"This fire isn't a big deal, but how we handle it could turn into a very big deal," Alder said.
One by one, each of the firefighters described what they saw and how they would react to the situation if it was their fire.
Alder stressed the importance of "doing a lap" around the fire building to see all four sides to know exactly what the department was facing. "Is this going to be an offensive or a defensive mode?" Alder quizzed.
Unanimously the students said it was an offensive mode and they were going to go into it and put the fire out. He praised their decisiveness, but cautioned that sometimes, an aggressive interior attack isn't always the right call, reminding them of the adage of risk versus benefit.
"It's easy to make the calls that are black and white, but it's the ones that are a little gray that are going to bite you," Alder said.
Today, with the kinds of construction types and the materials used in contents, Alder said it might not be the best move to rush into a building and get the fire out.
He added that sometimes a good fire command requires "building a system" by calling in additional resources, and getting them in place with a plan. "And then we go in, like an Army, and put the fire out," he said.
That, however, doesn't mean that sometimes aggressive action isn't prudent, particularly when it comes to saving lives.
"We all have jobs to do and we shouldn't let the fear of liability get in the way of doing them," Adler said.
By the wrap up of the class, the students were full of praise for the instructors and the format. One student said he wished it was three days given the amount of course material that was presented and how much was left on the table, not discussed for want of more time.
Another student said that, by far, the class offered the most instruction for the money bar none.
"I'd have to pay you guys a $1,000 or $2,000 to come teach me for a couple of days," the student said.
"That can be arranged," Hadfield quipped. "I'm available."
Hadfield said he was pleased with the course and the feedback and hopes to offer it in the future, perhaps as a three-day event.
Other instructors involved with the class included Anthony Kastros, battalion chief of the Sacramento (Calif.) Metro Fire District; Wes Kitchel, captain, Santa Rosa (Calif.) Fire Department; Andy Mejia, captain, Encinitas (Calif.) Fire Department and Jeff Breasher, captain, San Ramona Valley (Calif.) Fire Department.