Nearly 3,000 Americans DIE

Originally Written and posted February 16, 2014

YES!!! 4 Years Ago. It’s Exciting that the tides have changed and more are on board with this GREAT MOVEMENT!!


Attack Crew in front door Pinestead Front door Ciudad Front door

The HROC Speech about this article and The Courage to be I N S I D E!!

Nearly 3,000 Americans Die Every Year inside House Fires. Yes they die inside, trapped by Smoke and Fire. We the Fire Service swore to protect and the Public expects us to be trained and ready for entry. Ready to Use our $2,000 dollar air packs, $2,000 Gear, and $10,000 Thermal Imager. I attended FDIC for the First Time back in the 90s and was fortunate enough to hear Bob Pressler speak on the Big Stage about how many Americans “1,000” could be dying each year because of a lack of trained Firefighters responding and conducting proper SEARCHES!! I remember Fire Service Leaders questioning VES and Searching without a HOSELINE. Firefighters are DYING on the Hose line, not from VES and SEARCHING. Firefighters are not dying from Interior FIRE ATTACK; they are dying from a lack of understanding Basic Fire Ground Tactics and when to perform. Almost every RESIDENTIAL LODD in the last 15 years was not because they shouldn’t have been inside, but because of what they were and were not doing before and during the Tactical Deployment. This website has only been up for 9 months and has documented HUNDREDS of RESCUES and there have been a few LODDs from Interior Fire Attack. Ask the Public their opinion on the ODDS and the data. We are RESCUEING a lot more Civilians, than we are losing Firefighters from interior Fire Attack. Fire fighters are dying from being FAT/OVER WEIGHT. They are dying from driving TANKERS/TENDERS too FAST for roads and conditions.

A large number of residential LODDS were from FLASHOVER/Rapidly Changing Fire Conditions. It seems as if most of them, the Interior Crews were advancing and not flowing. We need to train more on Flowing while advancing and understanding BLACK FIRE. I first heard of Black Fire when sitting in Andy Frederick’s Class at FDIC. That was 14 Years ago and we still have firefighters advancing with an attack line in their hand, through thick, hot, black smoke. Going inside a house fire is not the issue in the American Fire Service. The issue is Interior Attack Training. Live Burns that set recruits up for failure. Leaders worried about water damage. We are always looking for some new fad or simple fix. We have proven from decades of interior fire attack that taking a line inside is the best way to protect LIFE and PROPERTY. I started teaching Gallons Per Second nearly ten years ago and advocate hitting a FIRE with BIG WATER and sometimes a 2.5” from the outside on a residential structure fires. But, I advocate this for one purpose, to allow for a faster interior attack. We now have FDs starting to apply water from the outside at all fires and closing the door while crews are advancing a line through that same door, to limit O2. I am not against controlling the door, but if the fire you’re at is so volatile that making entry with the attack door remaining open is an issue, you may want to just STAY OUTISDE. I have been standing in the front yard for the last ten years and when trained firefighters properly stretch, force entry, and advance with proper nozzle control/understanding when to FLOW, there seems to be a rapid extinguishment process from the inside. One of the BIGGEST ISSUES is, a lack of understanding the BIG THREE of an Attack Line.

1. Desired Amount “Gallons Per Second”

2. Desired Location “Stream and Nozzle Reach”

3. Desired Nozzle Reaction “Mobility”

A bigger Line, Flowing more water is not the always the answer. You must have balance. When making an interior attack of a residential structure, you need the ability to flow while advancing and have a line that will bend around multiple corners. This line must also have the ability to maintain stream reach even when kinks have been created. YES!!! I DO NOT SUPPORT anything bigger than a 15/16 on a 1.75” attack line that is going inside a RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURE. I actually prefer the 7/8 flowing 160 GPM 2.5+ GPS. The 7/8 tip on a 1.75” gives us what we need at a nozzle reaction of 63lbs or less. This gives you the DESIRED AMOUNT, REACH, and MOBILITY. I am wondering where all these new experts were ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago, when the experienced URBAN firefighters were telling us to go through the front door even when fire was blowing out that same door. They advised a smooth-bore or straight stream. They advised flowing water and cooling the BURNING SOLID FUELS. Chicago has been doing QUICK WATER since before I existed. We still have the latest recruit manuals talking about attacking from the unburned side and fog attacks. More firefighters need to read Fire Stream Management Handbook and Firefighting Principles & Practices. I look back at all the firefighters, I wasted time arguing with over fog vs SB, burned vs unburned, front door vs back door, opposing streams, flanking streams. I am convinced that just because it’s in a book/magazine doesn’t make it right. I support the UL studies and even assigned the nine companies in my battalion to complete all the online UL classes. I built a class tilted DEATH ON THE NOZZLE. This class utilizes the UL Test and my 25 years of experience on the fire ground. The problem is when firefighters starting dragging their attack line around back of a one story ranch, to put water on a one room fire, in a rear bedroom of a house on a slab. They should be going straight through the front door. The fire service loves to throw out the old and jump on the new. Are you teaching something because you’ve personally seen it work or it’s the latest fad and you can make money/a name for yourself? Make sure your beliefs have been TESTED under FIRE at 0200 with civilians trapped..

