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‘Holy s**t! He’s laying in the road’: NFFF shares lessons from Va. FD’s close call

Harrisonburg Fire Department shares how close they came to a LODD to help prevent something like it happening again



By Bill Carey

HARRISONBURG, Va. — The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) has released a video highlighting safety and leadership lessons learned from a Virginia firefighter who fell out of a ladder truck while responding to a fire.

Harrisonburg Firefighter Josh Holloway was running behind when the call was dispatched. In a hurry to leave the station, he finished putting on his PPE, standing up inside the cab during the response.

“The next thing I remember is waking up and looking up and seeing cars in front of me,” Holloway said, describing the moment he fell out of the department’s reserve ladder truck.

Firefighter Chase Coffee was driving and saw the door swing open as he was turning the ladder truck. Coffee then saw Holloway on the street.

“Holy shit, he’s laying in a road,” Coffee said.

He stopped the truck and with the other firefighters attended to Holloway. Holloway had gotten up, said he was fine, and the crew got back on the ladder truck and responded to the fire.

The beginning of Holloway’s rush to respond can be traced back to Chief Matt Tobia’s review of turnout times when he became fire chief. Turnout times were important to the firefighters and getting out quickly became a priority.

“The result out of that one memo, that one step towards measuring our performance, was that in reality, it created an artificial pressure on the women and men in the department to start getting out the door faster,” Tobia said.

The reality of knowing just how close they came to a line-of-duty death and talking about what was done to prevent it from happening again was important enough to share with other fire departments.

“We have all, me included all of us have, at one time or another, done something that we knew was unsafe, but for which there were no consequences,” Tobia said. “And because there were no consequences, we begin to believe that whatever it is that we’re doing is, in fact, safe, when in reality it’s not. And that’s exactly where we found ourselves on this day.”