FIREGROUND OPERATIONS: How to Nail Your First-Due Strategic Responsibility

Warning: This article is intended to push your buttons; it may even offend you. The truth is often uncomfortable and meaningful change requires courage. It is time for the fire service to take a step back and ask: What are we thinking? This multi-part...

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• Did anybody check for a basement? What if the main body of fire was in the basement? What if the side-C basement fire was venting horizontally and heating an exposed LPG tank?

• What if there was a victim dangling from a side-C window?

• What does “one-story building” mean? A garden shed or a Wal-Mart?

Initial Action Plan. Did Engine 54 develop what NFPA 1021, Fire Officer I, calls the Initial Action Plan (IAP) based on size-up information? Short answer: No. What do subsequent arriving companies do? Freelance? If pre-assigned, are the pre-assignments appropriate based on the location of the fire, the status of life safety, type of building construction, determination of value and the condition of exposures?

Water supply. Before “going in with a handline,” did Engine 54 establish an uninterrupted water supply?

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134(g)(4). How many personnel arrived on Engine 54? If the engine arrived with fewer than four personnel, the entry of “Main Street Command” violates the OSHA two-in/two-out mandate and the direction of NFPA 1500. (Engine 54 was not in rescue mode; the officer declared the mode “offensive.”)

Ventilation coordination. Did Engine 54 coordinate its entry with ventilation?

Operational mode. Isn’t “going in with a hoseline for fire attack” the same as “this is an offensive fire attack?” Is “fire attack” the same as “confine and extinguish”? Consider this: The term “fire attack” has zero strategic value.

Assume a battalion chief arrives and broadcasts, “Engine 54 from Battalion 1, progress report.” Engine 54 reports, “Fire attack in progress.” What is the strategic significance of that report? Is Engine 54 winning or losing? Short answer: don’t know. What if declaring “offensive” means Engine 54 is doing “confine and extinguish”? Now, when the battalion chief asks for a progress report, Engine 54 reports, “Fire confined, extinguish in progress.” Is Main Street Command winning or losing? Short answer: winning. We believe declaring the mode “offensive” communicates “confine and extinguish” coordinated with ventilation while complying with the two-in/two-out OSHA mandate (and NFPA 1500, 8.5.7, which aligns with the OSHA mandate).

Search and rescue. As if offensive attack and being the incident commander was not enough on Engine 54’s plate, the officer added a side order of “search and rescue.” Is “search and rescue” the same as “primary search”? Short answer: no. “Search and rescue” conveys compelling evidence of a viable occupant to be located and rescued. “Primary search” is assigned when the status of life safety has been declared “unknown if occupied.”

What the Engine 54 arrival report describes are factors that NIOSH investigation reports identify as contributing to firefighter injuries and fatalities. Look at Engine 54’s arrival report again. What do you think Engine 54 really did after entering the building with that hoseline?

1. Fire attack?

2. Search and rescue?

3. Incident command?

4. All of the above?

(Hint: The smart money is on the activity that involved the most recreation.)

Engine 54’s offensive entry is illegal in the 22 OSHA-plan states and thumbs its nose at NFPA 1021, 1500 and 1561. n


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