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Thread: Extinguishment vs. search.

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    Default Extinguishment vs. search.

    I have been working as assistant training officer for a couple of months now and am faced with a problem. Well, I think it is a problem. We are a small city/county department that averages about 100 fire calls a year. Of those maybe 1-3 are structure fires. out of 19 members we have 10 that can put on a SCBA and operate inside.

    My problem is that the training is way more focused on search than extinguishment. To my way of thinking we should be spending more time on extinguishment. On any given call we might have three show up that can go inside and any mutual aid companies are at least twenty minutes away. Some stragglers may respond with the second engine but no guarantee that they will pack up. I dont believe that we have enough people to mount a fire attack and search at the same time.
    Dont get me wrong, I believe that search training is important, but I cant see the reasoning behind us being really good at searches and poor at engine company tactics.

    What do you guys think? Should I get over it or push for more engine co. training?
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    I have been working as assistant training officer for a couple of months now and am faced with a problem. Well, I think it is a problem. We are a small city/county department that averages about 100 fire calls a year. Of those maybe 1-3 are structure fires. out of 19 members we have 10 that can put on a SCBA and operate inside.

    My problem is that the training is way more focused on search than extinguishment. To my way of thinking we should be spending more time on extinguishment. On any given call we might have three show up that can go inside and any mutual aid companies are at least twenty minutes away. Some stragglers may respond with the second engine but no guarantee that they will pack up. I dont believe that we have enough people to mount a fire attack and search at the same time.
    Dont get me wrong, I believe that search training is important, but I cant see the reasoning behind us being really good at searches and poor at engine company tactics.

    What do you guys think? Should I get over it or push for more engine co. training?
    The variables are so lengthy that maybe some great officer training would ensure the right priority is given for the situation faced? We have initial staffing woes, and what most places do simultaneously, we have to do consecutively. Depending on conditions one priority is hard to complete without another at times, it takes good size-ups and decision-making to put a successful plan into operation.

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    Generally, putting the fire out eliminates the major problem in a building on fire. Yes, I know that sounds like a flippant answer, but it isn't really. Suppose you roll up on a fire in one or 2 rooms, you decide to search and let the fire continue to burn. At what point does the uncontrolled fire make your search efforts far more dangerous than they have to be because the fire is growing exponentially unchecked? At what point will you have to withdraw and discontinue the search because fire conditions no longer allow you to be in the building? With limited staffing I would pull the line, hit the fire and have the extra firefighter do a quick primary search. Is that by the book? Nope. But if we quickly control and extinguish the fire then EVERYONE can search and remove any survivors.
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    I echo what FyredUp is saying. Knock the fire down, search off the line as well.
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    Only thing is if you put out a fire on the ground floor when there's casualties/rescuers on the floor above you're gonna cook them with steam. We don't extinguish the fire when it's believed others are in the vicinity for this reason. Search crews go in with water only as a defense if it goes south and to control the temperature of the compartment. Steam is just as deadly as CO and flame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    Only thing is if you put out a fire on the ground floor when there's casualties/rescuers on the floor above you're gonna cook them with steam. We don't extinguish the fire when it's believed others are in the vicinity for this reason. Search crews go in with water only as a defense if it goes south and to control the temperature of the compartment. Steam is just as deadly as CO and flame.
    Sorry, I don't buy this at all. Proper venting ahead of the attack team will remove most of the HEAT and STEAM created from the fire attack. Unless your FD is still using fog streams in the interior steam shouldn't be that big of an issue.

