By Billy Jack Wenzel
Every fire department is being challenged to do more with less. This often puts firefighters into dangerous situations. I often ask myself what training can be done to enable us to meet our challenges. Surely training can be a key to our safety, but where should we start? The answer is to start at the beginning. Start with your “bread and butter”. In Wichita the vast majority of structure fires occur in a single-family, wood-framed residence. The majority of these fires can be controlled with a single attack line if the attack line is placed in operation quickly. For this line to be deployed quickly, the first arriving companies must accomplish several fireground functions. Through repetitions, the advancing of fire attack, the setting up of RIC, and establishing a water supply can become truly routine and the time required to accomplish these functions will be reduced. Recently, Fire Engineering reported an article of a department that conducted studies on how long it should take to establish a fire attack line, back-up line, and 100 foot of 3″ supply line. A 5-person engine company performed the fireground activity. Through repetition and practice, average times were between three and four minutes. Let us consider this is our target time window.
Our operatoin follows:
The squad arrives and positions itself away from the scene. The officer should give quick orders to his driver and simulate any radio traffic. Then in full protective clothing (gloves, SCBA (with masks on) pull an attack line from the arriving engine. The squad should have the line fully extended and be prepared to make entry (this would include carrying additional equipment such as light, axe, pike pole, and so on). When the attack line is charged the nozzle, open the nozzle fully.
The engine should arrive immediately behind the squad. The driver should position the apparatus in the prime location considering where the attack line will be deployed and the location of potential water supply. The driver should then engage the pump and set the brake before leaving the apparatus. The driver should charge the attack line as soon as possible. With the attack line charged, the driver will be responsible to provide his own water supply from a hydrant using 100 feet of three-inch hose. With water supply established, the driver should then charge the RIC line. The firefighter in full protective clothing assists with deploying the Squad’s attack line, making sure the bed is clear and the line is not kinked. The firefighter then deploys the second line and begins establishing RIC (this should include lights, axe, pike pole, and jump kit).
The officer should quickly give orders then simulate size-up and assignment information over the radio. The officer in full protective clothing should assist the firefighter in the establishing RIC. When the RIC line is charged and all the equipment is assembled the RIC line is opened and the evolution is ends.
After the time has stopped, pick up all the equipment and make yourself ready to respond. Then hold a critique, identify how you could have done things better. Remember: the key is to perform this evolution as realisticly as possible.
It is important to conduct this training in an open place that will allow 3-10 minutes of water flow. This location must also have access to a hydrant less than 100 feet away.
Once this operation becomes routine, through repetition, add changes. For example, have the engine arrive first and allow the squad to establish RIC. Have an evolution where the attack and RIC lines must be extended. Have the driver use five-inch instead of three-inch supply line, or have the driver perform an engine hook-up. These are all foreseeable activities that could occur with first arriving companies.
This evolution Many benefits are derived from this evolution. Your initial deployment will become smooth and quick, so often if the initial deployment is smooth the entire incident will run smooth. This can also identify Firefighter’s weaknesses and weaknesses in equipment or techniques. If you are looking for a place to start, identify your “bread and butter” operation, break it down into tactics and practice. It helps if you have nationally set standard times, as in this case, but if not set your own. After much practice I have had crews that could perform this evolution in 2 minutes, but it was only because of commitment and repetition. When we started, our times were typically 4-6 minutes. On the fireground the difference between 2 minutes and 6 minutes is huge. How long do you take?
Billy Jack Wenzel is a 24-year veteran of the Wichita Fire Department. He is a past member of the department’s hazardous-materials team and has a hazardous materials technician level certification. He has been a member of the departments technical rescue team for 15 years and is certified in many areas including: high angle, trench, SCUBA, and confined space. Wenzel is an NFA adjunct instructor, an EMI adjunct instructor, a past instructor at FDIC, and an instructor for KUFRTI. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He is also a published author of several fire-related articles including, “Kansas Grain Dust Explosion” in Fire Engineering.