Have you ever sat at a red light and in your side view mirror you see someone coming up too fast to stop at the light, and then you realize they have no intention to stop. Immediately you look at traffic coming through the green light and at that moment, what we like to call the pucker factor kicks in, and you cringe as the speeding car barely gets through the intersection without incident thanks to the well timed braking of the oncoming traffic.


If you are first to arrive at a house fire and have a fire showing in one or two rooms, you handle this fairly easy. Establish command, assign an attack crew, assign a vent crew, and have backups in place and as the attack crew makes entry, the vent crew breaks the window out in the room involved just as the attack crew fills the involved room with a fog stream, knocks the fire out and waits for the smoke to clear. Fast, easy, effective and somewhat routine.


Take the same scenario and as you pull up to the scene a woman runs up to you and frantically tells you her baby is in the crib in the back bedroom. You begin a size up and see fire in the room inside the open front door and also in what is probably the front bedroom. Remember that car running the red light? I’m certain you now have the same feeling. While it is never a good time to have some type of failure on the fire ground, even at routine calls, when life is at risk it is really not a good time. So, what do we do to minimize the opportunity for failure?


As the first arriving officer on the scenario above, establishing command at the onset becomes paramount. Establishing command lets other units know someone is on scene, someone is in charge, and that someone is the person all other companies need to get information to and from. The Incident Commander’s (IC) next steps should include size-up, verifying the location and ETA of incoming units, assigning a crew for rapid entry and search once a backup crew is in place, communicate with the mother to verify location of the child and if there are any obstacles or other things you should be aware of before entry.


Other items to consider include ventilation, fire suppression, EMS and transport, water supply if needed, power company, law enforcement and fire investigation to name a few.


So far we have;

  • Command established, size up completed
  • Entry crew assigned
  • Backup crew assigned (may include the IC depending on manpower)
  • Decision on need for water supply
  • Ventilation crew assigned (may be on arriving company due to life risk)
  • Established dialogue with mother
  • Notified dispatch of other resources needed.


This should all be accomplished within the first one or two minutes. As the entry team prepares to enter, the backup crew may need to perform some horizontal ventilation to relieve some of the smoke conditions inside. Notify dispatch when the entry team goes in and also give updates as the entry team reports back. This type of radio documentation could become extremely important at a later date.


If all goes according to the IC’s plan of attack, the search and rescue will be successful without injuries and will be uneventful.


Certainly in this scenario, the search and successful rescue of the child is all important. However, just as I consider fire prevention to be most important in the fight against fires, I also believe the first one or two minutes that the first arriving unit is on scene and assumes command is the most important two minutes to a successful outcome of any fire or emergency incident. Not only do we as fire service leaders want to have successful rescues, we also want incidents without injury to the citizens or our personnel.


We know that our firefighters do effective and exceptional jobs at emergency incidents. And we know it is because of the training everyone gets all the time. How much of that time is spent on training our officers about incident command and all of the things that go with it? I’m guessing it is a lot less. Certainly incident command training can be improved in almost every department. If possible, try some scenario-based training using buildings in your town. Another way is to have an officer bring in a pre-fire plan of a target hazard to your officer meeting, have them make a presentation on the building and why it is a target hazard, then create a scenario about that building. This gives each officer an opportunity to show their skills in public speaking, planning and command. I think you just might be surprised.


Remember, stay safe, Everyone Goes Home.

Last year, I had the opportunity to present a training on impalements and removal incidents. I had the opportunity to take the P.L. Vulcan class a few years ago and it got me thinking outside the box about using different tools to take care of certain types of scenarios. One of the most important takeaways was the portable bandsaw and what it is able to accomplish compared to other tools like hydraulic cutters and sawzalls. As Mark discussed in his class, some of the best pros include less heat production on the material being cut as well as the smooth transition of the material once cut. A hydraulic cutter will cause the material to pop due to the fracturing of the material. In the case of rebar the material will violently pop and displace compared to little to no movement when cut with the bandsaw. Rescue situations are focused on patient care. It is important to focus on medical elements in conjunction with rescue operations. Being able to determine the severity of injury is vital in determining how much time (the golden hour) and resources may be allotted on scene to get the patient the best chances of survival.


