1. #1
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    Default Advice Needed, Volunteer Organisation with weird and outdated techniques

    Hi all, long time lurker first time poster.

    Im part of a volunteer firefighting organisation in Australia, one who's 'primary' responsibility is bushfires (or wildfires, as you yanks call them), however its role is changing, and I am in what is called a Village 2 brigade, the highest level of brigade rating for structure fires. This means we carry SCBA and have firefighters trained in offensive structural firefighting.

    Now heres where the horror story begins. The brigade has 6 sets of SCBA, meaning the most firefighters we can put in is 6, if we ignore having a RIT. The organisation itself allows plenty of freedom in what we do, however the teachings are standardised. We can change our MO if we want however.

    For example, standard practice for brigades is to have a team of two operating a 38 hoseline (1 1/2 inch) doing a primary search, then attempting fire suppression. Myself and an officer discussed it, and we felt that putting fire protection second to the search was risking higher chances of structural collapse, more smoke and heat reducing victim survivability, and was just a bad idea in general.

    Eventually we developed an idea where we would send one team of two to initiate fire suppression and horizontal ventilation, while the second would begin a primary search. This has met with some stiff ongoing opposition by certain officers (Who are no longer qualified as offensive firefighters) who make some grand sweeping claims. Firstly they say "Its impossible to identify where a fire is located in a structure, there is too much smoke", too which I answered "If the smoke is that thick that you cannot locate any possible air tracks or light from the fire, why haven't you begun ventilation immediately, noone will be alive in there for long if its that bad. Also what happened to the IC, shouldn't someone have done a 360 to determine the fires location?" And the answer I got was "Ventilation will result in increased fire intensity and it should only be done as a last resort or during overhaul"

    Some of this stems from the course where they teach you about OFF, its repeated over and again that "Ventilation will result in increased fire intensity" which while I agree thats true, Im a firefighter, I have a fire hose, I have training. I can deal with increased fire intensity.

    This brigade was formerly two brigades, the one I am in allowed us freedom to change our techniques too better ones, but banned us from training our skills out of fear it would result in "an elitist clique", the other one basically worships its SCBA operators, but teaches them retarded techniques, like upon finding a closed door, they are to exit the building, contact the IC, who will then see if there is a way to ventilate from outside, if there isn't they will reenter the building with an axe (They only enter with a hoseline and kelly tool), cut a hole in the door and shove the nozzle in there. Yes, I know. Im very sorry and I apologise to all of you who had to read that, I may have actively decreased the intelligence of all readers. But its true.

    So now I have set the scene/got that out of my system, the advice I really need is:

    6 SCBA operators, how to best use them.

    Our current practice would result in 2 being in performing both a search and fire suppression, a second 2 would be outside as RIT, and the other two sets on the truck still.

    I have two ideas for what we could do, and I have the influence to see them implemented either way, I have come here to see what more experienced firefighters opinions are on this. Maybe theres a superior, third option I am overlooking?

    There are no service requirements for a RIT team in this country.

    The first is we work two teams of 3. One team of 3 undertakes fire suppression while the second begins a primary search. They will work as each others backup. Bear in mind there are other firefighters outside, just only 6 able to enter. The firefighters outside range in experience/training from incompetent monkeys too amatuer participants. Basically there is a huge skill gap between the people trained in OFF and those who aren't.

    Pros: Superior speed and a third set of eyes and arms
    Cons: If the team undertaking fire supression runs out of air, there is noone to continue while they leave

    The second is to have 3 teams of 2, the first team enters the building for fire suppression and the second for primary search. They both take hoselines (thats one of those things we just do). A third team stays outside not masked up. They will begin to soften the target by removing bars, placing ladders if the need be, and beginning ventilation possible as soon as the first team makes contact with the fire. They could also "hit it hard from the yard" while the first team is moving into position, if the situation allows.

    Pros:
    RIT team available, if an understaffed one.
    More jobs being completed at once
    When the fire suppression team reports being low on air, the RIT could come in and change jobs with them.

    Cons:
    Slower movement speed than the 2x3 option.

    Thoughts? Im only a newbie at this, in an organisation with very limited structure fire experience. So be gentle, its my first time

  2. #2
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    You have some real challenges to face. Sounds like the area you work in has some changing demographics? Increasing population and developement that goes with it? You'll probably need more of everything if this is the case.

