Nationally, we are still having difficulty marketing our staffing needs at the fire scene. In my opinion, that lies almost entirely with an in-depth understanding about additional and vitally necessary extinguishment support tactics-truck work.
I continually see and hear of departments that have downgraded the importance of truck work by allowing the reduction of personnel available to perform it or by removing the vehicle from response. I remember talking with one neighboring community fire service leader who said that the tower ladder was unstaffed until it was needed, and then it was brought to the scene by recalling members to staff it. Not a clue!
In any event, let’s return here to some basics and then to simple apparatus position guidelines. First, the fire must be located-at the structure and within the structure. These are ongoing operations and are enhanced with handline advance and ventilation and, certainly, search function results.
Second, ventilation is perhaps the most important lifesaving function that goes on at the fireground-besides extinguishment. Remember, truck work is so synergistic that its benefits only multiply throughout the operation.
Third, there should be easy access to all the tools in the truck’s compartments. Simple entry is accomplished daily using the tools the forcible entry team usually carries. But there are special cases in which additional tools and power equipment may be necessary. Where are the compartments? If they are in a truck positioned a reasonable distance from the fire building, great! If they are in a truck parked around the corner and behind the fourth-arriving engine, they may never get used.
Access also means alternate entry-ladders: ladders to roofs, ladders of safety on roofs, ladders to upper floors, ladders for removal of victims who cannot make it by gravity, ladders for additional exit for our members, ladders to bridge openings, ladders for makeshift interior stairs after collapse or burnout, and ladders sometimes to force doors that are too dangerous to approach with hand tools.
Apparatus Position Guidelines.
So, to begin: What are some of the simple, basic position thoughts for aerials? The aerial device should be the second piece to enter the fire block. Second-arriving engines and all the support mentioned above should await the arrival of the aerial in most instances of suburban and urban structural firefighting.
Regarding this, the greatest rule I can hand off to truck chauffeurs (and, unfortunately, officers) here at the entrance to the fire block is SLOW DOWN! From the street corner (or related location) to the front of the fire building, there is a ton of data that must be absorbed and accounted for. If the officer next to you is agitated and shouting into the radio things such as, “Be aware we have smoke showing,” or other vital information like, “Engines prepare to stretch,” or “People probably trapped,” come to a stop, and let him out to run excitedly to the front of the building and appear to be in command to all who can hear him. Meanwhile, you watch for access position; handlines; trees; power lines; construction; height; witnesses; car parking patterns; excavations; and, finally, life in true need of alternate removal by your aerial device. Slow down!
Now, a few easy lessons on positions to take. Private dwellings are categorized by levels of living-usually, one- or two-story, but sometimes even three! Holy affluence!
At one-story buildings, the aerial should give position to the engine units but remain in a spot to lay the aerial on the roof ridge for the support of members who may be forced to cut the flimsy roof. Basically, it is a large toolbox that carries vital support functions.
At two-story and higher private dwellings, the aerial device-especially the bucket of the tower ladder-becomes vital. Position to the corner of the dwelling that has the most access to the second-floor bedrooms. The key to success in reversing the disgraceful life loss records in these structures is to provide alternate entry points to every survivable area of the dwelling. A properly placed aerial device should be able to reach all but one of the bedrooms on the second floor. The portable ladder crew accesses that one. Ideally, the aerial turntable should be just beyond the corner of the building and be able to operate unsupported at the rear bedroom window located there (not to mention all the other locations). This textbook position is at the opposite side of the building from the attached garage, if present. The secondary position is to be used as a platform for safe and effective roof ventilation.
TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He is the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.