The Essence of Fire Ground Behaviors

"In no other profession are the penalties for employing untrained personnel so appalling or so irrevocable as the military"


General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

Although General MacAurthur was making reference to the military, one could easily make a case for the same statement as it relates to the fire service. In order to understand how we do things, why we do things and the basis for general purpose and behaviors, we should look at the building blocks of solid professional traits associated with effective fire ground practices.

The bedrock of professional fire ground behaviors is grounded in the understanding of Mission of Purpose. 

  • Life Safety

  • Incident Stabilization

  • Property Conservation





These three critical yet so often forgotten facts remain the purpose of the fire service.  Holding the "Thin Red Line" is the primary function of the American Fire Service. Yes, we include items of EMS, Haz-Mat and other associated task. Yet, those mentioned are just that, associated task, all of which can be accomplished by other entities other than the Fire Department. By in large, the Fire Department is the only game in town when it comes to the foundation of Mission of Purpose.

If Mission of Purpose is the bedrock, then Understanding Critical Fire ground Factors is the foundation of the structure. Critical Fire ground Factors include:


  • Rescue Profile:  (All residential occupancies have a rescue profile)

  • Lost Time Interval:  (How long has the fire been burning/Content or Structural)

  • Current Fire Behavior: (What are the fire conditions upon arrival / 5-Minute Interval)

  • Occupancy Type: (Type and Grouping of occupancy classification)

  • Arrangement of the Occupancy: (Tactical Diagramming of the Occupancy)

  • Resources Available: (Initial resource allocation and forecasted needs)

  • Action to be taken: (Initial fire ground actions to accomplish the objectives)

  • Fire ground Setbacks and Hazards: (Are setbacks identified and communicated/Hazards mitigated)








The above-mentioned Critical Fire ground factors set the tone for the operation and establish the objective based needs on the fire ground to accomplish the goal. Without addressing or worse understanding there importance and place in the overall fire ground management of the incident, yet will find yourself doomed for failure.

Thee next step in the process is the simple application of Standardized Operational Procedures appropriate to address the identified risk.  Simply stated, rather than use the "Check Box" approach to fire ground management, we use the assessment tools of the Dynamic Risk Assessment or DRA to identify the Known/Quantifiable risk associated with the incident and apply the appropriate tools to suppress or mitigate those risk.

Example: Upon arrival an Engine Company staffed with three (3) personnel find a seated (fire which is in the growth stage and transitioning into the fully developed stage within the compartment of origin) fire on the first floor or Division One (1) of a two story commercial structure at 2200 hrs. Based upon few factors the primary process of this particular company would include; capturing a water supply, initiating and communicating a Size-Up, followed by conducting a DRA, followed by a updated report on conditions (952), and the preparation of the appropriate hose lines and portal procedures.  Once in place the initiation of command or the formal transfer of command would take place and further operations would occur.  This is pretty simple and by no means the only what to do things, but it does illustrate a series of objectives based in what should be established standard operational procedures which al personnel are fully aware of, trained in and capable of implementing at O'dark thirty.

The next building block and the most critical for the establishment of sound fundamental and professional firegound behaviors is a Strong Command Structure.  The core elements are:


  • Command is SIMPLE

  • Command conveys INTENT and OBJECTIVES

  • Command is not emotionally attached to the incident.

  • Ego Management is in place at all levels of command.

  • Command must set the Strategy early and be a tactical genius.

  • Command must constantly evaluate and communicate objectives based upon intelligence.







Failure to follow these principles will result in the following:

     Symptoms of absence

  • The fire ground will be in complete CHAOS and conflicting operations will occur.

  • Non-Objective based operations are occurring on the fire ground.

  • Role conflict will occur between task groups and divisions if they are established at all.

  • Dynamic Risk Assessments and ongoing continuing evaluations of the fire ground will not occur.

  • Active communications will be absent from the fire ground.







The dichotomy of leadership on the fireground and the establishment of critical and c=necessary fire ground behaviors is dependent upon the principles stated above. The dichotomy of leadership on the fireground and the establishment of critical and necessary fire ground behaviors is dependent upon the principles stated above.fireground behaviors are based in understanding, training and policy or directive. Without those, you’re just hoping for the best and "Hoping for the best is NOT an Incident Action Plan".