Train like your life depends on it

We have to wait for the answers to why firefighters have died, but we don't have to wait to do something about it

We know it is already a terrible year for the United States fire service in terms of firefighter line-of-duty deaths.

Over the past few months I, like others I'm sure, have been seeking answers to the many "why" questions that arise whenever we lose a brother or sister firefighter, much less the 70 firefighters currently reported as fatalities by the U.S. Fire Administration in 2013.

Asking "why" is undoubtedly helpful, for multiple reasons, and we'll have many of those questions answered as investigations into these tragic losses conclude throughout the coming months and years. We owe it to ourselves, and each other, to become familiar with these after-action reports as they are released.

Just as important, however, and we need not wait to begin, is what these Texas firefighters, and their colleagues in other states, are doing right now: training hard, training safe and training to survive. These folks (career and volunteer) are learning new skills, refreshing basic ones, and taking advanced courses to expand their knowledge base.

Hands-down, there's nothing we do that is more vital.

Almost 23 years ago, during my first week as a volunteer firefighter, soon-to-be-retired Master Technician Henry Kumm with the Montgomery County (Md.) Department of Fire-Rescue Services told me something that has stuck with me every day of my fire service journey: "The day you think you know it all in this job, is the day you need to hang it up."

Whether I'm (still) practicing basic ropes and knots, participating in a live-burn training evolution, or sitting in a management class, I know that MT Kumm was right.

So don't wait; get out there and keep training!

Stay safe.

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