Book Reviews

“Firefighting Handbook is a Page-Turner”
Janet Wilmoth, Editor, Fire Chief Magazine

A young couple walked into the real-estate agency during their search for a new house. The agent asked the couple a number of questions, including what kind of emergency-response services they wanted. The couple gave the agent a puzzled look, so he explained that if the couple wanted fast emergency service response — say in less than five minutes — they should live in Boomtown because the fire-protection district was well-funded and provided top-notch service. If they wanted to pay less in taxes, they should look for a house in Ruralville, but understand that the town had a volunteer department with only one fire truck, so response could take up to 15 minutes.

“What? That’s absurd,” the couple said.

“No, you can live in Ruralville,” the agent replied. “You just have to make sure you have residential sprinklers and smoke detectors in your house, so you can get out quickly and safely.”

This story may seem absurd, but it’s quite possible that emergency response could factor in to a home-buying decision, from response times to an ISO rating’s affect on insurance premiums. So how realistic are community expectations? Do your citizens understand your fire-department limitations?

Dominic Colletti — a former assistant fire chief and specialist in rural firefighting training — believes strongly that fire departments need to communicate with their citizens and let them determine the level of emergency service they are prepared to support. This is particularly true for small departments, he said.

“Too often when a department goes for funding for apparatus, it’s almost like they are being nice and asking for the money for themselves,” Colletti said. “It’s not [the department’s] truck — it’s the community’s truck, and it’s going to serve a need in that community. When you’re buying equipment or trying to set up protection, you have to talk back to the community and let the community decide what they want and that’s difficult for an organization.

“You don’t want to set the level of fire protection,” he continued. “You want to come up with a couple of levels under the NFPA guidelines and let the community tell you what type of protection they want. … It’s not like you’re asking for money for a party, you are asking for it to provide services and the town is telling you what you can provide for services and they become the authority having jurisdiction.”

Colletti is the author of the recently published second edition of The Rural Firefighting Handbook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Small-Community Fire Protection. The original edition was published in 2002 and co-authored by Colletti and Larry Davis Jr., a popular instructor and leader in training. Davis passed away three years ago, and Colletti was encouraged to update the popular handbook, which is a manual on the basics of firefighting for rural and non-metro departments.

Communicating with the community you serve is just part of the mission of a fire department, according to Colletti. His goal with the second edition was to clarify that mission and provide a template that rural firefighters could use to organize and manage the key issues in operating a fire department.

“Members can look through this book and understand the key issues — they are there to protect the community,” he said. “If you are a fire officer, you need to know what to do to protect property and your own people doing what they do during a fire response.”

Colletti added data to the previous edition, edited some sections and talks about the science — water delivery, pumping, drafting and priming — of firefighting.

The Rural Firefighting Handbook is well-written and strategically outlined for a quick browse or careful highlighting.

Buy The Rural Firefighting Handbook, 2nd Ed.