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Video: Responding & fighting fires driver only in Security, Colorado.

Security Fire Department Firefighter Zach Haslett, all by himself, putting it in pump gear, running the line & breaking down the fence to get to a fire on the rear deck of the house. Click here for the video

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Responding driver only is something I am very familiar with from my days in Prince George’s County, Maryland long ago. And I know it still happens in many places around the country (PGFD stopped that practice a while back). But is it something the general public knows and understands?

KRDO-TV shot video from a fire on Saturday in Security, Colorado (El Paso County) that shows Firefighter Zach Haslett of the Security Fire Department doing just that, responding to a fire on the deck of a house by himself and handling the initial attack. This has the TV station looking at a staffing policy for the department that has been the same for more than two decades.

From KRDO-TV:

“As I pulled up, I set the park brake, primed the pump, got out. put it in pump gear, dragged my line, and broke the fence to get to the fire,” said Firefighter Zach Haslett of the Security Fire Department.

Lives are at risk as they wait for support. One firefighter cannot save two victims at the same time.  “I am going to go in and drag one person, and then I will go in and drag the next one.. That is sort of what wer’re stuck with,” said Firefighter Haslett.

With 9 firetrucks and only 14 firefighters, the department depends on volunteers for support. However, at this time the Security Fire Department only has 25 volunteers. 

“In today’s economy, it’s been tough to have these guys show up on certain things. They can only show up for certain things.They can only go certain times of the day,” said Captain (J.T.) Marrs.

With the shortage of volunteers, the Security Fire Department is hoping to get a budget increase to allow two firefighters per rig.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Not a DCFD jake

    Can you say “City of Hagerstown”? Not much different. Oh and City of Cumberland? Go ahead and lay off your career staff and reley on the volunteers, I’m sure nothing bad will happen. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    They are violating OSHA 2 IN 2 OUT on a daily basis.

    • Anonymous 2

      They are only violating the OSHA 2 in/2 out rule if they are beginning an interior fire attack or whenever SCBA use is occurring (on air and breathing) and they do not have the 2 out in place. Additionally one of the two out can be assigned to another role as long as that other role does not jeopardize the safety and health of other firefighters on the fireground. Additionally remember that 2 in and 2 out may be deviated upon for an emergency operation to save a life. I do not know if they wait or not. Coming from a department that was driver-only for decades and finally just got most engines with two personnel, it is still in our SOG’s to follow 2 in/2 out and usually we are very good at executing it without violating the regulation.

      Here is some good knowledge on the 2 in/ 2 out rule: http://www.iaff.org/hs/PDF/2in2out.pdf

      Be safe.

  • Brooks

    For any given budget, there’s a tradeoff between response time and unit staffing levels. I’m pretty sure that ‘driver only’ is on the wrong side of that tradeoff, every time.

  • Former Chief

    It’s at least refreshing to see the news media covering Firefighter shortages. Volunteer recruitment and retainment are down drastically in many areas of the country. And in my experience, the quality of some of the people being accepted is diminishing as well. But the elected officials will keep “rolling the dice” in many of these FD’s.

  • Damien

    Looks and sounds like a gas cylinder caught fire, to me.

  • mark

    I’m a little confused. Initially the video shows a fireman with a pack breaking down the fence while trying to advance the line. A couple seconds later there’s another one minus the pack on the nozzle.

    2 different fires? Doesn’t look like it, both were deck fires. Edited video? A little bit of journalistic freedom? Sure, they might show up with one fireman, but if the volunteers meet them at the scene, then the story might not be totally accurate.

    Anyways, you do what you have to do with what you have. Unfortunately, the real world does not reflect the perfect world that OSHA would have us live in. Heck, if they can regulate how many firemen respond, maybe they ought to just regulate that no more fires will be allowed, problem solved.

    Anon, if they’re going in for rescues, how are they violating 2-in, 2-out? This video doesn’t even violate that ruling, as they didn’t go interior, they knocked it down from the outside. Pretty broad statement. Unless you have first hand knowledge. Would it have been better for them to wait until they had the NFPA recommended 13-17 firefighters on scene before beginning operations, while the house burns down?

  • John W

    This is the way it works at my combination dept here in Ga. We have 5 stations with a engine and one paid man at each. We only have about 8 volunteers on a good day. I consider it a very high risk fire dept.

  • Anonymous

    Seems like they train their guys to be more effective in this case than other departments responding with 4 mil in rigs and 40 yard breathers. Not a safe way to do things though…hope they get more funding/volunteers.

  • Hozer

    The general public doesn’t care about manpower. They see a shiny firetruck show up and they think everything’s gonna be OK. Firefighters do the work. When you have a department with sporadic manpower turnout, your incident is a dangerous crapshoot. Paid firefighters with adequate staffing is expensive, but priceless when you need it. It seems that the only time taxpayers care about the fire dept is ONLY when they need them.

