On Main Street: Heavy Smoke & Fire, Then Boom! Firefighters Down!

As mentioned in the past several columns, we normally don’t identify fire departments here, but several departments have told us that they are willing to openly share their stories. Again, that is a refreshing approach, as difficult as it can be. This...


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So many fire departments send “the same” first-alarm assignment to a house fire as a commercial fire as a strip mall fire as a school fire – and they are not the same! Different buildings and occupancies must receive applicable responses on the first alarm. We have two choices: to arrive at a building fire with a pre-planned first-alarm assignment based on the above factors, or not. Which would you rather do?

Large-stream handlines. Sometimes, a 1¾-inch line simply is not enough. It’s all based on the fire size, what’s burning and the line’s flow capabilities. A rule of thumb that some use is essentially a residential fire gets a 1¾-inch line and everything else gets a 2½. Of course, issues such as deployment and maneuverability are factors in line size, but so is the ability to flow water! How can that be dealt with? By training, drills, (hands on!), planning and plenty of firefighters (based on what is needed as discussed above) on the first alarm. Naturally, keep in mind portable master streams (some great lightweight devices are available) as well as deck guns and aerial devices.

Accountability. Clearly, this not an easy task, but if it is practiced on every run, with strict discipline, it will flow more easily on the working fires. The best accountability “system” is a tough company officer who will not allow members to be unaccounted for – and that is best accomplished by members staying together and no one operating alone. As well intentioned as junior firefighters may be, they do not have the authority, experience or expertise to manage accountability. If they are the first string of help, so be it, but as additional staffing arrives, that critical task must be managed by an appropriate firefighter, preferably an officer.

Firefighter rescue teams. Until companies return to quarters, things can go wrong. A well-staffed, well-equipped and trained firefighter rescue team must be in place – and may be in several places, based on a determination of needs.

Command support. The incident commander cannot function alone, although in some cases, as shown above, there is little choice until extra help arrives. As soon as possible, the incident commander must have several aides to support the operation. Radio operations, monitoring, scribes, contacts, phone calls and related tasks can divert the incident commander from focusing on the big picture.

The incident command system. We really have no choice but to operate on every run using the incident command system from the moment we arrive. Some may say it is a waste, but even if it isn’t needed on a small-scale run, what are we “wasting”? The incident command system doesn’t “cost” us anything, so let’s practice by using it on every run so that when the “big one” occurs, or when something goes wrong on the small ones, everyone is familiar with the system.

This close call on Main Street USA is a classic event that so many of us think about. As Chief Osborne wrote, there is much emotion when you are charged with “saving Main Street.” On the other hand, due to construction, access, water supply, staffing and other tactical considerations, a careful balance between the emotions of “saving Main Street” and the clear desire of all of us to have every firefighter return home after every call must be maintained.

Goldfeder Named to NFFF Board

The Board of Directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) has selected William Goldfeder, EFO, to serve on the board. Goldfeder, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a nationally known speaker and advocate for fire service safety. He will serve on the 12-member board that provides oversight and direction to the NFFF’s many programs.

Goldfeder, a firefighter since 1973 and a chief officer since 1982, was promoted last month to deputy chief of the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio. He has also served as a chief in Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Additionally, he is the recipient of over 30 operational and administrative awards and recognitions and received the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department Departmental Award of Excellence in 2003. Goldfeder recently completed his sixth year as a member of the Commission of Fire Accreditation International and has served on several National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) committees. He is currently a member of the IAFC Health and Safety Committee and an IAFC representative on the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting Task Force.