Ladders for Life!


E-One 100' PlatformAfter the recent incredible ladder rescue in Houston, TX we decided to bring back a ladder training video we made last summer.  Whether you use aerial ladders, aerial platforms or ground ladders; raising ladders is a fundamental skill that all firefighters need to practice.  Just because you trained on how to properly raise a ladder during your basic training does not mean you are good at raising ladders.  This is a skill that needs to be practiced and rehearsed with your company.    


"You can stretch hose but you can't stretch ladders!"

During the rescue in Houston, TX many of you saw just how important ladder training can be.  The firefighters made it to the victim with no time to spare.  If the aerial had been positioned in a different location that rescue might have never happened.  The same is for ground ladders, if you do not get ground ladders off of the rig and in position they will not work!

Take a look at the video below and get with your crew to practice raising your ladders.  Make sure you discuss positioning, carrying, raising, extending, and tool considerations.  Ladders are very important pieces of equipment that all to often are left on the truck until we need them.

Boise Fire Close Call and After Action Review


This is an outstanding After Action Review from Boise, ID.  They have put together the incident videos and what they have learned from this incident.  This is great information to share with your crews.  Take the time to read and watch what happened.  Hats off to the Boise Fire Department for sharing this for all of us to learn. You can also download and print the After Action Review by clicking here.

***Boise Fire Department Close Call August 1, 2013***

Area and Department Information Boise, Idaho is the capital city of Idaho and is located in the Pacific Northwest in an area known as the “Treasure Valley”. Boise is bordered to the north by foothills at the base of the Rocky Mountains and, to the south, Boise extends into the Owyhee high region of the Great Basin desert. Population in the City is 212,303, with 606,376 in the metro area. The Boise Fire Department provides all hazard emergency service to Boise City and the Whitney and North Ada County Fire Protection districts. The department is divided into three battalions and operates 16 engine and three truck companies from 18 fire stations. On August 1st, Boise firefighters battled a 3-alarm 3-story residential structure fire and came within inches of suffering a tragic loss. Five members narrowly avoided being buried when a structural collapse occurred. The 6,200 square foot (Sq. Ft.), wood frame, 3-story home sat back on a corner lot. The residence was built in the late 1950’s and received approximately 4000 Sq. Ft. in additions throughout the years. The home was currently undergoing finish work and was not being lived in at the time of the fire. One of the captains assigned to the first alarm had seen photos of the interior on a real estate website two weeks prior to the fire.

The structure presented firefighters with a number of unique challenges. Generally, a residential structure of 6,200 sq. ft. would fall more in line with a 4 to 6 unit apartment or condominium building. However, when dealing with apartment occupancies, we find fire rated doors, walls, and compartmentalized interiors; all of which assist us in slowing fire spread. The Hill Rd. structure had an open floor plan that provided large common areas for fire to travel, unimpeded, throughout the structure. This is especially concerning when the fire is a wind aided event as experienced with this incident.

First alarm companies assigned to the incident were E9, E16, E2, T5 and BC2. For BFD, each additional alarm mirrors the first with the addition of a medical supervisor and ambulance on the 2nd alarm. Apparatus staffing for the Boise Fire Department is a minimum of three personnel on engine companies and a minimum of four personnel on a truck companies.

The Hill Rd. fire was dispatched at 2127 HRS. The evening weather was stormy, with high winds, relative humidity in the teens, and a temperature of 88 F. E16 and BC2 were just clearing a power line down call and were responding from the E. 48th St area. E9 was the first to arrive on scene and encountered wind from the northeast blowing smoke towards the street and obscuring the E9‘s captain’s view of the situation. The captain was able to see the reflection of fire off of a white vinyl fence that ran the length of the Delta side property line, which he believed indicated a fire on the Charlie/Delta corner of the home. During his walk around, the E9 captain noted that only the sunroom on the Charlie side was involved with fire. A full 360 degree size up was not performed, due to a locked gate along the Charlie side and reports from bystanders that the Delta exposure was catching on fire. The Charlie/Delta exposure, a neighboring house, was 20 feet away. The Bravo/Charlie exposure was within 15 feet (of?).

