Roundtable: Fire Attack and Water Supply

By John "Skip" Coleman

I remember having discussions with the shift commander (deputy chief) who was stationed at my house when I was a lieutenant in the early ‘80s about my engine laying a supply line in at a working fire. We were a busy inner-city engine company and because we were located in the old part of the city, every station around us (everyone had as a minimum an engine assigned) was approximately one mile away (That was about the maximum distance a horse could run at full gallop pulling a wood-fueled fire pumper. Anyway, I digress!)

The chief insisted that we lay a supply line in anytime I saw smoke or fire. I insisted that if I got reports of people trapped, I would have the next in engine lay a supply line into my engine and I would go right up to the fire. Seconds count. The conversation always ended with, “Chief, I’m going to do what I feel is right; after that, you do what you need to do!”

After I became the operations deputy, we rewrote the policy to read (and I paraphrase): It is the first in engine company officers responsibility to secure a continuous supply of water.

I believed that phrasing left the decision up to the first-in officer, who could by-pass a hydrant and go right up to the fire if he believed the next-in engine could bring in a water supply! Just don’t run out of water.

That brings me to this month’s question: Does your department allow an engine company to initiate attack without securing a water supply? Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.

John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).

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