WFC News

Posted: Feb 24, 2015

Past Year's Events

As I reflect on the past years events, we see that firefighters across the nation have responded to many different and sometimes difficult to deal with issues. We have ramped up to treat the latest biological threats, or battled the routine calls that seem to be common for most organizations.  It’s sad that we are still finding the loss of life in the fire service to be something coming across our email or written documents almost weekly. There are many studies looking for reasons behind the line of duty deaths that are occurring in the fire service.  Some are pointing to things that are preventable such as heart disease or cancer which are both preventable and treatable provided we are obtaining physicals annually. Recently our college obtained a grant teamed up with the local fire departments to do fitness testing to give us a baseline physical assessment. Something like this may work for you as well. We have also placed emphasis on stretching and fitness related to the types of work we perform. With in-house evaluators we have evaluated the members of the department and given them baseline recommendations for their fitness.  We all found little weaknesses that we didn't even know about, ones we can improve for the future.

Our organization has also placed an increased emphasis on the immediate cleanup at fire scenes for our firefighters, with wipe downs of critical areas such as face, neck and any other exposed skin and then immediate showering upon return to the station.  As well we remove gear from service after the event and clean it. This coupled with the exhaust fans in the stations will hopefully limit the exposure that our firefighters have taken for granted for so many years.  

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Posted: Dec 18, 2014

Changing the Culture of Seatbelts

“Officer ejected from apparatus in serious condition”, “Firefighter died of injuries sustained from being ejected from engine”.  These are headlines from 2014! Why is this still happening? Doesn’t every department in the country have a policy about seat belts? Didn’t we all sign a seatbelt pledge? 

My answer to this question is “Culture” we don’t want to change.  Culture is deeply ingrained in the fire service.  Part of that culture is to not speak up.  I talked before about the fear of speaking up or reminding our brothers and sisters to do things safely. Seat belts are one of those “things” we have a tendency to not help each other out with. Would you let your partner go into an IDLH environment without doing a buddy check? No, because we have always been told that being part of the team is doing that for each other. So, why not do a “buddy check” before the apparatus rolls off the apron of the station?

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Posted: Jul 10, 2014

Why not?

Why not wear your seatbelt?  Does your department have a policy of wearing seatbelts?  Has your department signed the Nation Seatbelt Pledge?  Twenty-seven fire departments in the state of Washington have signed along with the Washington State Fire Training Academy.  Two combined volunteer fire academies in Pierce County and the Washington State Fire Training Academy, class of 2013 have also signed the pledge.  With 500+ fire departments and fire districts in the State of Washington this is a very poor showing.  You can see the list of Washington departments that are 100% compliant with the International First Responder Seatbelt Pledge by going to  The National Fire Service Seatbelt Pledge was created following the death of Texas firefighter Brian Hunton to reduce the firefighter fatalities.  Over 400 firefighters have died in vehicle crashes in the last 30 years; 300 did not have on seatbelts.  

There was an article in Fire Engineering stating that only 55% of firefighters wear their seatbelts which means that 45% do NOT wear their seatbelts.  

We in the fire service know there is a problem so why don’t we fix it?  Firefighters are not alone in not wearing their seatbelts.  The National Highway Traffic Administration reports that at least 42% of police officers killed in vehicle crashes nationally over the past 30 years were not wearing their seatbelts.  They NHTA also did a survey and found the highest use of seatbelts for the general public was in the west at 94%.  The State of Washington has the highest seatbelt use in the nation at 98%...

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Posted: Apr 10, 2014

Make a Great Day At The Station

We don’t rescue the young and beautiful from the ravages of fire often enough to maintain great satisfaction and inspiration for our work. In fact a lot of our work is routine in nature and sometimes difficult to continue to make important day after day drill after drill. Often it is difficult to see what we have done at the end of the day that we can say job well done. We do however need to be prepared for every emergency if and when it does come. That is why we train.

Remember when we first started down the fire service path? Every thing was a new experience, people told stories about everything. What they used all those tools for, what happened at one fire compared to another, how to protect yourself and do well. We practiced often and redundantly, until we had skills mastered. We didn’t pull a hose line once we pulled it five or eight times trying to improve each time. We raised ladders and secured them until we were hot and tired. Often while practicing one skill we would take on another objective because someone had a “what if”. This kind of day is fun and satisfying. That is why we train...

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Posted: Feb 13, 2014

Developing Soft Skills for Success

In 2012 the Officers Section of the Washington Fire Chiefs was consolidated with the Training and Safety Officers Section.  This allowed for the vision of the Officers Section to move forward and to ensure its message and philosophy on leadership development is not lost.  Officer development at all levels is the mission of this group.  The fire service continually seeks qualified individuals within and outside of their organization who possess the vital skills needed to guide their organization into the future. 

The International Association of Fire Chiefs Officer (IAFC) Development Handbook was created to provide guidance and a “clear roadmap for success as a fire officer”; (Jim Broman).  This program has four levels of preparation; supervising, managing, administrative and executive.  Each of these levels contains four areas of personal development; training, education, experience and self-development.  I will break down each of these areas as they are described in the IAFC Handbook. 

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