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Getting The Job Done

Getting the Job Done

By Ricky Riley

On more than one occasion, I have heard firefighters complain about SOP’s, specifically how they can’t be written for every situation and or you are putting us in a box. This could not be further from the truth. What we are doing, is establishing a game plan for specific incidents and the operational concerns that they pose. In recent years, dedication to getting the job done correctly and doing so while operating within the SOP has shown me the great ingenuity and decision making skill that our company officers possess. This is directly opposes the notion, that SOP’s in anyway, takes away the Officer’s ability to make decisions.

IMG_8302An example that I want to share was a recent house fire in Washington DC. The District has some of the most comprehensive SOP’s that I know of and on a daily basis, the unit officers ensure they are followed with great consistency. Regardless of the type or size of the structure, DC sends a standard compliment of suppression apparatus to the scene. Each unit, based on dispatch order, has an assigned geographic area that they are expected to cover, ensuring at least two independent water supplies are established and supplied as well as ladder coverage on all sides of the building. Assigned tactical expectations confirm, attack lines are properly positioned to contain the fire and control extension and primary and secondary searches are completed in a timely manner.

My goal here is to show officers that by having strong knowledge of your response area, and a willing and motivated company officer. Your decision-making capability is expanded by developing and utilizing SOP’s as long as you take the time to train on them, and understand that the basis of these procedures is to set the fireground, and your company up for success. In Washington DC the 2nd due engine on the box is assigned to cover the rear of the structure. This unit is responsible for positioning the rig in the rear, or as close as possible to the rear. Providing a rear report and advancing a line into the structure at the direction of the Incident Commander.


IMG_8300This house fire is a two-story dwelling with the first engine and truck operating on, and through the alpha side of the structure, a standard execution of the SOP and a very simple operation to accomplish. Now the rear companies had a little more of a challenge, completing their assignment. The company took the path of ensuring that they were in the correct position and delivering on their tasks as dictated by the SOP. Rather than come up with an excuse as to why they could not complete their task, which would have been the easy route. The officer and crew had an excellent knowledge of their response area and executed their assignment without fail. They positioned on the Charlie side of the house then threw a ladder to access the rear yard due to topography ,and advanced their line to their assigned tactical position. Their task involved a number of fireground skills to be completed before they reached their objective. The success of their assignment, without fail came from training, more training, repetition and commitment to Getting The Job Done! Now ask yourself if you and your company are ready to follow the procedures by using all your practiced skills without allowing laziness or complacency creep in….



Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 13-08-2015

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What To Do With The Ground Ladders on Your Engine


Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company | Posted on 10-07-2015

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Some Quick Positioning Tips

A fire on January 19, 2015 for the Harrisburg, PA. Bureau of Fire demonstrated some excellent teaching points for Drivers or Chauffeurs of Tower Ladders. The fire in the 300 Blk. of N. Front Street involved the top floor of a four story mixed occupancy structure. The first due truck was Tower 1 from the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire, the Driver positioned the rig with a perfect spot.

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The rig is positioned on the corner of the structure with the turntable right at the Alpha/Bravo Corner. This allows for the boom and basket to reach the entire Bravo side and the Alpha side for rescues and firefighting.





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The cab of the rig is angled 15 to 20 degrees out and away from the structure, thus taking the obstruction of the cab out of play for maximum scrub surface for the boom. Depending on the booms length the basket might be able to reach or see the Delta side if required, though only for firefighting and not rescue.




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If you notice there is no engine in the way of the positioning of the Tower. Once again a diciplined and trained engine driver did not sucumb to temptation and park in front of the building.





This kind of apparatus placement is a crucial element for fireground success. And the most important part it is not done by chance or luck. This ability and skill for proper placement comes from PREPARATION, PRACTICE and ANTICIPATION and a desire to deliver the best service for their Company, Department and Citizens. Great work by all the companies involved in this fire and the chance for all of us to learn.

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, vehicle-operations-apparatus | Posted on 20-01-2015

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Let’s Talk Water Supply… By TT Instructor Tim Bautz

TT water supply article

Let’s Talk Water Supply…..A crucial Engine Co. task

Depending on where you volunteer or work, establishing a water supply can be quite simple and quick…… or it can be complicated, time consuming and require multiple apparatus. My “Small Town” fire department has both. We have areas in our municipality that have hydrants every 500’ and we have areas that don’t have any type of water source for over a mile. Either way, we have to get water to the scene and we have get it there quickly or things will not go well.

So as not to complicate things, lets break this article down into 2 parts. First we’ll talk about those areas that are fortunate enough to have reasonable hydrant spacing. The second part will talk about those areas where we have to go a long way to get the water, or perhaps shuttle it in.

Part 1: Here we will discuss establishing a water supply in areas with good hydrant spacing. We have enough supply hose to complete our own water supply.

1st Due Engine…… Lay Out, or don’t Lay Out ?

I find this topic to be one that is often debated; at least it is where I am, so I figured that it probably is for some of you as well.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “laying out”, it’s the act of laying a supply line in an effort to establish a water supply.

