1. #1
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    Default 1-2 man companies, how do you operate?

    Did a search and didn't find anything...

    For those of you out there that run w/ 1 or 2 man companies how do you operate? Do you wait for more FFs, grab a hose and knock down the fire, set up water supply, etc...

    Also please explain why you use 1-2 FF comps.

    Thanks in advance for your comments guys.
    IACOJ member.

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    Never had to work a fire with a two man company, but if I did I would only do basics, such as confirm no one is in the house, give a size up, establish a water supply, throw ladders, pull a preconnect and get it flaked out, and others I may have not mentioned. Just some basic exterior ops while waiting for another company.
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    Career department with 9 two man companies and 2 one man ladder companies. We burn a lot things to the ground. We have volunteers and paid on call personnel. If someone is trapped inside when we I get their we are expected to place the engine in pump and we both go in to attempt the rescue. I have not been place in the position were I had to make that decision. I have told my partner we will not go in until the 2nd due engine arrives. If the 2nd due engine is not on a call they are 5 miles away. The next engine after them is 10 miles. Next one after that is somewhere between 20 to 25 miles away. The volunteers may or may not show up. Paid on call can only be called for by the chief. Are department runs on the minimum standard concept. ISO only requires that 6 people respond to a fire scene. We send two 2 man engine and one 2 man EMS unit. The EMS unit is considered the primary attack team. If someone gets hurt then a second EMS unit is called to the scene to take over as the attack team. The first EMS crew may leave with the injuried person prior to the second EMS unit arriving on scene. This leaves us with four people total on scene. The ladder truck only response to multi-story and commerical fires. This gives us one more person.
    Before anyone starts blasting away at how crazy this is.....I already know.


    Quote Originally Posted by FireBuffMI View Post
    Did a search and didn't find anything...

    For those of you out there that run w/ 1 or 2 man companies how do you operate? Do you wait for more FFs, grab a hose and knock down the fire, set up water supply, etc...

    Also please explain why you use 1-2 FF comps.

    Thanks in advance for your comments guys.
    Last edited by cubbie; 12-20-2008 at 09:15 PM.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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    We are a 16 engine company department that runs 2 man companies. We also have 2 2 man ladder companies. We are supplemented by volunteers, both pulling duties and responding to the scene. Weekdays from 8-5 we have Captains on duty, so we are 3 man staffed during those hours.

    Where I am stationed, in the more rural area of the county, a structure fire brings 3 engines, a tanker and a battalion chief. Having the tanker respond splits the engine crew of whatever station's tanker was requested. So standard response for a structure fire brings 7 people initialy.

    First in engine will arrive, pull a line and do a walkaround and size up. Both the driver and the officer will get dressed.

    Second in engine's driver will take over the primary engine's panel while second in officer assists the attack crew.

    Thrid in engine will pick up the slack in whatever area is neccisary. Of course the battalion chief will have command.

    Depending on the call and time of day, we may have extra volunteers or off duty paid personnel respond. These extra firefighters are delegated as needed. The above is simply how we would operate with what we KNOW will be on scene.
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    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    Wow, and I whine when I have a 3 person engine company. Guess I got it good.

    I feel for you guys going through that. Just stay safe!
    Jason Knecht
    Assistant Chief
    Altoona Fire Dept.
    Altoona, WI

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    Exclamation 1 or 2 do not make a Company

    Can we all agree that we can't call 1 or 2 firefighters operating together or on the same rig a company? 1 person is an individual in this business we call a them a firefighter. 2 firefighters make a team. 3 is a basic minimum to be a company, albeit a weakly staffed one, maybe just a team with leadership. Two teams, or 4 firefighters can be a company, and in many places this is not enough.

    I had to argue and fight with the regional fire academy instructors to stop assigning crews into two person "companies". To me it sends the wrong message. They all agreed, but couldn't break their poor habits in the end. The students got crap when they reported to any of our instructors as a company when they were just a team.

