04/28/13 264 W, 1 I - + 8 - 4 Charlotte Firefighter Roof Incident in Video and Headlines

At a house fire in Charlotte on Thursday, did a firefighter fall into the roof as this Statter911 story recounts, or did he slip on the roof as this FireNews story recounts? Which verb is most accurate, and does the particular word even matter?

There's a video of what happened, and readers can (and perhaps already have) commence merrily second-guessing the story writers. Of course, this isn't really apples to apples. The Statter story was posted earlier, and draws from nhews reports. The FireNews story came later, and includes information from the CFD PIO.

But this begs a larger question. How important is word choice, in communication about unusual (or significant) events on the fireground? It depends on the purpose of the communication, as well as the outcome.

Choosing your words carefully can downplay or overplay an event. You can minimize or maximize a reaction, by the amount of words (the detail) and you provide. This applies to anything from a quick e-mail note, to a fireground incident report, to a formal press release, to, ahem, a blog post about a fire.

Readers, what have you liked or not like about particular words when they're used in stories about fires? Just be alert of the impressions formed within you. As you rise in the ranks, so will the opportunities for wider and more impacting "wordsmithing." Anyway, here's the video. House fire on Eastway Drive. Member of Engine 3 was quickly rescued by crew. No injures. Good to hear.


Well it looks like he did fall, but also that he was walking down the roof in a nonchalant sort of way. Can’t think of a better way to put it. He did a little teeter on one leg as he took the step right before falling. Not sure if he wasn’t paying as much attention as he should have been or what, but ,as they used to say in the army, he wasn’t moving with a sense of purpose. Don’t know what he was thinking about before he fell, but I can guess what he was thinking of after. There was a lot of active fire beneath him, there are good reasons why using roof ladders are best practice and why you keep the numbers of people on the roof to a minimum. It’s hard to tell if that’s a self-vented fire or if there was a vent hole cut but the hole he fell in looks pretty big. Did they really need to be there? Glad he’s okay.
Bob - 04/29/13 - 00:35

That’s what you get when you send an Engine to the roof!
O.V. says - 04/29/13 - 09:04

If you look at the video closely, and freeze frame it, it appears there is a ladder there that extends down the roof right beside where the fire has vented all the way to the ground behind the house..If you look at the firefighters moves just before he went down, it appears he was turning sideways as if he was preparing to step onto the ladder and possible climb down. It appears that he may have just slipped before he could get hiis footing on the ladder. If this what happened, then this whole incident seems to have been exaggerated by the media. Either way it could have been serious, thankfully it wasn’t.
Galax, Va - 04/29/13 - 10:26

Really O.V. That was uncalled for! Hope you really don’t feel like that.
Rob Mitchell - 04/29/13 - 17:45

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