By MICHAEL M. DUGAN
Scenario: Your engine company arrives on-scene at a building fire and confirms a working fire to dispatch on the building’s exposure D side. If the company does not have a full residential fire assignment responding because of phone calls or such, then the first-in officer must call the additional resources necessary for safe fire operations before dismounting the apparatus; this may be the case for an additional alarm on arrival.
|1) Photos by Andre Biron.|
At the building’s front are two doors, which may indicate two separate living spaces; you may need to force open, search, and stretch lines to them. There is little showing at the front porch (photo 1), but do not get tunnel vision; you could miss the flames if you approach from the building’s exposure B side. Unless you have prior knowledge of this building, it is difficult to determine if it is a side-by-side dwelling or it has different dwelling units on different floors.
As the engine company driver, you must test and secure a positive water supply, which is needed for heavy fire and because winter weather conditions may freeze hydrants. Once you establish a positive water supply, notify all fireground members. If you encounter a water issue, inform all operating firefighters and the officer, and operate accordingly. Engine company members should stretch enough hoseline to cover the entire building because the structure type and fire conditions may force you to assume that fire will be present on every floor. The second-arriving engine or the engine assigned to the backup line must get the backup line in place immediately to protect members and to stretch the line to the floor above after members extinguish the first-floor fire.
On arrival, the truck company should force both front doors and assess conditions in both spaces. The officer should locate the fire and inform the engine company of the quickest and safest way to get the hoseline into operation. Once he finds the fire, ladder company members can close a door or use a 2½-gallon pressurized water extinguisher to confine the fire. Search toward the known means of egress unless you have a reasonably suspected or known life hazard past or above the hoseline. If your search goes past the hoseline, an exterior firefighter should clear a window for an emergency exit and inform members operating past the fire. Place portable ladders, an aerial ladder, or a tower ladder basket at windows at the floors above the fire for members on the floor above the fire. Communicate the ladder’s location to interior members, and clear a window for easy emergency egress.
Forcible entry is usually easy at most private dwellings; the front door usually offers the least resistance. You will need tools to open walls and ceiling to expose fire and to properly vent windows. Because of the number of fire trucks present, do not advance past the operating handline to avoid becoming trapped by the line pushing fire toward you. If you operate above or adjacent to a fire, monitor the radio and be aware of the conditions and how they change.
All members assigned to the floor above the fire should contact the fire floor units before moving to their assigned floor to make sure the floor is safe. The fire floor officer who was notified of the units above becomes the members’ safety person. Vent the first-floor fire out through windows, but the windows of the floor above should remain in place until the first-floor fire is knocked down. This will avoid autoexposure to the floor above.
Your primary search will be on the fire floor and the floor above, and you will be looking for fire. The secondary search will be for victims and possible fire extension. A rekindle is unacceptable and an embarrassment to the department. If victims are missing and the fire department does not find them, imagine how that will look in the local newspaper. If you must, clean the building down to the floor, and be sure it is empty before you leave.
If team members on the floor above the fire encounter fire extension or victims, they must notify the incident commander. Either of those factors will use up uncommitted fireground resources and may indicate the need for a greater alarm. The weather is also a concern, as members who are wet after operations will need a warm place to dry. Once the fire is knocked down, relieve the initial units.
After extinguishment, a member should do a walk-through of the fire building to learn from the operation. What went right and what went wrong? Did the number of personnel match what we found? What could we do better? Keep learning and keep teaching, because you can only get better.
MICHAEL M. DUGAN is a 36-year fire service veteran and a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). He is a captain of Ladder Company 123 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Dugan received the James Gordon Bennett Medal in 1992 and the Harry M. Archer Medal in 1993, the FDNY’s highest award for bravery. He was also a volunteer firefighter for the Halesite (NY) Fire Department. He is a nationally recognized instructor and FDIC lecturer on truck company operations, building construction, and size-up, among other topics.