After providing a size up, the E9 captain ordered a direct attack on the Charlie side and communicated that they would be in a defensive mode, initially, with a mindset that they might be able to knock it down from the exterior and then transition to an offensive interior attack. He indicated that he was concerned about protecting the Charlie/Delta exposure. The E9 captain ordered his firefighter to pull a 1 3⁄4” pre-connect (185 GPM) to the Delta side to begin fire attack. He stated that, in hindsight, he wished he had initially ordered a 2 1⁄2” line.

E16 was the second engine to arrive on scene. The E16 captain stated that he was familiar with this house from pre-planning. He was aware that it was vacant and for sale and had been remodeled multiple times through the years, adding large un-compartmentalized spaces. He also noted the possibility of this being a wind driven event.

The E9 and E16 captains met face to face where E9 stated that he wanted E16 to get the garage door on the Delta side opened up in hopes that they could stop the fire at that location. The E16 captain initially ordered a second 1 3⁄4” pre-connect as a backup line (per E9 Captain) but then changed the order to a 2 1⁄2” line for greater knock down power with the rapidly spreading fire. From that point, the E-16 captain and driver became “task driven” in gaining access through the garage door. The E16 firefighter worked a 2 1⁄2 line that was flowing 250 GPM with a fog nozzle by himself. Ten minutes after the first fire unit arrived on location, the E9 captain radioed the IC an urgent message to tell him he saw evidence of an imminent collapse on the Charlie side. The IC immediately announced for all personnel to clear out of the collapse zone. Nine seconds after this transmission, a global collapse of the 2nd and 3rd floor occurred.

The E-9 captain advised that he reported the imminent collapse when he witnessed bare studs on the Charlie side cracking. Furthermore, he stated that he had never seen a similar collapse in his 25 years on the job. He expected an eventual collapse, but thought it would occur locally, not globally. Fortunately, he was in a position to observe collapse indicators and report them prior to when it occurred.  The E16 captain’s recognition of the exposed wall studs and second floor TGI trusses once the garage was opened up was noteworthy, but did not seem like a critical issue. Two weeks earlier, this house was for sale online with numerous photos of the interior, including the garage area. Once he noticed the exposed studs in the garage during the incident, he believed this was just a small area still yet to be sheet rocked from the recent renovation. Situational awareness is only as good as one’s perception accurately matching reality or, in this case, wishful thinking matching reality. What the E16 captain didn't know was that the structure had been vandalized two days prior. Someone had plugged drains, turned on the water, and flooded the home. A restoration company had just removed a lot of the sheetrock throughout the structure, to aid in the drying of the wood. This provided incredible flow paths for the wind driven event.

Working on the Delta side, the E16 captain said, “There were times when the wind appeared to stop.” In hindsight, he determined that it is likely the surrounding fences, trees, and houses blocked most of the eye level winds, giving him a false reading on how hard the wind was still blowing.

Below is the Dash Cam Footage from the Incident Commander:

BC2 and E16 arrived on location two minutes behind E9. BC2’s initial concern was in limiting the fire to just the structure involved due to the high winds estimated at 20-25 mph on his arrival. Winds along the base of the North Boise foothills extended several miles from NW to NE Boise. The thoroughfare is at the base of nearly continuous wildland urban interface development upslope to the north. Many of the homes in older developments still have wood shake roofs. The home involved was on the north side of Hill Rd. E9 transferred command to BC2, advising that they were “defensive for now". It was clear that this rapidly escalating incident would be a challenge, at best. In anticipation of additional units arriving to assist, the IC began assigning tactical level supervisors to assist with maintaining an appropriate span of control. When the second BC arrived (BC1), he was assigned as Fire Attack Group Supervisor and was given E9 andE16 to manage. A couple of minutes later, T5 and E42 were added to the Fire Attack Group. By this time, E9 had extinguished the Delta exposure and was attempting to make access to the Charlie side of the main fire building as fire had extended to the interior. E2 was sent around to the west side, where Hill Rd. turned to the north following the shape of the foothills. The E2 captain was assigned as Division Charlie Supervisor and was given E5 and T6. Division Charlie was assigned to protect the Charlie exposure and provide a size up of structural exposures, reporting any wildland issues to the IC.  The IC clearly noted when E9 made access to the interior from Charlie by the incredibly rapid fire spread from all three floors. The swirling downslope tailwind aided in this extreme fire behavior. This is clearly visible in the full dash cam video shot from the IC’s command vehicle on Alpha. E4, arriving on 2nd alarm, was directed to come to the incident command post (ICP) on the Alpha side. At the ICP, the IC told E4 he was going to make them RIT (Rapid Intervention Team), even though they were in defensive mode due to how fast things were escalating.

