I am a professional firefighter with just over two decades of experience in both volunteer and paid service.

I’ve also had the good fortune to be involved in pioneering and developing a number of new concepts in training, equipment and survival systems along the way.

My experience ranges from urban rescue and firefighting, to medical response and extreme wildfire situations.

I’ll do my very best to answer as many questions as I can depending on how this goes!

EDIT: I’m back guys but there’s a couple hundred messages to work through, I’ll do my best!

Comments: 1119 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

inverted_wolf443 karma

Do you really fight fire with fire?

admiral_sinkenkwiken403 karma

Actually yes, we can where needed.

inverted_wolf181 karma

How does it work?

admiral_sinkenkwiken726 karma

It’s a tactic used to combat wildfire, known as Backburning.

What we do is ignite a smaller fire from a control line ahead of the main fire front, the purpose being to slowly progress the smaller fire back towards the main fire, leaving burnt ground behind it to deny fuel continuation and thus in theory stop fire spread

I_LIKE_RED_ENVELOPES110 karma

Would you ever backburn before a fire season season?

admiral_sinkenkwiken320 karma

You’d be referring to Controlled Burning or Fuel Reduction Burning, and yes that is done as a matter of course.

jediedmindtrick308 karma

how did dalmatians become the dog breed associated with firefighters?

admiral_sinkenkwiken468 karma

Ok now this one I’m not entirely certain on but I believe it’s because the horses tolerated them and they didn’t harass the horses back in the times of horse drawn fire equipment.

I-like-whiskey69171 karma

The dogs used to run in front of the horse drawn engines and apparatuses.

They would get people, kids, and chickens out of the way of the horses.

admiral_sinkenkwiken79 karma

Thanks man!

Sabre_Taser125 karma

Adding on to this question:

Does your station happen to have a pet dog or station mascot? :P

admiral_sinkenkwiken177 karma

We have a mascot, but not a pet

JackieAlwaysOK272 karma

Do you ever look at a fire and think “Damn, that’s a good looking fire” ?

admiral_sinkenkwiken582 karma

Only if it puts on some sexy lingerie first

bttrflyr91 karma

Stupid sexy fire

admiral_sinkenkwiken155 karma

It’s like wearing nothing at all!

TZIOsince96231 karma

is there any changes you would wish to see implemented in modern construction that would help curb structure fires?

admiral_sinkenkwiken384 karma

In domestic housing construction it would have to be getting rid of lightweight floor & ceiling trusses, they turn houses into death traps for us as they have little to no survivability in fire and tend to fail rapidly and occasionally without warning.

Flammable cladding is another thing that needs to go, Grenfell is a perfect example of why.

TZIOsince9686 karma

very insightful thanks for the reply brother

admiral_sinkenkwiken233 karma

To expand a little more on this one,

Modern construction and energy efficiency standards, along with materials used in construction, have significantly changed structural fire behaviour and intensity for the worse.

25-30 years ago the time to flashover from ignition was around 15-18 minutes, whereas today that’s shrunk to as little as 3 minutes.

TZIOsince96154 karma

thats crazy to think, im a young carpenter, and all i see is fire treated wood and sheetrock. it makes me think that these stats would be the other way. it makes sense tho, i used to do a lot of work in an old building and it was all wood brick concrete and sheetrock. the wood was always thick as all heck too. thinking about it, changes in design would mean thinner or less wood is needed to hold more weight, which isnt necessarily a good thing when it comes to fueling a fire. less wood would mean more air. its like when im making a camp fire, i use small pieces of wood, because fat ones dont burn. great insight

admiral_sinkenkwiken102 karma

You’re pretty well on the money there!

kav1981218 karma

Did Billy Joel start the fire or is he a very good liar?

admiral_sinkenkwiken426 karma

It’s been always burning since the world was turning, so no it wasn’t him

tommygun1688216 karma

Is there really a rivalry firefighters have with police? Or is that just Hollywood bs?

admiral_sinkenkwiken525 karma

Oh there’s definitely rivalry!

