Choosing a Fireground Video for Use in Size-Up Drills: Tom Sitz

By Tom Sitz

Thousands of fireground videos that we can use for training are available on the Web. However, not all of them are suitable for company training. What are some of the things a company officer should be looking for in a video that is to be used for practicing size-up? The overall goal is to have the video project the same on-scene view that the first-due company saw when they conducted their scene size-up.

The video should start before the fire department begins operations. The conditions we see after operations have begun are not the same conditions we would see on arrival. Water may have already been applied interior/exterior/transitional; it does not matter. It will change conditions. A door may have been opened, which will result in a change in flow path that was not there on arrival–so now it becomes a fire department-induced condition.  

It should be a daytime fire. Daytime fires allow us to use all our size-up skills. It is hard to read smoke at night when you’re on the scene, let alone when watching a video. Also, since reading smoke is part of the size-up, let’s use videos that will allow our members to refine that skill. Daytime videos increase in importance when developing the skill set of our younger members. There are some quality videos of night incidents for size-up out there, but a daytime fire increases the chance that you will be able to cover your complete skill set for inexperienced members. If the video allows trainees to read smoke, it will also allow for assessing wind conditions, which also must be part of size-up.

You should be able to see at least two sides of the building. A complete 360° would be nice, but those videos are rare. If I had the option of choosing which sides to see, I would generally choose the A and C sides. There are good videos that show only the A Side, but, in general, if you can see at least two sides, the younger members will have fewer slides to draw from in their mental slide tray.

The video should play long enough to allow for a confirmation of your size-up. If the members get it right, you can reinforce what you saw that enabled you to get a “good read” on what was going on. If the fire turns out to be in a different location than you thought, review the tape again to see what you missed in your read that led to you to incorrectly identify the seat of the fire.

The video should confirm or at least gives clues that allow you to confirm or deny your original building construction assessment. Building construction must be part of the initial size-up report. If the video shows us at least two sides, especially side C, it may give us clues about the true construction. If you were off in your original assessment, review the video again, looking for clues that might have been missed in your original building construction assessment.  




TOM SITZ is a lieutenant and a 34-year veteran of the Painesville Twp. (OH) Fire Department. He is an instructor in the fire science program for Lakeland Community College and the Auburn Career Center firefighter certification program. He has authored numerous articles for Fire Engineering magazine.Previously, he was a book reviewer for Brady and Delmar Publishing.