Tactical Safety: Chasing Fire

By Ray McCormack

A window showing fire is a good thing. A window showing fire is a bad thing. A window showing fire can be both good and bad and for different reasons. When you perform your on-scene structural fire evaluation, a window showing fire typically provides the location of at least some of the fire contained within the building. For some, this window showing fire will be used to position the attack hoseline or a secondary hoseline, but a window is still not an entry point.

Before we arrive, ground rules for operational decorum should exist. Some of these rules are bendable and take on the name guidelines. A fairly firm rule of operation is that hoselines for structures are advanced through doorways. Windows that contain fire do not have such a tactical note pinned upon them. So if we drag our hoseline to a window which is distant from our ruled entry, then we must also realize that while the ability to hit fire exists, entry does not.

What if the window was low to the ground and it was completely broken from the fire? Could we proceed? You can do anything you like, but you need to justify it as a tactic, not just a whim. When you bring a hoseline through a window into the fire building, it shouldn’t be just for convenience. It should be to accomplish more than one goal. Some of the fire that you thought you would fully extinguish with your stream  didn’t occur, so now you enter through the window. But wait! What about our other rules or guidelines?

We cannot forget about points of egress and protecting them at fires. Many think all their fire woes will be fixed by the window approach. They will not. Taking your hoseline through the home’s main egress point allows for something more than just standard operations or some legacy approach. It involves understanding–the understanding all firefighters get when they pass through the home’s main entryway, namely that of the layout. When a real estate agent takes you to see a new home, they take you through the front door. Why? So that the house makes sense to you. For firefighters, this typically puts you right in touch with the main hallway and stairway of a home.

Human behavior takes people to their egress point. Firefighters use this to their tactical advantage by initially placing a hoseline there and then further protecting searching firefighters by controlling any fire that may extend to the hallway or stairway. This is the rule of an interior handline. Its guideline is that it can advance to other locations within the home, even to a room with a window. To believe that your fire and life safety problems are solved by positioning at a window is untrue. Hoseline placement at a window puts you in a position to chase fire.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for FirefightersRAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine. For more on Urban Firefighter, visit http://www.fireengineering.com/urbanfirefighter.html.



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