    If we're going to ever regain decent staffing on a grand scale we need to use proper terminology. When you talk to the press, you cannot say E2 Co. arrived to find... when only two guys were on the truck. Rather "a two man team riding in E2 arrived to find..." Arriving at the scene with 3 and 2 in the big city should not be equated to 3 and 2 in rural America where 3 and 2 equals 5-15 firefighters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Can we all agree that we can't call 1 or 2 firefighters operating together or on the same rig a company? 1 person is an individual in this business we call a them a firefighter. 2 firefighters make a team. 3 is a basic minimum to be a company, albeit a weakly staffed one, maybe just a team with leadership. Two teams, or 4 firefighters can be a company, and in many places this is not enough.

    I had to argue and fight with the regional fire academy instructors to stop assigning crews into two person "companies". To me it sends the wrong message. They all agreed, but couldn't break their poor habits in the end. The students got crap when they reported to any of our instructors as a company when they were just a team.

    If we're going to ever regain decent staffing on a grand scale we need to use proper terminology. When you talk to the press, you cannot say E2 Co. arrived to find... when only two guys were on the truck. Rather "a two man team riding in E2 arrived to find..." Arriving at the scene with 3 and 2 in the big city should not be equated to 3 and 2 in rural America where 3 and 2 equals 5-15 firefighters.
    Everyone in this thread has it good, at least comparatively...one of the fire departments I work for (where I'm a Captain...but that's using the term loosely), I am the only man on duty. My responsibilities, officially, are taking care of the trucks (four of them--although, of course, I can only drive one) and equipment, and getting the truck to the incident.

    I completely rely on the other two full-time firefighters (who are obviously off-duty if I'm the only one on!) to show up and our volunteers. I have been reading some of these threads, particularly the 2-in, 2-out rule. As an "officer," when I am on-duty, I have scene command (at least until the Chief or Asst. Chief arrives). Usually when we have a structure fire, there are quite a number of people (non-emergency) around watching. If I simply got the truck to the scene, put it in pump, and deployed the hoses, we would catch ungodly hell for my inaction during the several (sometimes quite a few) minutes it takes for help to arrive.

    When help arrives, it is only the Chief and Asst. Chief and a few volunteers (we AVERAGE 8 firefighters per structure fire).

    Although I understand the "safety first" concept (I understand it totally), I live in a town where the citizens debate on whether we should have a full-time firefighter on duty at all--this is my livelihood we're talking about. Everything I do (or don't do) reflects on this department in ways that unless you live in a small town it's hard to understand. For example, if we lose a house today for some reason (pick a reason that the FD can be faulted for), twenty years from now most people around here will still remember.

    I started a topic on here a few days ago titled Tactics Question: How would you fight it. I got a heck of a lot of good responses...and I really appreciate it. Here's the link for those interested: http://forums.firehouse.com/showthread.php?t=105210

    Anyway, on that fire, although we had the help of another volunteer company, during the entirety of the fire, I had three men completely suited up (meaning they entered the house--me and three vollies, the fourth guy got there super late). If I were to enter only the structures where I had an "optimum" (Is there an optimum number for a normal sized house fire?) number of firefighters, we would NEVER enter a structure. On the rare occassions where an "optimum" number did in fact show up, usually the structure is no longer sound enough to enter.

    So what I am trying to say is my job depends on figuring out a balance between going by the book and making the public feel like we are worth having around. Although in that particular fire we got our tails handed to us, we DID make entry WITHOUT a RIT or anyone else on the fireground who was even semi-capable (I know this can't even be a term) of entering a structure fire (with the exception of the Chief, who is capable, but who had absolutely no turnout gear on). My Chief arrived with the second truck (according to him) about five to seven minutes AFTER I got there--which means I was already in the house. By the time he arrived, the fire had vented through the roof...I had ABSOLUTELY NO FIRE showing on the outside of the house when I arrived (just heavy smoke). So just in a few short minutes, the fire had advanced that far...

    My mantra (wrong or not) is the fire service is inherently dangerous. We knew that when we signed up. I don't come to work to act as a psuedo-fire department so the town looks good and then stand around in the yard shooting water through windows...BUT that's what I should do if I were to go by the safety rules we have nowadays...which would help lead to this job completely disappearing.

    I call myself an aggressive firefighter...which is completely contrary to how this department has been historically. But proudly, even though we got it handed to us that day, I had two very new Vollies in there with me catching enough heat to burn my ears, back of neck, and hands (with the nomex and helmet flap on properly) and they stayed right in there with me the whole time.

