Question: I agree with the tactics of truck companies, except for the pump issue. My department has a 1990 LTI 100-foot aerial pipe with 2,000-gpm nozzles. The manufacturer supplied us with friction-loss charts. With 1,000 gpm flowing, we need 175 psi at the rear of the truck plus elevation; and at 1,500 gpm, we need 215 psi at the rear plus elevation. With the use of large diameter hose and burst pressure of 200 psi, we have found it beneficial to supply the pump and then achieve the pressures needed. In my department, we run a one-man truck company (I know). I have listened to many speakers and read articles but still have trouble getting members in the department to at least assist engine-company operations with ventilation, secondary egress (rear doors or front door), throwing ladders for egress or rescue. Most feel that if the stick isn't going up, they should assist engine-company operations inside. Do you have any articles or opinions I can pass on? Thanks.
Answer: I certainly have some articles to recommend that you collect and send to the powers that have developed the level of firefighting service in which you are trained. They are all the news stories describing heavier-than-expected fire losses in communities around this country!
I am sorry to be so bold, but your letter does not show any evidence that your department has any tactical sense to support any aggressive interior firefight such as you hint at by saying ...assist the engine company operation inside.
You are playing with dynamite! To have an interior fire operation, you need to make the workplace the envelope, the building relatively safe for the aggressive firefighters. This is truck work.
The STICK UP is not truck work. If it does go up (as you say), who climbs it? And does what? Where?
The water you aspire to supply through a 100-foot aerial pipe with a 2,000-gallon-per-minute nozzle is unthinkable! Do you know that is delivering 8.5 tons of water per minute inside the structure?
Eight and one-half tons!
Your department needs leadership that attempts to follow a path to the road to professionalism and safe operations. Or you dont have the facts correct. Or, this is a joke!
Question: I am an engineer on a truck company in a Central Florida metropolitan department. Our Rapid Intervention Team policy states that RIT shall stand fast at the command post until needed. During these assignments to RIT, I have seen many tasks left uncompleted by the already understaffed outside team truck crews security bars remain on windows, second and third means of egress not opened or accounted for, ground-ladder placement ignored due to insufficient personnel. Should this outside standby RIT team be used to make the building safer in which to operate?
Answer: There are two answers to your question, brother.
What you mention happens to be truck work, and part of the problem is that less and less of our leadership (both in place and aspiring) understand the importance and the interrelationship of truck work on the structural fireground.
If a handline could not get off the second-floor stair to the landing what would occur? Sure, a second line would be stretched.
I guess it appears as if I am avoiding the issue, and perhaps I am.
For myself, I would assure that basic fireground tactics are ongoing to support the strategy of the operation. If that strategy is interior, aggressive, offensive fire attack then all the tactics you propose in your question would have to be accounted for, plus many additional, such as the secondary or alternate entry at the rear of the fire and every living space wherein survivability of victims is an option. That would come from mutual aid, multiple alarm, or any where. Should the RIT team (so called) be available at the time that it is necessary to perform a basic that will eventually prevent entrapment of the fire forces such as vertical vent, coordinated horizontal vent, alternate entry and egress, and proper search operations (including the ability to perform a team search because the area or occupancy or structure is too large for an individual search) then the option is obvious.
It also causes me some pain to realize that todays incident commander is so tied to rigid rules and there are so many arriving on the scene that the decisions on the fireground are becoming delayed to the point of neglect.
As an incident commander, I could not afford to be hamstrung in front of a fire building by static rules that did not account for the dynamics of the moment in time for which I was responsible. Size-up, strategic decisions, tactical support for those decisions and responsibility for professional service, as well as the safety and welfare of the firefighting team that was under my command, were always the primary goal.
Additionally, the note here is not rebellion. It is a plea to return to operational sanity for the structural fire service to be able to complete their responsibilities in the worlds most unsafe profession as the worlds second most stressful worker (second only to the president of the United States). When you receive questions that state that the truck-company officer leaves the station with the ambulance and policy has the truck respond to an additional scene with the one remaining firefighter/driver, you have to wonder just who is watching the store.
The best RIT operation on any structural fireground at which I was operational, both in command and in tactical responsibility, was sufficiently manned to perform the basics necessary, based on all the size-up results of the moment.
I guess enough said!