    Without knowing more about your department, your building types, etc. a very generic plan could be something like this:
    I think your best option for now is to have three or four firefighters work together to get the first line in place. Fast water on the fire is critical for a successful outcome. Two SCBA equipped firefighters could then advance and operate that line with help from non SCBA equipped firefighters on exterior. Basically they would be at entrance door feeding hose to interior team. Practice will be needed to coordinate this. It's not as automatic as it sounds.
    Then you could have that backup line stretched by remaining firefighters. It could be brought in by two SCBA equipped firefighters on search team.
    I think you should consider having the backup line stretched and charged and put into readiness in front yard. Two SCBA equipped members could perform a more rapid search without having to deal with hoseline. They would also be able to carry hand tools in order to more easily force any additional interior doors encountered. And perform ventilation from interior where appropriate. And the backup line would be readily available if needed.
    The remaining two SCBA equipped members should be left available for RIT, whether it's mandated or not. Two isn't much and will be seriously challenged if actual RIT is needed. But it's better than nothing. And definitely worth it. Or they could rotate in and relieve two of the interior SCBA equipped firefighters if necessary. Of course the two relieved firefighters would then have to change cylinders and act as RIT. But by this point the fire may be mostly controlled, and their services as RIT less likely needed.
    Horizontal ventilation could be performed by RIT members, as long as they can maintain operational discipline and not over commit. Or it could be performed by exterior non SCBA equipped members. But it must be controlled by interior team. It should generally be performed opposite hose stream, and coordinated with opening of nozzle.

    It is often true that fire location cannot be determined from the exterior due to heavy smoke throughout all or most of the structure. This does not mean there is no chance of survival for occupants. Although it is less likely due to Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Cyanide and other toxic gases that will be present. Plus there are times where fire location is readily discenable from exterior.

    Ventilation is not a last resort. It is still a valuable tactic. Your department will need to learn where and when to perform ventilation in order to have it help versus having it hurt the operation.
    It sounds as if your entire department needs some formal training in modern fire behavior and ventilation tactics. You will also need to admit that fighting each other and dividing up into cliques will not be helpful.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    You have some real challenges to face. Sounds like the area you work in has some changing demographics? Increasing population and developement that goes with it? You'll probably need more of everything if this is the case.
    Somewhat, we service an area of around 15,000 with approximately 3 callouts a week. We currently have what is referred too as a Cat 11 Urban Pumper and a Cat 1 Tanker. If your overly interested heres a link http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=1118

    We also have two Cat 7's, but they are largely irrelevant for structural duties, with the exception of bringing more crew too the fire. Generally at a structure call after work hours/b efore work hours we will get 20 firefighters or more, although most aren't trained in village firefighting. Even the ones that are, in order to be fully qualified as capable to enter a structure, conduct search and rescue, fire suppression, ventilation etc, is only 64 hours of total training, including assesments, with approximately 3 hours of live fire experience. So we aren't talking highly experienced people. The main issue is because the organisation was originally only for bushfires (as in, 30 years ago), practically all of the "old" members take the view that the more qualified you are the less you know about "real fire". Its something we are trying to work on, both by changing their perception of village firefighting, and perhaps voting some officers out (Not sure how its done in the states, but here we vote on our officers)

