual-aid companies.
This staffing model led to some harrowing incidents where I found myself arriving on scene, setting the pump, and deploying the first attack line by myself. Even on EMS runs, where we knew a transport unit was en route, it was sometimes a dicey proposition trying to initially ensure scene safety while performing CPR or other patient care.
Those experiences left me with strong feelings about allowing anyone to get in a situation where they might have to work alone. For no other reason than it is impossible, and I use that word deliberately, to be operationally effective, much less safe, without a team of responders arriving more or less simultaneously and ready for immediate action.
Without question, the decades-old debate about different staffing levels and deployment models will continue playing out in the U.S. fire service. But regardless of how your department operates, and with how many people, you owe it to yourself and your fellow firefighters to have an honest and realistic conversation about what you can, and cannot, accomplish in difficult situations.