Suburban Fire Department, Urban Mentality: Hose, Nozzle, Pump Panel, and Chart Coding

By Steven W. Stein

In part two of this series, Steven W. Stein described the Forest Park (OH) Fire Departments (FPFD) approach to nozzles. Part one discussed apparatus.

Keeping It Simple

FPFD engine companies are set up such that the hose, nozzles, discharges, discharge valves, and pump charts are all color coded. Part of the succession plan at the FPFD includes training new personnel to operate fire apparatus. To quote Battalion Chief Mark Miller, “We don’t go to fires to learn how to do our jobs.” In a nutshell, nobody will be looking over the shoulders of our fire apparatus operators (FAOs), thus we have built in redundancies to minimize charging the wrong preconnects or charging attack lines to the wrong pump discharge pressures. We have had phenomenal success with this method and will continue to use it for years to come.

The FPFD does not have a provision for permanent drivers in its standard operating guidelines (SOGs), so our operations personnel are not going to take the chance of jeopardizing interior crews with an inexperienced FAO becoming overwhelmed. Although there is no substitute for real-world experience, with adequate training and continuing improvement, our FAOs are prepared to operate the engines to their fullest capacities.

High-Rise Equipment

In accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards, FPFD engine companies have two high-rise packs. The primary high-rise pack is a 150 feet of 2 ½-inch hose with a 1 1/8-inch tip. The 2½-inch pack is divided into three 50-foot sections of hose to distribute the workload equally among the engine company engaged in the standpipe operation. The high-rise pack is folded and stored in the same manner as the Denver (CO) Fire Department. We simply refer to our 2 ½-inch high-rise pack as the “Denver Setup.”[1]

Our other high-rise pack is a 150-foot pack of 1¾-inch hose with a 7/8-inch tip. Per our SOGs, the 1¾-inch high-rise pack is contraindicated for fires in commercial buildings and high-rises.

Deployment of our high-rise equipment will be discussed in the commercial portion of our tactical guide.

Our high-rise hose packs are deployed in tandem with our high-rise kit. The high-rise kit is an appliance kit to complement our standpipe connections.

High-Rise Kit Inventory

  • 15 feet of 3-inch rubber jacket hose
  • In-line flow meter for control man
  • Spanner wrenches
  • Hose straps
  • Screw drivers
  • Wire brush
  • Reducer (mop-up operations after loss stop declared)

The high-rise kit is stored in the compartment immediately underneath the high-rise hose packs. The FPFD does not have a significant number of high-rise structures in its jurisdiction; however, there are several high-rises in second- and third-alarm assignment areas.

Complementary Equipment

The FPFD fast-attack engine companies carry significantly less equipment than the typical suburban engine company. FPFD engines are designed as paramedic engine companies; therefore, the primary responses include medical emergencies and fire calls. Although our engines carry limited extrication and spill equipment, the engines were designed around the core competencies and expectations of our firefighters to be able to quickly extinguish fires in our city. There are built-in redundancies between the engines and truck companies in the FPFD. All fire apparatus have a 15-kW hydraulic generator for scene lighting, postincident positive-pressure ventilation,[2] or power tool supply. FPFD engines carry seven spare air bottles, whereas our truck company carries only four spare bottles. If a cascade system is needed on an emergency scene, there are several rescue companies in first- and second-alarm areas.

FPFD Engine Company Tactics: Knowing the Area

The city of Forest Park can be characterized as a bedroom community, meaning that the majority of our population is present during nights and weekends. Single-family dwellings (SFDs), duplexes, and garden-style apartments make up the majority of our residential housing in the city.

Fundamental understanding of building construction is imperative for success and safe operations in one’s first-due area. The city of Forest Park’s SFDs are almost exclusively Type V lightweight truss construction. This includes an area of the city nicknamed “Splinter City,” since the homes were constructed with 2x2s.

The majority of SFDs in Forest Park are Type V bi-level and tri-level homes. This is important to know, as the characteristics among floor plans are similar throughout neighborhoods. Many homes are built on lots that have a distance of less than 50 feet from street to front door. Most homes are 1,200-square feet. There are also some larger homes in certain areas of the city that have bigger floor plans exceeding 2,500 square feet. Based on the street and address range on dispatch, we have an idea of to which size house and type of floor plan we will be responding. Knowledge of one’s first-due area is critical to engine company success and sound fireground operations.

Although the city is completely covered with hydrants that tracked through a county GIS system (which we use in real time during our responses), there are a few areas that require more than 750 feet of supply line. These areas are defined as “long-lay zones.” Lieutenant Jason Geiser is in charge of finding and marking these long lay zones with signs at the beginning of the address. These addresses are also flagged with the Hamilton County Communications Center (HCCC).

FPFD Engine Company Tactics: SFDs

The first-alarm assignment for the FPFD for an SFD possible fire (23S) consists of the following:

  • Three engine companies
  • Two truck companies
  • One rapid intervention company
  • One medic company
  • Command staff

The first-due engine company shall take steps to ensure an adequate water supply, accomplished by either a forward or reverse lay. On arrival at the fire building, the officer will transmit a brief size-up, which includes occupancy type and structure and what, if anything, is visible from the alpha side of the building.