Before we get into this article, let me first say that I am NOT talking about incidents such as automatic alarms but rather a reported structure fire, smoke coming from a structure, an odor of smoke inside a structure and even an appliance on fire. I think you guys get the picture. Allow me also to mention that I am a huge advocate of “laying out” for these, and similar types of incidents, with the 1st due engine.

wp72cbf495_06For those who do lay out with the 1st due engine, I’ll be preaching to the choir. For those who do not lay out with the 1st due engine, I would like to point some things out and bring them to your attention. Consider:

1. What size booster tank do you have? 500 gallons is certainly the most common size in the fire service, but there are bigger sizes out there….750, 1000 and tanker pumpers with 2,500 gallons. If your first due is a 2,500 gallon tanker pumper, I can certainly understand if you don’t lay out with it and have the 2nd due engine do it for you. You have quite a bit of water in that tank to start with. But those of us with 500 or 750 gallons need to be a bit more careful.

2. Along with the size of your tank, what size attack line do you typically pull and with what type / gallonage nozzle? 1 3/4” hose is most commonly used today. A smooth bore nozzle with a 15/16” tip will flow185 gpm. There are fixed gallonage nozzles that flow 125, 150, 175 gpm and greater depending on what you purchased and at what pressure you pump them.

So what’s the point with these first two considerations? Well, you’d be surprised how many departments out there don’t know what gpm their nozzles flow. If you have a 500 gallon tank and you have a nozzle that flows 175 -185 gpm, you’ll be out of water in 2 minutes and 30 seconds! (Not every gallon of water gets out of the tank and out of the nozzle, some water is left in the line). If the 2nd due engine hasn’t laid out, broken the supply line in the hose bed, tied into themselves or your engine, connected the supply line at the other end to the hydrant and charged the supply line within that 2m 30 sec, it’s game over for a little bit until it has been done. My point here is, if you don’t lay out with the 1st due engine, you need to be knowledgable on what you have, how you’re using it and what kind of time you’re dealing with; otherwise, you’ll get caught with your pants down.

3. That leads me into how far behind is the 2nd due engine? In most smaller towns in suburban and rural areas, it’s going to be several minutes; thus, you may run out of water before that 2nd engine can establish the water supply for you.

4. What if you arrive and it’s not an 1 3/4” line fire? Maybe it’s a 2 1/2” line fire. Most departments run smoothbore nozzles on their 2 1/2” lines and, depending on tip size, will flow between 265 gpm and 325 gpm. That’ll blow through your 500 gal. and 750 gal. tank really quickly. Let’s take it a step further and say that you may actually have to hit it first for a minute with the deck gun / wagon pipe……. forget it, you’re done….out of water.

5. What’s the building stock of the area that you are responding into? Is it built with lightweight material that will burn faster and hotter, creating a ton of BTUs, thus creating the need for more gpm ?

The purpose here is certainly not to tell anyone who doesn’t lay out with the 1st due engine that you’re wrong. That’s not the purpose at all. The purpose is to make you evaluate what you’re doing with what you have available.

Personally, I cannot think of many reasons not to be proactive and lay out. The pros outnumber and outweigh the cons. The worst case scenario is that you don’t end up having an incident where a water supply was needed and you rack it back on the engine….no big deal unless you and your crew suffer from laziness. That pales in comparison to the other side of the coin; when you suspect that the call is nothing, arrive to find a working fire and run out of tank water before the next arriving engine can lay out and establish the water supply for you. Unfortunately, the latter scenario happens all too often.

1915546_1142606738245_7949144_nI will mention one of the cons that I often hear when discussing this issue, “I don’t want to delay the 1st engine by having them stop and lay a supply line. I want them to come straight in and make a fast attack”. OK, I can understand that…. I get it. But here’s my stance on it- it shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to stop and wrap the hydrant. Not if you’re set up for it and train on it. For example, in my department we have 5” supply hose. The last 15’ of supply line is “bundled up” with a rope around it. The rope hangs down to the back step. All we have to do is get out of the truck and run around the back of the engine, pull the rope which will bring off the 15’ of bundled 5”, open up the rear compartment door and grab the “hydrant bag” which contains the hydrant wrench, spanner wrenches and various adaptors and and away the engine goes…….We train our members on it so that it never takes more than 10 seconds. In my opinion, that is a 10 seconds well spent, to know that we are establishing our own water supply and are not dependent on the next arriving engine, which is probably several minutes behind us.

Whether you currently do or do not lay out with the 1st due engine, here is something else to consider :

1. Do we leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line? Do we not leave anyone at the hydrant, just wrap it and go and have the engine chauffeur ran back to connect it to the hydrant and charge it? Do we wrap it and go and then have the 2nd due engine just make the connection to the hydrant and charge it? The answer is certainly situationally dependent. It’s dependent on staffing. Can we afford to leave someone at the hydrant? Personally, I like to leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line. Once that is done, he can come up to the scene and fulfill the remainder of his riding assignment task.

If you’re not laying out with the 1st due engine, hopefully I’ve given you some things to consider that may have you re-thinking your position on the matter.

photo09_lgPart 2 : Here we will discuss establishing a water supply in more rural areas. Fire Hydrants…….

What are those ?

The hairs on my neck always stand up when a “Box” is dispatched in an area without hydrants. Immediately the concern of getting water to the scene is the priority. It certainly isn’t our fault that we have areas that don’t have hydrants; however, we do need to deal with it and overcome it.