A little more than 15 minutes after the first call reporting the fire in the 911 center, E9 reported priority traffic and advised the IC of indications of an imminent collapse on the Charlie side. Seconds before this transmission, the IC is heard saying, “All units: we are defensive on the main fire.” The IC later advised that his reinforcement command of the defensive strategy was because of his discomfort in the structural stability. He could see that a firefighter operating a 2 1⁄2” line on the Alpha side was too close. Command’s view of crews operating on the Delta side was obscured by the row of large trees on the east side of the driveway. After receiving the imminent collapse traffic, the IC clearly announced for all units to back away from the structure and to back up out of the collapse zone. The collapse that followed was more extensive than anyone on scene had predicted. Judging from the reaction of firefighters in the Alpha/Delta area running towards the collapse, the IC feared that firefighters in the Fire Attack Group must have been caught in the collapse. The IC requested a second ambulance and tone alert for emergency traffic from the dispatch center. The IC began an emergency roll call, requested a 3rd alarm, and activated RIT (E4).

Third alarm companies, E6, E10, E1, T7, BC3, were directed to Cynthia Mann Elementary down the street for staging. While staging was being managed by E6, command was notified by dispatch that there was a roof on fire downwind to the south. With a complete roll call and just minor injuries at the Hill Rd. fire, 3rd alarm companies, led by BC3, were directed to the roof fire on a separate radio channel. After receiving a complete roll call, the second ambulance was cancelled and crews were positioned to operate 2 1⁄2” lines to keep the embers down. Eventually, the winds died down and companies were released. The IC scheduled a rotation to ensure at least one crew remain on scene throughout the night to put out hot spots. Brush 1 was staffed and assigned to patrol a several block perimeter for fire brands(?) and hot spots due to the intermittent gusting winds.  After Action Review One of the concerns facing firefighters was a situation experienced five years earlier on a significant incident. An incident, known as the “Oregon Trail Fire”, occurred in Boise on August 25, 2008 at 1900 hrs. This was a wildland urban interface fire that was fueled by high winds, low relative humidity and high temperatures. Sixteen homes were destroyed or significantly damaged and seven others received minor damage. Of the 23 total structures damaged, eight were a result of flying embers and not direct flame impingement. Aggressive defensive tactics on the Hill Rd. incident would prove important, as two other structures’ roofs caught fire during suppression efforts.

Close Call Both E9 and E16’s hoselines were found beneath the collapsed structure. BC2 stated that he expected collapse at some point, but did not expect it to occur so quickly or so globally. Crews operating on the Delta side were unaware of the advanced fire conditions in the rest of the structure, believing that the fire was isolated to where they were making their attack. Crews operating on the Delta side were also unaware of a master stream being placed into operation. From the IC’s location (dash cam), he did not realize crews on Delta were operating so near the structure when he gave the okay for the E9 driver to flow it. In hindsight, the IC indicated that he should have requested a tone alert and announced to all crews operating on the fireground that a master stream would be going into operation. Three firefighters were injured (back, head, ribs) during the collapse, but none were transported to the hospital.

Staffing Most captains operating on the Delta side indicated that they were too hands-on, which limited their ability to step back, view the big picture, and maintain accurate situational awareness. The ability to accomplish numerous tasks at any rapidly evolving incident is hampered with only 3-person engine staffing. Captains are not able to issue orders and observe visual and audio cues on the fireground when they are required to be so hands-on to accomplish an assignment.

Review of Emergency Traffic and Roll Call Shortly before the collapse, the E9 captain transmitted emergency traffic regarding collapse. This transmission did not go through, as he was walked on by another transmission. E9 Captain retransmitted his message a second time using the term “priority traffic”. The IC ordered crews out of the collapse zone just prior to collapse. Emergency Traffic would have been appropriate, according to BFD SOP.