Question: I have been a firefighter with the East Providence Fire Department for five and a half years. In my very short career, I have created a company logo and patches for my engine, which is the only company in the department to have one. The problem is the chief, and many others on the job don't see the need for such things, and patches are going to be prohibited from being displayed while on duty. I just do not undersatnd this lack of pride. Am I totally wrong here in wanting to fight this issue, or at least make my point known in letter form? Are there articles that deal with the subject on pride in the fire service? You are very respected by myself, and your view on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Answer: Dear Brother (from the Northeast): It is funny but I spent some time in your city testifying on the question of cuts in manning and apparatus a few years ago. Now you have a problem (I think) with trying to stop the conversion to Quints with the possible manning cuts that seem to go with that adoption.
Now why did I say that? I always believe that the main ingredient that makes a great department over a good (or worse) department and a great company over a mediocre company OR the thing that inspires us to deeds that are greater than expected is the individual pride in the unit operating whether truck, engine, battalion, or department. (The only time I balk at what I am saying is if it denotes one shift over another terribly wrong!)
In recent years, possibly 20 or so, it appears that there is a downplay in the importance of that spirit and pride in work emphasis by management of either the fire service or the municipality. It shows in attitude and in work ethic and in attaining excellence! I am in favor of anything that escalates that aspect of a firefighters personality. The value of an identity with a certain tribe is as old as history itself. That anything also takes the shape of company motto and logo.
When that started in FDNY in the late 60s, it flew like wildfire and enhanced those aspects of this job that made us all proud from the inside. One manifestation was company patches. I think that they are great! No cost! and most often they are positive reinforcements of unselfish devotion to duty that cost the powers nothing.
My advice is to get it approved! You should assure that a policy is developed that assures uniformity in size and location of the patch logo and that requires artwork to be approved by a higher authority. In short, give the program the credibility it deserves, and eliminate the probability of some nitwit spoiling it.
We loved the patch stuff and wore it on our uniform sleeve opposite the department patch. (The City of New York had no patch until the companies started showing them!) No one did! Once the logo is approved and the patches are in place, there are other great ideas for their use. Good luck.
Question: Tom, why do we see pictures of so many tower ladders and aerial ladders placed far above burning buildings flowing water with their appliances? Isnt it more effective to place the stream just below the window sill of the floor one which you wish to attack the fire? I thought it was a local problem, but I have seen pictures or others in the nation doing the same thing.
Answer: Thanks for bringing this basic issue to the floor. In my opinion, you are correct! Throughout my career I have talked about this problem at fire scenes that have become defensive in strategy. There are a few reasons for this poor tactic to be in place. Aerial ladders could not operate (metal failure) below 65 degrees safely. And certainly not at any degree effective enough at fires below the forth floor of fully involved buildings.
Most of the United States can only rely on newspaper coverage of large fires for ideas of what to do on their fire ground. News folk only come out in bigggggg fires, so photographed strategic errors become the standard. Manufacturers and distributors of tower ladders, based on perceptions and old pictures of big fires, never paid attention on how to market their product. They showed big fire, in big buildings, with big water high above the roofline.
Fire people believe that if you have a nozzle on the end of a 100-foot aerial it should deliver that water from 100 feet or wherever the guy at the tip of the ladder is not afraid to be! (Another clue.) Defensive strategies for departments with only aerials, without the ability to operate at low angles, have no choice!
However, you are correct in most instances. Even if fire is fought from outside, the theory of starting on the fire floor and extinguishing successively on floors above that location is most effective especially for tower ladders. Probably the most effective aerial pipe is the bed-ladder pipe the nozzle is then only 25 feet above ground and can be operated into the structure at horizontal openings. The best outside stream is the one that penetrates horizontally into the structure with enough velocity (relates to pressure and volume) to access (tear into) thin barriers of partition walls, stockpiles and ceiling spaces. Again, the tower ladder is the best equipment on the fire scene since they put a motor on a pump. It really hurts when you see them misused so frequently and plunge their stream into an opening in the roof of the fire building, causing the fire to spread from fire wall to fire wall.
Question: Recently we have transported three more members to burn centers. It was a routine fire in which we experienced a flashover during the search and extinguishment operations. I have begun to understand the importance of truck work and was wondering about its relationship to flashover-type phenomena on the structural fire ground? Is the lack of truck work contributing to more and more flashover experiences? I have responded to at least three fires in the past couple of years that had firefighters diving out of windows to survive. Is this percentage of bailouts normal? Are these experiences just part of the business? Are they going to occur regardless of what we are able to do tactically on the fire ground? Tom, what is your take on this?
