Fire Simulation: Apartment Fire

By Ted Nee

Simulations are a great tool for developing decision-making skills. They are especially effective training for “soft” skills. Soft skills are often referred to as the three Rs: Reading, Recognizing and Reacting. Reading is seeing the critical cues at an incident, things like building construction, fire dynamics, and rescue profile. Recognizing is seeing a pattern based on the critical cues observed. Finally, reacting is choosing a course of action that is likely to affect the outcome of the incident based on your prior experience with similar events. Naturalistic decision-making researcher Gary Klein describes this process as recognition primed decision making or RPMD. In order to develop these “soft skills” it is necessary to gain experience in a wide variety of incident situations. Training with incident simulations is one way to accomplish this goal.

In this apartment fire simulation, you are the Engine-1 officer and will be first due at this event. You are in quarters when the following dispatch comes in: “Engine-1, Engine-2, Engine-3, Ladder-1 and Battalion-1 respond to 425 Singing Arrow Avenue we have a report of a structure fire. The nearest cross street is Dorado Place.”

In this simulation, you will be dealing with a three-story apartment building fire. The construction is lightweight wood-frame with a stucco exterior, and flat tar and gravel roof. The first floor is a look out basement (the apartments are a half grade below ground). Access to all the apartments is via a center hallway (two doors from each apartment open into the center hallway).  I built this version of the simulation with the application of the S.L.I.C.E.-R.S. acronym in mind.


Locate the fire

Identify and control the flow path

Cool the fire from a safe location




Engine 1 must size-up this incident including conducting a 360 prior to committing resources to tactical positions. Locating the basement fire, identifying and controlling the flow path (in this case controlling the A-side door), and cooling from a safe location are all essential actions to accomplish before making entry into the look-out basement for extinguishment.

Start the apartment fire simulation video. You will be prompted to pause the video and give a radio report at several key points.

The first radio transmission you will provide is a standard size-up report. This radio report should include the following elements:

  • Arrival on scene
  • Building area/size
  • Building height (number of stories)
  • Problem description
  • Action being taken (assignments for the E-1 crew)
  • Assume and name command
  • Any resource needs

At the next place, you are asked to pause the video you are prompted to give a follow-up report. This report should include:

  • Presence or absence of a basement
  • The number of stories from Side Charlie if different from initial size-up
  • Any immediate life safety or rescue needs
  • Incident problems or location if different from the initial size-up

You will be prompted to pause the video and make an assignment when additional units report on scene. Practice giving assignments using the Task, Location, Objective (TLO) format. An example assignment might be: “Ladder 1 pull a second handline from Engine 1, (Task) go to the first floor (Location), get an “all clear,” and check for fire extension.” (Objective)

When Battalion 1 arrives on scene, make a command transfer using your department’s standard command transfer process (if applicable).

Formulate Conditions, Actions, Needs (C.A.N.) reports for the assigned units based on the visible conditions and information provide when prompted to do so.

Finally, have Battalion 1 give an assignment to Engine 3 using the TLO format based on the C.A.N. reports from the assigned units.

The most effective way to use the simulation is to get feedback regarding your performance (have an experienced officer or colleague critique your radio reports) and run through the simulation again, incorporating the feedback.

More fire training simulations:

Ted NeeTed Nee is a 34-year veteran of the fire and emergency services. He joined the Albuquerque (NM) Fire Depart­ment (AFD) in 1983. He retired from the AFD at the rank of deputy chief. After his service with the AFD Ted served as the lead command instructor and command training center coordinator for the Emergency Response Organization at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque for nine years. Ted is a Blue Card Command type IV and V Incident Commander and a Blue Card Command Instructor. Ted is currently teaching Fire Studio 6 Essentials and Advance Simulation Concepts workshops across North America. Ted is the co-author of the Fire Engineering DVD “Fire Dynamics” along with Dan Madrzykowski of the Underwriters Laboratories Firefighter Safety Institute and Lieutenant John Ceriello of the Fire Department of New York.

Ted Nee will be presenting the workshop “Training with Incident Simulations” on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 0800 at FDIC International.

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