The key in these areas is to have SOPs, dispatch procedures and mutual aid plans in place long before the call ever comes in.

Let’s take an area that has no water source for miles, not even a static source such as a lake. The best thing you could have done for yourself, your department and your community is to have had a “pre determined dispatch card” that has a “water supply task force” or a “tanker strike team” on it. Something at the dispatch center that gets tankers, or tenders as some areas of the country call them, coming to the scene automatically. If you don’t have this set up for yourself, please consider it.

Some thoughts to consider regarding tanker shuttles :

  1. How many tankers will you need? That depends on the anticipated flow that will be needed, which comes back to knowing your 1st due and your building stock. The number of tankers needed also depends on the size of the tankers Are they 2,500 gallon, 3,500 gallon?
  2. You’ll need to set up a fill site and place an engine there to fill the tankers up.
  3. Will the tankers nurse the 1st due engine or will you set up portable tanks that theydump their water into, possibly creating the need for another engine which will draft out of the portable tanks?

Now let’s look at an area that has a lake or a hydrant….but it’s 3/4 of a mile (approximately 4,000 feet) from our fire.

fire_hoseConsiderations :

1. How many engines do we need to complete the lay? That depends on how much supply hose you carry, which may vary from engine to engine. Again, something you need to know before the call comes in.

  1. How many in-line engines will I need to compensate for the friction loss in a 4,000’ supply line? That’s dependent on several factors such as the size (diameter) of the supply line, the anticipated GPM flowing through the supply line (remember, the greater the gpm, the more friction loss you’ll have) and the terrain that the supply line is on. (Is it on flat ground? Uphill?)
  2. It will be very time consuming setting up a long supply line with the necessary in-line engines. In this situation you may want to have a “water supply task force” or “tanker strike team” consisting of a few tankers responding to give your 1st due engine adequate water while the supply line is being laid out.
  3. Even if you are quite efficient and quick with setting up a long supply line, those tankers may be nice to have in a nearby staging area, just in case something fails in that 4,000’ supply line. A lot can go wrong if just 1 length of supply line bursts, or 1 coupling fails or an engine develops a mechanical issue.

! To wrap up, if you don’t have SOPs regarding water supply, I urge you to consider developing them so that your crew knows the game plan ahead of time. You may be able to have just 1 SOP if your area is rather simple. If you have a complicated and diverse area, such as mine, you may need to develop multiple SOPs for various areas of your community. If you do have SOPs already in place, make sure that they still work for your department and community and that they aren’t outdated. Be certain that they will work based on your current apparatus and engine company equipment. Just because your department has had a water supply SOP in place for 20 years doesn’t mean that it’s what’s best for today’s fire.


Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, Testimonials | Posted on 07-07-2014

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Consistency, Visual Cues & Options… By Keith Niemann, Captain E-10 Wichita Fire

Consistency, Visual Cues & Options

I’m a hose load junky, I said it.  Every time I travel to another department, or see pictures on the internet I always look at how the hose is loaded.  You can tell a lot from hose loads, if it’s neat and meticulous I tend to find the crews operate in a similar manor.  There is one thing more important than how the load looks, it’s how it pulls.  If given a chance I will often ask “how does this hose load work” and I’m surprised to find many crews have no idea.  Either it’s “loaded by another crew” or “it just looks pretty”.  Beyond how it physically deploys, or how it looks it only really “needs” to do one thing, deploy easily and effectively for the majority of the fires that crew will face.  There is no room on the engine for “parade loads” that look good, or “convenience loads” that just get thrown on to get a rig back in service.

For my crew, and the types of fires my engine fights, the gold standard is at least 50 feet of working line.  The working line needs to be placed in close proximity to the entry point, flaked out in a manner that it can be fed easily by our 3 person attack crew (plus MPO)…..and we have to be able to get it in service fast.  We also need the ability to get that hose into place through and across neglected yards  and to deal with houses converted to rear entrance duplexes or large garden style apartments in our first due.  Finally we needed a way to make sure our 2.5 deployed just as smooth and met the same standards as our 1.75 line deployment.  Much like any problem, we set down and came up with a list of goals and set about finding a solution.  We didn’t have to “invent” a new way, we just needed to adapt those lessons learned from within and outside of our department and apply them.  Two of the keys we found to success were “Consistency” amongst our hose loads, and the use of “visual cues”.  I think no matter what kind of hose load you use incorporating these things into it can help your crews be better at getting that first line in place.

The consistency component seems the easiest; just load the hose the same way for both 1.75 and 2.5 lines.  The reality is we will pull the 1.75 line the most often.  Whether it’s training or at fires, the ratio of pulling the 1.75 vs. 2.5 is probably 10:1.  Obviously we would like to pull the 2.5 more, but it’s not likely, and by loading the 1.75 and 2.5 the same way we compound our training.  If I pull the 2.5 tomorrow the muscle memory takes over and I even though this may only be the 3rd time I’ve pulled it this month, it’s the exact same motions as the 30 times I pulled the 1.75 line and my comfort level should be the same.  The difficulty with consistency between loads is can the different size hoses be loaded the same way on your rig, in our case that was a “maybe”.  Our crews had relied on transverse mounted pre-connected 200 foot hand lines that made loading of 2.5 and 1.75 lines the same way difficult (it also limited our deployment options as discussed below).  We did come up with a load that could be accomplished three wide (1.75) and two wide (2.5) and deployed the same way using the help of Visual Cues.  We used these as a stop gap until our new rigs arrived that moved the deployment back to rear hose beds with static attack lines.   With the rear static hose beds we are now able to load and deploy the lines identically.

















