Due to the fact that most Squads and Rescues respond as "special" units to other than their first alarm area, the chance of the units seeing more fire duty is greatly enhanced. The more fires you respond to, the more work that you do, the more experience you get, the more learning you do.
As you gain experience, most firefighters become proficient in several different areas. Becoming an additional benefit for Incident Commanders (IC) on the fire ground, because they know that as the special units arrive on the scene, they can be put to work almost anywhere on the fire ground.
In most areas of the country, actual working fire duty has continued to decrease. Because of this, some of the more difficult operations are the fire ground are not practiced frequently enough or all firefighters to become proficient in them. One area where lack of experience is easily noticed is roof operations, especially on flat roofed buildings. This in turn means that the IC's are looking more and more to the "special" units to make sure that roof top operations are performed both efficiently and safely.
Depending on what else needs to be accomplished on the fire ground, the Squad or Rescue may be sent either as a complete unit to the roof or just the roof team may go. Lets look at an operation where just the roof or outside team is assigned to the roof for ventilation.
The fire building is an older, 4-story building of ordinary construction, approximately 25 foot wide. There are similar buildings attached on either side of the fire building, so the depth of the fire building is hard to determine. The first floor has a commercial occupancy and the upper floors are comprised of apartments, 4 per floor. The alarm was received at 3:00 am and on arrival heavy fire is showing from 2 of the 4 windows on the top floor in the front of the building. Because of the possibility of civilians still being trapped on the top floor, the IC tells the company to split into two groups, with the inside team heading for the top floor and the outside team heading for the roof.
The roof team, as they approach the fire building, should take notice of several things. First is a good look at the fire building. What is the construction of the building? How big is it, in height and dimensions? What access is there to the roof? If anyone is on the roof already and if so, by which route did they get there? Finally, where is the fire in the building, how much fire or smoke is visible and where is it going next?
In addition to a firefighter's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), what tools should be taken to the roof? Two firefighters going to the roof should make sure that between them they bring an assortment of tools. Included should be at least a halligan tool and axe, a 6' hook, power saw, and life saving rope. With this combination of tools, almost all tasks that need to be accomplished on the roof can be handled. The addition of a life saving rope or similar rope gives the roof team a secondary means of escape.
What are some of the ways to access the roof of a fire building? In this case the fire building is a 4-story building, attached on both sides. Usually the quickest method to reach the roof of the fire building is via one of these adjacent building. Care must be taken if the building on fire is one building in a group of row frames. In this case, especially with fire on the top floor of the original fire building, the adjacent buildings top floors may also be untenable and it will be hard to access the roof through them. For fires in row frames, if an adjacent building in the row is to be used for roof access, it will be wise to skip at least one building, if not more, before trying to access the roof. The use of an aerial device, either aerial ladder or tower ladder is preferable. If the fire building is only 2 stories high, than a portable ladder may also be utilized. Because this building is 4 stories the use of ground ladders for access is not feasible. However, an aerial or tower ladder, if properly spotted will give access to the roof area.