The “Fireground Five”

Photo by Tony Greco.


By David DeStefano

The fireground is one of the most dynamic work environments on Earth. An enormous amount of information must be processed in a very compressed time frame to conduct safe and efficient operations involving the fireground objectives of life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation. To safely and efficiently gain control of most offensive fire operations, five key elements must incorporate sufficient personnel, coordinated efforts, and aggressive actions. The tactics and equipment used to employ these elements may vary, but proper performance is key to success. This article will discuss briefly the “Fireground Five” so that firefighters may keep them at the forefront of their thoughts when developing an offensive attack plan.


Size Up

The Fireground Five begins, ends, and contains continual size-up. All members must use their training, experience, and position on the fireground to conduct their own size-up of conditions and hazards. Chiefs and company officers must integrate size-up with the actions they manage and supervise. The assessment of resource needs must be at the forefront of their minds, along with incident progress and the continued tenability of their position.


Attack Line  

For an offensive fire attack to succeed, the proper size and length hoseline must be stretched and operated on the seat of the fire. This action requires the use of size-up skills to determine the location and extent of the fire as well as the best entrance and path to the seat of the fire. Line placement should also consider ventilation or isolation of a fire compartment and the protection of a means of egress for firefighters and civilians. Particular areas of concern include common corridors and stairways.


Ventilate or Isolate

The appropriate and coordinated use of ventilation is an important tactic in an offensive firefight. However, isolating the path of potential fire spread under certain conditions may serve to protect both firefighters and civilians. Whatever course of action conditions dictate, all companies operating on the fireground should be aware of the tactics in use and the potential effect on conditions these actions may cause. When performing ventilation, firefighters should coordinate with interior units to ascertain the location of the fire and confirm the status of the attack line.



The importance of conducting a primary search for life (victim rescue) and fire location cannot be overemphasized. The primary search team on the fire floor must locate the fire and search from the point closest to the fire where a viable victim may be found. Searching for the location of the fire and directing the attack team to this point will help place a hoseline between the victims and the fire as well as the search team and the fire. The attack line may also protect a means of access or egress such as a common corridor or stairway. An aggressive primary search with the protection of a properly placed handline is essential in saving lives.


Secondary Egress

Finding and maintaining a secondary means of egress is a major concern for all operations. Companies working on the roof, operating in a cellar or in a commercial building may have problems locating an immediate second way out of danger in an emergency. Each firefighter should maintain awareness of the surroundings in which he is working and keep the possibility of emergency withdrawal in the back of his mind. For company officers and the incident commander, this means special calling enough aerial devices or raising enough ground ladders to reach the roof and upper floors. In heavily fortified buildings, access for emergency egress may best be accomplished by using an exterior forcible entry team. Likewise, in cellar fires, an exterior team may be needed to force a bulkhead door for ventilation as well as egress purposes.

The Fireground Five is an essential list for all firefighters to remember. These steps will serve them well during aggressive offensive fire attacks. Fire departments may employ favored tactics to achieve “The Five.” However, when used at the scene of an offensive fire the fireground five are powerful methods to ensure effective operations and enhance safety for civilians and firefighters alike.  Each member operating at a fire should size up effective employment of The Five and use his progress as a benchmark when assessing location, fire conditions, company actions, and resource requirements.


David DeStefano is a 26-year veteran of the North Providence (RI) Fire Department where he serves as captain of Ladder Co. 1. He previously served as a lieutenant in Ladder 1 and Engine 3 and was a firefighter in Ladder 1. He is an instructor/coordinator for the Rhode Island Fire Academy and teaches a variety of fire service topics throughout Southern New England. He can be reached at

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