You are the officer for the day tour of a newly organized squad company with yourself and a crew of three additional firefighters. As a squad, the company has first alarm assignments, either running as the first, second or third due engine and ?special unit? assignments where the company is assigned to working fires in several adjoining districts. While returning from securing the meal for the day tour, you are dispatched as a ?special unit? to the report of building fire. This means that the company is not responding as one of the first three assigned engines, but rather as a manpower squad.
As you respond you monitor the radio for the report of the first to arrive company. The first due engine calls off at the scene with heavy smoke showing from all floors of a 2?-story frame house. The crew continues to gear up as you come closer to the scene, following a rapidly rising cloud of gray smoke.
Most successful company operations are the result of teamwork. This is especially true on the fire ground. The Departments that tend to do the best on the fire ground are those that have some type of SOP. An SOP makes it possible for everyone to have an idea of what to expect on the fire ground. SOP?s are usually broken down by type of company and sequence of arrival.
The first due engine company is usually responsible for fire attack, the first due truck forcible entry and search and rescue. The second due enginemost times is responsible for two tasks; providing the first due engine an established water supply; stretch a second hand line to back up the first.
Companies that arrive after the initial ones must be able to determine where in the operation the other companies are and what must now be done. Tasks that may fall on companies responding after the initial two and one are laddering, ventilation, additional water supply or hand lines, or support of any other operations. Squad companies, with the ability to do both engine or ladder duties, must assure that a proper size-up of all activities as well as contact with the IC be accomplished as they arrive on the fire ground.
Engine Company Assignments
In addition to having standardized SOP?s, departments should also consider riding position based tool assignments for their companies. These assignments tell F/F?s what tools to carry and what their assignment will be once they have arrived on the fire ground. For the engine company, the assignments should be focused on the water supply, getting that first hand line into operation.
For a company staffed with an officer and three additional firefighters there are several options. One of the first considerations (based on department SOP?s) is whether or not the engine should bring their own supply line to the fire. Many departments require that the engine stop, wrap a hydrant and drop a supply line into the fire. In some cases, a member of that company is left to make the connection and turn on the hydrant when the chauffeur signals that he is ready.
Another option is to just wrap and leave the supply line and have the second company make the connection and supply the first engine. The firefighter stretches to the hydrant, secures the supply line and than re-boards the apparatus and proceeds to the fire building. For either of these methods, one firefighter?s riding assignment would be the ?hydrant firefighter?. Many departments will have this firefighter ride in the jump seat behind the officer. This gives the firefighter a better view of hydrants as they approach and also puts them on the curbside of the apparatus.
Another option for water supply is for the engine to advance to the front of the building and operate off booster tank water. Departments that use this ?quick water? attack usually do so based on the rapid response of additional engine companies. By using tank water, the theory is to attack the fire while it is still manageable while a water supply is brought to you. If this is one of your department?s options, all members should know just how long tank water lasts. This should be done flowing one 1??, two 1?? hand lines, a 2?? hand line and any master stream devices that you may carry. A 500-gallon booster tank will last just under three minutes if you are flowing 175 GPM through your 1?? hand line.
The last option is leading out from the fire to the hydrant. The company stops in front of the fire building, removes sufficient hose to reach the fire area, and than the apparatus proceeds to the nearest water source, trailing a supply line behind it. This leaves the hydrant member available to participate in the stretch. This method is popular in areas that have longer than normal stretches.
The second firefighter, riding in the jump seat behind the chauffeur, is usually assigned the nozzle. This firefighter is responsible for stretching and operating the first line stretched from that apparatus. The firefighter should be able to ?guesstimate? the length of the stretch, begin the stretch, and above all, maintain an operating length of hose in their control until the fire area is reached. This hose is then flaked out so that the line can be charged and advanced into the fire area. The third firefighter or chauffeur is responsible for getting water. In some cases this involves breaking the supply hose from the bed and hooking up to an intake and signaling the firefighter at the hydrant to start water.
The third firefighter is the chauffeur or operator. The operator?s most important job is getting the apparatus and firefighters safely to the scene. The second most important task is to establish and maintain a continuous water supply. If the attack is started with booster water, the chauffeur must make sure that other engines assigned on the first alarm know that he needs a feed at the fire building.
The chauffeur must also be able to stop at the front of the fire building, let the other firefighters take off enough hose to reach the seat of the fire, and than proceed to lay out to the nearest water source. While the chauffeur hooks up to the water source, he should supply the hand line team with water when they call for it by using the booster tank. The chauffeur should let the team know that they are on only booster water, but should also notify them when they are running low on the same, and when the pumper has switched over to the water source.