  • Alex

    Great courage of those FFs. Really, admirable. In contrast to that, the citizens of that town/city are not getting their tax’s money worth.

  • Truck Dude

    I want one of those Pontiac Fiero first responder cars. It seem like the news crew got on the scene the same time the single man engine company arrived. Maybe the cameraman can act as the layout firefighter and hit the hydrant.

  • north chief

    As long as the department/community keeps getting lucky, nothing will change. He made a knock on the fire and limited the damage so no one will complain. And even if there hasd been a loss of life or serious injury, it would have made news for a while but it would fade away. Citizens don’t care as long as it’s not thier tragedy. We just need to do what we can to keep ourselves safe and educate them on the dangers of this type of staffing. If they don’t want to pay for it, so be it, stay safe and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Anonymous

    The Driver only concept is primarily an unsafe practice for any Fire and EMS Organization. As everyone is aware Budget constraints are a real problem to deal with. In a previous comment there was mention of Laying off Firefighters. That is the absolute wrong thing to even consider. One can only wonder with whatever the Budget cuts are in Security Colorado there is hopefully some sort of Interstate and/or Local Jurisdictional Mutual Aid Agreement in place. Now whether or not the Staffing is Career and/or Volunteer the fact remains The Top Priority is (1) Response Times being kept at the same level as though Security Apparatus Responses were in place. What would be the outcry if a Driver only Response such as the video shows, happens and the Apparatus arrives on the scene, and it’s aworking incident with the report of people Trapped inside the structure. The lone Firefighter with a charged Hose line goes inside, however first he/she might have to raise a round ladder for an immediate from the burning structure. Unknown is always an issue the Response Times of next responding Apparatus, with also not knowing the staffing on that Apparatus. Also there was mention of OSHA 2in 2out. There are any number of reasons not excuses to have sufficient required Staffing on the scene. Even in Rural some unicorporated areas Volunteer staffed Apparatus is what the Fire and EMS Service must Manage. It does seem somewhat unreal to allow Driver only Apparatus Responses. In today’s Fire and EMS Service Delivery System one can only read about LODD. In the majority of LODD It’s not actual Firefighting causes. It is the result of Health Failure Issues. ie; Heart Attack,Stroke. What about the Lone Firefighter on the scene and collaspes before any other Apparatus arrives. These are True and Real examples of why no Fire and EMS Responses should be allowed.

  • OldSutterOne

    Out West, like in the old days of law enforcement, safety came from a colt revolver. Its clear that within the fire service today safety will come from a deck gun.

  • BH

    I wonder if they really “need” all 9 engines, or could they consolidate some stations and at least get 2 guys on a smaller number of trucks.

    My guess would be the department/civilian leadership want to be able to claim x-minute response times that nine 1-man engines can achieve, and don’t mind risking the lives of their firefighters or the lives and property of their taxpayers to accomplish that.

  • Mack Seagrave

    Hmmm … One Firefighter per rig??? Makes me wonder if the local highway department has only one employee per rig … the local P.D. only one officer on patrol, is there only one elected official governing the area??? It appears that the safety of the public as well as the Firefighters is not of any importance to the folks who are calling the shots there. Best wishes to the Brothers of the Security F.D. that your numbers are increased ASAP… Stay safe

    • Tree

      New York DOT does run one man snowplows, and the only time the cops here (state, county, and local) double up is on the midnight shift. Most of the villages have only one officer on duty, and there are times of the day that they have none on duty – if you need a cop you get the county or state.

      Security appears to be one of those places that are on the cusp – call volume is reaching the level that requires more staff. But, as has been pointed out, the taxpayers have turned them down on additional funding. Twice.

      If you live in a snow area, you are more than willing to staff the highway folks to ensure that your trip to wherever will be snow-free. Snowfall can literally happen on a daily basis. Many people go through life only as occasional spectators to the fire service. They don’t see the need to have all those firefighters sitting around… (I know, I know.)

  • HH

    The increase in staff is the primary goal. The news crew just happened to roll up on the fire before people had even called 911. The picture with the no pack member is the same guy that went through the fence. The fire was knocked down and had confirmed at that point no extension into residence. 9 vehicles allows each district 1 first out and a back up for volunteers who respond. then there is a brush truck, a ladder and utility. the only way to manage the 3,4,5, 6 calls that drop within minutes of each other on a daily basis is to have the split up drivers. Tax payers are getting the best possible response for the situation. they pay the same they did 20 years ago for service requirements that have increased more then 3x. The public has chosen 2 times in the last decade to refuse tax increase to support more manpower. To compare all the deparmtments to each other is pointless. 3300+ calls a year and growing with 1 man crews is not sufficiant. Yeah, all firefighters have the drive and probably the ability to do it, but it does not best serve the community or the safety of the firefighters. But the taxpayers have to agree for anything to change. Knowledge is key and that is the point of this story. The more they know, the more informed decisions they can make when it comes time to vote. While that fire crew was there just after the single man ladder and the Capt. in a utility truck arrived a second working structure dropped that required an interior attack. There is no ability to redirect funding as Security is not a city splitting its money where it chooses. This is an unincorperated town serving a small sized city population of 44k. Security gets its peice of property tax and that is it. There is no conspiracy theory here, no film edits to make it seem worse or a ploy to trick the community. This is just a reality that needs to improve. There are single man crews that have each run 8 to 15 calls in a shift by themselves. Some of you act like this is a begger issue. If we want to compare departments this seems pretty far from begging wanting 2 men on a crew when call volume easily matches or exceeds many city departments on a station by station basis. Not to mention city departments who have crews running less calls then these guys who are ready to strike when the idea of having to run 3 man crews instead of 4 man crews comes up because of budget issues. The board for the security fire department is very progressive and does everything it can to improve the safety of the firefighters and the community they serve. In the end though money controls ability. No matter the way you spin it 10 bucks will only get you so many hamburgers. If you want more you need more.