    Did we do it by the book? No. Was the homeowner appreciative? If he wasn't, he was doing a great acting job. None of the people (spectators) on that fire scene could say we didn't give it all we had.

    Sorry for the long-winded post...
    Last edited by CaptainReb22; 12-21-2008 at 12:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireBuffMI View Post
    Did a search and didn't find anything...

    For those of you out there that run w/ 1 or 2 man companies how do you operate? Do you wait for more FFs, grab a hose and knock down the fire, set up water supply, etc...

    Also please explain why you use 1-2 FF comps.

    Thanks in advance for your comments guys.
    Leaving the semantics arguement aside..........

    We operate an engine and a quint on-duty (small city). For a while we only had 2 FFs per unit, but with a slight staffing boost of sorts, sometimes there is 3 FFs, however our engine only has 2 for the majority of the year.

    It's sort of hard to explain exactly how we operate, because of the numerous variables involved between staffing, incident location factors, magnitude of fire, etc. However, we're usually pretty good at making adjustments to the basic "procedure" on the fly as necessary.

    In general, the first unit goes straight in and the second will pick up the hydrant unless the first unit has one close by. The first driver will set up the pump while the #2 guy pulls the line. Usually we have to wait for the second unit to be on scene before having enough people to make entry, but we will put water on the fire from the front door area if waiting.

    When we have a building fire, off-duty personnel are normally called in (via pager like the volunteer companies do), however there will be a several minute delay before seeing the bulk of these people.

    The first in driver will normally handle pumping duties, however depending on unit staffing and circumstances, they will sometimes end up on the initial attack line and the DC or second driver will cover the pump until more personnel arrive. Other times, they may also end up doing other tasks (due to lack of personnel) like throwing ladders or venting windows.

    Unless we have good information or strong suspicion regarding the building being occupied, a primary search is generally not a priority until additional staffing arrives. We also tend to rely on horizontal ventilation tactics rather than vertical for the same reasons - lack of personnel. It's much faster and takes less personnel to take out a few windows than to get somebody onto a roof and get a hole cut in time. Plus, considering our building construction, building placement, geography and such, simply getting to the roof can be a challenge or take too much time.

    It's certainly not an ideal situation, but we do understand we are short-staffed and do take that into consideration with our strategy and tactics. Some of what we do is because we've found it to be fairly efficient and work for us for the bulk of our fires.

    The primary reason why we don't have more personnel on-duty is simply financial. The City simply doesn't have the money to spend on a higher staffing level, but that doesn't stop up from letting them know we need more FFs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireBuffMI View Post
    Did a search and didn't find anything...

    For those of you out there that run w/ 1 or 2 man companies how do you operate? Do you wait for more FFs, grab a hose and knock down the fire, set up water supply, etc...

    Also please explain why you use 1-2 FF comps.

    Thanks in advance for your comments guys.

    How about some more info?

    Why are you asking?

    What are you running?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milo76
    How about some more info?
    What info do you want?
    Why are you asking?
    Want to learn.
    What are you running?
    I'm not a FF(but plan to be when im 18) but for a structure fire the Vol. FD near me normally will get 3-5 on the first out engine, 2-3 on the ambulance/rescue, 2 on the 2nd out engine, and maybe 1-2 on our utility/brush truck. Depending on the incident FFs may also staff the tanker and/or the brush/reserve engine.

    The FD has 20+/- FFs total.


    Thanks for the responses guys. If you need more info let me know.
    IACOJ member.

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    Default Staffing

    The department that I am on has two stations:

    2 Engine Co.
    1 105' Quint
    1 Tanker
    2 Grass Trucks
    and 1 Utility

    We are staffed with 3 personnel Mon-Fri 8am-4pm and volunteer the rest of the time. If we get any call bigger than a medical or automatic alarm we have mutual aid agreements with surrounding communities.

    The last structure fire we ran on our own we had 3 personnel on an Engine Co. and we responded to a "Barn Fire". We arrived to find a metal barn approx 25x150 ft with heavy fire on one end. The firefighter riding backwards caught the plug, the driver got the water supply hooked up, and I pulled the preload to the building, once the hydrant was connected the other firefighter came back and we put the fire out before the second in unit arrived.

