Why I Teach: Jerry Knapp

In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.

Jerry Knapp
West Haverstraw (NY) Fire Department

Training Officer
Rockland County Fire Training Center
Pomona, New York

Aggressive Fire Attack at Modern House Fires

Early in my career, I learned how critically important house fires are and how most firefighters take them for granted as routine. However, when we study line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), we see that house fires account for many firefighter deaths and injuries on the fireground. In 1996, when we started doing flashover survival training in Rockland, I researched 35 case histories of firefighters caught in flashovers. Most of them were in house fires. Routine house fires are killing firefighters.

I have been at numerous residential fires and witnessed the evolution of house fires in my career. These are the fires that all fire departments face every day.  Often, there is little specific training on these costly and deadly house fires. It seemed critical that I put together a training program specific to residential fires while working as a training officer supporting 26 departments. Additionally, it became clear that houses have changed.  The 2½-story wood-frame house that was stick built with dimensional lumber is the source of our strategy and tactics. New homes are often modular or built with wooden I-joists, trusses, or other lightweight and nonfire resistive components.  As we have seen from LODD reports, applying traditional tactics to modern homes can be deadly.

My program at FDIC 16 focuses on recognizing that firefighters’ battlefield (homes) has changed dramatically, some old strategies may not apply to today’s house fires, and a practical way to include the latest research into fire departments standard operating procedures to improve fireground effectiveness and firefighter safety–and not throw out the baby with the bath water!

A common form of feedback I receive is an invitation to speak at attendees’ home departments or training venues on what was discussed in class.  

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