Curt Isakson


11 thoughts on “Nearly 3,000 Americans DIE

  1. Curt,
    I want to 1st congratulate you on having this nice site up for 9 months. Keep up the good work I enjoy reading when brothers and sisters make saves.
    Before I address my main reason for replying to this article. I want to say I have been in several of Chief Curt Isakson Big Water classes and he is a wealth of knowledge and knows his stuff on that topic. So I am in no way against the topic or the need of good engine work.
    Nearly 3,000 Americans DIE! In this article you mentioned several topics that are all topics that are sure to stir emotions and cause people to pound their chest and unfortunately choose sides. Of all these topics that are sure to cause debate. There is one topic that was never mentioned that could really make a massive dent in saving these 3,000 but it not sexy nor a hot button topic.
    So my question to ALL firefighters, is we really serious about trying to save these 3,000???
    I personally feel most firefighters are NOT that serious about saving these 3,000!
    Everyone is all about searching and crawling down dark black smoky hallways and racing down hallways with our handlines to extinguish the fire.
    If we were really serious about saving these 3,000 we would spend more time on talking and promoting fire prevention and automatic fire sprinklers, than all these other topics that divide us and cause firefighters to think they have to choose a camp to join! Fire prevention and automatic fire sprinklers are topics that we can all unite on and really do our job of saving lives we swore to protect.
    The single most effective way to prevent fire-related deaths is the installation of residential fire sprinklers. Combined with smoke alarms, they cut the risk of dying in a home fire by approx. 82% compared to having neither. By not placing an emphasis on education and prevention are we shirking in our duty to those we swore to protect.
    It is easy for us to always want to talk about the “sexy” side of firefighting, crawling down hallways with the nozzle in your hand or opening a roof, but we must be open-minded and consider there is way more ways of saving those 3,000. For each of us our mission is to save the lives and property of our neighbors; fire sprinklers and prevention methods are tools that help us achieve that mission.
    Now let’s work to truly save those 3,000!
    Captain John Shafer

    • First off, FF-Rescues, this is one of my favorite sights and Curt this is a very well written piece. You convey your views on such an important topic with level headed wisdom and common sense thinking. Great Stuff!

      John, I absolutely get what your saying as far as sprinklers being very effective in saving lives. However I wouldn’t say that Most firefighters are not serious about saving these 300 people because they do not preach the effectiveness of fire sprinklers to their fellow citizens. Maybe you can classify that down to a smaller category of people that are in higher ranks, and have the ability to effect some of that change in new construction. But I can say with confidence that sprinklers will never be present in the areas of my city where fire deaths happen the most frequently. You are lucky at best to find a 9 volt battery left (in a smoke detector) in an entire apartment building, or maybe find one extinguisher. There is not a chance we will see slum lord building owners retrofitting these low income apartments with sprinklers.

      With that said, my responsibility to the citizens is to be the best that I can be, to be mentally and physically prepared to make a difference in those first 5 minutes, because in my lower rank, that is where it matters. I don’t disagree that fire chiefs and upper ranks have to be focused on prevention, but for the large numbers of us in the lower ranks we must be focused on those basics, for the sake of those 3000 people a year. I could want sprinklers all day long in my
      district, but it will simply never happen. But I can count on having to go to another fire and be good, smart and aggressive at my next search.

    • John,

      I will not disagree with you about the impact of Fire Sprinklers and Fire prevention. However in the vien in which this article is written, it is a apples and oranges.

      As a Fire Captain there is little I can do about Fire Sprinklers in my community. Oh sure I can advocate for them, educate about them, but for the effort I will put forth into trying to effect that change…well there will be little impact on my communities fire problem.

      However if every shift I work with my people, train, educate and train some more; well then we will be prepared to do what is expected of us by the community. They will get more bng for their buck from me as an Officer if if I focus my time on that.

  2. Ryan,
    Very good points and I totally agree with you and Curt on the fact that the basics are very important to preparing us to be able to save life’s. I also have many areas in my first due that don’t have sprinklers and never will have sprinklers. However I don’t feel that fire prevention and advocating for sprinklers is only high ranking chiefs job. It every firefighters responsibility to spread the message everywhere we go. Especially those of us who run fire service websites can totally preach the message to the masses to affect saving those 3,000. But the reality is, that it isn’t sexy or a topic that stirs emotions, therefore very little is written about fire prevention in comparison to all the other topics mentioned.