Priority number one on the fireground includes making any obvious rescues, a delicate matter for the first-due engine company at a working fire. If the ladder company arrives on scene at the same time as the engine, the responsibility of window rescues will be deferred to the ladder personnel. It is imperative that the first-due engine company get its initial attack line in service and moving into the fire building as quickly as possible. Extinguishment will make the entire fireground safer for civilians and firefighters alike. When selecting the proper line, be it 1¾ or 2½-inch, the engine company officer in charge must quickly determine where the fire has been, where it is at, and where it is going. If a 2½-inch line is selected, the officer does so knowing that operations will be heading in a defensive manner (2½-inch hose not being feasible for agility needed for a rapid interior attack and knockdown.) Even in an 800-square-foot SFD, depending on furniture and living conditions, it may not be possible to advance a 2½-inch line more than a few feet inside the front door.

The FPFD engine company has a major advantage with SFD fires because of the wide array of hoselines from which to choose. If an engine company officer in charge thinks a 1¾-inch line may or may not be adequate to support operations, he may select the 2-inch attack line; this provides even greater gpm while still maintaining agility needed for a successful interior attack.

The initial attack line should be directed towards the seat of the fire. In the event that a victim is found while advancing to the fire, crews should take a “leap frog” approach to extricating the victim. While removal of the victim is a priority on the fireground, we cannot stop our fire attack to affect a rescue; the ladder company should be notified immediately, and the victim should be handed off to personnel committed to search and rescue operations.

The second-due engine company should take steps to ensure an adequate water supply is established and pull a second handline of equal or greater diameter and which will preferably be one section longer than the initial attack line. Wherever the fire is in an SFD, the second attack line should be directed to the floor or area above the fire.

The FPFD SOGs stress that the second line be pulled from the second-due engine. The main reason for this is that if the first-due engine has a catastrophic pump failure, our interior personnel will still have the ability to flow water and maintain operations or defend their means of egress. There is considerable talk in regional training groups of the “overkill” or misallocation of resources with respect to deploying a second water supply and attack line from a separate engine, but this is nothing more than misguided complacency. Hamilton County, Ohio–specifically the middle to western region of the county–is resource rich and has the ability to operate on the fireground with built-in redundancies.

The third-due engine company is often overlooked on the fireground; however, it can be the company that makes or breaks operations on the fireground. If the first engine and initial truck companies are running low on air or becoming fatigued, it is critical that the third-due engine company be ready to go take up operations of fire attack where the first engine left off. The third-due company should also consider water supply stability as it approaches the incident: Are we operating in an area where the water mains might be inadequate?

FPFD Engine Company Tactics: Multi-Family Dwellings (MFDs)

The first-alarm assignment for the FPFD for an MFD possible fire consists of the following:

  • Four engine companies
  • Two truck companies
  • One rapid intervention company
  • One medic company
  • Command staff

The first-due engine company shall take steps to ensure an adequate water supply, accomplished by either a forward or a reverse lay. On arrival to the fire building, the officer will transmit a brief size-up, which should include occupancy type and structure and what, if anything, is visible from the alpha side of the building.

The additional challenges for the engine company with respect to MFD operations are the increased life safety hazard because of the likelihood of more occupants in the building at the time of the incident and the increased fire load inherent in MFDs.

The first-due engine company must also consider the possibility of a longer stretch and being blocked out by additional obstacles such as a crowded parking lot, fleeing civilians, and commercial shrubbery around entrances. Reverting back to the setup characteristics of FPFD engine companies, there is a case for using the 2-inch attack during peak occupancy times at MFD fires. The combined benefits of agility and mutability of the stretch length are imperative for enhanced success on the fireground when it counts. Chief Miller said, “Fire department reputations are put to the test on every multi-family dwelling fire.”

A Note on Apparatus Positioning

It is critical for the success of the incident and the safety of civilians that engine companies carefully position their apparatus at MFD fires. Positioning truck companies according to their tactical priorities needs to be on the mind of the engine company FAO and officer in charge. We need to have maximum scrub area for our aerials and be able to quickly deploy ground ladders around the fire building.

The second-due engine company should take steps to ensure adequate water supply and stretch its own attack line. The second-due company needs to communicate with the first-due engine to determine if it needs assistance at its location, if an adjacent unit needs to be extinguished, or if there are reports of fire in the attic or cockloft space.

The third-due company needs to ensure adequate water supply is in place so as not to compromise company progress if water is lost or a tactical change needs to occur. The third-due engine company personnel can pull an attack line off one of the earlier-arriving engines (whichever one is more advantageous for an effective stretch). This line should be directed above the other two attack lines. Secondary attack lines can also be used to protect search crews in common hallways and stairwells so as not to compromise their safety if there is additional fire or if an operational change occurs and crews need to get out of the structure.

The fourth-due engine company should avoid overcommitting to a given area unless it sees an immediate need for additional fire attack in a given area; the personnel on this company can be used as needed to either deploy ground ladders, pull ceiling or walls, or do whatever other pertinent tasks have been passed off in lieu of possible rescues.

This is simply an overview of our engine company operations. This is our foundation, our principles for success and safety on the fireground. To stay effective, we must stay on top of our core competency, which is to effectively get the hoseline in service.

Steven Stein is an Ohio-certified fire instructor and a faculty member of the fire science department at The University of Cincinnati. He earned an MBA from The University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business. Stein works at the Forest Park Fire Department, where he also serves as a regional training committee board member. He is also the founder of Firefighter Hired.


[1] For specifics on loading this load, refer to Dave McGrail’s book on High Rise Operations.

[2] FPFD does not practice or advocate PPV. Our truck companies engage in situational dependent vertical ventilation or horizontal ventilation as needed.

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