Question: The City of New Britain, Conn., recently received a consultant's study from MMA suggesting that we close an engine and ladder company and replace them with a quint located at our Station 2 in the south end of our city. The chief has asked me to gather as much information as I can on why this may not be such a good idea. I have heard that you are an opponent of the quint concept. Could you please take some time to express some of your thoughts on this topic? I'm not sure how familiar you are with New Britain, but any help you could give would be appreciated. Thank you. Captain Robert DiPietro, Office of Planning and Research, New Britain Fire Dept.
Answer: Who the hell are all these consultants? MMA, Tower Associates, Super Buffs Inc., Fire Wannabes Corp., One-Eyed Empty Suits with Different Colored Stones in their Rings, and more. Consultant: asks you for your watch and then tells you the time. In the long run, they are usually hired for lots of money to tell the city in print just what they were paid to say. I know of the head of a firm that even lectures and never was a member of a fire department! Enough.
You ask if I know the City of New Britain. Well, I was president of the Connecticut Chief's Association while chief of Waterbury, Conn. (after retiring from FDNY and eight years as editor of Fire Engineering magazine). If I remember correctly, you have a mixed community with a periodic arson problem in a fast-burning response area? What I mean to say is that occupied structure fire is a common event more common than the name of the city suggests. Now to get to your the question: The problem (my only concern) with quints is that no apparatus, nor firefighter for that matter, is great at everything nor even good! If the quint is replacing an engine and truck in the south, then it is the only piece available at a considerable response area. You can't position the apparatus for the best truck-work advantage (primary goal with too few firefighters arriving) AND be in a position to get a water supply and stretch hose. Conversely, you can't be at the water supply and be in the proper place for the best advantage of the aerial device. If your problem consists of more than one-story, peak-roofed, private dwellings, quint response will cause some dilemmas, in my opinion. No one on the fireground has more to think about and do, depending on location of fire and construction and exposed life, than does the undermanned truck company. The engine company has less of a problem, and usually it only depends on whether they are stretching the first, second (and water establishment) line, or third due. It is hard to hold any quint unit accountable for any operations which they have not been ordered to perform. Next, a quint in place of an engine and truck combination is in trouble at their response area of the city. Why? Operating as an engine company, they will not get needed truck-company support functions search and ventilation and alternate entry for a long time. If they are operating as a truck company, they will not get the assistance and protection of a properly stretched and sized handline to isolate the fire from their precarious commitment. I wonder if these guys recommended a specific quint?
Question: My department is in a suburb of a major metropolitain city. We run engines and quints staffed with three or four members (including the officer). We send four compaines to a house fire (at minimum, the heavy rescue company, a quint, and two other companies [engine or quints]) and a battalion chief, for a minimum of 12 men and a chief to 16 men and a chief. Our department policy on single-family dwellings specifies that we must take an apropriate-sized hose line when we are assigned search every time, no if's and's or but's. The company responsible for search is assigned at the IC's discretion, if it is assigned at all. A casual survey of other fire departments, recognized texts and training seminars (FDIC, etc.) on the subject seem to indicate we are the only ones performing this task in this manner. The main argument seems to be safety, which I can understand to a point. Are we not in tune with the rest of the firefighting world? Thanks. Kevin Thomas Olathe, Kansas Fire Department Quint Co. 4
Answer: How are you Kevin? Nice to hear from you. The short answer to your question is NO! But it seems like people that arrive at building fires now perform lots of positive functions that others concerned with the mission and success on the fire ground never recognize. Unfortunately (my opinion), yours is one of them. The biggest incorrect and scary statement is that the search function is discretionary at the "whim" of whoever is the "top vest" for that shift, for that section of the city, for that day. Search is far too important a tactic IF, IF you are mounting an aggressive, offensive, interior attack into a savable structure. Most have come to believe that SEARCH is married to RESCUE and is called SEARCHANDRESCUE as if it were one function. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rescue of human beings is the minor result of Search. The average firefighter is lucky if he or she has been directly involved in one true rescue during a career. I am sure that there are many more occurances where the removal of non-firefighting personnel from fire buildings is just that REMOVAL! This is done by directing, escorting, channeling, funneling, and providing alternate means by aerial and portable ladder devices. Search by routine has many other facets which are more important because they must occur successfully at every interior fire attack.
1. Locate the fire! The most important function to be performed ALL THE TIME (more when you want to discuss).
2. Determine fire extension or defining the area of involvement. "Where has it gone?" "Where is it probably going?" "What is in its way?"
3. Gather information for the operation of both the immediate and local inside teams and for the benefit of the incident commander for further actions. These data include: incident behavior, damage to the structure (stairs, floors), additions, hazardous materials (storage), structural collapse indicators that are only seen or heard from inside (more on this when you want), and ANYTHING that is discovered both positive and negative during the methodical examination of the structure during the fire fight that is termed Search!
The private dwelling is one of the structure types that is most neglected as trivial and that is the funeral pyre for 80 percent of the lives lost to fire in this country every year. This is particularly true of the two-story private dwelling. The secret is to search the second-floor rooms from inside and from outside. The floor above the fire is just that. Most search activities are short and fast and most thorough and successful without the encumberences that a loosly stretched handline create. Who takes the line where? Look at the successful attack on a strip store (taxpayer). If you took a line everywhere you had to search you would probably lose the entire four-sided structure. Hmmm, perhaps that is why that occurs!! Write again, brother.
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Write if you agree or dont agree or on anything. Tbrennan@firenuggets.com