Last is our officer, the officer has many duties. They include directing the response, monitoring the radio for any information, deciding on what operation the company will do on arrival, size-up and accountability of all the firefighters under their immediate control.
Depending on type of building and difficulty of the stretch, the officer may need to become part of the hand line stretch. By doing so, the officer?s ability to locate the fire area and relay this info to the nozzle team is limited. But this will sometimes be a necessity in order to get the first line stretched and operated efficiently and effectively. The officer should also be assessing the members of the company as they make the attack on the fire. How well are things going? How are the heat levels? What air is left in the SCBAs? A good officer knows how to move the line but also when to call for relief.
Squad Company Assignments
Once the engine company is assigned as a squad, the duties of the members may change. As a squad, the company may either get assigned engine work, in which case the assignments would remain as above. However, the company may also be assigned truck company duties and a separate set of assignments must be available.
Most of the duties of the squad, while performing truck company duties, should be based on two pairs of firefighters. One group should be the officer and a firefighter with the second group being the remaining two firefighters. This second group will include the chauffeur. The ladder duties will be based on both the type of building and where in the building the fire is located.
Tool assignments should be based on the district and type building that the majority of the workload occurs in and whether the squad will operate as a first due truck or tradditional unit. After arrival on the fire ground the officer should report in to the IC and ask for an assignment. The squad, even though assigned as a special or additional unit, might still be assigned to relieve on a hand line or stretch an additional line. If assigned to perform truck duties or to augment truck companies already operating on the fire ground, and lacking a specific order, the officer must determine which operations have already been addressed. Has entry been made to the fire area, is there sufficient ventilation for the fire size, or are searches already underway?
If they arrive and are assigned as the first due truck company, the teams may be divided in this manner. For private dwelling fires where roof operations are not a priority, the first team, in this case the officer and one firefighter (inside team), will be responsible to assist the first engine by forcing entry and than starting searches.
Their tool assignment should be at the minimum, a set of irons, six-foot hook, and water extinguisher. A hydraulic entry tool is also an option, but in PD?s forceable entry is usually not a big problem so the irons should suffice.
The second team (outside or above fire team), including the chauffeur and remaining firefighter should perform as a team with two objectives in mind. One, they should evaluate the possibility of any civilian life hazard. If any is suspected, they should look for an area to perform VES, (vent, enter, and search) usually in the bedroom areas, but remote from the fire room.
If no life hazard is suspected, or conditions prevent VES, than the team should perform horizontal ventilation for the engine company. The tool assignment for the outside team should consist of at least a halligan and six-foot hook for one firefighter and either a halligan and axe or halligan and six-foot hook for the second firefighter. If dragging ladders to the rear of the building means that some tools be left behind, the team should at least assure that one halligan and one six-foot hook reach the position of operation.
Once these tasks are completed, the outside team?s next focus would be to assure that the inside team does not need assistance with any searches and than focus on vertical ventilation if fire conditions dictate the necessity for roof operations.
If the fire is on the first floor of a 2-? story PD, the inside team should still assist the engine and than search the first floor before heading upstairs. The outside team should ladder the building and perform VES on the upstairs bedrooms. This puts firefighters into the most exposed areas of the house, adjacent and above the fire area.
For fires in other than PD?s such as a one-story commercial business, the functions of the squad are different. If first to arrive, the inside team is still responsible for entry and interior searches of the fire occupancy. The outside team is responsible for both horizontal and vertical ventilation. But based on the extent and location of the fire, a decision as to which gets accomplished first must be made.
Tool assignments for a commercial building may differ based on severity of the forceable entry problem and the need for roof ventilation. The water extinguisher may need to be traded in for a power saw equipped with a metal cutting blade for heavy locks or security devices, and roof top operations will require a saw with carbide tip blade as well as a life saving rope to be brought to the roof.
If other than first to arrive, tool assignments will be based more on the specific tasks assigned by the IC, but firefighters, unless ordered otherwise, should report in with full PPE, SCBAs and regular tools.
Bob Pressler is a 28 year veteran of the fire service, retired from the FDNY after attaining the rank of Lieutenant and having previously served in several other Deapartments, both career and volunteer. Bob is a frequent lecturer on fire ground operations at seminars across the country. If You have any questions or comments please feel free to email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org