Notebook Nuggets: The Engine Company - Mistactics

June 1, 2004
Richard J. Blatus and Thomas J. Richardson discuss scenarios that can happen if your department doesn?t address potential problems before they occur.
Photos by Richard J. Blatus and Thomas J. Richardson

The officer of the first-arriving engine company is aggressively leading his/her nozzle team through a serious fire on the first floor of a single-family dwelling. They are making great progress considering this is the nozzle firefighter’s first real working fire. As they are moving into the last room to extinguish, the nozzle firefighter advises the officer that he has lost water in the hoseline. An attempt is made to isolate the fire, but the door to the room has burned away. The fire begins to roll over the nozzle team’s head, causing them to begin a hasty retreat. At the same time the team on the second hoseline, which had advanced to the second floor, has also lost water. This team was protecting a search team operating above the main body of fire that was searching aggressively for a trapped occupant. A third hoseline stretched was backing up the initial line on the first floor. They too have lost water. Urgent messages are transmitted to the incident commander. He/she orders all members to evacuate the building and conduct a personnel accountability report (PAR). All members are accounted for, but the fire extends rapidly and an exterior operation is ordered. Water supply is eventually re-established and master streams are put into operation. Unfortunately, the trapped occupant perishes and is found after the fire is extinguished.

What went wrong? The aggressive interior attack was successful until things went terribly wrong. During a critique of the fire, it was discovered that all three hoselines were stretched and operated from the first-arriving pumper. When the pump operator experienced a sudden water loss, all committed hoselines lost water simultaneously. No matter what caused the water loss, the practice of stretching all hoselines from the first pumper needs to be addressed. Does your department have standard operating procedures (SOPs) to avoid this type of problem? Are alternative water sources a must? If your manpower and resources permit, a SOP must be formulated to establish at least a second water source for additional hoselines to prevent the above incident.

The above is based on an actual incident. Discuss this scenario at your next company or department drill. Be proactive! Address potential problems before they occur.

Richard J. Blatus and Thomas J. Richardson will present "Tales from the Fireground," "Critical Response Information – Do Your Troops Have It When They Need It?" and "Live Burn Evolution: Real Training for Real Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo 2004 in Baltimore, July 13-18.

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