Here you can see rear static hose bed with the 2.5 and 1.75 hoses loaded side by side in the same manner and visual cues laid out identically.

Visual cues became one of the biggest keys to the success of our hose deployment.  We did not invent using visual cues to deploy our hose lines, we adapted it from places like Chief Dave McGrail’s highrise system.  Basically we decided to mark the halfway points on our hose like we had with our highrise packs (paint or colored tape) and use those visual cues along with tails (a.k.a. loops) and the couplings to make sure our hose always deployed the same.  By using the visual cues my crew can walk up at the start of the shift and in a glance know that the hose is loaded correctly and quickly deploy it, conversely they can take a quick look and know if they need to pull it off and reload the hose, there is no “I think it’s loaded ok”.











Here you can see the standard pre-connected load.  The long tails on the right side of the stack indicate the “working bundle” of line, the single loop on the left side of the stack is the “drivers loop”.  The nozzleman can easily see his bundle and throw it on his shoulder and take it to the fire as an intact 50 foot section.  Also visible is the blue “half way” markers in the sections.  When the nozzleman approaches he can drop the bundle at the door grab the half way mark and walk it back completing the stretch, he can also drop the bundle short and grab the nozzle and coupling walking it up if the stretch dictates.  The “drivers loop” is the visual indicator for the MPO, Layout man, or if needed the nozzleman to grab and clear the remaining line in the hose bed with no wasted effort. 











Here is the hose in the static beds, as you can see the nozzle and coupling are loaded at the end along with all the halfway points.  Just like the pre-connected lines, the nozzleman knows exactly where his section of working line is.  He can drop early and grab the nozzle and coupling walking up to the entry point; or he can drop at the entry point grab the halfway marks and walk it back.

I know that “options” and “consistency” seem a little contradictory but not in the context of this discussion.  There are many different hose loads out there, and many are good…for one type of stretch. We wanted something that could be used on small single family residences, garden apartments, 3 story walk-ups, varying setbacks and diverse approaches; our answer was going back to the static rear hose beds.  Now it doesn’t matter if the setback is short or long, or if the plug is before the residence or down the street.  The nozzleman can take his bundle and head to the entry point and stretches his line; everything else is handled by the officer, layout man and MPO.  If the set back is long the officer estimates the stretch and the needed line is pulled; if the plug is at the end of the street the MPO continues onto the plug to catch his hydrant once the bundle is pulled off the hose bed.  Keeping the working line deployment simple can be important since often the Junior guy is on the nozzle where the officer can directly supervise.  The positions that take care of the remaining hose (MPO, Officer, Layout) are typically more tenured and can overcome the small obstacles that increase the complexity of completing the stretch.   The last option we built into our system was the ability to “stretch forward” or “stretch away”.  We found if we set the hose up with the coupling and nozzle on the end as a visual indicator most of the time the nozzleman could lay his bundle down and grab the nozzle/coupling and walk up to the entry point for an effective stretch.  Unfortunately some yards or apartments made it difficult to drop early and perform a forward type stretch.  We overcame this by making sure all the halfway point visual indicators were lined up at the nozzle end as well.  Now if the nozzle needs to be dropped at the entry point the halfway points are grabbed and walked straight back making for a virtually identical result.











Here you can see the same line stretched both ways.  The straps on the left indicate the line was dropped at the entry point and “stretched away” and the picture on the right shows the bundle was dropped away from the entry point and “stretched forward”. 

As you can see our deployment is a constant evolution, and through trial and error I feel we were able to meet our goals.  Hopefully by sharing what we have found to other crews they can use similar methods to improve the deployment of their hoselines.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 23-05-2014

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Small Town Volunteer Fire Department Operations (Part-2)…By Tim Bautz

wp72cbf495_06By Tim Bautz

One of the many challenges that smaller volunteer departments face is the lack of adequate manpower and resources on the scene early enough to coordinate an efficient fire attack – efficient being the key word.

Our brothers who work or volunteer in the urban areas of the country are usually fortunate enough to have the Engine Companies and Trucks Companies arriving on scene, one on top of another, giving them multiple units and plenty of manpower early on. They have dedicated Engine Companies and Truck Companies to handle and complete all of the necessary tasks on the fire ground. Those on the Engine Company will only need to worry about establishing a water supply and stretching and advancing their attack line. The Truck Companies are responsible for forcible entry, searches, ventilation, opening up the ceiling and walls and placing ladders for egress, etc.

Those of us in the smaller suburban / rural communities do not have this luxury. Most of us who volunteer in these types of communities do not have “dedicated” engine and truck companies. Many of us, including my own department, don’t even have a “ladder truck” in our apparatus fleet. Without a “dedicated” truck company, how are we supposed to complete those “truck company” tasks? The first arriving engine may only have 4 or 5 men on it. The 2nd due engine will often be arriving 3-5 minutes after the 1st arriving engine. How can those 4 or 5 men on that 1st arriving engine stretch their attack line, force entry, search, open up to check for extension, place ladders and ventilate?