    Just as previously mentioned in this thread I have no idea what we would do if we had entrapment, no one in their right mind wants to go in without a line but none of us are going to sit around and watch someone burn. With the exeption of weekdays and sunday mornings, if we had a working structure fire it would be safe to say that we would have 10-15 people show up from our department plus however many show up with mutual aid.

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    We run a one man engine and rely on off-duty and paid on call persons to respond and supplement our response. Before anyone goes all WTF you should bitch to the city on me, we do, all the frackin time. Anyways, I digress, we do all that we can with what we have. Our regular MA dept. is all vollie so you are looking at about 10min. on scene usually by yourself. We throw ladders, lay out lines, 360, check occupancy, attempt a knockdown, whatever we can do. It sucks but we are told that is what the city can afford. As far as looking good for the public, we try, but ultimately, you get what you pay for. Some citizens have commented about the lack of personnel and said that we need or people but when you mention taxes its the usual I can't afford more. At this point to get all ****ed off about does little good. Sorry for the long reply, that is how we do it here in the "Fair City." I would love to see more responses on this topic though to see what others are doing tactic wise.
    "The one man engine company...tough as hell cause we have to be."

    "What we have here is a Charlie Foxtrot of the Mongolian persuasion."

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    Two man engines and trucks are the norm around my way. As far as how the two man engine operates, driver lays out (this gives OIC time to give layout instructions and size up), depending on the crew, one will pull the line, the other will bring FE tools to the front door. Door gets forced, OIC advances line, driver handles the pump and driver's duties. Luckily we don't normally have to wait too long for next in companies.

    Stay Safe
    Chris Polimeni
    Prince George's County FD
    Back at the Big 29er

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    Ditto to what Chris says. When our department falls back on a staffing of two it is because the other two are on the ambulance. Example below, Co.41 had a ambulance call in the early morning, then a first due box that went to a second alarm. E.411 had the Technician and Officer.
    Layout, Sizeup, Look for Obvious Rescues, Begin the Stretch

    If two or one are your average, initial staffing, make sure your civic leaders, supporters and community are aware of this, constantly. Otherwise they will expect you to be performing all the assignments that a six men crew are capable of. They need to know what your limitations are. It is a letigious society these days and the fire service is not immune.

    Poor Staffing = Deadly Outcomes?
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    "If you put the fire out right in the first place, you won't have to jump out the window."
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarey View Post
    If two or one are your average, initial staffing, make sure your civic leaders, supporters and community are aware of this, constantly. Otherwise they will expect you to be performing all the assignments that a six men crew are capable of. They need to know what your limitations are. It is a letigious society these days and the fire service is not immune.

    Poor Staffing = Deadly Outcomes?

    Bill -

    Do you think our "civic leaders" really care? They just don't want to spend the money. Maybe something would change if one of their houses burned down. Most of our citizens are ignorant of the situation and would only care if someone got hurt or died and they could sue. Besides do you think JJ could even say or spell "letigious".

    Stay Safe

    Merry Christmas
    Chris Polimeni
    Prince George's County FD
    Back at the Big 29er

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    Personally? No, I think it is not so much that they don't care, but that they are either ignorant to the fact or chose to remain ignorant. It comes down to marketing, which you and I know our county department, local and association, do not do well. I believe a chief officer would be better prepared in front of a angry civic association explaining fire deaths if he had a paper trail saying "we told you so." The closest our department has come has been at the beginning of the furloughs, but maybe our Executive learned something in Kenya that 1619 and the Association can benefit from. How would 3110 Queens Chapel have gone this morning if there weren't the staffing we've become comfortable with? Same with the rescue in Bethesda, a department that always runs with three. What the citizens expect and what is in the cab are two very different things.

    Sorry to the OP for the aside, carry on.

    Merry Christmas, stay safe.
    Last edited by bcarey; 12-23-2008 at 09:40 AM.
    "If you put the fire out right in the first place, you won't have to jump out the window."
    Andy Fredericks,
    FDNY E.48, SQ.18
    Alexandria, VA F.D.

    Rest in Peace

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    Quote Originally Posted by cap6888
    Do you think our "civic leaders" really care?
    Well a few towns over from me the twp. board is made up of mostly FFs so they do usually get what they need. Plus the city hall(for lack of a better word) burned to the ground several years ago, so most of our civic leaders get the point on needing a good FD.