We firefighters are of course the much better looking.

Occasionally though a police officer will see the error of their ways and join the fire department 😜

onetimeonreddit179 karma

Can confirm you guys are way hotter

admiral_sinkenkwiken371 karma

You could say we are....on fire.....

onetimeonreddit83 karma

[deleted]

admiral_sinkenkwiken91 karma

Deal

tommygun168831 karma

Haha, right on. Do you play softball or any sports against them?

admiral_sinkenkwiken82 karma

We do, our department and the local police precinct both have teams in the local basketball league.

Recyclonaught212 karma

What’s your record in the cage since you went pro?

admiral_sinkenkwiken206 karma

43-0

Coldbeerimritehere179 karma

What level of involvement do FDs have during this pandemic? Has it altered what you typically do at your job?

admiral_sinkenkwiken264 karma

In general at my department it’s business as usual regarding day to day incident response with the exception of medical response calls, where due to the virus we kit up to full biohazard standard.

Volunteer departments are operating much the same to my knowledge.

Training operations are severely restricted and firefighter recruit courses for both professional and volunteers are suspended for the time being.

Coldbeerimritehere29 karma

[deleted]

DistroyerOfWorlds19 karma

Oh hey I'm from CT too, they suspended our EMT and Police cadet training in Fairfield county.

Coldbeerimritehere9 karma

Not even any portion can be completed online? I bet we need EMTs right now too...

admiral_sinkenkwiken14 karma

We’ve got theory refreshers available online but that’s about it.

admiral_sinkenkwiken10 karma

Happy to! Stay safe out there

potatotanker45142 karma

Truck or Engine? Which do you prefer riding with?

admiral_sinkenkwiken186 karma

Engine, no question

SWErdnase91146 karma

blasphemy

admiral_sinkenkwiken7 karma

Deep down you know engine is best

ImTheGodOfAdvice127 karma

What’s the dumbest way someone you had to help has started a fire?

admiral_sinkenkwiken255 karma

Has to go to trying to light their oven by using gasoline when the igniter didn’t work.

It was a very very dumb idea

Yoguls112 karma

What is your favourite film based on your profession?

admiral_sinkenkwiken201 karma

Further to that, while Backdraft got the camaraderie down well, they would literally all be dead in the first 10 seconds

I-like-whiskey6973 karma

What’s your favorite movie, and why is it backdraft?

admiral_sinkenkwiken98 karma

Ladder 49

Yoguls31 karma

Backdraft is probably my favourite. I've seen ladder 49 but when it was first released and cant remember anything about it. Will have to give it a rewatch

admiral_sinkenkwiken135 karma

Joaquin Phoenix nailed it in my opinion, he put himself through the academy in Baltimore and spent a month as an on shift firefighter to research the role.

admiral_sinkenkwiken121 karma

For accuracy and attention to detail, Ladder 49

owwwmyeye112 karma

Are there any rookie mistakes you see regularly in firefighting?

admiral_sinkenkwiken176 karma

Yes, not knowing your trucks and gear is just about the most common.

HickoryDavis91 karma

do firefighters prefer to take it in the ass or mouth?

admiral_sinkenkwiken116 karma

Both from what I’ve seen

owenscott202090 karma

Can you still tie all the knots ?

admiral_sinkenkwiken102 karma

Yes indeed!

Sabre_Taser76 karma

What appliances do you have in your station & what calls can your station respond to?

admiral_sinkenkwiken96 karma

We run an Engine, Hazmat, Tanker & Light Tanker

We can and do respond to pretty much everything

Ventrical52 karma

But do you have a stove for chili cookoffs?

admiral_sinkenkwiken77 karma

Chili is banned as it creates hazmats

damusic2me70 karma

I'm on the assumption here that you're a firefighter in the USA, Here in Europe there is this image, that the mortality of firefighters in the US is a lot higher than in Europe cause of a 'hero syndrome' where firefighters just run into a burning building disregarding their own safety to save any kid/pet/old lady (exaggerating of course, but you get the point I think) Has this ever been true/is this still true/is there any change in this behaviour? and if so/if not, w

admiral_sinkenkwiken89 karma

Tactics employed by many US departments are considerably more aggressive than in other countries, combined with of course differing construction standards ect. which does have a small effect on those statistics.