I’ll share some ideas for you to consider. Let me first start by saying that what works for one department may not work for another. What the brothers do in Chicago or Boston will most certainly not work for my department and vice versa. Some of the ideas that I will offer may seem out of the norm, and quite different than what some of you are used to. They are, however, tried and true; and many departments have been successful using them, my fire department being one of them.

Let’s take a look at what tasks will always need to be done, or have the probability of needing to get done, within the first few minutes of being on scene.

1. Stretch the initial attack line…I’m certain we can all agree on that.

2. Forcible entry…perhaps you may get to the front door and you find it to be unlocked, terrific; however the task of forcible entry still needs to be assigned so that we arrive at the front door with the appropriate F/E tools. We don’t want to have to go back to the engine and grab the irons. A delay in forcible entry results in a delay of the line getting to the fire.

3. Primary search…my rule of thumb is that the building is occupied until WE search it and prove otherwise. I do not take the word of the Police Officer, a neighbor or even a resident telling me that “everyone is out”. It’s occupied until the search crew tells me “the primary is negative”.

4. Ventilation…getting the appropriate windows taken out to assist in the advancement of the line and to assist the searches. Remember, we need to coordinate the ventilation and time it properly.

5. Ladders…having ladders placed for egress.

6. “Hooking the fire area”….once the fire is knocked, it’s not time to dish out high 5’s, it’s time to get the ceilings and walls opened up and check for extension.

Dance with me...One thing that is important for us, and when I say us, I’m referring to departments similar to mine, is to multitask. In order to multitask, your engine needs to be set up properly, the most important being your attack lines. Having your lines racked so that they come off smoothly and with minimal manpower is key.

Here is how our riding assignments are set up:

4 Person Crew:

Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged

Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is

being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out

the line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.

Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire

Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,

Forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer.

Granted, this 4 man engine crew is taxed to say the least, however it is feasible and does work.


5 Person Crew:

Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged.

Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is

being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.

Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire

Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,

forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer

Control – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Assist nozzleman and back-up man in stretching the attack line,

assist with flaking out the attack line, assist in the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is in verbal communication with the officer, assist with opening up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.

The 5 man engine crew is similar to the 4 man crew. The addition of the “Control” firefighter make everyone’s job a little easier and the operation becomes more efficient. He adds one more man to help with the line, search and open up.

6 Man Crew :

Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged

Officer – Tools : Hook, handlight, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is

being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook

Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire

Back-up – Tools : Hand light, radio?Task : Assist the Nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,

assist with advancement of the attack line Search – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio

Task : Forcible entry, primary search of the fire floor, provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports

Search – Tools : Hook, water can, hand light, radio?Task : Assist with forcible entry as necessary, primary search of the fire floor, open up the fire area to expose extension.

As you can see, there is a big difference in how we operate with 6 men on the engine. The back-up firefighter’s job becomes a lot easier and there is a dedicated search crew to search the entire fire floor, rather than breaking a member or two off the line to search the fire area.

Again, some of this may seem quite odd to many of you, especially with what we have our back-up man doing on the 4 and 5 man crews. There are 2 main things that we do which make stretching our lines rather easy for just the nozzleman, thus allowing the back up firefighter to have those irons, or other appropriate F/E tools, in his hand coming off the engine, and they are both key:

1. Our lines are racked so that the nozzleman can pretty much make the stretch by himself. We rack our lines in a modified minuteman load. The nozzle firefighter takes the 1st load on his shoulder. The 2nd load can either stay in the bed and it will peel off nicely without anyone touching it, or the nozzleman can pull the bottom ear of the 2nd load and dump it on the ground and drag it with him. This is key for us because it frees up the back-up firefighter a little bit. The 1st responsibility of our back-up man is to assist the nozzleman. However, when he get off the engine he takes the appropriate forcible entry tools with him. He will carry the irons in one hand while assisting the nozzleman by flaking out the attack line with the free hand. This may sound strange, but it works. Once the back up man flakes out the line and while the line is getting charged, the back up firefighter assesses the door and, if necessary, will force the door using the tools that he brought with him as he got off the engine.

2. Because we have no ladder truck, we position the 1st due engine to make the stretch of the attack line to the front door, or whatever the point of entry will be, as direct as possible and with as few obstructions as possible. We have no ladder truck that we need to leave the front of the building for, so we are able to do this with no issues.

One other key point, when we have a 4 or 5 person crew on the engine, we usually put the most experienced firefighter on the back-up position. We do this because of the important tasks that he will be expected to complete, pretty much by himself.

Allow me to also say that what is outlined above is certainly not all that needs to be done on the fire ground. When the 2nd due engine and the Rescue arrive, we are stretching back-up line, searching the floor above the fire, placing additional ladders for egress, etc, etc. The purpose of this article is to show one way you can accomplish “engine and truck” tasks with 4-6 men early on into the incident.

