Truck Company Operations

Michael M. Dugan describes how the truck company operating at a fire in a high-rise building helps determine the outcome of an operation.


A truck company operating at a fire in a high-rise building is one of the many units that will help determine the outcome of the operation. The type of high-rise building in which the fire operations are being conducted is one of our main concerns. Is it a high-rise residential or office building...


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A truck company operating at a fire in a high-rise building is one of the many units that will help determine the outcome of the operation. The type of high-rise building in which the fire operations are being conducted is one of our main concerns. Is it a high-rise residential or office building? The truck company has many duties to perform at a fire in either type of building, but they differ. (Note: Whether your fire department has truck companies or not, these “truck” operations must be assigned to units. If no truck company is available, substitute an engine company where “truck” is listed.)

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Photo by Harvey Eisner
It can take a long time for the attack team to assemble, for staging to be set up below the fire and for additional equipment such as spare air cylinders to be brought up close to the operations area during a high-rise operation.

The first task that the first-due or first-on-scene truck company must accomplish is locating the fire. This job is difficult at best and depends on what type of building is involved. In most residential high-rises, calls reporting the fire will be received from the fire floor and floors above due to the smoke conditions. In a high-rise office building, the smoke may be reported on several different floors due to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Smoke can travel through the HVAC system and be reported on many floors.

The presence of access stairs may also lead to reports of smoke on different floors. Access stairs are used if a tenant occupies more than one floor; then they have stairs in place allowing employees to travel between floors without waiting for an elevator. The smoke may be reported on different floors due to these factors and normal smoke movement, so the initial job of the first on-scene truck company is to find the fire floor. This is an extremely difficult task, at best. The truck should be assigned this task because the engine company does not want to commit its personnel and resources until the fire is located.

The second duty is to verify the fire floor. This may seem redundant, but it is important to make sure that the fire is not below the company. This would be more important at an office high-rise building. Once the fire floor is verified, the truck company should communicate with the engine company and notify it of the location of the fire. This will let the engine company begin transporting the firefighters and hose to the proper location.

The third task is to determine the location of the attack and evacuation stairways. The truck company determines the attack stairs because it has located the fire and now has located the stairway that will permit the best attack on the fire. This stairway will become contaminated with heat and smoke when a hoseline is stretched through it, therefore it must be searched for at least five floors for building occupants. The member searching the stairs should be in contact with the truck company officer, who will control the door to the fire floor to protect his position.

At the same time or as soon as possible, the truck company should determine the evacuation stairway. The evacuation stairway is located as far from the fire as possible and will afford the safest movement of building occupants trapped above. These stair designations must be communicated to the incident commander and all firefighters and officers operating at the fire. When firefighters are assigned a position above the fire, the evacuation stairs should be used to reach the floors above. Control of the door to the fire floor and the communication with the unit assigned above are essential.

4_truck2.jpg
Photo by Harvey Eisner
Occupied high-rise apartments provide special challenges to firefighters. Wind can often be a problem to advancing fire crews. The fire can blow from the door of the fire apartment and involve the hallway in blowtorch-type conditions.
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