We developed our station using our homemade hose manikin, steel pipe, gate valves, and 1/2″ rebar. Using Mahwah Company 4‘s
ladder bailout simulator we set up two station on the existing prop. On the side we had a single gate valve to allow members to become aware of how the bandsaw will work during a basic cut of rebar.


Under the window we set up another gate with fitting to manipulate the angle of the rebar. The first scenario depicted a patient impaled through his back. Then the patient was stabilized on the window sill via a scoop. The scoop allowed for the patient to be supported while working around the rebar due the center opening of the equipment before being locked in. After EMS took care of packaging the wound and further securing the patient. At that time the rescue crew began the cut on the rebar using the portable bandsaw. As mentioned this created no movement and almost no heat. After as in many EMS scenarios the patient was moved through the window and “transported”.


The second scenario of the night involved a patient being impaled through their leg with the rest of the hips and upper body already through the window. This was done to create a limb impaled on a fence situation. Once again EMS stabilized and padded the rebar in the thigh area. Additionally a basic tourniquet was applied to mitigate a severed femoral artery in the evolution. After the upper body of the patient was supported, the rescue crew began working on the rebar. The bandsaw made the cut with no heat and no movement. This is vital on these types of situations because it creates less potential for further injury.

5315054108_abb0ee72c6Ventilation could be defined as the removal of smoke and hot fire gases from a burning structure. There are several situations where ventilation should be used and include fire attack, fire control, search and rescue and overhaul. As officers we have a choice of basic ventilation techniques to remedy each of these situations. This paper will be discussing vertical ventilation and its pros and cons, the resources needed to carry it out, and the best application to use.

Vertical ventilation allows heat and smoke to travel upwards and out of a structure. In a single family residence of one story the effects are noticed immediately. The vent crew (usually two men on the roof for a residence) begins by removing any existing vents or chimneys that may already exist. If this is not enough, then cutting a hole is needed. Fully protected, these firefighters also need cutting equipment, ladders, a charged hose line, and two means of escape. Firefighters should make cuts as close to the seat of the fire as possible. Once the cutting is done and venting has begun, it’s time to vacate the roof and get back to the ground and safety.

Vertical ventilation works because as we all know, heat rises. This is a natural movement and as the heat rises, it will take the smoke and hot gases with it out of the vent hole. It could be said that this is the most effective type of ventilation because it speeds the natural process along. When done properly, vertical ventilation reduces, prevents, or stops the mushrooming of gases and smoke and makes interior conditions clearer and safer.

There are, of course, drawbacks to using vertical ventilation. As the officer, you are placing at least two firefighters in a dangerous spot to accomplish a needed task. There is the risk of structure or roof collapse, disorientation from heavy smoke conditions, and or stepping off the roof by accident. Vertical ventilation is time consuming and many times impractical. If it is a multi-story structure and the fire is on the first floor, it may be better to use a different type of ventilation. Some roofs are extremely difficult to open up, which takes a long time and exposes your men to more risk. Not only having at least two men on the roof is required, others are needed for ladder placement, hose line work, and extra tool retrieval if needed. So it is easy to see that vertical ventilation takes extra resources. By comparison, breaking windows from the outside to effect horizontal ventilation takes one firefighter.  

With adequate personnel, a department can perform vertical ventilation and other operations at the same time. Fire containment and extinguishment is most effectively accomplished with vertical ventilation. Search, rescue, and overhaul have other ventilation options that departments with limited personnel can perform. The goal in controlling the fire is to stop the horizontal and or vertical spread of the fire and vertical ventilation is best at doing this.

Stay Safe – Everyone goes Home

TRANSITIONAL FIRE ATTACK – ARE YOU AN INNY OR AN OUTYI recall a house fire I responded to many years ago. A gas leak in the garage got to the gas water heater pilot light and before long the garage was well involved. The owner opened the garage door to try to get his car out but couldn’t. Going from the back of the house (on the main road) to the front, the sequence of rooms was;

Oversize two car garage

A breezeway (same width as garage, all windows, doors on either side, a door into the garage which the owner closed before exiting, and an open doorway into the kitchen,)

The Kitchen

A Hallway with stairs to the second floor

The breezeway and the kitchen ceilings were tongue and groove wood and varnished.

