How the puppy near-miss fire can change firefighter safety

The outrage directed at the accused puppy-shop arsonists should be carried over to all arson fires for their threat to our health and safety

I like dogs and I like puppies. Is there any other cross-species bond like that between humans and dogs? We've been together so long that we intuitively understand one another's body language.

So like most, I was outraged when I read of the Las Vegas puppy shop owner and her accomplice who tried to torch the business with 27 caged puppies inside. Both suspects have been arrested and a combination of fire sprinklers and firefighters saved all 27 puppies.

When shop owner Gloria Eun Hye Lee made her first court appearance last week, she was met by a mob of angry animal-rights protesters.

There's a part of me that wanted to stand outside the courthouse and wave an angrily worded sign in her direction. Yet I'm both pleased and disheartened by the crowd's outrage.

I'm pleased because people should be outraged by this event and they should do more than sit on their duffs blathering on about it to their significant others. I'm disheartened because their outrage is misplaced.

I like dogs and puppies, but I like humans more — especially the humans who fight fire.

Every fire presents some level of risk to responding firefighters. That risk can range from reduced quality of life through injury or illness to death. Every intentionally set fire needlessly exposes firefighters to greater risk.

The U.S. Fire Administration released a report looking at intentionally set fires covering 2008 to 2010. In it, USFA says that 5 percent of all residential building fires per year are intentionally set.

The combination of the exceptionally high number of line of duty deaths we've experienced over the past 12 months and next month's Tampa 2 conference to re-evaluate the 16 firefighter life safety initiatives has had me thinking a fair bit about firefighter safety.

It stands to reason that eliminating intentionally set fires would reduce the risk of death and injury to firefighters by 5 percent. That's not a huge number, and it gets even smaller when you understand that complete arson eradication is likely impossible. Yet any reduction in risk is worth pursuing.

I'm not sure what it will take to cut the number of arsons; I am fairly certain it will begin with an outraged public. Detroit firefighters were correctly outraged when convicted arsonist and firefighter killer Mario Willis sought a reduced sentence — they showed up at the hearing in force.

The puppies in Las Vegas didn't die in the fire and still drew outrage. Likewise, when no firefighters are hurt or killed at an intentionally set fire, we should still be outraged over what could have happened.

Who knows, if enough outrage spreads from the firefighting public to the general public, we may just see the number of arson fires significantly drop. 

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