The Tale of Two Engines

As the finishing equipment is placed on the big red twin trucks and let out of the garage, free to begin their journey of service to the community, this is the last time that they will be just like twins.  You  see one engine is destined to serve a older more deprived neighborhood that see’s fires on a weekly basis  while his brother is heading toward a up and coming neighborhood with upscale homes that may see a fire once every 6 months.   While both engines were forged from the same steel at the same time the conditions that they face could not be more different.  One must be a finely tuned firefighting machine that will be tested more often than not the other, well wait a minute, it has to be a finely tuned firefighting machine as well.  How can the engine that will be assigned to the slower fire area keep up with the real world experience of the battle hardened warrior?  Can these twins that began their journeys be equally ready for their next challenge?  If they stay the same, how will they be different?  Let’s use the story of “The Tale of the Two Engines” to drive home the point on how sometimes you DON’T have the option of lot’s of real world experience sometimes but are required to perform the same tasks.Fire Engine

Slow Engine

I thought of this analogy on a shift riding on the twin to my home engine.  Often times in my department we get moved from our home station’s to rotate ambulance coverage and this time I just so happened to be riding in the twin that is in the slower fire district.  It was amazing to me the similarities and the HUGE differences in the twins.   They are both 8 plus years into their service careers and could not look more different.   Fewer bumps are bruises can be seen on the slower engine, the hand tools look brand new, air packs look like they could be placed back in the plastic to be sold as new, and the hose is perfectly aligned in the hose bed.   But these conditions are not a sign of what’s to come.  At any moment the bell could ring out to the tune of “Structure Fire”   and off to work it goes.

 

In many ways this engine has the chips stacked against it.  It hasn’t seen the amount of fires required to gain the needed experiences of fighting fires.  Just as the engine the crews that ride on this proud ride also can suffer from the lack of experience.   Command decisions, signs of flashover, and tactical assignments may have to be based solely on training.  Training? We talking about training?  That’s right, training and drilling is the way that you combat the lack of “real world” experience of these folks.   With this in mind I believe that these crews will face an even bigger challenge.  Complacency KILLS FIREFIGHTERS.   With the lower call volume and fewer amounts of “Working” fires complacency can slowly creep up.  Not running calls that are repetitious can also make complacency a killer. Countless automatic alarms mixed with a steady stream of medical calls can numb us into not being ready.  Just because your area doesn’t see that many fires it doesn’t give you the right to slack off and not be ready. Fire Engine

 

 Busy Engine 

Now let’s go back to the battle hardened warrior assigned to the declining neighborhood where fires are a common.  It may look a little battered and bruised but in it has earned every bump, bang, and dent.   If you had a dollar for every time this red warrior had rolled out the doors with heavy smoke showing you would be a rich man. Fire after fire keeps coming in, hose get’s laid out, hose gets put up it is a constant rotation of hose.   The tools are well worn, air packs that are a solid shade of black, and the hose bed looks like it was dragged through a fire pit.  Just like the engine its crew has seen many fires.  But is this a good thing.  Sometimes with experience comes over confidence and oversight.  How many times before have we seen this type of fire?  Well, last time we grabbed the hose and made a quick knock down.  But who is to say that this fire is the same as the last 100.  It’s not!  Every fire needs to be sized up before being knocked down.  Just because you have fought lots of fires doesn’t give you the right to not take a long hard look at what you are running into.

 

Just how do we combat this problem?  Training?  Yelp same as the twin engine constant training needs to be used.  Always getting new updates on tactics, building construction, and tactics can keep you safe on your 101st fire.  The fire’s we fight are a ever changing world.  While the tactics may or may not be the same the belongings inside the homes defiantly are changing and if we treat every fire the same, the outcome could be completely different.  With a constant flow of fires to gain experience with most times being a good thing it is not an end all cure all.  Have you run 101 fires or the same fire 101 times?

 

Solution

It was the best of days; it was the worst of days but the two twin engine stay on the front lines making a difference.  It is amazing that these two proud American built warriors can be so alike when their worlds are completely different.   Training, preparing, and fighting complacency stay constant while the crews that ride on these engines gain valuable experience.   One may gain it at a slower rate, but it still is just that experience.  If your department lacks the fires that many see it’s time to use different tools to gain that knowledge.  Get on the internet, watch the videos, and get out in the training grounds are make some real world situations.  Your never know when you may be reassigned from the slow house to the busy or vice versa.  It’s your job to remain ready for war at any moment, even if your moment only comes once in a blue moon!  Always remember the story of the two engines.  That in the service of their communities they are no more important than the other because there goal remains constant.  To protect life and Property!