SOURCE: ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS, TEXAS
Aug. 13--ABILENE, Texas -- On average, 100 U.S. firefighters die in the line of duty each year.
But that doesn't have to be the case, said Joel Thompson, a fire academy instructor and a chief of operations at the Haltom City Fire Department. On Tuesday, Thompson taught a two-hour seminar to volunteer firefighters at the Abilene Civic Center, part of the 60th annual Abilene Fire Control Conference.
The conference, which includes training on pump operations, hazardous material awareness and safety is put on by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
During the class, Thompson said that 75 percent of on-duty deaths could be prevented by using proper firefighting techniques and by staying in shape.
"I'd say many of these could have been prevented," he said.
About half of each year's deaths are from heart attacks, Thompson said, the apparent result of a unhealthy lifestyle and a bad diet.
"When I was a volunteer, our dinner consisted of something fried, bacon and gravy," he told the class.
The other half of deaths can mostly be attributed to firefighters going too far inside a burning structure and becoming trapped. He called the blind bravery and aptitude for thrill-seeking shown by some firemen "a culture" that needs to change.
"When that building's on fire, we're going to go inside," Thompson said. "But if we continue to operate this way, we'll continue to have 100 more deaths a year. That will only change when we change the culture."
Some tips he gave to prevent unnecessary death while fighting structure fires:
- Have knowledge of the structure, know if other structures are in proximity
- Have an action plan for how to fight the fire
- Make sure someone competent is in command
- Communicate effectively
- Identify the most significant problem -- don't get "tunnel vision" and only focus on the fire
- Have sufficient staff to fight the fire
- Use enough water
Copyright 2014 - Abilene Reporter-News, Texas