The last major change that I have seen also came out of tragedy. And that was the Salisbury Millworks fire on March 7, 2008. As you know we lost 2 Salisbury firefighters, Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, and several more were injured. This shook every fire department and every firefighter in Rowan County to the core. I don’t think we’re over it yet. Firefighting is inherently dangerous and it will never be 100% safe, but there are things that can be done to minimize the risk. Things like do not begin interior operations without a backup hose team ready to get the 1st team out if need be. And the practice of establishing a Rapid Intervention Team. This is a fresh crew of firefighters at the scene, and at the ready with extra gear and whatever else they think they may need to rescue distressed firefighters.
As I look back at that incident I can see how our department had become overconfident, because we had been generally successful and it had been years since we had lost a firefighter in this fashion in the county. I think it made us realize more that a fire is a natural occurrence of nature and when you go to fight it, it is an unforgiving foe. No one wants to have a building burn down, especially a firefighter, but we must realize that whenever we commit ourselves to go inside a burning building or get up close to a fire we must be able to prevail, if not we must take a defensive stance outside of the building or from a safe distance.