Red Hot and Redundant

Every time there is a big fire anywhere I get a little hot under the collar. I know I should be worried about the possible loss of  life or degree of property damage…but what I’m really dreading is the reporting that will accompany the event. Broadcasters make more mistakes talking about a fire than just about any other spot News event. And they make the same errors repeatedly. Does no one in a senior editorial position see the need to correct them? I covered my fair share of fires in the earlier days of my career and I know that I gleefully embraced all of these verbal gaffes. It just seems that there are only so many descriptive phrases that are used by reporters to describe a fire. These are the old and faulty chestnuts that still burn my ass.

Fully engulfed. You’ll hear this if it’s a big fire that is pretty much a lost cause by the time the fire trucks arrive. The term ‘fully engulfed’ is, of course ,redundant. The building is engulfed or it isn’t. It can’t be partially engulfed, or slightly engulfed anymore than someone can be a little bit pregnant.

Raging inferno. This pretty much falls into the same category as fully engulfed. Raging inferno? Did you ever meet an inferno that wasn’t ? There’s no such thing as a user-friendly inferno. They all rage. Just call it an inferno and people will get the point.

Dead body. I know it’s the worst case scenario…but this one really sticks in my craw. If you find a body , at the scene of a fire or anywhere else, it’s dead. If you find a body and there’s a pulse…it’s a person. Yes, we all have a body. Some are slightly more attractive and lively than others but I still reserve the right to be considered a person until I draw my last rattled breath. Then, and only then, you can refer to me as a body. You don’t need to throw ‘dead ‘ in there. If you have to fight your way through a fully engulfed raging inferno to get to me, though, I’ll probably be beyond caring.


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