The first engine on scene was directed (by the battalion chief) to pull two 1 ¾” lines and attack from the open garage side using straight streams. My engine arrived two minutes later and it looked as though the two lines in use were not making any headway. From the officer seat and where we were parked, I could see the side door to the breezeway. I directed my firefighter to pull our 1 ¾” line and we proceeded to the breezeway door to find the fire had come through the door to the garage and the breezeway was now involved. We got low, opened the door, and hit the upper area of the room with a wide angle fog for about 10 seconds. Perfect, the fire blacked out. The two lines from the outside were causing the flames in the garage to “Push” into the breezeway. We stayed low, put the nozzle through the door into the garage and again hit the fire with a wide angle fog. Thirty seconds later the fire in the garage was knocked down. After ventilation cleared the smoke, we got the hot spots.

Now I have read that you can’t push the fire into another room, however, after all the work was done, we went into the kitchen, the hall way and stairs and noticed that wherever there was varnished wood, the heat from the garage had caused the finish to bubble. Probably within a minute flashover would have occurred and into the second floor. I can’t say 100% sure that the exterior lines directed into the garage pushed the fire into the house, but it sure looked like it.

So, was this a transitional attack? Not in the traditional sense. My point is that directing lines into a room that’s involved appears to push the fire through any opening. I’m not a science guy, but I am observant. So for this article, we will define a transitional attack as one that starts with a hose line(s) being directed through exterior windows/doors/openings into an involved room(s) before making entry to extinguish the fire from the interior.

There are a lot of articles already on the subject. On one side are those that espouse a transitional attack on all fires and on the other side are those that still cling to using an interior attack to effect extinguishment. Both arguments are good and one can believe both as being effective means of extinguishing fires. So if they are both good and effective extinguishing techniques, why the argument?

Three reasons. Firefighters, fire officers, fire departments. All contribute to the debate. From personnel experience, I witnessed a presentation on the use of straight streams in lieu of fog in some instances. Another tool to use in some cases. What happened? Every officer switched to pulling the solid or straight stream nozzle first at all fires (Recall the 3 reasons). This is what firefighters typically do. Something new comes out and we have to use it on everything, forgetting what has worked so well in the past. Remember when the halligan tool came out so long ago? Do we still use it on every door? No, because we remembered that the axe and or pry bar worked just as well.

As I said, I am no science guy, and I don’t know all the formulas that make a straight/solid stream directed from the exterior seem to work. I do know that the wet stuff on the red stuff works, and that is probably why this method works. Effective? I am sure it is. But if we are going interior any way to complete the transitional attack, why not just start there. And I accept that water streams do not push a fire into another room or other parts of the building. But it sure looks that way when you are watching it.

At the end of the day, if you are an officer who believes that a transitional attack works, then you will probably use it more often, or always, than one who does not. I believe it is another tool in our bag that we can use in certain situations. Defining or recognizing those situations is something else again. If you like it a lot, use it a lot. If you don’t think it works, use it when you think it will.

I am not a believer in one method to fight all fires, except for the safe method.

Be safe – Everyone Goes Home

Recently a neighboring department had a fire that involved 2 structures. The department called for mutual aid from 2 neighboring departments and together made a great stop with no one getting hurt. Later, after the situation was mitigated the Chief used social media to express how proud he was of the team for their aggressive stop.  Well as happens many times on the internet it lead to a discussion about why must we be aggressive…..aggressive gets people hurt…….its irresponsible to risk firefighter lives.  It led me to consider is being aggressive reckless? In a time when we fight fewer structure fires and have faster burning buildings is it wrong to be aggressive?

As I delved into this topic I feel like we must first understand the meanings of “aggressive” and “reckless”.  The Webster Meriam Dictionary defines Aggressive as:
1a: tending toward or exhibiting aggression
aggressive behavior

b: marked by combative readiness
aggressive fighter

2a: marked by obtrusive energy and self-assertiveness rude, aggressive personality

b: marked by driving forceful energy or initiative : ENTERPRISING an aggressive salesman

Webster also defines reckless as:
1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences

2: IRRESPONSIBLE reckless charges

Notice these two words are not synonyms, neither word is in the definition of the other. They in fact have no where near the same meaning.

