By John W. Mittendorf

During my career as a company officer, I came across several ideas that enhanced training opportunities for company members. Although the following list is not complete, it may give you a few ideas to improve your training opportunities. Additionally, the following drills are designed to focus on practical fireground operations only and be practical, informative, and easy for you to implement with a varying degree of effort on your part. They can be modified to fit other types of scenarios and are listed in no particular order. Remember, when using buildings, Saturday and Sunday mornings are the best times (minimal traffic and people) to train.


  • Look at new buildings under construction.
  • Look and explore during overhauls and fire prevention.


  • Specifically look for elevators (on the weekends) that you can play with as follows:
    • Recall buttons.
    • Elevator operations.
    • Fire Department operations.
    • Evaluate electric and hydraulic mechanical equipment.


  • Concentrate on specific challenges in your district by driving around and discussing problems with your crew. Focus on:
    • Doors.
    • Windows.
    • Security bars.
    • Fences.
    • Apparatus access.


  • Periodically, pick specific buildings and determine what ladders would be necessary to reach a specific objective. This can easily be accomplished on an informal basis while driving around the district or returning from an incident.
  • Dump the apparatus of ladders (particularly a truck company) for time.


  • Dress you personnel in full protective equipment with a hood over each face piece. Have personnel search for victims. Focus on teamwork and using something for a reference point (or whatever method you use). Practice communications, listening for PASS devices, etc.


  • Practice covering items with covers, etc.
  • Make basins, ladder drains, etc.
  • Suspend a flowing hose in the rear yard of your station and challenge your personnel to contain and channel the water flow.


  • The equipment for gas, electrical, and water utilities is readily accessible and easy to find. Drills for utilities are easily accomplished as follows:
    • Drive around the district and locate these utilities. Discuss their operation and appropriate fire service operations.
    • Take 35 mm slides of these utilities and discuss their considerations in-house.

I have had the best luck drilling on ventilation operations with the following approach:

  • For PPV, use a smoke machine in the station and move smoke with your blowers or tape toilet paper (clean) to the top of doorways to graphically illustrate air flow.
  • Walk the roofs in your district and discuss roof construction and ventilation operations. Use chalk (builders chalk works best) to mark appropriate ventilation openings (considering direction of wind, location of fire, and type of ventilation opening).
  • Use vacant or burned structures for hands-on practice.
  • Although this may cost you some money (remember, this could be to your benefit), construct a roof prop for hands-on training. Simple props can be constructed of 2- X 6-inch lumber in an 8- X 12-foot size. This allows three sheets of plywood on the prop. Use 2-foot legs to keep prop off the ground. Excellent for specific training on use of a chain/rotary saw and proper cutting techniques.


  • Have fun!
  • Train the way you fight!
  • Train as if your life depends on it, because it does!
  • You set the standard!

John W. Mittendorf joined the Los Angeles City (CA) Fire Department (LAFD) in 1963, rising to the rank of captain II, task force commander. In 1981, he was promoted to battalion chief and in the year following became the commander of the In-Service Training Section. In 1993, he retired from LAFD after 30 years of service. Mittendorf has been a member of the National Fire Protection Research Foundation on Engineered Lightweight Construction Technical Advisory Committee. He has provided training programs for the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland; the University of California at Los Angeles; and the British Fire Academy at Morton-in-Marsh, England. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Fire Engineering and author of the books Truck Company Operations (Fire Engineering, 1998) and Facing the Promotional Interview (Fire Engineering, 2003).

No posts to display