Truck Work— A Must, Regardless of Manpower
Gene Carlson’s Volunteers Corner
In many suburban and rural communities, fire departments often do not have the fuxury of a ladder company. Far too many departments use the lack of a truck as an excuse for not performing the vital emergency functions normally accomplished by a truck company.
Often a department does have a rescue, squad or equipment truck that can be fitted with the necessary tools to perform truck work. However, the vehicle is not the critical element. Regardless of whether there is a vehicle or not, for a fire attack to result in early, efficient fire control and extinguishment, forcible entry, ventilation, opening up, search and rescue, and salvage must be done. This is accomplished by immediately assigning these essential tasks to fireground personnel.
Forcible entry is basically gaining entrance to a structure. This is done by opening doors, windows or walls. Good forcible entry techniques will allow entrance with a minimum of damage and a maximum of speed. The precautions necessitated today for security purposes often will make it more practical to go through a dry wall than to force a heavy door with several locks set in a metal frame. A small hole can be made in the wall and the locks released easier and with much less damage than prying the door. The claw tool, Kelly tool, Halligan tool, Hux Bar, PryAxe and a number of new tools are proving their value in forcible entry. Some cities are using through the lock entry techniques to reduce forcible entry damage.
Proper and efficient forcible entry allows the operating forces to enter the fire area and perform search and rescue and rapid extinguishment.
Ventilation discussed in this column in August is probably the most overlooked truck function on the fireground. Ventilation, as every department knows, is the removal of heat, smoke and fire gases that have been building up a pressure inside the structure.
Good ventilation can have a direct bearing on search and rescue, fire control and salvage operations. Yet, many departments continue to ignore venting under the guise of doing damage while the fire gets larger, heat and smoke damage spreads, and exterior attacks increase the extent of water damage. Ventilation is important to a coordinated attack since it removes heat and improves visibility.
Venting is accomplished horizontally by opening or removing windows or vents and clearing away all obstructions. Vertical venting requires cutting the roof directly over the fire or at the highest point, or using an opening already in the roof like a door, hatch or skylight.
To save time, mechanical saws should be used for venting. Early ventilation can bring relief to those awaiting rescue. In some cases search and rescue teams can vent from the inside as they move from room to room.
Opening up is assisting the fire fighting crew by opening walls or floors for hidden fires, pulling ceilings for attic fires or fires running between joists, and providing access to cutoff fires spreading vertically or laterally. Again this is a vital operation to early control and total extinguishment of the fire. If a building is not opened up, the fire can spread unchecked, outflank the attack team, or rekindle later — all of which prove very embarrassing. A number of new opening-up tools are available, some with extending handles. Review your departmental needs and the advantages of the various tools.
Search and rescue is the most important truck function. A primary search team must be dispatched into possibly occupied areas to locate and assist occupants. Time is critical and experienced personnel should be assigned this responsibility. In some instances, search and rescue can be combined with forcible entry and ventilation.
Placing a team above the fire is dangerous and a hose line may be needed for protection. A hose or safety line should be used to alleviate disorientation during the search. A team of two fire fighters can be sent down a hallway to search small rooms individually while remaining in voice contact, and then work together to search larger rooms.
Fire fighters assigned to search and rescue operations must carry a tool for reaching under and behind furniture, a latch strap for doors, and know how they are going to mark searched rooms. Check the entrance area by making an arc, then do an exterior sweep of the room before moving to the center area. Be sure to check paths of egress, bathrooms and closets carefully. Do not overlook a child in a bed or crib, thinking it’s merely a pile of bedclothes.
Salvage operations generally take a backseat, but reducing fire, smoke, water and other damage is a prime objective of fire fighters.
Ventilation will assist salvage by removing damaging smoke and heat. Covers can be thrown over items to protect them from dirt and water damage. Water can be removed by vacuuming, channeling or draining. If the fire is not of suspicious origin, debris can be removed.
A great deal of salvage can be done by using common sense during opening up. A cover can be spread to collect debris before opening a wall, or inspection holes can be made behind baseboards rather than in the middle of a wall. Since limiting damage is the name of the game, think salvage and assign fire fighters to this important job.
On many alarms, low manpower makes it difficult to get all the truck work done. However, by assigning these tasks and working together as a well-trained team in a coordinated attack using the new tools and methods being developed, truck work can be performed and fireground results improved. Use your equipment and personnel resources wisely, since performing both truck and engine work will give your community an improved level of service.