After reading several abstracts and model studies over the years on firefighting tactics, preplanning, decision-making, risk management and fire safety from this country and overseas I began to develop different views and understandings of the strategic and tactical evaluation process. This is attributed to talking, experiencing and participating in hands on situations with my own department as well as many urban departments throughout the country. What this has shown me is the wide variances of strategic and tactical modes being employed producing both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Most officers and incident commanders are faced with sometimes making quick detrimental decisions that affect the rescue or fire suppression operation into its inevitable offensive or defensive posture which results in the consequences of the risks taken and the safety provided.
Over time I began mentally and physically taking notes on the offensive, defensive or marginal operational decisions made at several different types of fires both residential and high rise. Being an officer and having had the experience in making less then optimal decisions when being first to arrive on an engine, truck or squad company it became very important to me to understand good and bad decision-making. On the fire ground the repercussions can affect everyone in their capacity to provide positive outcomes in fire suppression activities. In order to do this I begin to realize that the evaluation and the consequences of the fire's position played a key role in the strategic and tactical requirements for the offensive or defensive operation and its outcome.
In order to understand and determine our capacity at any given incident it became clear to me that I needed some flexible guidelines in sizing up specific strategies and tactics in offensive and defensive operations. I also needed to acquire a better understanding why certain offensive operations increased risk and safety to personnel while at the same time failing to reach their goal only to end up as defensive postures and exhausted resources. In some cases in many parts of the country the decisions made were responsibly connected to the ultimate price to be paid, the death of one of our own.
Pros and Cons of the Operational Mode
Attacking a fire is more demanding then trying to contain a fire in a defensive posture. The true realization is that the offensive attack probably requires more resources then a defensive mode. The nature of an offensive firefight requires us to provide a great expenditure of energy in manpower, risk and equipment then the defensive position which could require much less. The first five to ten minutes of an offensive maneuver could well ultimately decide the process and the results of the next several hours on the fire ground. This includes the ultimate probabilities of injury or death.
The earlier the response and decision process is directed to the event taking place will result in whether the fire suppression efforts will be successful. In some way or another there will always be a relationship between the operational mode chosen and the resources available that will enable the success of the choice being made. Any mode of operation chosen that becomes marginal or changing during the suppression efforts should still be considered an offensive position demanding even more resources than would be required than if the operational mode chosen stayed constant. The defensive and offensive mode definitely provides differences in their actions. In the defensive position fire suppression efforts are directed toward stopping the fire spread and allowing the fires fuel to be exhausted. Offensively the ultimate goal is to intervene, combat it, and put the fire out depriving it of its available fuel.
Philosophy and Risk