Rueda said as incidents escalate, so does the level of incident command. As the simple becomes complicated, the complicated becomes complex and the complex becomes chaotic, it requires additional levels of higher incident command.
“When I get called out, someone else can’t put it all together,” said the deputy chief. “Something has become harder, or something is wrong.”
Yet, as each level of command is summoned, they have the benefit of all the knowledge and intelligence gathering each level has gathered about a particular scene or event, thereby allowing the higher level commander to look at different factors, Castro said. A fresh set of eyes on an issue can often help advance resolution, he said.
More experience helps fill out the slide show mental image, Rueda said, but, there are firsts for everyone. For instance the San Bruno, Calif., natural gas explosion that wiped out dozens of homes and killed four people is something very few people had ever experienced.
“Do you think the first guy on the scene in San Bruno had any idea of what to hell he was looking at,” Rueda asked. “I don’t think so.”
Yet, that commander had to do something Rueda said, adding that initial reports suggested the fire and explosion may have been caused by a plane crash.
The commander decided to do what could be done and that was put out the edges of the fire and push it back, Rueda said, adding that as more was pushed back to the core of the fire, it was easier to see what was going on and the image of a gas line burning in a home was the slide image that fit the incident, just on a much larger scale.
“You can’t just stand by and do nothing,” Rueda said. “That’s not an option because that’s not what leaders do. You have to do something.
That something can be completely defensive, meaning evacuating the area and pulling firefighters back, but at some point, leaders are going to have to be proactive. …Just don’t kill yourself or the people working for you.”
As a commander, Rueda said his goal is always to keep the complicated from getting complex and escalating further.
“I may not fully understand the problem and I may have to call in experts to help me figure out what’s happening, but I need to bring clarity and purpose to the mission. … People will follow if you tell them what you are doing and they buy into it.”