1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Small Unit Tactics

    Hi Guys -
    Wanted some input from some of you veteran firefighters and officers about small unit fireground tactics. We have a 5 man crew (that includes officers), and a huge rural district with second and third in 20 minutes away (also staffed only 2-4 per company), any more units needed after that are one hour away. Our department strictly has engine companies, no trucks (we do have a rescue company that is an hour away, but they are geared more for wilderness and water rescue) so we are also responsible for S&R, venting, and forcible entry as well. Our department runs EMS so only about 20% of our calls are fire related and of those probably only 5% are structure fires. However, that being said as you can see with our thin coverage (as I'm sure many departments experience) that means when we do have the "big ones" the potential for sh#@$t hitting smoke ejectors is very real. We currently do mostly indirect attacks (shooting in from outside) and other defensive tactics (surround and drown) because we just barely meet the two-in-two-out and have nobody to vent for us. But if the situation arises where we must do interior search and rescue our plan of attack is to send two in with irons and have a two man hose team standing by at the entrance. Now here's my question - do you think it would be a good idea for our hose team to advance into the structure while the S&R is still inside? We thought it might be for the following reasons:

    1) The hose team can protect the S&R team directly (at their backs) and indirectly (with some 3D firefighting)

    2) The hose team can do some hydraulic PPV to assist the S&R team with their search since no one else is going to vent for us and putting guys on the roof takes longer and now they REALLY aren't available as an RIT

    3) The hose team can get in there and put the damn fire out, again, greatly assisting the S&R team.

    We have the following concerns about sending in the hose team while the S&R team is still conducting their mission:

    1) The hose team better make sure to use quick short bursts so they don't upset the thermal layer

    2) Technically the hose team is no longer a "two out" team. OSHA does allow departments to break the two-in-two-out when a rescue is necessary but still now the situation exists where you have 4 of your 5 crew members in the house and backup is still far away.

    I'd like to hear your opinions on how you would handle that situation with the available resources that we have, especially those of you who have a lot of experience with structural firefighting. Any ideas/suggestions/comments would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks a lot!!

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    MemphisE34a's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Memphis, TN - USA


    Personally, I think you are way off base with this one. If you are going to pick between advancing the line OR sending 2 guys into search under hostile conditions with no line, then advance the line.

    Put the fire out and everything else gets better. Additionally, as 4949 stated in the other thread, your hose team IS searching as they advance the line whether they know it or not. Additionally, they are automatically searching the most exposed areas of the house first = good idea.

    Also, what about supervision? Is there a chief officer or someone else outside that can assume the misguided concept of 2 in/ 2 out in order to free up another man to work?

    I'll be honest, you would be much better off having all 4 available guys working then having 50% of your total work force watching.
    cell #901-494-9437

    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.

    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Northeast Coast


    I gotta agree with Memphis here. You're setting up for a bad day. Send the line in to hold the fire and let the search crew work under the relative protection of the hose. If the line can't handle the fire they need to immediately tell the search crew to retreat.

    And I'd advise against PPV until your sure of type of construction, exhaust openings, location of the fire, etc. You could really accelerate a a fire done incorrectly and you're stated staffing requires you keep it small.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Sep 2005


    I agree with Memphis as well. With limited personnel, the fastest way to stabilize the situation is contain/ knock down the fire. Deploy a two person team for fire supression while the Officer + additional firefighter either ventilate or pull second line for backup, once secondary units arrive, deploy firefighters accordingly. The first arriving unit officer can ask a second in officer to assume command while a fast attack mode is being started. This is very common occurance in many departments.

  5. #5
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    ffmedcbk1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003


    Andy Fredricks said it too, put the fire out and it'll get better.

    Even if you run split companies (ie. 3 on the engine and 2 on the tanker or 2 on eng, 2 on tanker, 1 in car) You still can assimalte the crew and have job functions.

    5 man ops (either split company or single vehicle resp.)
    #1 Chauffer/MPO - run pump and front side duties
    #2 OIC/Command* - walk around and establish Command
    #3 Nozzleman - starting stretch and working length of hose
    #4 Back up man/Irons - attack team leader, entry tools
    #5 Outside man* - Stretch assist, Outside Vent, Utilities
    (*= if known victims these 2 do the rescue and MPO runs the exterior and communications to dispatch)

    This is simular to how we run the 5 man crew in my township

    Also,do you have a volunteer response? And do the resp direct or bring more vehicles? Are the interior ff certified?

  6. #6
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    May 2005



    I'm from Europe and, especially in Belgium we have "small team" (3 or 4 FF).
    As a Rapid Fire Progress instructor, I spend a lot of time stuyding fire and acccidents. You don't have to ask for the choice between attacking or saving. Inside a structure, due to the ceilling and the different pressure between inside and outside, as you enter you send fresh air to the fire, and the smoke (which, as you know is fuel gas) run out in the opposite direction.
    All accident happen not at the heart of the fire, but between the entrance of the structure and the fire.
    So, you don't have to go inside without water, and it's very dangerous to try searching while the fire is still alive. Remember Keokuk, Blaina, and many other cases. It's very hard and very long to search for victimes but it's very easy to locate a fire. And the more time you spend for searching victim, the more oxygen you give the fire.
    If you need only 5 seconds to kill the fire (use a high flow rate!), you'll delay the "save operation" for only 10 seconds and it doesn't matter. If you need ten minutes to kill the fire, this means it was big enough to explode at your face if you try only to save while opening doors!
    Don't forget also that the chance for survical are near 0 in the fire room and near 0 in room full of smoke. The only chance to survive in a fire is to be in a closed room with no smoke. In this case, let the people stay in these rooms! Don't open them! Due to the pressure, the smoke will rush inside and the fresh air will rush outside to the fire!

    You must "Attack TO Save" and not "Attack or save".

    Stay safe

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