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Although the term “aggressive strategy” may be new, the concept is not. Consider the following.
My dad was hired as a firefighter in 1950. His academy graduation photo shows a dozen proud recruits posed in front of a brand-new, four-door, fully enclosed engine.
At Station 10 in Long Beach, CA, my dad’s captain had a policy that qualifies as aggressive strategy: When the five-member crew of Engine 10 arrived at a building fire, the engineer (driver/operator) would chock and pump, the captain would do a size-up and the three firefighters would sit in their fully enclosed cab until the captain had completed the size-up, devised an initial plan and returned to assign the firefighters. My dad added that it was routine to squirt water at the fire through a window or open door – offensive benefit from a defensive position – before transitioning to an offensive position.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and strategic focus had been eclipsed by tactical speed. To accommodate the shift to tactical speed, apparatus doors were removed and airpack jump seats installed. (I’m surprised track meet starting blocks were not installed.) Fortunately, the doors have returned and seatbelts added. For some reason, during the intervening decades, it became important that firefighters quickly mingle with the heat rather than ensure that a master craftsman size-up was completed and initial action plan developed.
Fast-forward a couple more decades and today you will find the (so-called) incident commander advancing a hoseline within the hazard area! When did it become acceptable for an incident commander to operate inside the hazard area on a hoseline? Doesn’t the responsibility of advancing hoselines belong to engine companies? (More on this next time, when we “open” and discuss the contents of box four.)
A quick review
Back in January 2012, Firehouse® introduced this series of articles on “How to Nail Your First-Due Responsibility” with a discussion concerning reactive tactics and proactive strategies and suggested it is time to recalibrate; to reboot the “system.” This series focuses on the concept of aggressive strategy, particularly by the first-on-scene company officer. The series identified “The Problem” and established a case for changing how the first on-scene fire officer does business. Subsequent articles identified the first-due company officer’s role and responsibility and offered a structured and systematic “Four-Box” process. This article focuses on box three, “Paint the Picture.”
Before we jump into box three, however, let’s do a quick review of why this information is important and revisit the “contents” of boxes one and two.
• Box one – Arrival report. For a typical house fire, the box-one arrival report would sound like this: “Engine 11 on scene. House with fire showing. Side Alpha is Main Street. Engine 11 has a hydrant, initiating command in the investigation mode.”
• Box two: Focused strategy. The five elements in box two are:
1. Get firefighters going at task level (establish water supply, pump primed and ready, stretch handlines, etc.) Perhaps have a firefighter squirt the fire from a defensive position (offensive benefit from a defensive position).
2. Look for somebody to talk to (this could be done by your driver). Somebody to talk to includes the reporting party, evacuated occupants or the FedEx driver who called 9-1-1. Ask questions such as “Is everybody out and accounted for?” and “Do the smoke and fire conditions look different than when you called 9-1-1?”
3. Determine value-time-size (V-T-S). Is there value and where? How long will there continue to be value? How much water is required to extinguish the fire and protect exposures? Is the size of my response adequate and capable of preserving the value that exists now?
4. Identify and list the “Big Six” problems – fire, smoke, verified occupants, possible occupants, exposures and access.