If ground ladders have not been placed, the second-due truck should place them for egress and entry.
Photo credit: Photo by Guy Zampatori
While the first-due companies have likely forced entry to the structure, the second-due truck may need to remove window bars or other blockades for secondary means of egress.
Photo credit: Photo by Tom Rogan
The need for additional tools and equipment may require the crew to bring the gear before becoming operational.
Photo credit: Photo by Tom Rogan
The crew needs to listen to fireground communications as they respond to gather intelligence, know where to position the unit and understand what duties they need to carry out.
Photo credit: Photo by Tom Rogan
If the first-due truck is operating on the interior of the structure and vertical ventilation needs to be accomplished by the second-due company.
Photo credit: Photo by Tom Rogan
Your company is the second-due truck to a reported structure fire. As you respond to the scene, you need to think about what tasks or functions your company will perform. The easy answer is anything that the first-due truck has not done. Will it really be that easy? Departments may have different standard operating guidelines (SOGs) and staffing levels on trucks. There may only be one truck company or none at all. Regardless of this, the functions associated with truck work still needs to be done.
The primary functions of a truck company are: Ladders, Overhaul, Ventilation, Entry, Rescue, Search and Utilities (the common acronym is: LOVERSU).
As the second-due truck officer and driver, you need to know what direction the first-due companies will likely be coming from. Try to determine if it is best to position for the front or go to the rear. Knowing if there is an alley to allow access to the rear is part of knowing your district. Will it be possible to place the truck to use the aerial if required? Sometimes it will be beneficial to take the time and back down to allow optimal use of the truck.
What is the first truck doing? The first-due truck’s primary functions are likely to be forcible entry, search and rescue and ventilation. Search may be for victims or to locate and possibly confine the fire. If the search is being performed on an upper floor, the truck may have used an interior stairway or ground ladder to gain access (vent, enter, isolate, search – VEIS). You should have a good idea of what tasks they will perform. This may be based upon department SOGs/SOPs (standard operating procedures).
A better method is listening to the dispatched assignment. The dispatch information, knowing your district and pre-incident planning can aide you with the type of structure and occupancy. While in route, additional information may be sent to the responding units via computer, if applicable, or verbally by dispatch, including size-up reports from the first-due companies/chief. They include any life hazards, fire location, fire involvement and exposure problems. The chief, engine officer or first-due truck officer, may request that companies enter from a certain direction/street, to the rear, or give an assignment before your arrival. Listen for the first-due company’s arrival, as they may be delayed due to traffic or responding from a location other than their firehouse. Companies being out of service, road construction and road closures can all have an effect on responses. These delays can result in your company being the first-due truck. That is why it is important to listen to the address and type of incident other units are sent on.
Once on scene, do your own size-up. Report to command unless given an assignment prior to arrival. If command has not yet been established, you may have to take command of the incident. If that is the case, assign your company to another officer, or have a senior firefighter be in charge of the company.
With reported or confirmed people trapped, all the personnel on the first due truck will likely be engaged in the search. As second due, ventilation may be required (coordinate this with interior crews). Ground ladders will need to be placed to the upper floors if this is more than a one-story home. The ladders are for our entry to aide in the search for firefighters to exit, if necessary, and victim removal.
It is imperative to get ground ladders raised when companies are operating above the first floor. The ladders may be their exit if conditions deteriorate. They may also be the best option to remove a victim(s). The ladders also provide a VEIS point to aide in a search. Remember to shut the door in the room you enter immediately. This is the isolate part, and may give the victim some time, and allow you to search the room.
The following are guidelines and it is all relative to what the first truck is doing, and to the number of firefighters on scene.
Ground Ladders: Place ground ladders or additional ladders as needed. Try to ladder all sides of the building. Placing more than one ladder on a side(s) may be necessary for larger homes/buildings. Do not overlook that a ladder placed to a porch roof will often give you access to two or more rooms. Size-up is important in choosing the correct length ladder. Keep in mind that a majority of the structures we respond to are two-story residential homes. A 28-foot extension ladder may be too long for a second-story window; the 16-foot straight ladder may be too short. This makes the 24-foot extension ladder the most versatile ladder. If there are not enough 24-foot ladders on the truck, remember the engines have one.
If the first-due truck is venting the roof, consider providing a second means of egress for them. Depending on staffing, this may not be practical, as another tactic (such as search) will take priority. Aerial placement may provide the second means of egress, or for rescue. This will be dependent on the truck’s placement, obstructions and building setbacks.
Forcible Entry: Is there any additional forcible entry needed? The rear of the structure may need to be opened up. In commercial occupancies, and some private residencies, you may have to overcome additional locks and fortified doors. There can also be obstructions in the rear alley and at the rear entrance such as vehicles and dumpsters. Other obstructions like garbage or power lines may limit the truck’s access to the rear. Keep in mind the quickest way to the rear of large buildings, such as strip malls and apartment buildings, may be through an adjoining store/apartment.
The opening of secured or boarded-up windows may be needed as well. Experience has taught us that the first-floor windows are generally more secured, and difficult to open up, opposed to the upper floors. An exception are the doors/windows that lead to a fire escape.
Ventilation: If ventilation is needed, determine if it is vertical or horizontal that is needed. If the first truck is committed to search and rescue, the second truck will likely need to provide ventilation. Providing ventilation will improve conditions for those searching and/or advancing hoseline, and will improve the victim(s) chance of survival. It is imperative to coordinate any horizontal ventilation with the companies operating inside. The second truck may also be required to perform VEIS.
Search: While search may be performed by the first truck, the second truck may be called on to perform search as well. This may include the floor above the fire, the upper most floor, or additional apartments; depending upon the size of the building and extent of the fire/smoke. Prior to going to any floors above the fire, ensure that the engine company knows you are going above. This is to ensure that they do not leave, or back out while your company is above.
Utilities: Control of the utilities can be easily overlooked initially; especially when there is visible fire and reports of people still inside. Some departments do not have the staffing/resources to allow for immediate control of the utilities. This is still an important task that needs to be done. It is not just the job of the truck guys; any company can be assigned his job. Electric, gas and water are the most common utilities we come across in the urban/suburban setting. Many homes are heated by fuel oil, wood burners (both inside and outside), coal and propane. Also being seen is the use of solar and wind energy. Fuel oil and propane should be shut off at the source and at the furnace. Shutting off the main on the electric panel will also control the furnace, but not the flow of oil/propane. Be aware that solar/wind may have a bank of batteries that are used to store power. Larger, commercial buildings may have more than one service (gas and electric) to control utilities. If a sprinkler system is present, shutting off the water may shut off the system.
Overhaul: Consider the size of the room. The average-sized room does not require two companies. While pulling ceilings and opening walls to check for extension, have a hoseline near. If any fire is found while opening up, stop from making a larger opening until the engine is ready with the hoseline.
Salvage: Perform salvage as needed. Again with staffing, salvage operations may not be performed until the fire is under control and manpower is available.
Regardless of your company’s assignment, communicate what you do and do not find. Let command know of any additional resources needed. Always be prepared to go to work. The first-due truck could be delayed for any reason, resulting in your company being first due.
- See Tom Live! Tom Rogan will be presenting “My View From the Front Seat” at Firehouse Expo, July 19 - 23, in Baltimore.
TOM ROGAN is a lieutenant on Rochester, NY, Fire Department Truck 10. He has an Associates of Science in fire science, and a Bachelors of Science in both business administration and fire administration. He is a nationally certified fire instructor I, New York State fire instructor, and is an adjunct instructor for the New York State Fire Academy.