    Allowing the fire to burn creates uncontrolled heat and the possibility of etension to upper floors via walls, ceilings, utility chases, stairways, exterior auto extension up the outside wall.
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    A well known FDNY Officer coined the phrase "Put the fire out and 90% of your problems go away." Execute a well-coordinated fire attack, placing copious amounts of water onto the seat of the fire while ventilating in an efficient and orderly military manner can do wonders for any potential occupants still remaining inside the structure. This is especially critical in a high-occupancy situation such as an occupied multiple dwelling whether it be a garden apartment complex, a high rise, or even a large converted single family dwelling.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    Only thing is if you put out a fire on the ground floor when there's casualties/rescuers on the floor above you're gonna cook them with steam. We don't extinguish the fire when it's believed others are in the vicinity for this reason. Search crews go in with water only as a defense if it goes south and to control the temperature of the compartment. Steam is just as deadly as CO and flame.
    really ? --- "surface knowledge" on display
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    And I agree with fyredup also -- and remember -- you can knock a fire down and then one person can usually keep it in check. And on the call of rescue vs extinguishment -- I usually play the odds -- if there are more rooms involved in fire than rooms to search --I MIGHT , put suppression on the back burner, one room involved -many to search -- I will USUALLY knock the fire down, then search.
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    So if you have a fire in one part of a building and suspected casualties in another part not affected by fire but occupants are trapped by smoke and confused/disorientated/unconscious does it not make sense to get to these first or at least simultaneously attack the fire and perform rescue? It doesn't make sense to me to mount the attack first THEN go in for rescue. If you're talking about victims in the same part of the building as the fire well then apart from the obvious low survival odds you would most likely have to knock down the fire first to physically get to them anyway.

    And as for venting is there always time to effectively do this? How about a fire in a complex basement? We lost two guys ten years ago because a decision was made to vent on ground floor which caused the fire to flash and trap them in the basement which was also alight.

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    Remember, the opening post is wondering how to work with 3 guys.
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    Quote Originally Posted by conrad427 View Post
    I have been working as assistant training officer for a couple of months now and am faced with a problem. Well, I think it is a problem. We are a small city/county department that averages about 100 fire calls a year. Of those maybe 1-3 are structure fires. out of 19 members we have 10 that can put on a SCBA and operate inside.

    My problem is that the training is way more focused on search than extinguishment. To my way of thinking we should be spending more time on extinguishment. On any given call we might have three show up that can go inside and any mutual aid companies are at least twenty minutes away. Some stragglers may respond with the second engine but no guarantee that they will pack up. I dont believe that we have enough people to mount a fire attack and search at the same time.
    Dont get me wrong, I believe that search training is important, but I cant see the reasoning behind us being really good at searches and poor at engine company tactics.

    What do you guys think? Should I get over it or push for more engine co. training?
    No, you should not get over it. This answer seems simple because it is simple. Suppression comes first. If you only have enough staffing to do one thing, PUT THE FIRE OUT! Otherwise you commit to search and let the fire develope freely. Search team is now subject to extending fire, possible flashover, etc. There could be fire extension that wasn't even noticed from outside survey. Putting search ahead of suppression will probably work most of the time but when it doesn't, firefighters could be killed along with any trapped occupants.

    The only exception would be victims visible upon arrival. Known life hazard trumps suppression.

    Any member of the department can be assigned to perform horizontal ventilation ahead of the hoseline. Give him/her a radio and tell him which window to break and when. Not ideal but doable. Fyrdup already pointed out that this will greatly help reduce the steam problem. I've been doing this a long time and sometimes go to several structural fires per tour. I've rarely, if ever, seen a fire victim who's main problem was steam burns.

    With three members interior, one could search off the line while two advance it. I'd rather see the line put into place and then two could search while one holds a defensive position to at least contain the fire.

    There's no great answer when staffing is a problem. I do believe that placing search team at greater risk is not the answer.

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    If it is during the daytime, we will generally have 3-4 firefighters able to respond quickly after the first tone. Unless something else becomes a clear priority, addressing the fire comes first. Ventilating and attacking the fire at least buys time until help arrives. It should make conditions on the interior more tenable for any victims in the structure, if indeed there are any.

    Too many bad things can happen by sending in a search team without attacking the fire. Today would be a great example. Temps forecast to hit 86, humidity is already at 12% and falling, and wind speeds are in excess of 45 mph. If a house were to catch fire today, our only chance at saving it and anyone inside would be to get there before it self-ventilated, and execute a well-cordinated attack plan. If we send a search team in instead of trying to get the fire out, then the fire will grow well beyond our ability to control it very quickly. Our search team won't have enough time to perform much of a search at all, and may have real problems escaping the structure themselves before the fire and heat gets to them.