Primary cause of LODD is cardiac events as opposed to direct fire causes, which has many contributing factors.

jasmin35w64 karma

How do you guys cope with the risk & stress? I mean you risk your own life & sometimes you see burnt bodies, etc?

admiral_sinkenkwiken128 karma

We have an incredibly good support network from our department’s support programme but most of us tend to use our union’s support programmes more, it’s nothing against the department, we just prefer to talk to fellow firefighters about these things.

My personal view is you need to emotionally disconnect from the situation as much as you can while it’s all happening, and each of us have our own ways of doing that and dealing with the stresses and trauma that comes with what we do, we also try to look out for each other as much as we can too.

MahdeenSky61 karma

Can I ask about your opinion, on people who like to watch the world burn?

admiral_sinkenkwiken128 karma

My most diplomatic answer is that I’m not a fan of them.

chandyle59 karma

Hello!

Several questions:

(1) A relative just told me the plug-in + battery-operated CO2 detector I have isn't good enough & that I should buy some several hundred-dollar thing that "actually samples the air." True?

(2) Is there a typical firefighter personality?

(3) In your opinion, are all the firefighters you know physically and mentally able to do the job?

admiral_sinkenkwiken94 karma

  1. Any CO detector is sampling the air, it wouldn’t go off if it didn’t.

  2. Not really, we’re all pretty normal

  3. No

scoobnsnack8655 karma

What’s the most awkward situation your profession has put you in? I know a few firefighters, what have you got?

admiral_sinkenkwiken62 karma

Define awkward, that can mean so many things in this line of work!

scoobnsnack8656 karma

Ok, so I heard a story about how this woman was in the tub and she literally got her toe stuck in the spout. That stuff

admiral_sinkenkwiken209 karma

My personal one was a fire in a college dorm, I went in doing room checks the floor above to make sure they’d all got out, walked into a room to find a girl madly going to town on herself with a battery operated “friend”

The single most unexpected and awkward room entry ever.

Aithusa519152 karma

Jokes on you, her kink is firemen walking in on her masturbating.

TheAero122166 karma

Well, I mean if it wasn't before, it probably is now.

IRockIntoMordor21 karma

The masturbating arsonist

admiral_sinkenkwiken32 karma

That’s actually happened

KidsStillSeeGhosts53 karma

What's the most depressing thing you seen on the job?

admiral_sinkenkwiken111 karma

Anything that involves children, those calls hit especially hard.

KidsStillSeeGhosts38 karma

Is PTSD a problem with firefighters?

admiral_sinkenkwiken103 karma

In short, yes very much so.

There isn’t one firefighter I know who hasn’t suffered PTSD or similar effects from the job, and sadly we’ve lost firefighters to PTSD too.

KidsStillSeeGhosts37 karma

Last question,

Do Cops and Firefighters have a friendly competition? Like for those softball games you see on TV shows, roasting each other and etc.

admiral_sinkenkwiken44 karma

We do yes!

Northman6748 karma

What's the most common cause of Home or apartment fires?

What are one or two things most of us could easily do 2 help make ourselves in our homes more safe from such an event?

admiral_sinkenkwiken122 karma

Electrical

  1. Don’t overload power outlets or power boards

  2. Don’t leave laptops, phones, tablets ect charging on beds, cushions, couches ect, hard surfaces only.

  3. Clean your lint filters

dietderpsy48 karma

How strong and how tall do you need to be?

admiral_sinkenkwiken81 karma

Height would depend on the department you’re applying to, some have requirements and some don’t.

