FDNY Lt. says fire service needs culture of 'extinguishment not safety'

Editor's note: Lt Ray McCormack's keynote speech was one of the most talked about events from FDIC 2009. What do you think of his views on firefighter safety? Have your say in the member comment section.

By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Editor

Photo Jamie Thompson
Lt. McCormack speaks at FDIC.
Related Resources:
 FDIC full coverage page
 FR1 columnist Jay Lowry's podcast on the speech
 TKT bloggers on Lt. McCormack's speech
 Chief Halton explains decision to pull Lt. McCormack video
INDIANAPOLIS — FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack claimed the fire service needs a "culture of extinguishment not safety" during a keynote speech to FDIC on Thursday.

In a hard-hitting address, Lt. McCormack criticized today's leadership, and said too much emphasis is being placed on firefighter safety.

"Too much safety makes Johnny a poor leader and a terrible rescuer," he said.

Lt. McCormack said firefighters are being taught to place their safety above all else, and said the lives of civilians could be put at risk because of it.

"Attempting to make the job safer by teaching you to place yourself above those in need is wrong and goes against everything the fire service has ever stood for," he said.

Firefighters should be willing to risk their lives to save total strangers, he added.

"When a parent meets you outside their house and tells you their precious child is inside trapped, you're their last hope," Lt. McCormack said.

"If it was easy, someone else would've done it already."

If firefighters stop taking risks when needed to save lives, the fire service faces "falling from public grace" and the "loss of our identity."

Lt McCormack said the "constant barrage" of safety messages is undermining our "sworn duty."

The 27-year veteran of the FDNY said the best way of achieving safety for everyone is simply extinguishing the fire.

"If you put out the fire, safety is accomplished for everyone on the fireground," he said.

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