So can we be aggressive without being reckless? First what is an aggressive fire department? In my mind an aggressive department is a culture. The upper level command staff has empowered line officers to be decisive, supports their decisions, and provides them the training to make sound decisions. This “aggressive” department trains their firefighters from day one to be prepared. they spend time on topics like building construction, fire flow path,  pump operations, scene size-up, and understanding engine and truck company ops. You won’t hear phases like ” That won’t happen here” ……” I took that class years ago”….. or my personal favorite” We’ve done it this way for 25 years.” They are always striving for perfection knowing its unattainable.  When these firefighters pull up on scene he come off the truck, dressed out, tool in hand, ready to go to work. The officer makes a size-up, The engine guys stretch the line to the door, the truck company prepares for the search and ventilation.  Decisions are made and everyone is working off the same sheet of music. How many time have you been on a scene that was like a grade school band concert? You know what I mean, yeah, all the kids are playing their instrument and the notes on the sheet but the timing is off and it doesn’t sound right. Well, an aggressive department works and trains so the timing is right and everyone knows their job and when it needs to be done.

What is a reckless department? I don’t think there are many intentionally reckless departments out there. I think most departments are well intentioned. I do feel like a department that doesn’t spend time on the previously mentioned topics may end up making reckless decisions.  Without understanding building construction or flow path how can IC make the determination whether and interior offensive attack is appropriate,  whether to send a vent crew to the roof,  or are there tenable spaces for potential victims.  Not having skilled firefighters who are well trained and having set procedures regardless of conditions is reckless, not having well trained officers is reckless,  having to wait for Chief, Assistant Chief, or Battalion Chief to start identifying strategic objectives is reckless. I was standing with a group of firefighters one afternoon at an event. A longtime firefighter whom had been an officer was telling me of an incident where they rolled the engine with himself, a 6 month probie, and a guy who was issued gear 3 days earlier. They arrived on scene and made an interior, offensive attack. When I asked why his response was that that’s the way they fight fire and you need to be aggressive with your attack…….That’s not aggressive, its RECKLESS!

I will go to battle with an aggressive firefighter who comes off the truck, tools ready and is smart enough to recognize potential hazard. A passive, unconfident firefighter make me nervous. Many time we see a professional athlete injured when the outcome has been decided and the effort is not where it should be. I want my crew to be giving 100% effort 100% of the time.  I want them to be knowledgeable, physically fit, and confident. I want them to be AGGRESSIVE.

Emergency scene size up can be defined as “A rapid mental evaluation of various factors related to an emergency incident”, or “An initial on-scene report by the first arriving unit that is clear, concise and relevant”.

The fire service loves acronyms and of course we have some for scene size-up. Some of these acronyms are long and difficult to remember. This one for example, COAL WAS WEALTH, may be easy to remember until you try to recall what all the letters stand for. Here they are;

Construction, Occupancy, Apparatus (and staffing), Life hazard, Water supply, Auxiliary appliances, Street conditions, Weather, Exposures, Area (including height), Location of fire within the structure, Time, and Hazards/Hazardous materials. While it is good practice to consider all of these during an initial scene size up, practice and experience are needed to become efficient at using it.

Another easier acronym is “A-B-C-D Size-up”. This is an easy one to remember and can especially be used by any firefighter or officer who is first on the scene. The letters stand for;

A-        Address- Sometimes the address you receive is not the address of the incident

B-        Building Description- Includes construction, floors, and occupancy

C-        Conditions- Smoke and or fire conditions, location of fire, weather conditions

D-        Deployment and directives- Which operational mode, (investigating, rescue, offensive or defensive). Provide additional instructions to specific units or to dispatch.

There have been thousands (I’m guessing) of articles, books, and training sessions devoted to scene size up. As humans, we all do size up every day. When we meet someone new, look at new apparatus, read an article, or sit in training, we are performing a mental size up of what we think about any of those particular items. And there are a ton of size ups we do in our everyday off duty life. It really is not that hard and is certainly something we shouldn’t be intimidated by. Take the first example above, COAL WAS WEALTH, and once you see what the letters stand for, you realize that you don’t really need to memorize each word in the acronym. Most of what you do in your initial size up is included in the first two words, COAL and WAS.