Strength and cardio endurance are what you need, almost every department will have a physical component to their application process, but aim to be above average strength at a consistent 10 on the beep test and you should be fine for just about all of them.

HazelnutapplePie46 karma

What is your view on voluntary firefighters? What are the big differences?

admiral_sinkenkwiken80 karma

Volunteers do an amazing job, in most cases it’s training levels that differ substantially as well as skills maintenance requirements as they must be able to work around their regular jobs too.

HoboOfTheSeas44 karma

What did the fire ever do to you huh?

admiral_sinkenkwiken80 karma

Insulted my mother

HoboOfTheSeas30 karma

I've got your back, let's get this fool.

admiral_sinkenkwiken17 karma

Fuck yeah

mydeadface41 karma

Do the tv shows about firefighters got it right?

admiral_sinkenkwiken87 karma

Generally they do ok on the camaraderie aspect, but usually are nowhere close on the operations front, largely because it has to be set up to look good on the screen.

Cotteneyej0e39 karma

What’s the most dangerous call you’ve gone on?

admiral_sinkenkwiken45 karma

Hmmm, what would you define as dangerous?

Cotteneyej0e40 karma

I mean what call has had either you or someone else in life threatening levels

admiral_sinkenkwiken95 karma

I’ve been in those type of situations a number of times, just the nature of the game.

I’d say probably the worst have been inside buildings, I’ve had a ceiling come down on me a few times doing a casualty search, but being burned over by wildfire is very intense.

mrhelio33 karma

Do you mind telling us more about your burn over? Were you in a fire shelter?

admiral_sinkenkwiken45 karma

I’ve been burned over 4 times, this is the most recent one.

We were working a control line for a backburn in heavy forest with another agency who had overall command, unknown to me they had not passed on wind change information, to either us or their own crews, and when the change came we went from relatively benign fire conditions to 60+ foot flame height in less than 2 minutes, I ordered the crew back aboard and started dumping the hoselines which were already beginning to burn, before getting back on board myself, we have burnover protection spray systems on our trucks that kept us relatively cool, and pushed through to further up the trail to rescue 4 of their guys caught on foot.

lordofbored8008533 karma

Are responders universally trained to look for medical alert bracelets? I'll be needing one soon and I don't know if it is worth it

admiral_sinkenkwiken46 karma

Yes, we will check

Anything that gives us information that could save you is definitely worth it

CurlySlothklaas31 karma

Will you tell us more about the techniques you've helped develop? I'm always curious about training methods and it must be interesting to test firefighting and survival equipment.

admiral_sinkenkwiken78 karma

Sure thing! Training is a passion of mine.

I have led the practical design and proof of concepts for a new generation of basic training for recruit firefighters, which the department had begun the full rollout of before Covid-19 hit.

A large part of my contribution was to remove the old “students sit in classroom and listen to instructor/watch PowerPoints ect” method that had been standard delivery and resulted in a bloated and inefficient process.

From there I restructured the basic skills learning process and put considerable emphasis on the use of the Socratic learning method, meaning that recruits are being challenged to think critically about what they are doing, and to constructively challenge us as instructors if they think there’s a problem in any given scenario or a better way to achieve the result.

We put a class of recruits that undertook the standard programme up against my proof of concept course and my test recruits scored considerably higher on both practical and theoretical skills testing, and showed a demonstrably higher level of situational awareness and analysis.

TypicalCricket30 karma

How often do you have to get a cat out of a tree?

admiral_sinkenkwiken71 karma

More often than you’d think

Couple times a year

BouquetofDicks13 karma

Does the department charge for cat removal?

admiral_sinkenkwiken10 karma

No

f1_1ckfacemagoo26 karma

How much time do you actually spend fighting fires and how much time is down time?

admiral_sinkenkwiken36 karma

Down time is pretty rare really as we have a lot of other things to do outside of responding to calls

lawn_mower_jockey22 karma

Do you guys have exclusive rights to Dalmatians? I never see them anywhere else.

admiral_sinkenkwiken74 karma

Haha no, I thought Cruella de Ville bought them all?