This is a little insight as to how my “Small Town Volunteer Fire Department” operates. When we first started to reconstruct how we operated on the fire ground, it took a lot of planning, thinking, talking and mostly training. We didn’t just whip this out overnight. It was a process and I can’t stress that enough. We talked to the entire Department of what our plan and goal was. We trained hard for many months until all of our members became efficient and understood the tasks and expectations. Once we got to that point, then we instituted the changes permanently…and as I said in a previous article, we are operating smoothly and efficiently and we haven’t looked back since.

Hopefully I have given many of you some things to think about and perhaps bring back to your Officers for their consideration. If any of you have any questions or need more clarity on what i have written about and explained, please feel free to contact me.

I’m looking forward to writing the next blog article in a couple weeks. In the mean time, stay safe and train hard.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, Testimonials, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 02-03-2014

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Combat Ready – Sheperdstown, WV

Last weekend I was invited to present “Combat Ready Firefighting”to the firefighters of Jefferson County, WV.  After a great class, the more than hospitable members were eager to show me their firehouses and apparatus.  The pride in their departments and history was obvious (good thing!).

Sheperdstown Engine 3 stood out to me, outfitted for down & dirty firefighting.  In the suburban and rural environment.  Some things I noticed:

  • Low hosebed & crosslays, near shoulder height, for rapid deployment of hoselines. Should we really need a ladder to lay supply line or pull the attack line?
  • Versatile hose bed with various sizes, nozzles, hoseloads, and options for water supply and fire attack. 
  • Three (3) hard suctions, which I’ve learned in the rural environment are very important!
  • Ladders easily deployable off the side rather than hidden in some compartment or on some rack.
  • FRONT INTAKE!  How did these become so rare?  With the soft sleeve pre-connected, by the way… Great for sleeving hydrants or nose-in drafting.
  • Functional front bumper line – who says you can’t fight fire off of a bumper line?  If it’s spec’d right…

Probably one of the most important attributes – PRIDE.  These members were proud of this apparatus because they knew it was functional.  There was 2 feet of snow on the ground and this rig glimmered in the apparatus bay (clean).

Was there a ton of compartment space?  No not a ton… But rather than a jack of all trades and master of none (don’t we see a lot of those apparatus these days?), this rig was ready for engine company firefighting with enough room for the extra essentials.

Is your rig COMBAT READY?  If so, how?  If not – WHY NOT?

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company | Posted on 06-02-2014

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Combating Attic Fires

By: Larry Schultz

380927_282468061801486_394045475_n copy If you are in to fire porn, then there is an unlimited supply to be found on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook these days. I would surmise that if you have an ounce of fire service passion left in you, then you too are a fan of fire porn. Over the last several months, I have watched many videos of fires where the fire was located in the attic area and more obvious in the void spaces of the knee-walls.

As I always say, it is ridiculous that we reinvent how we deal with these fires over and over in spite of the fact that they are very predictable in how they are going to behave and what needs to be done to deal with it.

Here are just a few reminders for company officers and IC’s to consider.

For the sake of the article, I will clarify a few terms so that we are all on the same page. It doesn’t particularly matter what terms we use as long as we understand a few back principles. The first and most important one is that these fires (attic’s and knee-walls) are very predictable in how they behave and even more predictable based on the type of structure involved.

When I use the term attic, I am speaking about the space under the roof of a house, where that space is large enough to be used as a livable space or as a storage area. This space will have access via interior steps. This is different then a cockloft which I would describe as the small space (non-livable) that lies above the top floor and below the flat roof, commonly found in a rowhome.

When I talk about “knee-walls” I am talking about a constructed wall of 2-4 feet, constructed in the “A” framed area of the attic, built primarily to keep you from smacking your dome on the ceiling (see picture above).


There are some pretty common signs that a fire has moved in to the attic/knee-wall area, most notably smoke and fire pushing from the dormers and gable ends. Interior environments where you are experiencing high levels of heat, but cant locate the fire can be indicative of fire concealed in the walls as well.

There is good opportunity to make an aggressive push on this fire if you can beat the fire to “flashover”. Generally speaking, this is a doable scenario if you remember a few basic things (always goes back to core basic skills).

Engine Company(s)
• Starts with a good stretch using an appropriate sized line. Remember, you need enough water to out perform the heat release rate not blow the roof off. You will likely be stretching up at least two flights of steps including in to the attic. Avoid the absurd “big fire big water” mentality and go for maneuverability.
• Good stretch means, chasing kinks, using the well of the stairway properly, tying off the hose when needed (keeps you from constantly having to hump line) and knowing how to quickly remove the balusters if necessary (limits wasted hose length)
• Stretch the line dry until you get to the point where you need to mask-up.
• The Engine Officer should report the conditions (smoke, heat, fire, clear) as soon as they cross the threshold and provide the same report for each ascending floor.
• Once you’re ready to make the push, this is the perfect time to ditch the “pistol grip” (just kidding). Get that nozzle out in front of you and use good nozzle pattern selection.
• If the roof is not vented then flow your line from the steps or consider the attack from the underside (pulling the ceiling from the floor below the attic).
• Remember, hood on, collar up and flap’s down

Truck Company
• Start venting the easy stuff first, dormer windows and gable vents. In order for the engine company to make the push, you need to get that roof opened up. This is the one scenario where you do not always need to get to the highest point of the roof. When dealing with knee-walls make your cut dormer level high. Don’t forget to punch through the drywall.
• Empty your ladder bed.
• The livable space of the attic must be searched. Do so, only after the line has advanced in to the area.
• Walls and ceilings must come down, aggressively and completely. Fire in the walls, open up the ceilings, fire in the ceiling open up the floor above. Keep going until there is no more fire or you can see the sky, which ever comes first.
• When space and visibility inside is limited and your dealing with wood frame construction, consider open up, from the outside in. Take the siding and lapboards from the outside will provide you the same access often times quicker then from the interior.
• When dealing with knee-walls remember that the attic stairwell walls will allow you access to the void area behind the knee-wall. This allows good access for water application.

