The Principles of Fireground Battle (Part 2)

In part two (2) of Principles of Fireground Battle, we will discuss and give insight into the second of the nine (9) tenets of battle.  The second tenet in the original works from General Fuller would be Objective. Yet, as we take into consideration the Fire Service terms of those particular tents we capture Objective in the term of Strategy/Mission of Purpose. 



In previous articles I have spoken to Mission of Purpose and have clearly indicated the firm belief in the accepted three primary functions of the Fire Service.  They are and remain, Life Safety, Incident Stabilization and Property Conservation.  These three tenets speak to our Mission of Purpose on the fireground, and in all other All-Risk functions we have accepted as part of our growing responsibility as the Thin Red Line of defense and the protectors of our community and abroad.  Do not take our Mission of Purpose lightly, we the American Fire Service where some of the first American Forces into Haiti following the devastating earthquake.  It was the American Fire Service who within a matter of 48 hours was mobilized and airborne to help find those buried under the masses of rubble. In this incident it was the ICS (NIMS) system in place and operable within moments of the first Task Force members phone ringing telling them of the deployment.  My point here is to clearly demonstrate the magnitude of Mission of Purpose.  Whether it a Single Family Dwelling Fire or a multiple Task Force response to another country, the tenets of battle remain the same, Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, Property Conservation, I.E. Mission of Purpose.


So why is it, if this principle of Fireground Battle seems so apparent and simple, then why is it so messed up so often on the fireground? Why does it seem that Primary Search is an afterthought? Why is ventilation considered a support function and not part of the primary attack component to the fireground?  Why is ICS thrown out like the baby with the bath water for some newfound fad of hybrid strategy concepts somebody is peddling to make a buck?  To tell you the truth, I really don’t know, because it is so foreign to my thought process that I really can’t comprehend why these things occur, but I can tell you they do!


So here it is plan and simple, at least in my mind. First, why do people call the fire department? Typically it is due to the fact that they can think of nobody else to solve their problem.  Therefore, we suddenly become the experts in all fields and endeavors, hence All-Risk or as I like to think All-Do.  In the case of a structure fire or fireground battle, they call for three primary purposes. 1.  Save their lives or the lives of someone in the path of the fire.  Sounds simple enough, Life Safety! Next, put the fire out and stop it from spreading.  Again, pretty simple, Incident Stabilization.  Third, stop the destruction of their personal belonging due to the hazardous affects of the fire.  Hummm, sounds a lot like Property Conservation.


OK, so we accept that as our Strategy/Mission of Purpose, so how do we accomplish it in simple term.  Easy, ever hear someone say, “Just put the fire out and the problem goes away”?  Well they are right.  A good friend of mine happens to spend a great deal of time in a foreign country keeping bad people from doing further bad things to the United States.  His goal is simple. First, the goal of any operations is mission first, men or me are second.  Now I know some will say that’s wrong, well, I disagree.  The American Fire Service is a volunteer organization, no matter if you receive compensation (Paid) or not (Volunteer), nobody and I mean nobody is forced to accept the hazards of this noble profession. With that said, you accept the same hazards as our brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement and the Military.  You have accepted the fact that you are willing to lay down your life for the life of another. Failure to accept that responsibility is dereliction of duty and a dishonor to those you have sworn to protect.


Next, in simple terms, rapidly determine which of the three primary strategy modes you are in.  Is it Life Safety?  Well, unless someone is standing outside with all of their loved ones within arms reach telling you everyone is out, then the answer is yes.  I don’t buy into this notion that you have to have someone outside yelling,” My family, my family” frantically pointing to the burning structure to put you into the life safety mode.  Remember, people leave, no run, from burning buildings.  Of course the occupancy group and type may play a role into the decision as well.


Further, the best practice has proven to be placement of the correct size hand line, with the correct ability to flow based upon involvement and resources.  Where would that placement be?  Between the fire and the potential victims or between the burned and the unburned.  Pretty darn simple and yet, greatly effective.


To accomplish, we may have to perform functions on the fireground which are part of the primary fire attack component.  These functions are not supportive, they are primary in nature due to what is presenting at the time. Those would include but not limited to, Softening the Structure or Ventilations Operations.  Remember, if we cant get in/out or make the fire due to extreme fire conditions, we can move or forces forward in an attempt to conduct search operations.


Next we must search!  The Mission in a Life Safety Mode is Search, we must have a Primary Search accomplished before we shift modes and a Secondary done immediately after the Primary is called.  Until you conduct both the primary and secondary search component, you are still in the Life Safety mode, which is the most dangerous of all modes.  This is not to say we cannot attempt to achieve Incident Stabilization or Property Conservation in conjunction with the Life Safety Mode, however, our primary mission is still Life Safety and that includes our own personnel. Supportive functions must be secondary to placement of resources in the achievement of the Life Safety Mode needs.


Lastly, to achieve this we must have a Command Structure. This is the simplest of all items.  It’s the use of ICS as a command structure to facilitate all firegound functions.  ICS works, whether it is a medical aid or sending task force to Haiti, ICS works.  Placing personnel in task, tactical or strategic functions under the guide of groups, divisions or as big a branches will make the fireground safer, more effective and greatly more organized.  Read any NIOSH report and the #1 reason bad things happen on the fireground is the failure, lack of or miss-use of ICS.  There are some that say ICS only needs to be used on the big incidents.  I totally disagree. ICS used on ALL incidents no matter what the type or size will facilitate a better functioning use and proper development of ICS principles throughout your company and the organization.  And what ever you do, stick to the foundation and the principles of ICS, don’t go wacko and develop some hybrid version, slap a label on it and peddle it on the streets under a better way.  ICS or its original father (Firescope) has proven to work on All-Risk incidents over the years.  It literally had bullets shot at it. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots are a prime example of functional Area Command Structure with the bullets flying.  Again, my good friend reminds me, the best plan is simple, easy to understand, and can withstand having bullets shot at it.  Well folks, ICS is that plan and failure to understand, adopt, and use it will give you hemorrhoids.


With that said, sit back and enjoy the Cuppa.  Till next time, Roget that!!