When economic times are hard, the politician always look to the fire service to cut their manning and provide the same level of service. This will leave firefighters doing more with less people and therefore the duties on the fire ground must be prioritized. Getting water on the fire should be the number two priority, second only to firefighter safety. All available means of getting water on the fire should be employed. If we have water on the fire we are in the process of eliminating the fire problem. (Remember what we said in the beginning of this article, the Truck Company is in support of the initial attack)
In commercial structures the truck company might have to cut storefront roll down gate to allow the engine to apply water to the fire. Either way you do it you still have to create the quickest and safest way into the structure for the firefighter with the hose and water.
Photo By Michael Dugan
Firefighters drilling and learning the ways of making a window entry on the floor above the fire at the "Firehouse Expo" in Baltimore
The last function of the truck company is search. This is what they are there for, the most basic but hardest job at a fire. When entering a building on fire for a search what is the first priority of your search?
You should find the fire first!
Finding the fire first may sound contrary to what we have all been taught, from rookie school on, "protect life and property." By finding the fire first we are allowing the engine company to get to the fire quicker. This means that as the truck company if it took you four minutes to find the fire and you went past three doors, when you communicate to the engine the location of the fire they can come right to the fire area. The member of the engine company must trust the truck to find the fire and check all rooms before the fire so that they will not be trapped by fire behind them. The truck must check all doors past on the way to the fire, because you never pass a door in a fire until you know what is behind it.
Once the truck locates the fire and tries to confine it, by closing a door or using a pressurized water extinguisher, the truck now can start their search for life from the fire area back toward the exit. They do not want to proceed past the fire for a search unless a line is in place or you have a known life hazard.
The position beyond the fire can become untenable as soon as the engine gets water on the fire and drives the fire and heat towards you. If a known life hazard exists and you must make a search past the fire, communications with the engine company is critical for the safety of the search team.
The truck company must also search for extension of fire within the fire building. This means that walls and ceiling have to be opened looking for avenues of fire extension. This can be started as soon as the engine company has knocked the fire down. If member of the engine company are the ones looking for extension they must wait until the fire is extinguished, before leaving the line to open up the fire area.
Fire Attack: "Firefighting is a team effort"
Photo By Michael Dugan
Members drill on climbing the aerial and gaining access to the roof. This drill must also include the need for effective reports from the roof level to the incident commander and company officer.
The truck and the engine company are the bread and butter of the fire service; together they must be working towards the same goals. If the engine company is doing the entry and search along with stretching their hose line they might not be able to complete any of these jobs because they are doing too many different jobs at one time. If the engine is doing all of the venting and entry, the line stretch will be delayed and the officer might not be able to properly supervise all of the functions required by his unit because he is overextended. Not to mention the overexertion that is being placed on the members of the Engine Company.
The Truck Company has the primary duty to support the Engine Company and allow them to get water on to the fire. The ventilation, entry and search by a Truck Company will allow the Engine Company to be dedicated to stretching a line and getting water on the fire. When the fire is extinguished the problems for the firefighters and the occupants of the building have been greatly reduced.
Training and manning will effect how a fire department goes about the implementation of SOP's. The manning is an unfortunate issue that most fire departments have little or no control over. On the other hand, training is something every firefighter, officer and fire department should be looking to expand and improve. Effective training based on your well thought out SOP's will make your firefighters more aware of their duties and responsibilities on the fire ground.