    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    Without knowing more about your department, your building types, etc. a very generic plan could be something like this:
    I think your best option for now is to have three or four firefighters work together to get the first line in place. Fast water on the fire is critical for a successful outcome. Two SCBA equipped firefighters could then advance and operate that line with help from non SCBA equipped firefighters on exterior. Basically they would be at entrance door feeding hose to interior team. Practice will be needed to coordinate this. It's not as automatic as it sounds.
    Then you could have that backup line stretched by remaining firefighters. It could be brought in by two SCBA equipped firefighters on search team.
    I think you should consider having the backup line stretched and charged and put into readiness in front yard. Two SCBA equipped members could perform a more rapid search without having to deal with hoseline. They would also be able to carry hand tools in order to more easily force any additional interior doors encountered. And perform ventilation from interior where appropriate. And the backup line would be readily available if needed.
    The remaining two SCBA equipped members should be left available for RIT, whether it's mandated or not. Two isn't much and will be seriously challenged if actual RIT is needed. But it's better than nothing. And definitely worth it. Or they could rotate in and relieve two of the interior SCBA equipped firefighters if necessary. Of course the two relieved firefighters would then have to change cylinders and act as RIT. But by this point the fire may be mostly controlled, and their services as RIT less likely needed.
    Horizontal ventilation could be performed by RIT members, as long as they can maintain operational discipline and not over commit. Or it could be performed by exterior non SCBA equipped members. But it must be controlled by interior team. It should generally be performed opposite hose stream, and coordinated with opening of nozzle.
    I like this idea and will propose it. The main opposition to not taking a hose line in with the search team is its simply not what we get taught, but then again we get taught to search first, fire suppression after completion of search, done with only two SCBA firefighters. Im a strong opponent of this as I feel its the least safe order of operations, and see no point in leaving two sets of SCBA unutilised. Unfortunately here in Australia, the entire attitude to firefighting operations is different. I would love to get a chance to go to America sometime and work there as a firefighter for a while, just to experience the changed attitude. Here the public tend to treat us as a nuisance, particularly if we block a road. Of course you get the occasional nice person, and I do wonder how much of that has to do with our attitude towards them. I have seen some of our members be pretty disrespectful to the public, so its probably a tit for tat thing.

    But anyway, if I can get this accepted, and enough people motivated to do training weekly on structural firefighting, hopefully they will allow us to resume that sort of training.

    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    It is often true that fire location cannot be determined from the exterior due to heavy smoke throughout all or most of the structure. This does not mean there is no chance of survival for occupants. Although it is less likely due to Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Cyanide and other toxic gases that will be present. Plus there are times where fire location is readily discenable from exterior.
    And even if it isn't discernable, I think it would still be a better idea to have one team chasing the fire and a second searching, rather than just the one team doing a left or right hand search until they find the fire, then working around it to continue the search. In our area we have literally thousands of McMansions, mostly new buildings, all truss roof design (With a few older, asbestos houses)
    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    Ventilation is not a last resort. It is still a valuable tactic. Your department will need to learn where and when to perform ventilation in order to have it help versus having it hurt the operation.
    It sounds as if your entire department needs some formal training in modern fire behavior and ventilation tactics. You will also need to admit that fighting each other and dividing up into cliques will not be helpful.
    I agree that its an important tool to have up your sleeve, and I try and learn as much about fire behaviour as possible, the main reason I hang out here. Unfortunately that makes me the most knowledgeable in my brigade, which is somewhat scary. The cliques were previously just the people who were there when the entire place was forest, with a few houses, and the new people who had joined since then. Now with the addition of the other brigade, which was formerly the same as mine before it split over an alcohol issue (That is, one brigade insisted on carrying beer instead of drinking water, Im not even joking), we have three cliques. The two older cliques who hate each other and one united other clique who now make up 80% of the brigade, but only hold one officer position. Hopefully in a couple of months a lot of the problem will be solved, with a new round of voting taking place.

    What I found the most embarrassing was when I made the claim "We need to train, this is serious stuff, someones life may be at risk, and ours are definitely at risk" I was told "If you can't retain the information you were taught on your course then you shouldn't be a firefighter" followed up by "Only stupid firefighters get themselves killed"
    [/QUOTE]

    Anyway, I appreciate the advice quite sincerely, thanks for letting me rant on.
    Last edited by Griskard; 02-11-2014 at 05:14 AM.

  4. #4
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    Griskard, I am not going to be much help to you, as Captnjk said it all best, except to say you have a lot of work ahead of you. Trying to change a mind set and mentality is no easy nor fun thing to do. As the Old Guard moves on or retires, you can bring in new ideas and slowly impliment them along the way for sure.

    As for the quote: The only stupid firefighter is the one who DIDN'T pay attention in class, and that lack is what got him injured/killed or injured/killed one of his mates.

    Keep asking your questions in here, there are way too many guys who will be willing to answer to the best of their knowledge and experience. Collectively there are probably a few million years of knowledge in these pages!

    Sadly in your location, it will probably take the fatality or at least major fire loss of one of your McMansions, owned by someone important to make a major and very fast change in attitudes towards training and tactics.

    Best of luck to you and your mates!
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

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