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Another important part of preparation has to do with your knowledge of the structures and the district you respond in. Do you size-up the structures in your district when you are on calls other than fires? When you are investigating a gas or water leak or conducting inspections, are you taking mental notes of the floor plan, layout, number of bedrooms, egress points, etc.? Are you looking at the buildings around you trying to spot potential issues that may affect the stretch? The more knowledge you have about your first-due district and the structures you respond to, the easier it will be to anticipate potential challenges that will affect your ability to make an efficient stretch.
How often do you just get on the rig and drive through your first-due district? Pick a box, a street or a neighborhood and pre-plan your stretch. When teaching firefighters how to conduct a stretch estimate and determining distance, don’t focus on feet and inches, but rather on how many lengths of hose they would need to reach their destination.
Talk about different ways to position the engine and discuss how the engine’s position will affect the stretch. Once you determine the most efficient position for the engine, have the rookies practice conducting a size-up and a stretch estimate. To make it more realistic, provide them with specific information such as location and extent of the fire within the structure.
We must constantly challenge and better ourselves to obtain new information and knowledge. Even though rookies have graduated from basic fire training, their training is far from complete; in fact, it has only begun.
We must regularly drill and train on stretching and operating attack lines to build and maintain the proper attitude and skills. We must get out of the station and learn as much as we can about the buildings and the district we respond in. Train, train and then train some more and you will be on your way to mastering the art of the stretch. n
For more about fire service training, visit: http://www.firehouse.com/topics/training.
BRYAN T. SMITH has been a member of the fire service for 30 years. He started as a volunteer firefighter with the Lutherville, MD, Volunteer Fire Company and in 1987, he was hired as a career firefighter with the Baltimore County Fire Department, where he currently holds the rank of captain at Station 15. Smith is a nationally certified fire service instructor and has served as an adjunct instructor at the Baltimore County Fire Rescue Academy and a lead instructor with Realistic Training Solutions LLC.