Fire Videos and Lessons Learned
Firefighters and other first responders all have stories about attending situations where things could have been done differently. Sometimes the damage and the loss of life could have been better managed and sometimes the result was unavoidable, but in any case, one thing is for certain: we must learn from our mistakes and try to ascertain that they won’t be repeated.
While you might say that this type of wisdom comes from experience, the fact is that even the most experienced firefighters sometimes make unfortunate decisions in the heat of the moment. When this happens, it can affect everything and everyone on the scene.
With the help of the internet, firefighters can often access videos of fires online, allowing them to review and critique their response soon after the fact. However, these videos rarely show a fire from start to finish, so unless you were on the scene, you can’t possibly have enough information to be able to make an honest evaluation, or at least one that has some value for training purposes. If you weren’t there, there is no way for you to be aware of all the variables in how it was staffed, the command, response, strategy, and so on – and especially if you’re looking at a video of a fire that was not handled by your own department and battalion.
Still photographs don’t show the progression of the fire, though they will give you an idea of what happened in a general way. In videos, you simply can’t see enough to make an assumption about whether everything went off as planned, how the fire got started or the events leading up to the fire.
From a training perspective, this presents a problem because we are making assumptions about how the department operates, how many paid and volunteer firefighters were on the scene, and what their normal response times are. One thing is for sure, the numbers of personnel responding to the fire will have a huge impact on how the all-important first few minutes of the fire is handled. Without all the facts, you don’t really know how long the fire was burning before the team arrived on scene. It may be that it had already burned into the structure quite a bit prior to the call.
What can we learn from mistakes made on the scene of a devastating fire?
At the most basic level, more training, advance planning, and developing better proficiency with the equipment and personnel you have is key. Additionally, evaluations of task and duty assignments should be reviewed.
From an administrative standpoint, proper staffing, scheduling, and optimization of response are all important, as are making any changes or reforms to any mutual aid agreements that are in place.
As far as fire videos go, if you have still photos or video from fires that your department was involved in, use it within the department to examine your team’s actions and discuss how it could have been possible to improve as well as lessen the potential for loss – which is, after all, the ultimate goal.
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