Answer: Whew! I guess if you cant ask a complicated question ask a few easier ones!
The quickest answer to your questions is to do it!
Now, with that said, remember I never have short answers.
Flashover by definition must be able to escalate the heat content of enclosed contents over time. It is PREVENTED by stopping or reducing that, by removing the heat and cooling the material (which is how to put the fire out in the first place!)
Truck work ventilation makes the fire compartment more and more habitable to the aggressive operations of a good engine company. If we can cool the contents giving off the heated fuel gases at ignition temperatures before they are able to find an ignition point, we have no flashover.
Truck work search. By definition, one of the parts of this tactic is to locate the fire within the structure. That fact, all by itself, hastens the positioning of and the operation of the handline on the seat of the fire. This prevention of flashover now becomes a synergistic operation.
Now to the emergency bailout. The thing that bothers me is the term routine! AND the fact that procedures are being trained on to handle that event as if it were a routine occurrence in our fire ground of today.
Responsible truck work by enough responding experts (firefighters) will make this event a rarity that it was when America was responding to over 100 percent more fire occurrences. But! We dont have that ability any more in most of our response districts. I blame this on leadership in this business...and on the total neglect of the importance of truck work at structural fires, or worse, on the fact that they never understood it in the first place.
There are at least six tactical concepts that must occur at every interior structural fire attack six truck functions, that is.
These accomplishments are a must if we are to make the fire building (the firefighters' workplace) safe for our most dangerous profession to make the envelope of fire within the structure behave!
Now we respond in most all of America with not enough truck-assigned firefighters. It is a simple question that any citizen can understand: How can you coordinate six functions when two people show up?
Well, there we go. Making a complicated answer to a simple question.
In short, truck work is the answer to all the problems you identify and many, many more!
Lets talk some more!
Question: I have been in the fire service for 25 years and am in a first-line officer position in a metropolitan fire department. I have been listening to my team as of late, and there seems to be a burning issue reiterated over and over, We dont gain enough on-scene experience of fire emergencies lately as the occurrence of the emergencies is nearly half of what it was 10 years ago. Tom, you always say, "Every fire is a lesson!" But I have a feeling lately that there havent been enough lessons. What are your suggestions and opinion on this line of thinking?
Answer: You know, I have been hearing that comment throughout my career! That alone should tell you something of what it means. The funny thing is that it was most often out of the mouths of the busiest firefighters in the department.
At the time, we were logging over 1,000 runs per month in the truck. They conducted an arson sweep in the district and were very successful, if you read the papers. Well, in a few months we were momentarily in a lull of 700 runs per month and the comments ranged from Were has-beens! to What are the new guys going to do for experience.
My friend, one of our businesses is to save the lives and property of the district in which we respond from the effects of fire, explosion or other emergency. Another is to reduce the threat of these occurrences to our public.
So now to the question. You would be correct if there were no more occasions of fire in structure. That is not the case, so there must be another answer.
It matters only what you do with the occasions of fire that DO occur within the district or area you serve. As a line officer, you and you alone directly impact that statement and behavior.
There is the old adage, You can respond to one fire one thousand times or you can respond to a thousand fires, one fire at a time!
I try not to lose patience with the statement, We dont have enough fires. Try to understand: It matters what you do with the one structural fire you do get!
Have a critique with your team at every operation! Gather the team in front of the operation BEFORE you leave the scene. Review every aspect of the operation from each individuals point of view. There can be no wrong way or right way, only the manner in which it was conducted then and in what manner will we try to conduct it next time. That way there are no mistakes only lessons!
You do it as a company officer. Believe me you will be the center of notice and remarks at each operation.
Now take the points that you identify and save them for a drill gathering in the station on shift. Now it is reinforcing some great lessons that are sure more interesting than how many screw holes are in the newest atomic whiz-bang fire-finder!
In New York City, there is a truck that has been the worlds busiest occupied structure truck since the turn of the century. It had the same statistical description when I was there as captain, and it still has to this day. When talking to todays members, you hear, Not enough fires to keep sharp! The wizards they look up to, whose names are hanging on the walls, responded to half the operations they respond to.
When in doubt refer to Rule One a couple of paragraphs up this page. Keep talking the job and questioning yourself and your team. It is easy to be the best in the world you just have to work at it a little bit!