Rapid Intervention: A Better Way

This article looks at one the roles of a four-person engine company assigned as the Rapid Intervention Company for a dwelling fire.

This article looks at one the roles of a four-person engine company assigned as the Rapid Intervention Company for a dwelling fire.

Here's the scenario: your company is the fourth engine company on the scene of a confirmed working residential structure fire. The battalion chief in command gives your crew the assignment of the rapid intervention team (RIT). A collective sigh resonates from inside the cab. Just another crap assignment. Your crew gathers a few tools and meanders up to command and reports in. You now have one firefighter in a shiny white helmet, trying his best to give assignments to a group of firefighters who are trying their best to accomplish these tasks all in an effort to save some strangers house and belongings. Next to this model of dedication (I'm trying not to snicker) is four guys whose faces amazingly resemble a three-year-old who has been told that he cannot get up from the table until he finishes his broccoli.

As this four-person crew is standing in the front yard, using their various tools as leaning posts, the smoke that is issuing out of two side windows, that has been getting blacker and blacker without any notice, suddenly flashes over. Several frantic "Maydays" are issued. Multiple firefighters come staggering out of the residence. Is this RIT crew ready to make entry? Do they have a clue who is inside? What about the assignments of interior crews? What about their possible location?

This scenario plays itself out hundreds of times a day across the United States. Crews are routinely assigned as RIT and report to command with the attitude that they have somehow gotten the raw end of the deal. Why is that? It is more than likely because RIT is not routinely activated. As a matter of fact, RIT is almost never activated. Of course, that is a good thing. Unfortunately, because of that fact, this assignment is generally viewed with considerable disdain by most crews.

My suggested solution to this mind-numbing assignment is to make it, (warning, fire service cliche straight ahead) proactive. Yep, I went there. I want to build a foundation for how we all perform RIT, or RIC, or FAST, or whatever you call it. This is not a step-by-step plan. That would suggest that you do it my way, all the time, no matter what. Most articles on this subject deal with the actual rescue part of the assignment. You know, the sexy, Kurt Russell with a child in one hand and an axe in the other, jacket wide open, coming through the flames part. I want to back the train up a little and see if we can be a little more prepared and actually have a game plan before we are activated. This is a method that we can all start with and revise as we go along, as the situation dictates. And heaven knows fire scenes are constantly changing.

Arriving on the Scene
I am writing this from a four-person crew perspective. I will throw in some three-person variations along the way. Let's begin with the moment that you are assigned as RIT and are going to step off of your rig. I suggest teams of two (with a three-man crew, a team of two and a team of one). The right side (four-person crew) or two-man team (three-person crew) gathers TRT. That stands for thermal imager, rope bag, and tools. The left side (four-person crew) or team of one, normally the driver (three-person crew) gathers ALS. That stands for airpack, ladder, and a saw.

Here is where our first deviation can occur. If you are at a one-story, wood-frame, residential structure, with no vertical ventilation going on, and fire is not blowing out of the roof, you are probably not going to need a ladder. What about the saw, which type should you bring? If there are no bars on the front windows and door, chances are that they are not on the back, so the need for a circular saw is greatly diminished. A chain saw is probably more appropriate. Where do you get the airpack from? The best place is more than likely going to be off of the manifold engine. Hopefully, the manifold pump operator is not currently wearing it inside of the structure, but I bet we have all seen crazier things.

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