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A Fire Chief’s Worst Thing

February 19, 2013

What’s the worst thingphoto (5) a fire chief could experience?

There are a number of things that come to mind. How about getting fired? The pink slip experience is certainly not a fun-filled event, but there’s something that’s worse, much worse.

How about a major fire at the home of the City Manager’s best friend – and the fire department doesn’t respond? That’s a bad thing and a future story. But, there’s still something that’s worse.

No, the GRANDDADDY WORST EVENT for a fire chief is hands down “a serious injury or death of a firefighter” – one of your firefighters.

It was a day that leading in didn’t have any particular significance. So much so that details leading up to the event don’t immediately come to mind.

One recalls that a firefighter wanted to learn pumping operations. The crew decided to get some hose tested during the training. It wasn’t uncommon – at this time in the department’s history – to test hose with an engine, especially when there wasn’t much hose to test. And that was the case.

The hose was all laid out and the test started. As firefighters observed the hose they noticed a few of the couplings were leaking. Instead of shutting down the engine while the couplings were tightened – which is what should’ve been done – firefighters simply started tightening the problem connections.

David was one of the firefighters. He had tightened several couplings when he came to another. This one was an old school solid brass coupling. The thick beast should have been retired and sold off for scrap, but it kept passing the muster. And today it just would not seal.

It would take a little more effort. David placed the spanners on the couplings with his head positioned directly above at exactly the time the trainee flipped the switch – the volume to pressure switch.

The extra surge was all that was needed to push a weak spot in the hose beyond its breaking point. Unfortunately, the bursting point in all the hose laid out was immediately adjacent to the coupling David was tightening.

The hose shot upwards like a rocket into David’s head. The blow rendered him unconscious while dropping him to the pavement. Fellow firefighters were at his side practically seconds after it happened. In break neck speed they treated, packaged, and transported him to the hospital.

David spent a number of days in intensive care before we got the best news a fire chief will ever get in his career – a severely injured firefighter will recover.

*David has had a wonderful career and continues to serve as a firefighter.

Stafford Texas Lieutenant Douglas Ricks follows our blog. He shared a story that relates to the Fire Chief’s Worst Thing. Here’s that story ~
Douglas Ricks (

Somehow you have the arcane ability to say the relevant thing at the relevant time. Your recent article about a Chief’s worst fears hit home real hard to a department 90 miles north of us. During a Friday night fire at the local Knight’s of Columbus hall an interior attack crew ran low on air and called a mayday. All members of the crew made it out except for their lieutenant. As the RIT team found the lieutenant the roof collapsed. With the assistance of an additional RIT team all were brought out but the original lieutenant succumbed to his injuries. The lieutenant from the first RIT team and two of his crew were severely burned attempting the rescue. All three were flown to the Shriners Burn Institute in Galveston where the second lieutenant died from his burn injuries. The two other firefighters, one a rookie, remain hospitalized with second and third degree burns. Now this Chief must deal with two fatalities and two serious injuries. A memorial service is being held tomorrow and we have crews attending, and on one is my 19 year old rookie firefighter son. Please remind your folks to always assess each and every fire and don’t trade their life for someones property. You can always rebuild and make new memories. Be safe.

Douglas J. Ricks, Captain
Stafford Fire Department
10210 Mula Road
Stafford, Texas 77477

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