Truckless, USA: Essential Fireground Functions

By Brian Zaitz

Welcome to Truckless, USA.

This community is where a majority of us work without dedicated truck and engine companies. Today’s financial constraints are causing us to respond with less equipment and staffing at today’s fires. In addition, many of us are responding with combination units such as rescue/pumpers, pumper/tankers, or quints. This means that the essential fireground functions have to be assigned and accomplished by a different method than just terming them “truck” or “engine” work.

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Essential Fireground Functions

Everyone has responded to a house fire that began with light smoke showing; before it was over, five hoselines were on the ground, and the building was nothing but a foundation. What happened? Typically, it was a lack of coordination and completion of the essential fireground support functions that lead to the first hoseline not getting to the seat of the fire.

Every fire has a set of essential functions that must be completed for scene mitigation. Traditionally, we refer to these functions as either truck company (ventilation, forcible entry, utilities, and so on) and engine company (water supply, hose line deployment and extinguishment) tasks. Essential fireground functions include the following:

  1. A 360° size-up, determine strategy (defensive/offensive/transitional).
  2. Obtaining a water supply.
  3. Deployment of an appropriately sized attack line based on the amount of fire.
  4. Forcible entry.
  5. Search and rescue operations.
  6. Deployment of a backup line for safety.
  7. Obtaining a secondary water supply.
  8. Deployment of ladders for egress/rescue.
  9. Ventilation.
  10. A rapid intervention crew.
  11. Securing utilities.
  12. Salvage and overhaul.


The challenge comes from what we call and how we accomplish these tasks if we run without dedicated truck and engine companies. The solution is simple; all of these tasks are sequential on the fireground. The essential fireground tasks follow a pattern or order, and this order can be translated into arrival order of apparatus and provide a framework for unit assignments. This basic plan allows for the completion of the essential fireground functions in a manner that leads to fireground success.


The 1+1 Concept

Since most of us operate without dedicated truck companies, and most stations are single company stations, we must determine a method that works for accomplishing the fireground tasks associated with saving lives, preserving property, and protecting the environment. We accomplish these tasks by preplanning our first alarm assignment. This is not done in the same manner in which we preplan structures or high-hazard occupancies; it is done in the manner in which we preplan our first-alarm units and how we assign and complete each of the essential fireground tasks based on arrival order.

This seems complicated, but it isn’t. For most of us, the first unit does the same basic tasks: Conducting a 360° size-up, determining strategies (offensive, defensive, transitional), deploying a line, forcing entry, and implementing the strategy. So with that, we plan and train for the first-arriving unit to accomplish these tasks.

Second-due traditionally establishes a water supply and supports the first-arriving unit. What do we mean by “support”? Support is the firefighter support that it takes to get that first line into attack position. That second-due is going to assist the first company in placing that initial line. The question then is, are they part of that first company, or do they remain a separate company? They will remain a separate company and support that operation.

Supporting the initial line does not necessarily always mean humping hose; if the line can be placed without assistance, then the second-due can coordinate ventilation for the attack line or begin search operations. This idea or method is known as the “1+1” concept. The 1+1 takes two companies, marries them, and uses them for one line.

The 1+1 works because it is focuses on getting that first line in place, first. It is focused on the theory that once the fire goes out, the fireground becomes a safer atmosphere for both the firefighter and civilian. The 1+1 marries two companies together to deploy a line and support that lines operations. The 1+1 goes beyond just the initial two companies; it continues into the third- and fourth-arriving units.

The beauty of the 1+1 concept is that it improves accountability, increases effectiveness and efficiency on the fireground, and can work with almost any fire department. For districts that have members responding directly to the scene (POV), and where the incident commander (IC) creates teams rather than companies, the same concept applies; the IC simply marries two teams to accomplish the 1+1 concept. Team one completes the first-arriving duties. Team two supports team one’s operation and completes the second-arriving’s duties.

Traditionally, the third-arriving company deploys a backup line from a unit separate from the first-arriving company as it acquires an additional water supply. This backup line is typically equal to or larger in size than the initial attack line and provides a safety for the first line. The fourth-arriving, again, supports the third-arriving company’s backup line and completes any additional essential fireground tasks such as securing utilities, additional ventilation needs, exterior ladder placement, and salvage and overhaul. The Third and fourth companies create the 1+1 concept. The final, fifth-arriving unit assumes the rapid intervention company’s responsibilities and reports to command for that task.


The “Add 2” Concept

The Add 2 concept is for those fires that require both lines to be used for fire attack, but where you do not need a full second-alarm response. The Add 2 is accomplished by adding two additional companies to the initial first-alarm assignment. Although the Add 2 is typically done when both lines are used for fire attack, it can be requested whenever the structure requires additional support functions such as if the occupancy is known for having a high life hazard, there are extreme weather conditions (such as hot or cold temperatures), or the IC feels the incident warrants additional companies. The Add 2 gets companies on the alarm quickly to support the essential fireground functions. The additional two companies function at the IC’s discretion and typically complete the remaining essential fireground functions and support the existing operation.

The Add 2 is great concept because it fills the void filled by the third- and fourth-arriving companies that are now being used for fire attack, and it continues to maintain the 1+1 concept for fireground success.


Making It Work

As with any concepts or ideas, the key to making them work is through training. The 1+1 and Add 2 concepts work great, but only after the proper organizing, communicating, and training on that plan. A majority of the fire service does not operate within the “traditional” engine and truck company world; for that, we must plan and train to accommodate today’s modern fire service and fireground.


Brian Zaitz is a 12-year fire service veteran and a captain-training officer with the Metro West Fire Protection District in Wildwood, Missouri. He is an instructor at the St.Louis County (MO) Fire Academy and a member of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team MO-TF 1. He has an associates degree in applied science in paramedic technology from St. Louis Community College, a bachelor’s of science degree in fire science management from Lindenwood University, and a masters of science degree in human resource development from Indiana State University. Zaitz also has several certifications including fire officer II,  fire instructor II and haz-mat specialist. He is a nationally registered paramedic as well as an internationally accredited fire Ofifcer and chief training officer through the Commission on Professional Credentialing. 

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