r l N i x I f you are like me, many of you are still wonder- ing what gifts to buy your family and friends this holiday season. Some of you have been ambi- tious and have your shopping done or have bought
at least one gift. December is without a doubt the
busiest month of the year. Plans are being made for
shopping excursions, holiday parties, and traveling
to see family and friends.
With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday
season, sometimes we forget about the little things
like blowing out a candle before leaving the house,
turning off a space heater before going to bed, or
leaving a lit burner unattended on the stove. This
joyous time can quickly turn tragic.
Think about your house during the holidays. You
might have at least one Christmas tree, stockings hanging from the fireplace, holiday decorations in every
corner, and scented candles on tabletops. Everything I
just mentioned could be a fire hazard. That’s why the
holiday season can be busy for the fire service. Here
are a few facts about holiday fires: Home candle fires
are the highest in December; one-third of all candle
fires start in the bedroom; a heat source too close to a
Christmas tree causes one in every four Christmas tree
fires; and one in every three home Christmas tree fires
is caused by electrical problems.
With an influx of calls to respond to during the
holidays, firefighters need to remember to stay
smart and safe when responding to house fires.
This starts with remembering to grab the thermal
imaging camera (TIC) when getting off the truck.
I know I write this in almost every column, but all
too often firefighters run into a house fire, especially
during the holidays, without a TIC in hand.
I recently talked to a co-worker who shared a very
sad story with me about a house fire a local fire
department responded to a few years ago during
the holiday season. It involved the rescue of two
children and one adult. As the crew approached
the scene, they were told that three children and
an adult were trapped inside the burning structure.
The crew’s first thought was to get in the house
quickly and find those children. In fact, the entire
crew began a rescue attempt, and not one of them
was carrying a TIC. Once inside the structure and
realizing they had zero visibility, crew members
went back to the apparatus to retrieve the TIC.
With the aid of the TIC, the crew was able to
locate two children and one adult. Sadly, one child
didn’t survive. There’s more to this story. A member
of the crew became disoriented while trying to find
the victims. Fortunately, and again with the aid of
the TIC, the crew member was found and carried
out of the structure and survived.
Getting off the apparatus with a TIC is as impor-
tant as strapping on your self-contained breathing
apparatus. This action is critical to saving lives.
Without the use of the TIC, this rescue may not have
happened and more lives may have been lost. Always,
always, always grab the TIC. It’s a tool that should
be with you every time you exit your apparatus.
Don’t think you can leave the TIC on the truck if
you’re not involved in a search and rescue scenario.
You can use the TIC in many applications including
scene assessment, overhaul, size-up, motor vehicle
incidents, fire investigations, and much more. Again,
never leave the TIC in the truck.
Safety needs to be on all of our minds during this
holiday season. We never know when that one call
might come in. It’s easy for us to become distracted,
especially during the holidays, but our lives and the
lives of others depend on us being prepared for the
dangers that can occur during the holiday season.
I wish all of you a joyous holiday and a safe new
Carl Nix is a 30-year veteran of the fire service and a retired battalion chief of the Grapevine (TX) Fire Department. He serves as an
adjunct instructor for North Central Texas College and a thermal
imaging instructor for Bullard. Nix has a bachelor of science degree
in fire administration and is a guest instructor for Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) annual fire training in Texas.
Stay Safe During the Holidays
Getting off the apparatus with a TIC
is as important as strapping on your
self-contained breathing apparatus.