Getting Eyes on the Problem

Incident Commanders are often tasked with assuming command of an active incident that has developed prior to their arrival. I’m sure all of us have been exposed to those that have called a second alarm from the bunk room based upon reports from dispatch only to discover it was a dumpster fire behind an industrial building and not a working fire in an industrial building. We use this as an analogy to shed light on actions based upon perception not actions based upon reality or simply, Facts and Presentations. Often we find those individual that lack the basic understanding of fireground functions will base their decision on a very limited view of the situation and minimal informational input of the situation, rather than a global or comprehensive view of the developing situation. This is exactly why the old “Capture a 360* of the structure philosophy” becomes an important ingredient to our success model. 

It is important for all command officers and incident commanders to capture a complete “360’”  themselves or delegate to another Command Officer or at a minimum a Fire Officer in order to receive accurate feedback on the conditions of the structure and the growth of the incident within the first few minutes of establishing you action plan. This continuous size-up of the structure and incident must become a component of the overall comprehensive action plan. Adjustments may need to be made based upon the feedback you receive or the evidence in which you visualize. Remember, the building has seven sides, the four exterior walls, the roof, the basement (if applicable) and the interior.

This view and information input will allow you and others the basis to establish a comprehensive and complete action plan for the incident. Equally important is structure identification and understanding of Building and Rescue Profiles, as part of the foundation of effective operations on the fireground . Given the dynamics of today’s fires and the events of extreme fire behavior in which we operate within, the understanding of Hostile Event Recognition and the understanding of pressure as it relates to rapid fire progression is important information to be relayed to the incident commander. Particular in High-Volume, Big Box and Wide-Rise type structures where hostile events occur in the overhead at explosive levels which can create structural failure in the roof assembly. As i mentioned, the fireground functions on seven sides.  One critical area that is often overlooked is the placement of personnel on the roof of the structure to give the Incident Commander a realistic look from above or as I mentioned in the title, "Getting eye's on the fire".
Placing personnel on the roof of a structure will provide information to the Incident Commander in order to determine the ability to remain in the offensive position, or take a defensive posture on the fire. Remember, "If its unsafe to be on the roof, its unsafe to be under the same roof". This is not to say all occupancies will receive the Ole Vertical Ventilation Treatment.  However, Incident Commanders will due themselves a great service by getting a good read on the structure and "Eye's on the Fire" by going top-side.
Thank you
Ed Hadfield