Safety and Firefighting: Of Romance and Religion

Kentland’s Messianic Zeal

The news is awash this morning with photos of Prince George’s County, Maryland’s Kentland Volunteer fire rig, itself afire, during a working incident.

Too Close for Comfort?

Too Close for Comfort?

Kentland (FS 33) is an all volunteer fire department in an urban county with a population of 900,000, an oddity in itself.

On their website they trumpet:

“100% volunteer 100% of the time”

“We Finish What Others Can’t”

 After the incident they posted the following on their Facebook page:

“…It is our humble opinion that the Officers and Members who operated on this incident did so in the highest tradition of the KVFD and we are blessed for our members escape of the near tragic situation. While the result was disheartening, we stand united in our dedication to the community, the Department, and our unwavering membership.”

Humble, highest tradition, blessed, united, dedication and unwavering are romantic, emotive “touchy-feely” words deployed at a moment when sober professionalism is all that is called for.

Those in the business will know that losing a rig to fire, much less two of them, is an extremely rare event.

Romance aside, it suggests a less than optimal apparatus placement for prevailing and expected conditions.

No fire gods were involved, just the twin human components of aggression and adrenaline, both essential to fireground operations, when controlled and focused by calm and rationale thought.

Obscuring Careless Action

Giving into words infused with romantic and religious sentiment obscures the deadly nature of the event.

It also de-professionalizes fire operations making them less safe and more likely to be understood as outside the bounds of rationality.

They aren’t.

If you move into an overly exposed position and conditions rapidly deteriorate, you have no margin for error.

That is the lesson of yesterday be we blessed or not.

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