With all of the emphasis on technology in the last decade or so, the emphasis on the general subject of history is, in my opinion, taking a back seat to the latest way of accomplishing the various duties and tasks of life. This tendency could be counterproductive unless we were to apply it to reawakening our interest in the patterns of events and their causes; patterns which have already occurred and are bound to be repeated.
For example: I have been on the board of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum since the mid-70s. Along with six other directors, we are collecting, preserving and restoring relics of all shapes, sizes and value concerning the fire service; and, we are also developing a sizeable reference library for the use of anyone interested. Thousands of pages of information and photographs dating back to the late 1910s may be accessed. After having read and seen most of them I can tell you that fire behaves around here exactly as it did in 1910. Heat still rises, pent-up fire gasses will explode into flame when released into an oxygen-rich atmosphere, a doubling of any given wind speed will supply four times the amount of oxygen to a moving brush fire, a 70-mile-per-hour wind gust will throw large hot embers two miles or more and start a "new" fire ("Kanan" fire, Malibu 1978) and firefighters mostly tend to use hose streams too small for the task at hand. What to do?!
A vigorous study of repeated history and what humanity has done to improve techniques will help to answer that question. Along those lines, we should be proud that members of Los Angeles County Forester and Fire Warden and the Districts have invented, tested and put into use the two and three-way radio (1923), the "Fog" nozzle (1938), fixed-wing air drops (1954), the helicopter drop tank (1961) and the paramedic program (1969) among others. In addition, history also has taught us that the same mountain passes repeatedly act as fire corridors to aid in the rapid spread of fire as would a modified wind tunnel. This phenomenon and other more routine ongoing problems should serve as motivators to continue our inventive work.
So we see that history, as applied to the fire service, is after all the great teaching tool. All past incidents and practices may teach us much if we will only take the time to study. While you're at it, some of the most in-depth material to look over can be found in your Fire Museum. All you'll ever need is right there for the searching. And, whether you come down to study or to lend a hand, we'll welcome you with a big grin and a hearty hand clasp. I will personally guarantee it!
Got history? There it is; take it!
Capt. Dave Boucher - Department Historian