Rapid Intervention: Removing a Firefighter from the Basement

Dispatch has assigned your company as the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). While en route you gain a mental picture of the scene: size and type of construction of the building; occupancy; what tasks the company may be required to perform. As you report to...


The floor may need to be cut to gain better access. This will be the case if there is no basement window. Cutting the outside ribbon board and one floor joist in will result in a 32-inch depth for floors with joists that are 16 inches on center. If the joists are perpendicular, cut in far enough to place the ladder and remove the firefighter. Use caution if members must operate on the floor after it is cut (see Photo 5).

Cutting the floor may also be necessary if the basement window has bars set in the foundation or if it has been replaced with glass blocks, concrete blocks or bricks. A foundation made of cinder block may be broken out with a maul to increase the working area. This will be difficult if the wall has been cored (filling the block openings with concrete).

Place a straight ladder into the opening to gain access and remove the downed firefighter (see Photo 6). Follow the same steps as discussed in using a basement window to remove the firefighter. Using this method should not require removal of the SCBA (see Photo 7).

Area Restrictions

Many times in an urban setting, there may be an exposure limiting the area you have to work in, thus not allowing the use of a ladder as a lever in the horizontal position. This obstacle can be overcome by using a simple 2:1 mechanical advantage attached to a ladder in the vertical position (see Photo 8).

Attach the carabiner to the firefighter’s SCBA harness or Drag Rescue Device (DRD), or the webbing you have secured to the firefighter (see Photo 9). Remember, this is a rapid removal, we do not have the time nor is this the environment to place a harness on the firefighter. As the crew outside pulls on the rope, the firefighter being raised may need some assistance coming out of the opening you created (see Photo 10).

Being assigned to the RIT is not a mundane assignment. Everyone on the fireground is relying on the team to rescue them if needed. You and your company may never perform a rescue as the RIT, but you must be prepared.

The methods for removing a firefighter with a ladder are not limited to exterior access. It can be adapted to an interior operation. The space you have to work in will determine what size ladder can be utilized. For one- and two-family occupancies and those with shallow basements, a folding ladder or Stokes basket may be your best choice. Using a Stokes basket may require the firefighter to be secured prior to raising, while the 16-foot ladder may be suited for a commercial property with a deep basement.

After any incident or training that required you to cut holes in the floor, always remember to paint “holes in floor” on the exterior of the building. This will make other companies and shifts aware of the hazard.

Special thanks to the members of Truck 10 and Engine 13 (Group 4) for their assistance with this article.

  • See Tom Live! Tom Rogan will be presenting “Peaked Roof Ventilation” at Firehouse Expo, July 19 - 23, in Baltimore.

TOM ROGAN is a lieutenant on Rochester, NY, Fire Department Truck 10. He has an Associates of Science in fire science, and a Bachelors of Science in both business administration and fire administration. He is a nationally certified fire instructor I, New York State fire instructor, and is an adjunct instructor for the New York State Fire Academy.