    But like you said most civic leaders could really care less.

    Quote Originally Posted by bcarey
    Sorry to the OP for the aside, carry on.
    Not a problem.
    IACOJ member.

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    Like I said, unless the civic leaders are affected, they could give a rat's ***. The township is lucky to have friends on the board, I am sure it helps them.

    Stay Safe

    Merry Christmas
    Chris Polimeni
    Prince George's County FD
    Back at the Big 29er

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    Don't know if you watched it already, but there is a webcast on working with short-staffed engines companies on this site. Haven't watched it yet, but figured you might wanna see it if you haven't.
    Knowledge is the difference between KNOWING and GUESSING

    "You guys are good, but you'll never invent anything-it's all been done before."

    FF/EMT-IV (medic in training)

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    Quote Originally Posted by cubbie View Post
    I have told my partner we will not go in until the 2nd due engine arrives. If the 2nd due engine is not on a call they are 5 miles away. The next engine after them is 10 miles. Next one after that is somewhere between 20 to 25 miles away.
    Do you mean that you will not go in to attack the fire or you will not go in to effect a rescue?

    Especially with your second due companies being so far away, wouldnt you at least try to make a grab?


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    I don't think there is much to talk about here. It's poor staffing. It happens all over the place. You do what you can and weigh the risk vs. the benefit. If the only thing you can safely do is get a line to the door. Do that. If you can knock it down from a window outside do that. Being safe is the name of the game. 4 man crew or 1 man.
    The question is, what to do when you don't have a run? ugh 24 alone sounds boring to me. I'm sure some people would dig it though.

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    The district I volunteer in and work part-time for, most of the time runs into this situation on occasion, but it's very rare.

    We have 3 paid personnel (4 starting 1/15/09) on during the day and 1 paid member on evenings and nights. Generally there are 2-4 volunteers doing overnight ride-outs at the station.

    We have a very active volunteer staff, but there are occasions when only a few are available or delayed in getting to the scene, so a 1-3 man initial operation is a possiblity for us.

    The delay on the additional manpower, on the rare occasions this occurs, is almost always less than an additional 1-2 minutes.

    basically we have SOPs that limit the amount of interior firefighting or rescue operations that can take place in this situation.

    Firefighter safety IMO, has to remain the number 1 priority. At all times, irregardless of the situation and threat to civilian lives and property. that has to be driven hom,e by the leadership so the members undertsnad they will not be repremanded for inaction in these types of situations.

    In some cases I have had chiefs that made it very clear that aggressive actions in these cases would not be tolerated. It was a difficult position to take, given the pressure of the fire service culture, and it took great courage, IMO, to take that stand.

    In the other fire district in which I also work part-time, on occasion, it's a common occurrence. There is one meber on duty with an extremly limited volunteer response. It's common to be operating alone for extended periods, until automatic mutual aid arrives (5-15 minutes).

    In that district, there is also high percentage of elderly residents, as well as folks that are commonly impaired by drugs or alchol, so the chance of a rescue when the very rare (usually less than 1 a year) structure fire occurs is high.

    There is no doubt that some serious choices would have to be made.

    Basically we are told to knock down the fire from the outside, or if the fire has become significant, protect exposures. Basically victims are written off simply die to manning unless you get 3-4 volunteers for initial operations.

    It is quite boring there. Not uncommon to not turn a wheel for an entire 24-hour shift and very few volunteers wander by. It's like being the Maytag repair man.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 12-23-2008 at 07:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    Basically victims are written off simply die to manning unless you get 3-4 volunteers for initial operations.
    I very strongly disagree with what you said there. I would at least try for a rescue if it was remotely possible. Not just write victims off. BUT I'm not going to argue it here, there are other threads for that.



    Quote Originally Posted by tnff320
    Don't know if you watched it already, but there is a webcast on working with short-staffed engines companies on this site. Haven't watched it yet, but figured you might wanna see it if you haven't.
    Can you give me a link? I can't see to find the video.
    IACOJ member.

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    If you are operating by yourself, you really have no choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    If you are operating by yourself, you really have no choice.
    I would like to think I would try to make a rescue but I don't know, I've never had to make that call.

    But your are right, there's not a whole lot you can do by yourself.
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