March Roundtable: Trucks Doing Engine Work

By John “Skip” Coleman

I ran a few fires. I learned by watching and doing in my department. That’s part of the way it should be. I say “part” because there are certainly other ways of learning, such as reading articles in magazines, books, and other fire media as well as talking with brothers and sisters from across the country about how they do things.

Anyway, the way I ran a fire was pretty much the way all fires were run in Toledo. We used an incident command-based process since 1988. The first officer normally takes command and then makes assignments to other responding units, depending upon the incident.

Before I continue, I should briefly describe Toledo fire-wise as it was when I retired. The department had 17 stations, 17 engines, four trucks, two heavy rescue squads, and some other “stuff” like “life squads” (ALS transport units), safety officers, and chiefs.

In the inner city, everyone arrived at a fire about the same time. Stations were spaced about a mile apart (about the distance a horse could run full speed before tiring!) In the newer suburbs, stations were spaced farther apartl as such, a unit would arrive and then no one else would show up for minutes.

In the inner city, engines mostly did engine work and trucks mostly did truck work. That was not the case in the ‘burbs, out of necessity. The incident commander (IC, the officer on the first-arriving unit) would assign his unit (usually an engine) to a functional assignment that he deemed the most pressing problem (usually fire attack).

If the second-arriving unit happened to be a truck and the next most pressing problem was still what would be considered an engine company assignment, the IC would normally assign that truck company an engine-company assignment and expect the assignment to be carried out. It would not be uncommon to hear a truck company assigned to back-up or exposure protection. Conversely, It would not be unheard of to have an engine company be assigned ventilation or search.

That brings me to this month’s question. In your department, would truck companies ever be expected to perform what is normally considered “engine” company functions?

CLICK HERE to e-mail us your reply. Please keep your response to 250 words and include your name, rank, department, city, and state.. Replies are due by March 25 and will be published in a subsequent article later this month.


John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).

No posts to display