10 Step Action Plan For A Safer More Effective Interior Fire Attack

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.

The importance of an effective fireground size-up and radio report cannot be overstated. To ensure that first arriving company officers provide the necessary information consider the following acronym:


Describe those visible conditions that are applicable to the strategy and tactics to be deployed. Simply stated, if it doesn't affect the operational deployment, DON'T SAY IT. Long-winded detailed building descriptions lend themselves to further confusion and unnecessary interpretations. ("?with a two-story residential structure, smoke and flames visible from a window on the second floor.")

Establish command with a geographical identifier. It's extremely important to include the geographical identifier to avoid the confusion in cases of multiple incidents that may be run on the same frequency. ("Engine 104 will be establishing Fox Cover Command")

Describe the actions of you and your crew. Traditionally this has been defined as one of three modes: Investigative, Fast-attack, or Command Mode ("Engine 104 will be in the fast attack mode.")

This effort can be further enhanced by adding critical information as it pertains to 2-in / 2-out compliance. Example: "Engine 104 confirming all occupants are out of the building, awaiting arrival of the second due company for IRIT." By communicating this information you immediately inform responding companies of your needs and related operations. Secondly, you create a means of compliance and accountability amongst first arriving crews in that in that they are now responsible for their described actions as it pertains to 2-in / 2-out. (Example: A company arriving with three personnel advising they are initiating a fast-attack should immediately send up a red flag).

The following are some examples of "operational modes" that describe compliance with the parameters of 2-in / 2-out:

  • Rescue Mode without an IRIT
  • Rescue Mode with an IRIT established
  • Fast Attack Mode with an IRIT established
  • Standby-mode awaiting an IRIT

STEP 3 - SIZE-UP (360? Evaluation of the involved structure)

A critical lesson learned and reinforced across the fire service has been the importance of an early 360? size-up. Today's fireground requires a thorough evaluation of the involved structure and the potential hazards that exist. It is strongly recommended that it become a standing operating guideline/procedure (if not already) that the first arriving company officer perform a rapid 360? survey of the building while his/her crew prepare for the initial fire attack. By initiating a rapid 360? survey, the company officer is able to accomplish the following:

  • Isolate utility feeds - By turning off the utility feed to the building we create a safer working environment for interior crews. As the company officer circles the building he or she simply turns off the gas feed valve (using a spanner or other suitable hand tool) and if accessible throws the exterior electrical breaker (This is NOT to suggest that you pull electrical meters).

  • Determine building size and construction features - A quick assessment of the building perimeter provides the company officer with a rough understanding of the general size and complexity of the occupancy and any potentially unique building features (i.e. parapet wall, indicative of a flat roof, truss construction with weighted utilities overhead - DEATH TRAP WHEN EXPOSED TO FIRE).

  • Evaluate the need for occupant rescue - A quick 360? survey allows the company officer to check for any outward signs of occupants (x 4 sides), cars in the parking lot or driveways, visible signs of occupants via the windows, etc. This evaluation will ultimately determine our mode of operation Rescue or Standby which coincides with our risk analysis - What to gain, what to lose.

  • Assess the exterior of the occupancy for signs of early collapse - Cracks in exterior walls, smoke seeping through the mortar, etc.

  • Determine general fire location and extent of involvement - Validation a frontal attack versus approach from the rear - unburned to burned.

  • Determine points of access and egress - Where can I get in and equally important, where can WE get out?

  • Evaluate ventilation needs prior to the initiation of a fire attack - What type is best suited for the situation, vertical, horizontal, forced?