The Interior Team

BY ARMAND F. GUZZI JR.

A properly trained and equipped two-person interior team of a truck company can perform multiple fireground tasks that aid in life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation. The tasks include forcible entry, search and rescue, ventilation, overhaul, salvage, and utility control.1,2

These tasks are completed with life safety as the first priority. That is why it is so critical for a ladder or “truck” company to respond as part of the initial assignment. If a ladder company is not available, then an engine company with proper training and a basic complement of tools must respond to fill these roles. These supporting roles enhance safety and effectiveness for all department members as well as any civilians awaiting rescue.

TOOLS FOR BASIC MISSIONS

The list of tools gets extensive, but take a look at some of the items that two radio-equipped members—each with full personal protective equipment, SCBA, basic survival tools, and a couple of good lights—carry with them and why (photo 1).


(1) Minimum tools of the two-person interior team include a halligan tool and a flathead ax, a hydraulic forcible entry tool (with its carrying case), the K-tool (or other through-the-lock-type tool) with its pouch and key tools, a 2½-gallon water extinguisher, a thermal imaging camera, a six-foot hook or pike pole, and a 200-foot search rope. These tools are a good place to start for most situations. Weight becomes an issue and directly affects firefighter safety, so it is important not to overburden the team. (Photos by author.)

Thermal imaging camera (TIC), 200 feet of search rope, flathead ax, and halligan tool: One member of the interior team carries the most basic complement of forcible entry tools. In a minimally staffed four-person ladder company, this person could be the officer. The flathead ax and halligan tool (the irons) allow for basic forcible entry, extending a member’s reach when searching, breaching a wall, or overhauling (the list can go on and on for these two critical tools). The TIC allows the team to look for victims and hidden fire; the search rope offers a means to search a large, maze-like area and then retreat to a safe area (photo 2). The search rope is a valuable addition that enhances firefighter safety if used correctly.


(2) The 200-foot search rope prevents disorientation in large undivided areas or maze-like conditions if used properly. It is a valuable item for every interior team.

Six-foot hook or pike pole, hydraulic forcible entry tool, K-tool (or other through-the-lock technology, such as an A-tool), and a water extinguisher: The second interior team member is equipped with these additional tools that allow for even greater flexibility. The interior team, because of its speed and flexibility, can locate and extinguish small incipient fires with the extinguisher long before an engine company can stretch a line. The hook extends the member’s reach when searching for victims and is also used to open walls and ceilings when searching for hidden fire. The hydraulic forcible entry tool (HFT) is an ideal weapon for forcing a strong inward-opening door. The K-tool with the associated key tools can fit nicely in the same bag the HFT comes in, adding further to the team’s capability.

The complement of tools for this two-person team allows team meembers to complete many operations. Depending on the circumstances, they may not need every item, as weight and mobility may become issues.

THE FIRST-DUE TRUCK

The interior team of the first-due ladder company can immediately begin operations with the first-due engine company. Offensive operations necessitate that the engine stretch a line and position it between the greatest life hazard and the fire.

The interior team of the first-due truck will force every door that separates the advancing hoseline from the fire. The interior team also searches for victims along the primary means of egress such as the exits, hallways, and stairs. Once at the seat of the fire, the team searches the immediate area as safety permits. If the search cannot be initiated prior to the hoseline’s operating, the search team will perform a search “off the hoseline” as it progresses during the fire attack. This strategy allows for a coordinated effort that maximizes resources.

The interior team also conducts pre- and post-control overhaul. Precontrol overhaul entails getting ahead of the fire to determine the location and extent of fire spread. By opening ceilings and walls, with the engine company’s line nearby, hidden fire is exposed and extinguished. Post-control overhaul is the systematic opening up of hidden voids and damaged furnishings and debris for final extinguishment.

Perform ventilation as long as it will not negatively spread fire. This increases visibility, lowers the heat level, and lowers the stress level for firefighters operating within. Such actions also provide a less toxic environment for building occupants awaiting rescue. Remember, as members of the truck company, we must focus on venting for life and venting for fire. Even the interior team can ventilate depending on the situation.

Utility control increases safety by preventing explosions caused by natural gas, electrocution caused by energized electrical equipment, or the danger of water buildup caused by flowing pipes.

Property conservation (salvage) rounds out the team’s mission. From the simple act of throwing salvage covers to controlling the flow of water because of a frozen pipe that has thawed, salvage helps to prevent further damage. Some of the families we aid have absolutely nothing, and salvage can go a long way in saving them further heartache.

Remember that one of the most important jobs of the interior team members is that of serving as the incident commander’s eyes and ears. They search for and report fire extension, building features that can be an aid or a hindrance, and collapse dangers and give the status of their searches for victims. This team can move quickly; its value is enormous.

•••

A truck company that divides into multiple teams and begins half a dozen tasks within the first five minutes is an asset to any department. The interior team enhances the effectiveness of all other units operating on the fireground. The key is getting that ladder company to the scene initially.

Endnotes

1. My article “The Truck Company; Suburban Ladder Company Operations” (Fire Engineering, March 2008) explored the offensive tasks a four-person truck company can perform and how a properly staffed ladder company can divide into an interior and exterior team and conduct multiple operations at once.

2. In Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics, 3rd Edition, John Norman illustrates how the acronym LOVERS U is used as the basis for describing what a properly staffed truck company can do: “Laddering, Overhaul, Ventilation, Entry, Rescue and Search, Salvage, and Utility control.”

ARMAND F. GUZZI JR. has been a member of the fire service since 1987. He is a career firefighter with the Long Branch (NJ) Fire Department and is also a part-time instructor with the Monmouth County (NJ) Fire Academy, where he has taught since 1990. He has a master’s degree in management and undergraduate degrees in fire science, education, and business administration.

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