Statter: I’m the Larry Flynt of fire porn

By Dave Statter

Billy D. Hayes is my friend. Billy is someone who left a great impression on me by the way he handled a rather sticky professional situation not long after we met.

Billy is getting beat up a bit today by firefighters who disagree with with the column he wrote for FireRescue1.com that was published Monday. It's titled, "How 'fire porn' hurts the fire service."

Following Billy's example from a number of years ago, I should be rushing to my friend's defense against these attackers. After all, what are friends for?

But my defense will only be a partial one. This is not because I question Billy's intelligence, abilities, manhood or dedication to the fire service. It's because I disagree with his premise and the column's headline.

Sorry Billy.

One of the Flynts
Billy D. Hayes is absolutely correct that fire prevention and safety should be a much larger part of what firefighters do in this country. As Billy points out, if the job of a firefighter is to protect lives and property how can prevention not be a significant part of the mission?

But Billy thinks fire porn helps lower the status of fire prevention in the eyes of firefighters. As one of the Larry Flynts of fire porn, I disagree.

Many years ago, among my firefighter friends, I began referring to the handful of videos I post each day on STATter911.com with that same term, fire porn.

As Billy recognizes, the fire videos fuel websites like mine. They are generally the most popular feature among firefighters.

Making angels cry
Billy's argument is that a steady diet of fire porn will make you go blind, unable to see that the job involves much more than putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.

But my experience in meeting firefighters all over the country is they don't sneak their phones or tablets, covered in a plain brown wrapper, into the bathroom or under the covers in the bunkroom to view STATter911.com.

The most common comment I get in person, via email and in the comments section, is that they use these videos on a daily basis for training. I am somewhat astounded by how often I hear this from firefighters and company officers.

While it does sound self-serving on my part, I believe fire porn is helping firefighters do a better job and may be increasing the effectiveness and safety of firefighters. It’s a tool that was not available to previous generations of firefighters.

Porn sharing
Thanks to smart phones, helmet-cams and dash-cams, firefighters in the 21st century have the ability each day to view fires from around the country in the earliest stages. They get to see how the public reacts and the initial actions of their brother and sister firefighters.

Company officers tell me they regularly share these videos among their crews and then discuss how they would handle the same incident. They talk about what would they do if it they were first in on this fire and potential safety issues for firefighters that they may identify in the video.

How is that a bad thing for firefighters, the fire service and the public?

But it doesn't stop there. Instead of complaining about these videos, many people involved in fire prevention have contacted me through the years to get their hands on some fire porn.

It's not to help deal with a sudden urge that isn't satisfied because they aren't in suppression. Instead, they've been using these same dirty videos to show to the public and the politicians. They use them to spark discussions on how quickly fire spreads and the importance of prevention and residential sprinklers.

Lipstick on a …
As with the ongoing, and sometimes nasty, arguments over "culture of suppression" versus "culture of safety," it really isn't one or the other. The smart money is on the people who know how to take the best from both suppression and safety.

The challenge, as Billy rightly points out, is making prevention as steamy and hot as porn. Not an easy makeover.

Achieving that balance takes a combination of funding and good leaders who know how to motivate people. But just don't think for a moment that you'll get attention and respect for prevention by taking away the dirty magazines.

That never works.

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