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So far in this series, we have discussed how to properly prepare ourselves through training and pre-planning. We reviewed how to perform a thorough and accurate size-up and a stretch estimate to ensure an efficient stretch. This article focuses on the necessary elements as well as the procedures and process for making an efficient stretch.
The success of the stretch starts with each member of your engine crew knowing their role and responsibility during the stretch. Some departments have detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) that clearly define each engine company member’s role. If your department does not have SOPs, then it will be the responsibility of the officer in charge to assign each member of the engine a job before the stretch is performed. If your plan is to assume that the members of your engine know how to make the stretch without any direction, plan or training you are setting yourself and your crew up for failure. Safe and efficient fireground operations don’t happen by chance they happen through consistent and coordinated actions at the scene of a fire
There are many variables to consider when planning your stretch operation. 1st are manning levels. It goes without saying that the number of firefighters performing the stretch will directly impact the success of the stretch. Another variable is the number of lengths in your average stretch. Departments in large and older cities were the average stretch is seven to 10 lengths of hose should be staffed with five or six members. In smaller suburban departments the average stretch may be three or four lengths of hose requiring staffing of three or four members. For many volunteer departments, staffing levels are going to fluctuate depending on the availability of members to respond on calls, but this should not deter you from developing SOPs for making the stretch. Rather, it should reinforce the need to ensure a consistent and coordinated stretch operation.
Fireground SOPs are intended to provide a standardized method for the deployment of responding companies to ensure a coordinated effort and eliminate freelancing and duplication of effort. They are designed to give clear direction for WHAT is to be done, WHO is responsible for doing it and WHERE they should be operating on the fireground.
SOPs for engine companies at the scene of a fire include the following basic information:
1. The engine company’s objective at the scene of a fire (WHAT).
• The primary objective of an engine company at the scene of a structure fire is to efficiently and safely stretch and operate the appropriate attack line to extinguish the fire. More lives are saved at the scene of a structure fire by the proper positioning and operating of hoselines than any other fireground tactic.
2. Engine company apparatus position and responsibility (WHERE).
• First-due engine – Front of structure; water supply and primary fire attack
• Second-due engine – Front of structure; secondary water supply and backup primary attack line
• Third-due engine – Rear of structure; water supply and fire attack, floor above fire
• Fourth-due engine – Rear of structure; secondary water supply and fire attack; exposures
3. Engine company members’ riding positions and responsibilities (WHO).
Duties and responsibilities
Each riding position should include a brief description of the duties and responsibilities of the position.
• Officer in charge – No one person will have more influence on the success of the stretch operation than the officer in charge (OIC). That officer’s attitude, experience level and leadership ability set the tone and pace for the engine company at the scene of a fire. Competent and proficient firefighters are a direct reflection of competent and proficient leaders who are committed to training and preparing their firefighters.