As you jump off the apparatus, fire explodes from a window on an upper floor of a high-rise multiple dwelling. You look up as the fire blows out the window and then is pushed back in by the force of the wind. Through your training you realize that the fleeing occupants must have left the apartment door open. As you grab your standpipe kit and high rise packs as the officer transmits a 2nd alarm, the extra manpower will definitely be needed.
The firefighter's responsibility, at fires like this, begins at the firehouse with training and pre-planning. Familiarization with each buildings system in your district is a must and every firefighter should have a working knowledge of that system. They should know the location of the systems outlets, whether they are in the stairway or the public hallway. Normally, the outlets will be found in the stairways, but they can also be in the public hall. The firefighter should also know which type of pressure reducing device is on each system and also how they work. Knowing the location of the Siamese, Post indicator and any other valve associated with the system will be invaluable in the event of a fire. We must remember that the time to learn about a building is before a fire occurs in it, not after.
While in route to a reported fire, every firefighter on the back step should begin to draw a mental picture of the building based on the address. How many floors in the building? Where are the standpipe outlets? How are the public hallways laid out, a T or an L shaped, or is it a long straight hallway? Is there pressure-reducing devices and how do they work? How many lengths of hose do you need to reach the farthest point on each floor? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you arrive on the scene. You should also inform all members of known problems within a certain building. Do not assume that everyone knows about it, including the officer. This is especially important when there is a covering or overtime officer.
When you arrive at the reported address you should get your standpipe kit and all high-rise packs needed to complete the stretch. Most fire departments run with 2 men on the back step. Depending on how your high-rise packs are made up, 50ft. or 100ft. folds, you may need the 2nd due engines high-rise packs to complete the stretch. It is also recommended to use either 2" or 2 1/2" hose for your high-rise packs. This gives you greater reach with the stream and also maximizes the systems GPM potential.
With all the equipment needed you should begin to make your way to the buildings entrance. It is a good idea to try to verify the exact floor of the fire before entering the building. This can be done easily by counting windows or balconies on the building. When counting windows try to use the window line closest to the edge of the building. If present, count the balconies they tend to give a 3 dimensional view, which is much easier to count. You must remember when counting balconies you have to add 1 floor due to the fact there is no balcony on the 1st. floor.
Once the entire company is together in the buildings lobby, they should begin to make their way to the floor below the reported fire floor. Remember, if the fire is on the 7th. floor or below, you should take the stairs up. You should also check the "You are Here" sign, which is normally found opposite the elevators. This will show you the relationship of the stairways to the elevators. Some of these signs also give direction of the different apartments as it relates to the elevators and stairways. When entering a stairway you should check the outside of the door for the numerical or alphabetical designation of that stairway. This becomes important when designating the attack or the evacuation stairway. Remember, the engine company must know that they are operating in the correct stairway for fire attack.