First sentences in I Can’t Save You But I’ll Die Trying. The American Fire Culture.

“To understand the art of firefighting, you have to understand physics, fire behavior, and human behavior.”  Captain Raul A. Angulo Ladder Company 6 Seattle Fire Department

“Dr. Clark’s confrontational approach to line-of-duty deaths in the fire service is eye-opening.” Duane Hughes Chief of Training, Columbus Fire and Rescue in Mississippi

“Throughout the history of the U.S. Fire Service, many giants have challenged the way we thought and operated, and drug us kicking and screaming toward progress.” Brent Batla Deputy Chief, MS EFO CFO, Burleson Fire Department, in Texas

“Burt Clark has dedicated his professional life to teaching firefighters and working to reduce line-of-duty deaths.”  Lauren A. Johnson Section Chief, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Coordinator, Dallas Fire-Rescue Department

Dedicated to the American fire service, a noble calling and Carolyn Smith-Clark, a fire service leader in her own right, my wife, lover, friend, and soul mate who taught me how to love and be loved by children, grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

“THE ART OF fighting fires has long been a topic of many accomplished authors.” Arlene Zang, FF/P, proud mother of Captain Robin Broxterman, Colerain Township, OhioLODD 04/04/08

AT MY FIRST FIRE I almost killed another firefighter.

DO YOU KNOW there are 1.1 million firefighters and 32,000 fire departments in the United States of America?

IF THERE IS one thing common to all fire departments in the world, it must be bull sessions between emergencies.


DO YOU AGREE or disagree with this statement?

COULD YOUR FIRE department lose nine firefighters in a building fire tonight?

WHEN I WAS a rookie fireman in 1970 at the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department Company 33, Prince George’s County Fire Department in Maryland, an old-timer (he was thirty-five, I was twenty) told me, “The next call you go on may be the biggest fire in your career, so you must be ready.”

THE 2012 INTERNATIONAL Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week theme is “Rules you can live by.”

I HAVE NEVER BEEN in the military.

IN 2013, ASSISTANT professors at the University of Idaho and Harvard and the incoming president of the IAFC agree with my 1976 editorial that firefighters getting killed is not part of the job.

FIRE SERVICE IS different from other disciplines because of the risk to individuals, society, and firefighters at work.

PHILOSOPHERS DON’T THINK or write about firefighters, and very few firefighters think or write about philosophy.

SHAKESPEARE AND TATTLETALE are not usually combined in a title but these two concepts represent the dilemma I faced.

ONLY FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT of firefighters wear their seatbelts.

“I DON’T NEED TO wear my seatbelt because no firefighter I know has ever been killed because they didn’t wear their seatbelt.” Anonymous firefighter.

IF YOU DO not wear your seatbelt when riding on the fire truck, if you do not make your partner put his or her seatbelt on, if you drive the fire truck and all passengers are not buckled up, if you are the officer and you do not enforce the seatbelt policy, if you are a chief officer and do not hold your company officers accountable, if you are the fire chief and you know that you do not have a one hundred percent compliance one hundred percent of the time with your seatbelt policy—you killed Firefighter Brian Hunton.

TWELVE FIREFIGHTERS HAVE died in the line of duty since January 2007, in crashes without having their seatbelt on.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” CHARLES DICKENS–A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

WHAT DID THE princess, the governor, and the firefighter have in common?

DO YOU REMEMBER the twelve seatbelt deaths from 2007?


THE STORY OF four leaders from the State of North Carolina; the Waterbury, Connecticut, Fire Department; the Chief of the New York City Fire Department; and a West Point cadet will be presented in this article.

THIS ARTICLE IS an apology to a pair of state firefighters and fire chiefs associations; it will describe a significant learning experience I had.

THE 2013 INTERNATIONAL Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week focused on behavioral health.

MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY must be the most frightening three words that can be heard over the fire ground radio.

I HOPE YOU WILL never need to call Mayday for yourself or any other firefighter.

YOU HAVE PROBABLY participated in some type of rapid intervention team or “Saving Our Own” training, and your SOPs may have some directions on a Mayday.

THANKS TO THE cooperation of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute, and the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, the firefighte Mayday concepts presented by Clark (2001, 2003) and Clark, Auch, & Angulo (2002, 2003) were put to the test and passed with high marks.

UNFORTUNATELY, MOST PEOPLE only become aware of fire when tragedy strikes.

TWELVE YEARS AGO I walked into a fire station and my fire-service career began.

WHICH FIRE DEPARTMENTS are among the top in the country?

ACCORDING TO THE American Psychological Association, “Educational and psychological testing represents one of the most important contributions of behavioral science to our society . . . the proper use of well‑constructed and validated tests provides a better basis for making some important decisions about individuals and programs than would otherwise be available.”  American Psychological Association, Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (Washington: American Psychological Association,1985), 1.

ALL OF US have benefited from the work of the twenty fire-service legends that most shaped our discipline in the twentieth century.

THIS IS A QUESTION I have been asking myself for thirty- three years, and I’m still challenged to be completely honest.

I HAVE HEARD THE mantra “Train the way you fight—fight the way you train” from day one in the fire service.

“A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.” Wikipedia

IN 1977 DISTRICT of Columbia Fire Chief Burton Johnson invited the citizens of the city to visit any fire station to learn all they needed to know about smoke detectors.

WHEN WAS THE last time you taught someone to “Feel the door; if it’s hot, don’t open it?”

AS A FIRE CHIEF, you represent the pinnacle of fire-service professionalism, but your five bugles are only as strong as the higher-education infrastructure that supports them.

WHAT READING AND writing skill levels do fire chiefs need to attain?

EACH YEAR, A mere handful of Executive Fire Officer Program students at the National Fire Academy receive the Outstanding Research Award.

THE IDEA THAT the fire service needs to be studied, practiced, and researched at the doctoral level is not new.

THE CONCEPTS OF doctoral education and firefighter arenot usually connected in the same thought by anyone inthe fire service, higher educationor society in general.

PROFESSOR FRANK BRANNIGAN’S contribution to the education of the fire service as related to building construction doctrine is profound, legendary, and one of a kind.

TWENTY‑NINE YEARS and twenty days ago, I had the privilege and honor to be in your seat.


“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman.” Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY, circa 1910

“I know I speak for al of the firefighters I have worked with, who were primarily committed to ensuring life was protected.” Dennis Smith founder, Firehouse Magazine, bestselling author, Report for Engine Co. 82

“By showing us the culture and personal side of safety behavior this book can be an important guide to leaders, managers, and ordinary citizens.” Edgar H. Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management


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