It's 02:30hrs, you and your crew are returning from your second call after midnight; you're tired and you have one thought in mind?sleep. Suddenly, the mobile radio blares an alert tone for your company to respond to a reported residential fire. Without hesitation, you and your crew become conscious to your surroundings and ready for action. The dispatcher confirms the address and you begin to realize, you're first due. Thoughts of an aggressive interior attack begin to pass through your mind as your driver activates the emergency equipment for your code three response. Now it's up to you to assume the responsibility of this ever so challenging task.
The aforementioned scenario is one that is repeated across the fire service nearly everyday. The aggressive interior fire attack is one of the most notable and rewarding tasks taken on by today's firefighters. Unfortunately, a number of dramatic changes in recent years have brought about some increasing hazards to this formidable task. Today's fireground continues to mystify even the most knowledgeable and experienced fire service experts. Changes in modern building construction (techniques and materials) coupled with the advancements in firefighting technology have brought about a desperate need to adjust our traditional fireground strategies in an effort to enhance our safety.
This, Part I of a multi-part series will address some critical actions to consider when initiating an interior fire attack on the modern fireground.
While the interior fire attack is one of the most prominent tasks/assignments on the modern fireground, today's fireground is littered with a number of hazards just waiting to swallow-up the overly aggressive-acting firefighter. In an effort to enhance our safety on the fireground we must first understand what has changed over the years to make this task so much more complex.
Changes on the fireground can be classified into three basic categories:
- Firefighting gear and equipment
- Building construction techniques and materials
- Regulatory standards/guidelines
FIREFIGHTING GEAR AND EQUIPMENT
It has been said numerous times that the fire service is stern on tradition and slow to change. In some ways this is unquestionably true, in others it is far from reality. Firefighting gear and equipment research continues to bring about advancements that not only enhance the service we provide, it also changes the way we do business - or at least it should.
Advanced PPE technology has brought about much controversy in the fact that many will argue we have created a greater evil by enabling our firefighters to go in deeper and longer without the fear of thermal insult. This advancement coupled with techno gadgets (i.e. Thermal Imagers) allow us to navigate with a narrowed understanding of our surroundings.
While I agree our firefighters are at greater risk, I disagree with the accusation that technology is to blame. It is my firm belief that "we" (firefighters, fire officers and trainers) are truly the responsible party. It is our lack of cultural change, and less than aggressive efforts in the field of training that are truly to blame. The aggressive culture of the modern firefighter is unquestionably an asset to the fire service, but left unchecked it will undoubtedly bring about an increasing number of injuries and /or deaths amongst our members.
Firefighters and fire officers alike should be provided with continuous instruction and training applicable to the use and limitations of these advanced tools. We must firmly establish a job wide understanding that it is NOT acceptable to die in a burning building.
BUILDING CONSTRUCTION (TECHNIQUES / MATERIALS)