by: Lou Angeli
Organized chaos. That's how the fire scene is often described. T he adrenaline charged atmosphere feels like a battleground. B ut in this war zone there's no time to develop a battle plan. For the firefight to be successful, action must be immediate. Firefighters have only a few precious minutes to defeat their opponent.
Back in the day, Firefighting was all about racing to the scene, donning a tin helmet and aiming the nozzle at the flames and smoke. And that's pretty much how the general public still perceives the job. But times have changed, and today there’s an art, not to mention a science, to fighting fires.
In terms of extinguishing blazes, today’s firefighters are trained to go face-to-face with the beast, inside the burning building for an "offensive attack." Some fire training experts say that the trick is to tame the fire before extinguishing it, and there are dozens of tactics for doing so. But these strategies often come with extreme risk. Bottom line -- firefighters must make crucial life and death decisions quickly.
For the past 30 years, annual civilian fire deaths have been reduced by 50%. During that same period the number of active firefighters has dropped, some say by 30%. But deaths among firefighters remain the same as they did in 1970, with 112 being lost in the line of duty last year alone.
Even more disturbing are OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association’s predic-tions that fully one-third of the current firefighting force of 1,100,000 will be injured on the job during they year 2007. Of those who will be injured, it is estimated that over half do not have adequate insurance coverage to attend their needs. Is this any way to treat the Bravest?
Maybe Michael Moore's next film should examine how the fire-rescue services do business.