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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Why don't we stop the madness?!

Video shows firefighters attacking flames at a structure and adjacent vehicles in Columbia, Miss., without proper PPE

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Footage of a fire in Mississippi shows responding firefighters failing to wear proper PPE; our Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel gives his thoughts below. In addition, since we published this article, Chief Dewayne Stuckey, whose department is featured in the clip, has responded to the footage. Check it out here.

I'm not even sure what to say about this video clip...

I guess I'm glad so many readers have already identified the many obvious issues with this firefighting operation. I also think we need to be respectful about (literally) Monday morning quarterbacking this incident, as I doubt anyone (including me) who's been in this business for any length of time can say they haven't seen, or participated in, a similar event at a "nearby" department.

But seriously: why don't we stop the madness?!

With all the available information about firefighter near-misses, line-of-duty-injuries, and firefighter fatalities — not to mention the medical evidence about firefighters' increased risk for several types of cancers with repeated occupational exposures — why in the world do we keep doing things like this to ourselves?

Some people might call this incident a near-miss; I think it's a definite HIT!

Make no mistake, these firefighters were exposed to multiple toxic products of combustion (e.g., benzene, toluene, xylene, hydrogen cyanide, etc.), all of which can be found in the latest edition of the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) for hazardous materials in transportation.

While some exposure occurs on every fire, not wearing SCBA provides an easy route into the body. And folks, this stuff doesn't just "go away" the next time you pass gas!

Again, in the interest of being honest ... I've been there and done that (this) before. What makes it worse is that I knew better at the time, and I'm guessing (hoping) these folks knew better, too.

Hopefully they'll do an after-action review, learn their lessons, and get it right the next time. If not for themselves or their colleagues, for the families who will (also) have to suffer if (when) things go bad.

Think about what you're doing; wear your mask; and 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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