The IC requested tone alert for Emergency Traffic from Dispatch. Only a single beep of the tone alert came across the radio, resulting in Division Charlie companies missing the announcement of an emergency roll call. This resulted in Division Charlie interrupting the roll call to report the collapse. The roll call was initiated and completed in two minutes and 40 seconds. At the time of collapse, the IC had not completed his tracking sheet and had to perform much of the roll call from memory.  Apparatus Placement The E9 captain indicated that he had considered pulling around to the Bravo side of the structure on E. Hill Rd., but opted to spot the apparatus on the Alpha side in order to position at a hydrant located in the front yard of the residence. E9 intended to have the second in engine (E16) spot on the Bravo side in order to stretch lines to the Charlie side. The E9 Captain didn’t realize that, due to the powerline down call, E16 was responding in from the east rather than from their quarters to the west. E16 ended up parking on the E. Hill Rd. side (Alpha), behind E9.

E2 was then assigned to spot on the Bravo side. Upon arrival, T5 spotted on the Alpha/Delta corner of the property. The T5 captain indicated that his apparatus placement was a deliberate decision to have his apparatus in an optimal position for aerial operations, if needed.

As units from the second alarm arrived, E. Hill Rd. became congested as apparatus were not placed to allow access for additional vehicles. East of the property on Hill Rd. was completely blocked. This could have been disastrous, had firefighters been critically injured with ambulances needing access for transport to the trauma center. This also made response to the exposure fire at 5195 Holly Hill Drive difficult, particularly for BC3.

Lessons Learned “Know what your fire is doing at all times.” This rule is adhered to on wildland fires to ensure that changing weather or fire conditions don’t catch firefighters by surprise. This is not always possible in the structural environment, particularly when we are making an interior attack and our senses are limited. However, on defensive or exterior operations, fire officers should slow down and assess conditions frequently. On smaller house fires, individual officers can scout and size up what they are dealing with. Larger structures, like the Hill Rd. home and many commercial buildings, make it difficult to scout and size up the fire behavior. In these instances, it might be necessary to have division officers, BCs or safety officers operating on specific sides of a structure to provide situational awareness for the IC and operating companies.

Items for Discussion Can you have an aggressive defensive position on a structure? Can you operate in the collapse zone on a defensive fire? If so, how can you help mitigate the risk?

Final Thoughts • A 360 degree size up is critical for situational awareness. • Defensive operations should be conducted with consideration to collapse zones, exposure protection, and firefighter safety. • Defensive operations require a different operational tempo than that of an offensive mode fire. We can still be aggressive but proceed with extra consideration being paid toward situational awareness. • Company officers must remain as hands-off as possible to maintain a view of the big picture on defensive operations. • Exposed structural members will lead to rapid fire growth and early building collapse. • Discipline and composure must be maintained at all times as demonstrated on the fireground around the time of the collapse. • Review performance measures with dispatch regarding tone alert, emergency traffic, and mayday protocols to ensure proper fireground communications. • Develop training focused on operational tempo, mindset, and situational awareness. • BC2 commented on the difficulty getting a grasp on the incident with excessive radio traffic of first alarm companies reporting on location, making assignments, waiting for responses, etc. BC2 suggested pre-assignments for typical residential structure fires may have been beneficial at this incident. • A Battalion Chief’s Aide would have been very helpful during this incident.

