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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Helmet cam: Firefighters without SCBA, water improvise

Footage from the West Plains Fire Department shows first-arriving firefighters at a house fire forced to form a bucket brigade

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Compelling helmet cam footage from the West Plains, Mo., Fire Department shows first-arriving firefighters at a house fire Saturday being forced to improvise and form a bucket brigade. The department was in the middle of dealing with heavy flooding and water rescues when the call to the structure fire came in. With crews responding to multiple calls during record rainfall levels that hit the area — and all available apparatus on the other side of the flood water — the first firefighters on the scene who arrived in their own personal truck had no SCBA, suppression piece or water.

What a harrowing video! It's easy to see, hear, and share the involved firefighters' frustration with not having the right apparatus, tools, or equipment to handle this structure fire.

Like all firefighters, of course, they didn't give up and did their best to improvise a response, with an appropriate safety margin given their available personal protective equipment, from the resources at-hand.

A few important points:

  • How many of our departments have exercised their contingency plans for severe disasters where parts of our communities might be, quite literally, cut off from help due to flooding, snow, wildfires, or other hazards?
  • What will your fellow firefighters do if presented with a similar situation to that faced by those in West Plains?
  • While there is certainly a potential downside to helmet cameras, if expectations are not clear and the resulting video footage is not properly managed, it's hard to imagine a better training tool for the fire and emergency services.

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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