The Principles of Battle (Part 7)

“Our duty is to fight the enemy of fire, in doing so, we will use our knowledge and experience and the tools of our craft to both defeat the enemy and protect our forces. But we will not win based on the amount of fire we extinguish, winning will come at our ability to separate the danger of fire from the people we are sworn to protect. This means we must respect the enemy and do so with out fear.  We will operate in a manner of balanced aggression on a frontal attack enveloped by our brethren for whom provide our support”.


Ed Hadfield


  Surprise.   Fireground Support  







NFPA 1710 calls for the arrival of the entire first alarm complement within eight minutes from the initial receipt of the call. This section requires 13 members on the initial full alarm response, as follows:

                1 member-incident commander (IC).

                4 members-one attack line (flowing 100 gpm) and one backup line

(flowing 200 gpm); each line staffed by two firefighters.

                2 members-support for each attack and backup line.

                2 members-search.

                2 members-ventilation.

                2 members-rapid intervention team (RIT).


As you can see, according to information listed you have met the minimum standard and have no further room to perform other related functions.  As we all know, we as firefighters will find some way to get this accomplished.  Therefore, we must do what my lovely wife says she does so well, “Multi-task”.  However the problem with this will come to light later in the event. I.E things get over looked or missed or worse, bad things happen due to inattention, error or fatigue unless we have pre-designated these multi-tasked events and trained to accomplish them on the fireground.


The most recent finding by NIST on the amount of personnel on arriving companies, which is based on the standard for NFPA 1710 developed based upon a low hazard 2000 sq /ft single story residence found there are 22 critical functions that must occur.  We must use this information and data to help us organize our fireground in a more efficient and supportive fashion.


In a nutshell, the study found that four-person firefighting crews were able to complete 22 essential firefighting and rescue tasks in a typical residential structure 30 percent faster than two-person crews and 25 percent faster than three-person crews. However, we don’t have more personnel and therefore we most become more efficient with what we do have.   This is sad, but an unfortunate fact of reality.   Below are some of the highlights of the NIST study.


Time to Water on Fire:

       There was a 10% difference in the “water on fire” time between the two- and three-person crews.

       There was an additional 6% difference in the “water on fire” time between the three- and four-person crews. (i.e., four-person crews put water on the fire 16% faster than two person crews).


      Ground Ladders and Ventilation:

       The four-person crews operating on a low-hazard structure fire completed laddering and ventilation (for life safety and rescue) 30 % faster than the two-person crews and 25 % faster than the three-person crews.


Primary Search:

       The three-person crews started and completed a primary search and rescue 25 % faster than the two-person crews.


Hose Stretch Time:

       In conducting more specific analysis comparing all crew sizes to the two-person crews the differences are more distinct.

       Two-person crews took 57 seconds longer than three-person crews to stretch a line.

       Two-person crews took 87 seconds longer than four-person crews to complete the same tasks.


Taking this information into context, we have already said we do not have four person companies, nor in this economic time are we even close to getting them, more so we are trying to hold on to what we have.  So what do we do to accomplish these 22 critical fireground factors with the 13 personnel on-scene?  Well here are a few thoughts. 

We need to look at making up time on the fireground, which is lost due to the limited number of personnel.  Pre-designated tool and job assignments and moving our Officers into “The Working Boss” role is critical and functional. Company Offices must be capable to accept a task/assignment from the Incident commander and quickly assist in both the supervision and implementation of the task, this will mean honing there skills sets back to becoming firemen again and caring forth tool assignments based upon the incident directives. All too often I see company officers watching a s signal firefighter tries in vain to accomplish a simple task.  Working with your crew in an active role without allowing tunnel vision or single mindedness to occur is developed on the training ground.

Next, crews must work through objectives in order to accomplish the multitude of task.  Hence, as the second line moves into place, the third member of the hose team uses a halligan to remove the primary door to allow for a better stretch and remove the potential of the door closing or creating a limitation hazard as they progress into place. This sounds simple, but it requires forethought and planning not to mention a pre-designated task based upon the position and assignment that they have been given on the fireground.  


The same can be said is true for a 3-persone truck arriving on the incident.  In the event the truck will be going to the roof to perform vertical ventilation, then all three members must tool-up and get to the occupancy to begin performing the task at hand.  One supreme example of this is he City of San Bernardino Fire Department.  When they arrive on scene of a structure fire in a single story single family dwelling, you will always see all member of the department coming to the party with tools in hand.  I have yet to witness a time were upon arrival two ladders weren’t thrown by the first due truck, holes placed in the roof, and strong DRA accomplished by the Truck Captain and Utilities secured upon the 360.  These warriors didn’t just happen upon this skill level, it came from the establishment of solid and functional Sop’s, pre-designated job and tool assignments and the absolute resolve to get the job done.



Single Family Residential (Vertical Ventilation)


Building Size-Up, ID main fire area

Bring Saws and Hooks

Conduct DRA, ID all potential Firefighter entrapment areas or Civilian

Blower and Inside Kit to front door.

Rescue Points, Utilities

Assigned with inside personnel, Pull ceilings, Salvage operations



Position Apparatus for future use

Assist with laddering if 35ft or Bring 28 ft Extension

Ventilation supervisor

Perform Secondary Search w/t Firefighter

Lights, Salvage Op’s


Assist with laddering if 35ft or Bring 20 ft Straight

Perform Ventilation with Engineer as part of Roof Division.

Check for extension and Secondary Search w/t Engineer, Salvage Op’s


It is my belief we need and should have the personnel on apparatus to accomplish the task as indicated in the NIST study.  Yet, I know the reality of the situation and that may not occur for some time.  Therefore, I can only surmise we shall not allow this to overwhelm us only challenge us to become better at our job functions.  Working together to develop a standard where every member on the apparatus has a tool assignment based upon the incident, and every member has a specific set of functional task beyond just standing and observing may help in these situations.  This is not to say that there are very good arguments for strong supervision and a “Eye’s Up / Hands-Off “ approach, I’m just discussing when the fire is breathing down our necks and things have to move quickly and efficiently, we must all do our part, tool up and get busy on the fireground.


Till next time…Sit back and have a cuppa with the Tinman.