A sample size up could be something like this;

Engine X on scene of a one story, wood frame residential structure with smoke showing from side B. There is no apparent life hazard, the street is clear for placement, have Engine W secure a water supply.  The only letter missed was A for Apparatus, and we should know how our units are staffed before we leave the station. I would include exposures in the initial size up, if there are any, we know what the weather is, and fire is close to or at Side B. So we hit all the letters without mentally checking them off. As a last item and after taking command, the officer should report the mode he is in (fire attack, rescue, protect exposures, passing command to another unit on scene, etc).

We must remember there usually is not a lot of time to identify these points, develop a plan of action, communicate that plan to incoming units, and start whatever action you have decided on. Most of the time putting the fire out is the plan and may be done before other units arrive. However, we cannot fail to mentally develop a plan and communicate it so others, including whatever ranking officer is responding, will know what you are doing.

The objective is to implement a structured size-up process in your department, then educating your officers and firefighters in your department’s size-up policy.

Remember to stay safe – “Everyone Goes Home”

It’s been about two years since we published our article about radio straps and turnout gear. It has been shared throughout various magazines and training pages. A few readers asked about our ideas and pointed out that we didn’t address enough when firefighters are wearing the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). We took that point and went out to take a few more photos to assist with our findings.

The original article discussed the differences between wearing your radio strap either under or over your turnout jacket. We know the advantages and disadvantages of both without an SCBA on.


IMG_9372To the right we have the radio strap under the coat with the SCBA on. It is beneficial because it protects the radio and the cable of the extended speaker-mic. When all buttoned up, the speaker-mic may be clipped on to the front closure flap. This allows it to be accessible in a functional area when on air compared to using the collar tab or chest tab that often falls inline with the shoulder strap of the SCBA. Also with these morning pride jackets, it take a little effort to fold up the name plate in order to access the top controls of the radio should you need them.


IMG_9375The radio strap over the coat and under the SCBA method is another configuration that is used. This leaves everything exposed to the elements. The speaker-mic is accessible and not hindered at all. The SCBA straps secure the radio and straps however the waist strap interferes with the use of the radio controls. This may be overcome by extending the radio strap which will leave the radio hanging lower.


This style above is when the radio strap is equipped last, on top of the SCBA. This leaves everything out and the radio strap unsecured. This also allows for the radio controls to be easily operated including the speaker-mic. This style unfortunately heightens a firefighter’s entanglement potential because the unsecured weight of the radio will allow it to move in all directions. Using an anti-sway strap may be difficult in this situation because of the way the coat will have to be manipulated in order to access the belt area of the pants.

[wcps id=”2521″]

Here’s a quick method that was shared to us by one of our followers. If you don’t have a radio strap or don’t like to use the radio pocket on the jacket, you may use the standard interior pocket of the jacket. This is best used when you can “set and forget” the controls of the radio because once buttoned up, you will not be able to access the controls. Then the speaker-mic may be affixed to the front closure of the jacket in a similar manner that the radio strap under the coat method is used. Another potential con of this method is that it will be bulky in the area of the radio. Once the SCBA is equipped, it may even sit more to one side. Again, this is just another potential way of wearing your radio.

As mentioned earlier in this article, here is the difference between using the coat’s mic tab versus the flap of the front closure. Again, both have pros and cons. Using the coat’s mic tab will better secure the mic however it may be keyed up unintentionally when moving around. Using the front closure of the coat may be less secure however it will allow for better usage.

There are many types of door chocks and they all have their purpose.

This article started off as a What’s In Your Pockets Wednesday? Facebook post but there was just too much good advice to cut it down so we turned it into a full article! Thanks to Chris Puzzanghero and Clint Cardinale for their input and advice. The article covers both a truck company firefighter’s and an engine company firefighter’s point of view. Keep in mind there are many types of chocks and while they can be all be used for similar tasks they also can have specific uses. Take for example the aluminum chock is a better fit for using as a wedge during forcible entry. While it is a good start to throw a bunch of chocks in your pockets, take the time to think about how you use them, where you keep them in your gear and if each chock has a specific use or not.

The wooden door wedge or “chock” as it is commonly labeled, is one of the simplest and most effective tools we as firefighters can carry.  They are cheap, easy to make at the fire house and versatile.  Whether you are running the line on an engine company or carrying the irons on a ladder company, the wooden chock’s usefulness is limitless. It’s two main functions though are to help force a door open and then to keep it from closing on a hose-line.

