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.