First we should agree on the difference between the rescue of an otherwise trapped victim and the removal of a civilian from the fire building. I remember reviewing a fire story in which a motel complex was a total loss over time, in which the first water applied to the fire was from a mutualaid company from another town. “Why did it take so long to stretch a hoseline, begin a search, and provide ventilation support?” I asked. “Oh,” the answer began, “we were too busy making rescues. We rescued 57 people at that fire.”

You don’t “rescue” 57 people from exterior openings in numbers of one and two. Most if not all were simple removals. The real rescues were still inside, later removed in body bags.

The same applies to one of my firefighters who climbed our aerial, helped an ambulant woman onto it, and assisted her down. “Are you recommending him for an award?” his comrade asked. “Are you serious?” I replied. “You’ve given a half-milliondollar apparatus and an untold amount of training, and when you use them as planned, it’s a removal, not a rescue.”

A rescue: You’re groping in and out of rooms and hallways, it’s getting hotter and hotter. You want more than anything to be out of there. You come to your turn-around point —get out! Now you fnd someone and your survival problem is complicated because now you have to get them and you out—a rescue.

How do you move them? Do you think you can choose a chair carry, a fore-and-aft carry, a pack strap, or fireman’s carry in this situation? No! You can’t even stand up. You hold onto something—them or their clothing—and pull and drag. The best you can do, if you’re thinking, is pull from the neck or shoulders so the arms and legs fold along the body and don’t open wider than the doors you must go back through to safety.

Where do you take them? Remember, you still have to finish your primary search. The fire operation is critically short of firefighters. Where do you take this victim?

If they’re ambulant, take victims to the floor below the fire; if not, stabilize them in a safe area until you can turn them over to competent medical authorities. Keep thinking of your return as quick as possible and don’t get caught in the glory of personal attachment to the rescue.

Portable ladder rescues. Pose a real-world situation to your firefighters: “You pull up in front of an obvious fire building. At the second floor, on a blackened bedroom windowglass, you get a momentary glimpse of tw o small palms—just for a moment, and then they’re gone. What do you do?”

The answer will most often be to grab a portable ladder and go up and get her. My answer is always, DO IT! Instead of thinking you can do it, do it at drill and see how unsuccessful you can be. This type of rescue is a brutal exercise in strength, frustration, and fear. It requires help, communication, and cooperation. Try’ it at drill—you’ll see.

Aerial ladder rescues. Aerial ladder rescues and removals also require some understanding to separate efficiency and success from myth and romance. As the truck is positioned and secured, the chauffeur’s partner joins him at the turntable while he finishes positioning the tip of the aerial at the window that’s framing a hysterical civilian threatening to jump as the ugly, heated smoke boils out around her. What happens next? What does this team of firefighters do?

Usually as the first fly section moves up, exposing bed ladder rugs, the firefighter waiting on the turntable makes his move. As the ladder tip touches its target, this firefighter races faster and faster toward his object. “I would get there as fast as I could and assist the civilian onto the ladder and guide her down” is not only a common answer but one that is supported in many fireground photos. A victim being helped by a firefighter from behind w ho in turn is being guided by the chauffeur behind him: Good? Yes. The best? No!

What does this team do if the victim regains her senses in the middle of the aerial descent and tells you of other family members still in the fire room? Both firefighters are now in the middle of the aerial, blocked by a civilian. Time has passed. The fire is worse and the only available person to do anything about it must get around the descending firefighter and his charge.

An aerial rescue —any ladder rescue—ideally should be a team effort. The first firefighter up to the window should gently push the victim aside and get in the same room. Help the civilian to your awaiting partner’s firm guidance. Now you’re in position to make a fast sweep of the room or occupancy for additional victims before descending the ladde.

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