2 wooden chocks in the radio pocket.

I spend the majority of my time at work on a ladder company and carry several wooden chocks in my gear, mainly for forcible entry.  I have found that carrying two large wooden chocks in the radio pocket on my turnout coat to be the best place for them.  I wear my radio on a strap under my coat which frees up the coat pocket to carry my two large chocks and my cable cutters.  By having two large chocks in my radio pocket they are easily accessible and securely stored until needed. I like keeping them here because I can easily grab the chocks with a gloved hand and pull them straight out of the pocket for use and put them right back when done.

This is extremely effective for forcible entry, as the two large chocks can be quickly deployed to capture progress while forcing a door. The chocks can also be quickly put back after the Halligan bar has been re-positioned on the door to continue the force.  This frees me from worry about the chock falling out of the door and having to pick it up off the ground. I may need it to continue the force. Having to hold the Halligan in place, get down on the ground, pick the chock back up and hold on to it while forcing the next lock that is holding is not efficient nor easy, especially in lower to zero visibility. The chocks can be taken in and out of the radio coat pocket gloved up with ease.

Another reason why I keep the large chocks in my radio pocket is our coats are a longer cut. They extend well over the turnout pant cargo pockets which require the bottom of the coat to be lifted up in order to access the Velcro flap on the pant pocket which is not ideal. The turnout coat pockets can present a similar challenge with the SCBA waist belt getting in the way of the pockets opening. Try storing a large chock in the radio coat pocket and see what you think.

– Puzz

Door chalks, door chalks, door chalks!  I can’t say it enough, door chalks. They are cheap (free) light and have countless uses. If you are riding an engine you should have a pocket full of door chalks and 1 chock in each pocket. This insures that your hand line is not compromised or inhibited by free moving doors. But how many is enough? I always go with some advice my old boss told me, as a line firefighter you need 5 door chalks. His logic: the most doors you are going to need to chalk will be in mid-rise commercials and/or apartment buildings: 1 for the front door, 1 one for the other side of the vestibule, 1 for the bottom of the stairwell, 1 for the top of the stairwell, 1 for the apt/fire room door. All told 5 door chalks.

– Clint

Size up begins after a call is dispatched. On the ride to the scene, all members should start to think about all potential impacts that the location will have on the type of incident. Upon arrival of the first due officer in charge he or she should give a detailed description of the incident over dispatch to advised all in coming units of the situation.


The on scene size up should be transmitted in a clear and understandable manner. It should contain specific details regarding the location, type of incident and any other important information that may be a factor in brining the incident under control. There are many different types of templates for the report. The photo below shows a guide that was created for and is used by the Allendale Volunteer Fire Department.3

The Structure Fire guide consists of seven steps; confirm the address, describe the number of floors, occupancy, conditions found, water supply, mode of attack, and finally establish command.

Setting the Scene

When arriving on scene it is extremely important to confirm the dispatch address because you want all incoming units to know the correct address. It may determine certain special tactics such as condo complex or an occupied multiple dwelling.

Announcing the number of floors and occupancy is vital because it will allow for units to begin thinking about what tools and methods they may use at the incident. For example a one story residential type dwelling the truck company may use more ground ladders around the entire structure compared to a high-rise incident. Occupancy is a key component to the report because it will dictate certain operational tactics based on the risk-benefit analysis of life safety.

[wcps id=”2521″]

Pertinent information is vital due to the fact that it may completely alter your plan of attack. If the dwelling is set far back in a gated area then maybe the rig won’t be able to make it into the property. You can also be faced with a natural factor where the landscape changes in the rear of the structure and what was initially a one-story dwelling is in fact two stories from the rear.

Water Supply and layout info is important for incoming engines because it allows them to get an idea of where the nearest hydrant is or even a static supply such as a pond or river.

Mode of attack describes whether units are investigating the scene, offensively or defensively attacking the fire. 2Investigative mode refers to units arriving to a reported fire and finding nothing visible on arrival however units continue to search before deeming it unfounded. Offensively attacking and making a push allows for incoming units to understand that they will most likely be assisting with interior operations, search, etc. The defensive attack refers to an exterior approach that may require master streams, ladder pipes, and a larger water supply. (The photo to the right shows a well off end unit of a condo complex. Tactical considerations must be made such as setting up master streams to control it while protecting the exposures and potential extension to other units.)

