Riding the Right-Front Seat — Part 4

  Truck company work is one of the most frequently overlooked of the tactical fireground functions, yet proficiency in all these functions is necessary if lives and property are to be saved. Your number-one priority is saving lives endangered by...


  Truck company work is one of the most frequently overlooked of the tactical fireground functions, yet proficiency in all these functions is necessary if lives and property are to be saved. Your number-one priority is saving lives endangered by fire. To do this, however, you must see that...


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Truck company work is one of the most frequently overlooked of the tactical fireground functions, yet proficiency in all these functions is necessary if lives and property are to be saved. Your number-one priority is saving lives endangered by fire. To do this, however, you must see that your firefighters operate in a safe and organized manner. Not only is it potentially disastrous if firefighters become injured or lost, it also requires that additional firefighters be deployed to help their fallen comrades.

My first suggestion is very basic: Never forget that human life is your primary concern, starting with you and moving outward. Your first concern is with the safety of the firefighting crew entrusted to your care. Your next concern involves the endangered population of the burning structure. Lastly, you must have a concern for the general populace of the area surrounding the fire scene. You should not kill innocent citizens just because you want to drive fast or operate carelessly.

It is difficult to provide hard-and-fast rules about when to and, more important, when not to enter a burning building. In far too many cases, people are endangered in heroic, but foolhardy rescue attempts. There is no reason to waste your most important resource: your people.

Personnel safety is the fuel that powers the decision-making engine in life-and-death scenarios. This is not to say that an aggressive interior fire attack should be avoided. Training, experience and circumstances dictate when to make that "cavalry charge" up the front stairs of a burning building.

When evaluating life safety issues:

  • Seek to save those most in danger
  • Seek to save the lives of those most endangered first
  • Those who yell the loudest are not necessarily in the greatest danger; it may be the unconscious person in the midst of a cloud of boiling smoke who needs your help first
  • Forces may need to be diverted from other firefighting operations to save lives
  • Generally, allocate a two-member search and rescue team for every 2,000 square feet of property to be searched

As the person riding the right-front seat on a truck company, you must constantly evaluate the need for your unit to position and raise ladders. Apparatus positioning is critical. Don't let yourself be boxed out. A well-equipped aerial ladder company does no one any good when it is parked around the corner or on the wrong side of the building.

Ensure that your people have easy access to the various pieces of specialized equipment available on a truck company. If conditions allow, raise an aerial to the roof of the fire building. Never challenge high-tension electrical lines for any air space in the vicinity of a burning building. There is no justification for slipping aerials through overhead electrical wires. This can have fatal consequences. I lost a friend who was operating near power lines.

Truck companies are called on to raise ladders to aid in search and rescue, ventilate, initiate fire attack and ensure that firefighters have good access to escape routes at all levels of the fire building.

Search and rescue are critical parts of your role as a truck company officer. Rule one is that at all times and in all places, no one goes in alone. At least one member of each team should have a portable radio. And all members should wear and use self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and personal alert safety system (PASS) devices. What good are you going to be to anyone if, as you are moving in alone, you are suddenly struck and knocked unconscious by a falling ceiling?

There are guidelines that tell us the minimum crew size for firefighting operations. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require a four-person team be assembled before beginning interior structural firefighting. You may say that you are not an OSHA state. I suggest that you ignore this mandate at your own peril.

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