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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

When our 'drive to make it happen' ends in tragedy

We never say "can't;" and almost never say "no"

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: A self-made water-delivery system with inappropriate parts caused a pressurized water tank to explode during a brush fire, killing one firefighter and injuring another, according to a new NIOSH report.

Another NIOSH report from another death of a brother firefighter; I know we all support FF Seitz's department and family as they continue dealing with the aftermath of this tragic event.

Beyond the technical issues cited in this article and report, I think it's important to acknowledge one of the cultural characteristics I alternately love and hate about firefighters.

We are "CAN DO" people; and I don't think anyone would have it any other way.

It's one of the best things about our culture; a culture that doesn't always get enough credit for its positive aspects. (Yes, while we have a lot of things we can, and must, improve; there ARE things about our fire service culture that are truly outstanding.)

Need something built, modified, or demolished in short order? Call a firefighter.

Need someone taken care of who doesn't have anyone else to help them? Call a firefighter.

Have a problem nobody else can solve? Call a firefighter. Need donations for a local charity? Call a firefighter.

Unfortunately, our willingness and drive to "make it happen," regardless of the circumstances and constraints, sometimes gets us in trouble. We never say "can't;" and almost never say "no."

My great fear is that, as the effects of the recession continue to be felt in communities everywhere, we — as a service — will try to fill the budgetary gaps by doing what we always do: putting our lives on the line, even when we shouldn't.

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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