Multi-tasking at Multiple Dwelling Occupancies: Engine Operations

This month, we will be discussing some strategic considerations for engine companies when they arrive at a working fire in a multiple occupancy dwelling. Previously, we had discussed some of the more common issues with multiple dwellings, no matter the...

Considering the size hose, the gallons per minute of flow, and the location the line needs to get to, be sure that the engine company is adequately staffed to get the hand line safely and efficiently into position.

Large multiple dwellings may be equipped with standpipes in the structure. If so, the engine company can make use of this and attack the fire from the connection on the floor below. Be sure to take the friction loss of the system into consideration, based on the height of the fire floor. Engine companies can mount their attack on the floor below the fire, referred to as the operations floor. Reviewing the layout of the floor below may aid the companies in getting to the seat of the fire quicker. Equipment and extra bottles can be placed on the next floor down, or the resource floor.

Upon Arrival Of The First Engine

First Arriving Engine Company As the first engine is arriving, it is a good practice to drive past the fire building, and position at the corner of the structure for two reasons: it allows the company officer to see three sides of the building, aiding in their size-up; and it leaves room in front of the building for the truck company to set up (Photo 4).

The company officer must take into consideration the potential for flashover, backdraft, utility hazards, auxiliary appliances, and potential of collapse, prior to committing personnel to the operation. One of the most important size-up considerations is the location and extent of the fire. This will set the mode of operation (offensive, defensive, marginal, etc…) and units can then be assigned accordingly.

Assuming there will be an aggressive interior operation under way at a multiple dwelling fire, then the engine company will have to establish a secure water supply upon arrival. If there is a sprinkler system or standpipe system in the building, it will need to be supplied.

Next, the crew will have to stretch the appropriate size handline into place (This is the make-or-break point for many scenes) and get the line to one of two locations: at the seat of the fire to locate, confine and extinguish the fire, or between the fire and the victim (Photo 5). This crew must coordinate suppression with the arriving truck company's ventilation team. If not, this can lead to huge problems on scene.The officer must also report conditions inside the dwelling to the Incident Commander (IC) so tactics can be adjusted as needed.

Upon Arrival Of The Second Engine

The second arriving engine company should position itself in order to secure a back up water supply, if the need arises for one. While this is getting done, the crew can enter the dwelling with a back up line: I prefer to go one size up and one length longer, but the same diameter line at a minimum. This line has to be positioned to back up the first line in the event they run into problems, and to protect the stairs and means of egress for the crew and the residents.

This crew should also protect the search team as they are operating, and coordinate ventilation with the truck company assigned this task (Photo 6). It may be possible that this line might be sent one floor up, to protect the search team and check for extension, but backing up the first team is still the number one priority!

It would be better suited to send a third team in with a third hoseline, to protect the floor above and check for extension. This would be a perfect job for the third arriving engine company. Be sure to send this hand line into the structure from a different location, as trying to work with three lines going through the same opening will become problematic.If a rescue is to be made, the amount of hose and manpower clogging up the opening may cause delays in victim/firefighter removal. Keep the egress points as clear as possible.

After the fire has been knocked down, overhaul at the scene is a critical task for the engine company. Making sure the fire is completely out and checking for hot spots from extension is not to be taken lightly. Keep all of your gear on and in place, and rotate crew members frequently to avoid fatigue and injury.