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    Search is important, but any viable victims world, and your world, is going to turn into an even bigger pot of sh*t if you don't put the fire out.

    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    With three members interior, one could search off the line while two advance it. I'd rather see the line put into place and then two could search while one holds a defensive position to at least contain the fire.
    That was my thought too.

    Three inside with the line, find a good defensive position and plant the guy with the nozzle there to keep the fire back. The other two can go do a quick primary search, and then go from there, whether it be back to the line to attack the fire as a team again, or whether it becomes a rescue operation because a viable victim was found.

    When we had that house fire here in town that I posted about, there were 4 of us on the first out engine, and it was just us for 10-15mins until mutual aid showed up. I pulled a line, did my 360 and another firefighter and myself made entry, once we got inside and weren't immediately greeted by fire, I had the firefighter stay on the line, while I did a quick primary of the bedrooms. Once that was done we regrouped and started fire attack.

    As far as the problem at hand, is this a membership push to train more on search and a resistance to train on fire suppression? Is it a push/resistance by the officers or other training officer? Or is it just one of those "this is how we've always done it" scenarios?
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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So if you have a fire in one part of a building and suspected casualties in another part not affected by fire but occupants are trapped by smoke and confused/disorientated/unconscious does it not make sense to get to these first or at least simultaneously attack the fire and perform rescue?

    1) How does their situation get worse if we put out the fire and properly vent the heat, smoke, steam, and gasses from the fire building to the exterior?
    2) The OP has a crew of 3, allowing the fire to continue to free burn may further endanger the victims as well as firefighters executing the search.


    It doesn't make sense to me to mount the attack first THEN go in for rescue. If you're talking about victims in the same part of the building as the fire well then apart from the obvious low survival odds you would most likely have to knock down the fire first to physically get to them anyway.

    You scenario of them in a distant part of the building makes fire attack an even better idea. It will ensure that they can be reached and removed because the fire will not grow exponentially larger while we are making our way to the victims.

    And as for venting is there always time to effectively do this?

    Pop the window, either from the inside with the hose stream to vent, or have the engineer come and pop it with a pike pole once he has the pump set.

    How about a fire in a complex basement?

    Different situation than what you painted in your first post. But once again if you don't cut off the fire it will run utility chases and any other void and spread the fire upward.

    We lost two guys ten years ago because a decision was made to vent on ground floor which caused the fire to flash and trap them in the basement which was also alight.

    I won't comment on a situation that caused to LODDs in your department. Frankly, not knowing the whole story commenting would be in very poor taste.
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    So you if you turn up to a house fire with 3 guys and someone is screaming at you that people are upstairs at the back of the house when the fire is downstairs at the front of the house you won't go straight to the back and get to those people before completely extinguishing the fire? Can't 2 guys go in to search carrying a line for protection whilst the other guy is operating the pump?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So you if you turn up to a house fire with 3 guys and someone is screaming at you that people are upstairs at the back of the house when the fire is downstairs at the front of the house you won't go straight to the back and get to those people before completely extinguishing the fire? Can't 2 guys go in to search carrying a line for protection whilst the other guy is operating the pump?
    I don't think anyone said COMPLETELY extinguish the fire -- most every one has said --- put it in check -
    maybe have one guy monitor/hold it, finish your search without worrying about the fire hooking you. Also no one has said climb over a victim to get to the fire, if you have an easy grab close by , by all means get them out, - but don't let the situation get worse if you can prevent it in a timely manner.-- the problem with
    ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So you if you turn up to a house fire with 3 guys and someone is screaming at you that people are upstairs at the back of the house when the fire is downstairs at the front of the house you won't go straight to the back and get to those people before completely extinguishing the fire? Can't 2 guys go in to search carrying a line for protection whilst the other guy is operating the pump?
    Actually the OP said 3 guys in scba, so I was assuming number 4 ran the pump. In that case 3 could go inside. 2 on the line and one searching.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So you if you turn up to a house fire with 3 guys and someone is screaming at you that people are upstairs at the back of the house when the fire is downstairs at the front of the house you won't go straight to the back and get to those people before completely extinguishing the fire? Can't 2 guys go in to search carrying a line for protection whilst the other guy is operating the pump?
    I get the feeling like you're looking for a one-size fits all answer to something that can't be answered in that fashion.

