This weekend Traditions Training delivered a two-day class in Quakertown/Coopersburg, PA. The class was in a large acquired structure that offered many challenges to the hose crews as they advanced lines all day into the structure, flowing water and simulating making the push.
My mind was going a mile a minute as we simulated fires in the structure. I thought about all of the tactics I would employ if I was in command for an actual fire. The structure was an old school building, two and three stories high and built to take a beating from a fire. So, as I sat at my imaginary command post and in my mind saw a heavy volume of fire, I said those words..."Big Fire, Big Water".
I motioned to my Engine Company and gave the command to start a big line and operate in an Offensive Attack Mode. I moved the accountability tag for the company given the assignment on my command board and jotted a note next to it "2.5 line first floor".
My job in deploying this line was done. I wiped my brow and moved on to the rest of my tactical assignments by moving my velcro tags and writing with the dry erase marker.
I watched the afternoon station that was being led by one of our instructors, showing students the art of moving and operating a 2.5" attack line inside of a structure. Speaking from my own experience when I rode an engine, I can probably count on both hands the times we practiced stretching and operating 2.5" line. It was never a positive experience. As a result when we had to deploy this line at a fire our performance was never as good as when we stretched our coveted 1-1/2 or 1-3/4 attack lines.
Looking at the students and our instructor move that 2.5" made me once again realize the high level of effort, coordination and technique that must be utilized to SUCCESSFULLY deploy and operate this line inside a structure fire. By the time the one hour station was completed the students had picked up new and refined old 2.5" hose-line tips and techniques. They were able to knock down the fire at the front door and then move the line inside, around corners and down the hallway to extinguish the large imaginary fire.
Were they exhausted when they were done? Yes... they were, but they accomplished the task assigned to them by the IC. They did not fail or have to resort to giving the usual excuses for why they were not able to stretch and operate a line of that size. Rather than sitting in the TV room and explaining all the reasons for not being able to stretch this line, get them out and learn how to make it happen!
As Command and Company Officers we have to realize that a catch phrase like "Big Fire Big Water" must be supported by training, training and more training. Training is even better is when it is made as realistic as possible. Stretching a 2.5" attack line in a straight line in a parking lot or in a pristine burn building will not help you as an Incident Commander or help your firefighters.
Mastering 2.5" hose-line techniques will allow your members to do it efficiently and make the task easier when ordered. Remember, "Big Water" has to be delivered by people. Your members have the best chance to deliver that "Big Water" if they are well trained and prepared ahead of time. As the IC, "Big Fire, Big Water" is an easy phrase to say, but are your crews prepared to deliver it to the seat of the fire? It's your job to make sure that they are!
As always be Combat Ready...