RIT Team
• Validate that upper level windows are fully cleared and ladders are in place.
• Remember that stairwells are likely to be overcrowded with people and hoselines. Look for alternative points of ingress and egress.
• Have a chainsaw available and ready to go in order to expand window openings

Incident Commander
• Control the number of hoselines going up the stairs
• Have 2nd in hoseline maintain a position at the bottom of the steps until requested. Have the Company Officer help in keeping the stairway clear
• Pay attention to the vent work
• Watch smoke behavior, it will tell you how well things are going or not going.
• Don’t play catch up with Truck’s; always have one in staging ready to go.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, fires, news, Training Resources, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 06-01-2014

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Small Town Volunteer Fire Department Operations

top floorWe at Traditions Training are proud to present a new contributor to our blog network. Tim Bautz is an Officer with the Erskine Lakes Volunteer Fire Department in New Jersey. He will be bringing his perspective to our readers on the challenges associated with an all volunteer fire department. And the challenges to deliver high quality fire protection without all the resources of larger career and combination departments. So please welcome the first installment from Tim Bautz…

Most Fire Departments around the country run “dedicated” engine companies and truck companies. The responsibilities of those “dedicated” companies are rather clear and well understood.
The engine will take steps to establish a water supply, stretch attack lines and extinguish the fire. Often times the engine company will not take any tools with them. They need to be, and want to be, “hands free” because their priority and responsibility is to quickly and effectively stretch and advance their attack line.
The truck company is usually responsible for the remainder of the tasks on the fireground such as forcible entry, searches, ventilation, throwing ground ladders and hooking ceilings and walls to check for extension.
In many urban areas, both the engine and truck arrive at the same time or within moments of each other. This is beneficial because the truck company can quickly get to work forcing entry, ventilating and opening up for the engine co.
I lay all this ground work to ask an important question. For those who do not have a ladder truck or “dedicated truck company”, how do you get these vital truck company tasks accomplished EARLY ON ? What about the smaller departments around the country who arrive with 4 or 5 men on an engine, with the 2nd due engine 5 minutes away and no ladder truck dispatched on the assignment ? How can those 4 or 5 men on that engine, including the chauffeur, possibly get a line stretched, force entry, locate and extinguish the fire and open up the fire room to check for extension……..and lets not forget the important outside work including ventilation and placing ground ladders for egress ?
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll offer some suggestions and we’ll talk about how you can set YOUR “ small town” engine company up to act as an “engine” AND “truck”.

Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 17-11-2013

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The Forgotten Value of Fireground Compentency


By: Larry Schultz, DCFD (ret.)

As a recap from last months blog, I continued to encourage readers to be more critical in thought, when identifying the real issues associated with low performing fire grounds, firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths. I alluded to the fact, that it has become much easier for leaders to take the easy way out and blindly use scientific research to make far-reaching assumptions in how to improve their performance, finally finding a hope of getting their people under control. By failing to take an honest assessment of their organizational problems and mustering up the courage needed to address the “real problems”, these efforts will fail at every level, never succeeding at truly changing culture.

The first suggestion, was to have the audacity to be brutally honest, regardless how difficult that might be, in assessing the current state of your department, by identifying and addressing the true root causes of poor performance on the fire ground and refusing to obfuscate the tough issues. It was then recommended that we develop competency-based benchmarks for operational performance, training our members to achieve excellence in performance of our core basic skills and doing so in a timely manner. To be clear, this is a long and taxing journey, requiring strong leadership and requires relentless follow-through and follow-up (I call this the Riley Factor not to be confused with the O’Reilly Factor)

Today, we will take a look at developing a set of core basic skill benchmarks, that every engine company crew must be able to master in an errorless and timely manner in order to be part of a high performance fire ground. Remember this critical fact, real fire ground safety comes, when and only when, we achieve high performance on the fire ground.

The performance of the first arriving engine will set the tone for the operations on the fire ground. The primary role of the Engine Company is to extinguish the fire. When this occurs as quickly and effectively as possible, our risks begin to decrease. In order to perform the engine company responsibilities with excellence, every person must know what is expected of them and must be able to perform them with minimal error and in a timely manner. As Firefighter Andy Fredericks (FDNY) would say “ good engine companies are aggressive but also disciplined. They take an extra 30 seconds to properly position the rig and estimate the stretch. They chock doors. They chase kinks. They see the big picture. Disciplined engine companies are deliberate patient and professional.” At the end of the day folks, there is no escaping the fact that it all boils down to competency and timeliness.