    It should be common practice for somebody (typically the IC) to perform a 360 of the scene before committing crews to the interior. As such, if you arrive and get the report that people are at the back of the hours, the person performing the 360 should investigate that report and determine an appropriate course of action.

    If there are no victims showing and all you have is the report of possible victims, then with only 3 FFs on scene, fire attack should be the priority. You don't know for sure you have a victim and/or the location of that victim, but you know for sure you have a fire and you likely know its location. With limited resources, your focus should be on the problem(s) you know you have vs the problem(s) you might have.

    If there are victims showing at the windows, then it's possible that throwing a ladder to get them out rather than initiate suppression could be the right decision.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So if you have a fire in one part of a building and suspected casualties in another part not affected by fire but occupants are trapped by smoke and confused/disorientated/unconscious does it not make sense to get to these first or at least simultaneously attack the fire and perform rescue? It doesn't make sense to me to mount the attack first THEN go in for rescue. If you're talking about victims in the same part of the building as the fire well then apart from the obvious low survival odds you would most likely have to knock down the fire first to physically get to them anyway.

    And as for venting is there always time to effectively do this? How about a fire in a complex basement? We lost two guys ten years ago because a decision was made to vent on ground floor which caused the fire to flash and trap them in the basement which was also alight.
    Is there always time to vent? We're talking about horizontal ventilation here. It's probably the most quickly done task on the fire ground, especially at a private dwelling fire. It must be controlled so it's done in right place at right time but it is not a complex task.

    I also won't comment on the fatal fire you mentioned. Sorry for your loss.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagzyLFB View Post
    So you if you turn up to a house fire with 3 guys and someone is screaming at you that people are upstairs at the back of the house when the fire is downstairs at the front of the house you won't go straight to the back and get to those people before completely extinguishing the fire? Can't 2 guys go in to search carrying a line for protection whilst the other guy is operating the pump?
    People have been known to scream lots of things to FD's at fires. It's wrong info as often as it's right. Last known location is not the same thing as current location. As I said earlier and others reinforced, a known life hazard (people showing at windows) is top priority and should be addressed immediately. If staffing is a problem then stretching of line would have to wait.

    Here's what it comes down to. RESCUE would trump suppression. SEARCH would not. They are not the same thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    Here's what it comes down to. RESCUE would trump suppression. SEARCH would not. They are not the same thing.
    That is quite possibly one of the most briliant, yet simple and obvious, things I have ever seem posted here on FH.com.
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    As I said in post #2: It takes good leadership and decision-making and if you're looking to expand training, that's where I'd "expand". You can have great firefighters, but with poor direction from failed tactics, improper size-up, tunnel vision, etc. you may be running on luck. When you're consistently short handed you must be ready to make aggressive moves in one or two directions, having first due officers capable of making the right decision to ensure well trained firefighters are focusing on the right tactic for the situation faced is the key.
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    Ok so I agree with most of those posts and didn't realise the OP meant 3 in SCBA. I totally agree that there's no point in searching a whole property when there's no solid confirmation of trapped persons and you have a large fire to deal with (in the case the OP mentioned). Ideally we would search and attack simultaneously but not hesitate to get water on the fire. I guess I think differently as I'm in a large city where our nearest back up is only minutes away. If needed we could have 20 units on the scene in as many minutes.

    My point was that if there was a strong (almost 100%) possibility there was someone trapped, as a firefighter I would not hesitate to go on or send someone in to find them regardless of how many FFs are on scene and this would be my overriding priority above supression. It's how my dept train us and it's textbook for us (and I'm sure for most dept's).

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    Thanks for the replies everyone. I am pretty new to this yet and appreciate all the knowledge and experience.
    If you dont mind Captnjak, I might steal that bit of wisdom.

    I have a big job ahead of me addressing some of the training issues I see in my dept., but my first goal is to get us better at engine tasks. We dont have a truck, so I believe we need to be damn good with our engine first and work from there.
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