    • Brooks

      12 Full time employees, 3 stations, 3000 runs/y, 15 sq miles, 29,268 population (2010 estimate)

      12 on duty gets you 3 men around the clock, 24/7/365.
      It also gets you 2 men around the clock, 24/7/365 and another 3-4 during the day.

      Sounds like they should staff each station during the day with 2, and the central station at night with 2, and take whatever is due on the call (Engine or Ambulance).

      It’s a crappy deal. The district is wealthy enough to afford a fire department. No reason for the career firefighters to volunteer their health and lives so that the taxpayers can save $10/y. Show up, do what you can – nothing heroic, go home.

      • mark

        Interesting, I couldn’t get to their web pages yesterday to find this info.

        A nearby city by me runs around 7,000 calls out of one station with a squad (medicals only, as in a Suburban)with 2 FF and a squirt with 3 FF and a BC. Population of 72,000, area covered 24.5 sq miles. They have very limited response from their paid-on-call FF’s as well. They do have 3 other stations, but 2 are staffed strictly with POC and the other is closed.

        Seems like some things could be rearranged using existing personnel unless there happens to be a 12,000′ mountain running through the center of town. I guess I am not understanding the chief’s decision to not utilize his manpower better. Does Security transport as well? The above city I referenced does not, so that could make a slight difference. Maybe they shouldn’t if they do currently???

        Thanks for the explanation of the 1 FF dropping his pack. Makes sense, I was just curious.

  • HH

    Correction he removed pack just after going through the fence

  • Sharppointy1

    I’m very impressed at what one firefighter can do with an engine. But it makes me crazy/frightened for that firefighter who is at such awful risk if things turn brown and lumpy.
    May the citizens of Service come to their senses and support their Fire Department.

  • ppfd

    This happens all over.
    Were I live had paid drivers and volunteers. The city in a stroke of brilliance did away with the paid guys and it is all volunteer.

    Most career depts in WV run with 2 guys on a rig. Charleston and Huntington still at least have 3 to a rig.

  • John S-B

    Just a quick check on Security Co. comes up with 10K households in a 15 sq. mile area. If they paid an average of $50 perhousehold that would give them a budget of 500K per year. And that’s not including commercial property. That should be plenty to hire a daytime crew of part timers at the very least. This dept. also needs to get on the ball and recruit more volunteers as well. My POC dept. has 25 volunteers out of a pop. of 4K, so I know it’s doable.

  • Anonymous

    Its all about the safety now days, i guess firefighting is not suppose to be a dangerous job??? Good job to the guys out there who are doing their best!

    • Danno

      You sir, are a moron.

      Why should this guy die for a pile of wood when his own community won’t give him proper staffing and support? What is the Chief, or whoever runs this department going to say to this man’s wife when he shows up at the front door with the chaplin? “Sorry ma’am, his life just didn’t mean that much to us. But you should’ve expected this because firefighting is dangerous. I’m sure your children didn’t need their father anyways.”

      Your goal can be to get injured or die at a fire if you want. Mine is to do my job safely and survive my career with my health and to enjoy the time I get with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren.

  • Lizard

    Paid or volunteer, unsafe practice is never acceptable. I would not be at all suprised if the SOPS explicitly state that when driver only, the single person crew must wait for the arrival of volunteer or POC crews before entering an IDLH except in the case of a known rescue. It seems to me that there is some spin in this news story.

  • HOOKMAN

    There’s career departments that live and die by the safety vest 2 in 2 out rule, that probably would have burnt the whole entire row of townhomes down and nothing here indicated any fireman putting themselves at risk…You do what you have to do…..On a different note, Fire Department’s could cut down on Chief’s buggies by purchasing old Pontiac Fiero’s…LOL

  • Anonymous

    Well I think they can afford more staff. But the board is stingy and would rather keep money and put it else where. Also with the volunteers. There is plenty of people To help out but they might be too rapped up in there image instead of assiting other