As I said, if you have the will, desire and courage to really improve your firegrounds, you must know up front that it doesn’t come easy. You must move past the excuses of money and time, as neither of those issues is insurmountable. In the D.C.F.D., one of the largest departments in the country, we managed to have a robust “back to basics” program, doing so with very little extra funding. The key then, as it is today, is to select the right people, provide them with a set of core competencies to be measured and turn them loose to do their job. As for cost, take a minute to look at the Facebook Page of the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company web site. Once there, you can scroll down to see pictures of the variety of training prop’s that they built as a department. These props focus on achieving excellence of core basic skills. Visiting this site will give you an idea, of what can be accomplished with few resources, hard work, some great people and a real desire to be high performers.

Step 1
Below is a basic list of core competency benchmarks for the Engine Company. It assumes a minimum crew of four, which based on your department, may be excessive or understaffed. Remember, these are basic competencies, which we do not have the luxury of changing based on staffing. The time it takes to complete them may very well change, but the need to achieve the benchmark will not.

Step 2
Add any critical benchmarks, specific to your building stock and community risk that may not be included in the list of position specific benchmarks

Step 3
Based on your staffing levels, using a group of high performers, create an acceptable performance based time standard on achieving each individual competency. Remember, todays fire behavior is so time sensitive, that we have very little discretionary (time to screw up) time in order to recover from mistakes, before conditions rapidly deteriorate. Have your crews establish a “baseline” set of times to achieve each task PROPERLY. Know this, it doesn’t matter how fast you can complete each task; it’s how well you achieve them. The goal is to constantly work towards achieving greatness.

Step 4
Focus a minimum of one day a week, every week for a period of 90 days and simply focus on these skills. The goal is not to achieve greatness in 90 days; the goal is to begin to build muscle memory. I know there are several competing training topics that must also be completed. After the 90 day’s are up, begin to sow in some other training as needed, but continue to evaluate your ability to maintain excellence in meeting or exceeding these benchmarks.

Engine Driver
• Knows most direct running route to incident with at least one alternative
• Secures a continuous water supply source (if available) through the use of straight lay, split lay, reverse lay, securing their own hydrant (Engine attached to the hydrant by no more then 50 ft. of supply line) or by Tanker.
• Position Engine (different then parking) pulling past or stopping short of the address, leaving room for the Truck (hose bends, ladders don’t)
• Assist with stretching the initial hoseline, chasing kinks from the Engine to the threshold of the structure
• Once continuous water supply is established and all hoselines are charged and stretched free of kinks, look for opportunities to provide support such as: laddering a window, bringing a “rack” to the front door in the event the stretch is short or a burst section of hose, place a couple of hooks at the front door for quick access etc. Do not let these duties distract you from making sure all water supply systems are functioning properly.

Engine Officer
• Provides water supply location via radio
• Identifies all critical factors on arrival
o Building factors – size, height, construction type, occupancy, interior arrangement, access and exposure
o Fire behavior factors – size of fire, extent of fire, location of fire, direction of travel and time of involvement
o Life hazard factors – location of occupants, survivability, fire control required for searches
o Resource critical factors – Water supply, staffing, responding resources, response times and tactical reserve available
• Provides complete on-scene report (succinct compilation of critical factors)
o Water supply location
o Height of building
o Type occupancy
o Type construction
o Conditions evident
o Strategy (investigating, offensive, defensive)
o Establishing/Passing command (optional)
• Implements appropriate tactics based on risk assessment
o Defensive
• Establish collapse/isolation zone
• Selects appropriate water delivery system (handlines vs master streams)
o Offensive
• Conducts 360 (if there is no SOG in place for other companies to do this)
• Provides a Situation Update (result of 360) report – fire conditions evident from other sides of the building, height of rear side of building, presence or absence of basement and presence or absence of basement access.
• Select appropriate line
• Assist with the stretch by either chasing kinks or assisting with shoulder loads of long-lines (unless you have an abundance of resources, the officer should not be advancing ahead of the stretch)
• Validates that all members, as well as themselves, have full PPE (including hoods, earflaps and chinstraps) on and all portable radios are on correct channel
• Provides Command with CAN (conditions actions needs) Report upon making entry in to structure, upon reaching fire area and at regular intervals
• Maintains full accountability (sight, touch voice) of his/her crew
• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on appropriate tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting the apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Correctly pulls and advances attack line (chocking while making the push)
• Maintains enough of the shoulder load to reach the seat of the fire
• Extends line using “racks” when appropriate and without delay in zero visibility environment.
• Selects appropriate nozzle pattern and uses stream effectively.
• Uses hydraulic ventilation to support Truck Company

• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on correct tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Responsible for chasing all kinks from structure threshold to the fire area
• Chocks any unchocked doors
• Always maintains a position of one obstacle (turns, stairs, doors) back from nozzleman
• Always maintains at least 10 ft. of excess hose

Last word, regardless of how determined you are, to force operational changes down the throat of your organization in the name of safety, or how progressive you desire to be; there is no way of arriving at real fireground safety without also taking the time to address the issue of skills competency in your members.

Be Safe and Be Competent

Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 03-07-2013