The Auto Accident side follows a similar method as the structure fire card. Again, confirm the dispatch address, and then begin to assess the scene. Announcing how many and the types of vehicles involved can assist with distinguishing the patients mechanism of injury such as with convertible rolling over units may be presented with a more traumatic patient rather than a door pop in the school parking lot. Describing the conditions found is also vital because it will allow for specialty units to think about how they will stabilize the vehicles and what other equipment they made need to safely extricate the patient.


A proper size up benefits everyone on scene and it also allows for the Incident Commander (IC) to set the expectations of the operation. If the IC sounds hyped up then there’s a chance that the responding personnel will also get in the same manner and there is potential for unorganized chaos on scene. If the IC is calm, cool, and collected, then he or she will be able to establish a presence that the incident will be handled in an organized and professional manner.

The size up report is one of the most important components of basic incident stabilization and operation. Make sure to check you department’s SOG regarding the size up and if you don’t have one established yet. Draft something up, suggest it, and start using it. Remember to stay rescue ready and always stay proactive. Remember that the size up is always on going as condition change. Things happen, be prepared for variations. Always have a plan A, a back up plan B, then begin thinking about a plan C, and so on for a successful operation.

As the fire service keeps evolving so do the tactics of company operations. Depending on the department and the respective jurisdiction everyone has their own special needs to better operate within their response area. Some area may require tankers/tenders due to their area lacking hydrants or a quint type of aerial apparatus may be better suited for an area that is isolated from other areas and has the potential to use the ladder for a rescue while a crew is stretching a hose line. The same concept may be applied to how engines are designed to be equipped with hose lines in different locations for better operability including traverse lines that may be deployed of either side of the apparatus, lines racked lines that allow for lines to be deployed off the rear, and lines that are designed in the front bumper. Each type of line location may have a different variation that allows for firefighters to deploy multiple lengths and in various directions.


The front bumper line is important to think about because it allows for multiple advantages when operating at an incident. Every department has their own operating procedure that details how apparatus shall respond and operate at an incident. The location of the line allows for the apparatus to be positioned nosed into the scene rather than pulling past or stopping directly parallel to the incident. This apparatus placement may benefit the operation in situations such as a vehicle incident in a roadway where there must be a constant flow of traffic, an incident at the end of a cul-de-sac where apparatus parking scarce, or at end of a property with an isolated driveway. As always department procedures and constant training with these types of set ups will better develop the skills and thought processes of your firefighters.

There are different ways of packing a bumper line ranging from a triple flat lay with ended loops to a double reverse photo-1doughnut roll that allows for one firefighter to deploy the line without much effort. Many departments differ the way they run their front bumper lines, and each department uses it for a different reason. Some departments need to run them as 1st in attack line due to home placement and apparatus positioning, others run them as car/trash fire lines. The photo above of Waldwick First Due Engines  shows a 100ft of 1.75″ hose used primarily as a trash line. The hose is flat packed accordion style. This pack allows the department to deploy this hose in a timely matter when the incident does not dictate pulling a true attack line from the cross lays or the rear. This pack also allows the members to break the hose into a 50ft length, when 100ft is not needed. With this style of pack, the nozzle and backup firefighter just simply need to walk straight toward the incident, with little to no mess being made on the ground.

The modifiedphoto-2 triple horseshoe flat lay allows for the line to broken down into increments of 50’ in the case of this engine pictured . It works in a similar way as the accordion pack however the hose is vertically positioned and allows for a firefighter to either deploy directly out of the tray or pull the deployment loops on the left in order to take out each section out of the tray. Photo 3.JPGThe third photo  shows a hose line on the front bumper of a quint that is designed for minor fires and incidents. This rack also features the reverse horseshoe with the loop closer to the piping rather than the opposite side. The way in which a line is racked depends on the apparatus, the personnel, and constant training. Every firefighter may have a preference to how and when to use the line but it the responsibility of the leadership to provide adequate training and guidelines on the usage of the dedicated line.

Robert Policht and Michael Ferrara

Support Brothers Helping Brothers