GItPirate21 karma

During wildfire season what causes so many firefighters to lose their lives? I understand fighting fire is dangerous but wanted more insight into what goes wrong.

admiral_sinkenkwiken44 karma

More often than not its trees shedding limbs after the fire has passed, but heat stress plays a role too, as we work in extremely poor air quality with high heat levels and high physical exertion.

Direct fire related deaths are thankfully becoming rarer due to improved safety and survivability of trucks.

inthesandtrap18 karma

Hopefully you don't have PTSD or any lingering mental problems. That's what I worry about. Seeing hurt people and lives altered and ruined repeatedly may have negative repercussions.

Does it get to you? Do you have nightmares? PTSD?

Thanks for the taking to the time to do this.

admiral_sinkenkwiken42 karma

Unfortunately yes I do suffer the effects of PTSD to varying degrees, and most certainly there are times when it gets to me.

I wouldn’t wish the nightmares on anyone.

Msilvia2317 karma

My husband is currently in the state firefighter academy. Do you have any advice for him?

admiral_sinkenkwiken44 karma

Study hard, train hard, rinse and repeat.

And don’t worry if you don’t know it all when you get to your station, but take the time to learn your trucks inside and out, and for the love of god wash your gear after smoke exposure

sn3akybr33z314 karma

Is there a “type” of person you find excels in this career? Is there a common feature you find amongst the fire fighters you work with?

What should those interested in this career field be aware of?

admiral_sinkenkwiken32 karma

People with the ability to maintain calmness and clarity while everyone else is losing their collective shit go very well, and a sense of humour is an absolute must, both are common traits that I see.

Be aware if considering this as a career that while the high points are very high, the low points can be utterly horrific.

MassXJ14 karma

Do you ever worry about the long term effects of your job on your heath, such as exposure to carcinogens on your bunker gear, or throwing out your back lifting a stretcher? When you overhaul a fire, do you wear your respirator or does the culture dictate you take your mask off as soon as the fire is out?

admiral_sinkenkwiken9 karma

It’s something very high on our priority list yes, as historically we have massive cancer rates.

Our department has a policy of all smoke is bad, so we will use SCBA even in overhaul

maxchavez13 karma

Why is the extreme on/off work schedule still the best/only option?

admiral_sinkenkwiken30 karma

I wouldn’t say it’s extreme by any means, and different departments do different things with shift patterns.

In my personal opinion the multi-platoon system allows for a good level and equal level of fatigue management.

maxchavez9 karma

Why the need for 24hr shifts instead of, say, 12hr shifts?

admiral_sinkenkwiken23 karma

Not every department uses 24 hour shifts, some use 48 hour shifts, others use a day/night rotating cycle

aqroyal5 karma

How many years of training does it take to save a basement?

admiral_sinkenkwiken6 karma

Not sure what you’re getting at?

xtopheradam5 karma

I think their calling you a basement flooder ;)

admiral_sinkenkwiken6 karma

He sounds like a cop

cleverlane4 karma

What is a professional firefighter? Are there amateur firefighters?

admiral_sinkenkwiken3 karma

Technically yes there are

artificialevil3 karma

Why are cops the worst?

admiral_sinkenkwiken8 karma

They clearly suffer from firefighter envy and crippling donut addictions.

(All in good fun of course, they give as good as they get)

koosobie2 karma

Is there a non professional firefighter? ;)

admiral_sinkenkwiken2 karma

It would depend on what you take that to mean?

koosobie1 karma

in France everyone in their job is a professional. There's no distinction between jobs/careers/professionals.

I guess I mean it in a metaphysical way. lol

admiral_sinkenkwiken2 karma

Well I’ve certainly seen both paid and volunteers act both professionally and unprofessionally

koosobie2 karma

In my opinion, being a firefighter is professional but people may not be. lol

admiral_sinkenkwiken1 karma

A fair assessment that I’d mostly agree with