  3. Curt we have talked a lot, and my understanding of RECEO (engine) Rescue (do we have any, life/size up) Exposures (the interior rooms around the seat of the fire above and below) Confinement (through door control, venting or not venting and line placement) Extinguishment (flow critical flow on the way and at the seat) Overhaul (make sure its out) How is this different then the new SLICERS? It accomplishes the same thing… Again is it worth losing the preexisting training retention when it is obvious the “new deeper understanding easily fits the old training standard” I think the answer is a emphatic no. I say keep it simple and build upon the knowledge that came before, give them a nod that most of what is being discovered is verification of past practice not a condemnation of it… KEEP IT SIMPLE My attempt when I teach hose and nozzles ….The extinguishment oath – The ESSENCE of the job of extinguishing fire. Kept it simple, this is what we need for the grunt work of fighting fire. The passage of time does not change this… a modern fuel load package produces a much faster heat release rate and growth rate, but over all temperatures are roughly the same. Application of the fire stream must rapidly include areas at or near the seat this includes the use of stream reach. (Hit it hard from the yard, 10 seconds for safety, blitz attack or the transitional attack only when needed). All of these things describe the same thing rapid reduction of temperature and fire conditions as you move the attack line to the seat (all of these tactics were done before the advent of the SCBA as SOP). It boils down to the essence of the modern fuel rich vent controlled fire. Air/Oxygen will usually follow the handline as you make entry the application of water should come before or during the opening of the vent. “Black Fire / Hidden Fire” should get copious amounts of water during the advance to the seat during interior operations….


    1. The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something. (FIRE is FIRE)

    2. The most important ingredient; the crucial element. (WATER puts out FIRE, Ventilation without water feeds a fire, all fire-ground effort must support this knowledge)

    3. The inherent, unchanging nature of a thing or class of things. (CRITICAL WATER FLOW needs to be attained RAPIDLY at or near the seat through HANDLINE stretches with coordinated ventilation)

    Again from what I have been exposed to the NIST and UL studies seem to make some issues clear, but nothing was shocking. We have been telling civilans to shut the door when a fire is discovers for over half a century or more… Keep up the good work and it is the failure to understand and implement the basics that have the most damaging impact on the fire ground in my opinion. Great site… Dennis LeGear

  4. Hi Curt:

    I have attended as many of your classes as possible at FDIC and learn something new at each one even though I have over 40 years in the fire service. My first Chief back in the early 70’s would never allow us young, enthusiastic rookies to do anything new without first practicing and testing until he was sure it was the right thing to do. Of course we all thought we knew better but this practice has stayed with me over the years.
    Your recent comments are spot on and need to be read by every firefighter. Agree or disagree, we need to open our collective eyes and get smarter if we are to survive. Thank you for having the voice and the passion to address these issues

  5. While I agree that advancing the line and not flowing (any) water when there are hot gases overhead is problematic, I do not believe that the answer is to simply flow lots of water. Some interpret my concern about excessive (not adequate) use of water as a simply a concern for water damage. While this is a consideration, this is considerably less important than the safety of our members. Efficient application of water to cool its intended target; hot gases overhead when the fire is shielded from a direct attack or pyrolizing and burning fuel when we have direct line of sight to the fire; simply requires less water.

    Your point that live fire training sets firefighters up for failure is right on track. The fire always goes out regardless of the knowledge, skill, and technique of the attack team. That said, I am not convinced that live fire training needs to have 100% realistic context, but simply that the context needs to be sufficiently accurate to develop sound performance and skill in recognizing conditions and anticipating both fire behavior and the effect of tactics. Until we solve this problem, the challenge rests with the instructors to frame live fire training exercises in terms of “this is not your next fire”.

    The big three; flow rate, location and reach, and mobility are extremely important (but we might argue a bit about the issue of nozzle reaction as this is generally used as one of the justifications for use of solid streams and low pressure combination nozzles which are great for direct attack but less effective for cooling the hot upper layer.

    You make an excellent point about the need to put water on burning fuel. At the end of the day, this is generally what puts the fire out (and removes the problem). The challenge is when the fire is shielded from direct attack. This is where cooling the gases while making a deliberate and purposeful advance on the fire is essential.

    You make some excellent points about the fact that there are few new lessons. The concept of door control has been around at least since 1866 (James Braidwood, London England) and some of these practices such as quick water have been used for many years. However, use of a tactic is used in a large urban fire department in the United States is not the validation for its use. For example, there are other large fire departments all over the world using combination nozzles and controlled ventilation strategies (and have been doing so for many years). Note that this too is not sufficient validation for the use of these tactics. We need to adopt tactics that make sense based on our agencies context (predominantly the nature of our buildings, occupancies, and staffing).
    We need to continue development of our knowledge of the craft both in the tactical sense and in our understanding of fire behavior and building performance if we are to serve our communities and our citizens well and improve the safety of our members.

    p.s. John Shaffer is right. We can and should improve our fireground performance, but if we really want to reduce fire fatalities, work needs to be done before the fire occurs. It is likely a fact that for most of us we will not see residential sprinklers in all residential occupancies in our communities. However, we can take steps to ensure that each home we visit has working smoke detectors (much of this can be done at the company level). While this requires agency support, it also requires a commitment on the part of all member to take actions that will make a difference.

    Ed Hartin

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