5120 Hill Rd. Incident Timeline /212751 Dispatch notified of fire at 5120 W Hill Rd. /213309 E9 arrives on scene, gives initial report, establishes Hill Command, and calls for a second alarm /213318 Second alarm dispatched E5 E42 E4 BC1 M26 EMS20 BGA /213514 BC2 on scene /213639 E9 reports a significant exposure on Charlie side and requests next in engine to respond in on Castle and position on north side of structure and protect Charlie exposure /213703 E16 on scene /213741 E5 on scene /213755 T5 on scene /213850 E2 assigned as Charlie DIV SUP /213856 E5 assigned to Charlie DIV /213933 T5 assigned to Fire Attack GRP /214040 E42 on scene /214058 T6 on scene /214131 E42 assigned to Fire Attack GRP /214204 T6 assigned to Division Charlie /214312 Command announces over radio that we are in defensive mode on the main fire /214315 E9 reports imminent collapse /214326 Command announces imminent collapse and orders all crews to back out of collapse zone /214340 Delta side of structure collapses /214401 Command requests tone alert from Dispatch, requests a 3rd alarm, and orders a role /214421 Third alarm dispatched (E6 E10 E1 T7 BC3 M23) /214452 Fire Attack Group Supervisor reports that T6, T5, E16, and E9 are all accounted for /214506 Command requests roll call from Charlie Division /214555 Division Charlie Supervisor reports that E2 & E5 are accounted for /214605 E9 driver accounted for /214616 E42 accounted for /214624 E42 accounted for /215119 E6 on scene /220009 Dispatch reports that residence at 5195 Holly Hill Drive is on fire /220046 3rd alarm units assigned to fire on Holly Hill Drive /002623 E4 on scene /004426 Command transferred from BC2 to E9 /004431 BC2 in service /004511 BC1 in service /004628 E16 in service /004904 142 in service /020728 E2 in service /064021 BR1 in service /095714 E3 in service /131030 E9 in service /131030 CLOSE

Helmet Cam Highlight Reel from Box Alarm Training


We have compiled some Helmet Cam footage and made a highlight reel for you to check out.  Don't forget to look at our other videos and feel free to share them. Helmet Camera Footage from Matt Hinkle and Taylor Marks. Music by: Fallout Boy, "Light em up"

Camera used is the Fire Cam Mini HD. You can purchase one of these cameras at:

Calling the MAYDAY! Are we doing it correctly?


Are we calling the MAYDAY correctly?

Most firefighters have been trained to use a MAYDAY procedure of some type.  Most of these procedures involve knowing the steps necessary to transmit a message via radio.  Calling the MAYDAY has been related to a fighter pilot’s parameters for ejecting from his aircraft.  Firefighters are put into positions that are inherently dangerous.  We train to perform under these conditions and we must also train for when things go wrong.  We have seen many different acronyms and MAYDAY procedures throughout the years but most still rely on a set list of information you are supposed to report when you need help. In general we rely on the firefighter with the emergency to report this message and to give us the information we need.  The question is should we put the responsibility of providing all of the information on the firefighter with the emergency?  Let’s evaluate our process first and then address the question.

When do we call a MAYDAY?

Firefighters must know when to call a MAYDAY before they can learn the procedures that follow.  Most of our training focuses on how to call the MAYDAY rather than when to call the MAYDAY.  It has been proven time and time again that firefighters are not calling MAYDAYs early enough.  We must engrain into firefighters when it is absolutely essential to make the call.  Certain parameters have been noted such as:


Anytime you experience a fall you should initiate a MAYDAY.


Anytime you experience a collapse you should initiate a MAYDAY.


Any situation which leads to you activating your PASS, whether it is distress or low air, you should initiate a MAYDAY. (Call via radio prior to activating PASS)


Anytime you are entangled you should initiate a MAYDAY.


Anytime you are disoriented, separated or lost you should initiate a MAYDAY.


Anytime you become trapped you should initiate a MAYDAY.

The common discussion that arises from the above is that we often experience very minor falls, collapses (sheet rock), etc.  Should we initiate a MAYDAY every time that happens?  This is why many departments have implemented a 30 second rule.  If you can correct your problem within 30 seconds then you do not have to call the MAYDAY.  This is a legitimate guideline for most departments.

How the traditional MAYDAY procedure is performed.

One of the most common methods of calling for a MAYDAY is the acronym L.U.N.A.R.  This acronym follows the format below:

L - Location

The firefighter needs to give his or her location.

U - Unit Number

The firefighter should identify him or herself by their radio designation or company.

N - Name

The firefighter should include his or her name in their radio transmission.

A - Assignment / Air

Depending on the department you will see the “A” listed as your assignment, your remaining air or both.

R - Resources Needed.

The firefighter will request what he or she needs.

What is an alternative method?

The most important thing a firefighter can do when faced with this situation is to call for help.  If a firefighter does not initiate a MAYDAY he or she will not receive any help.  I first heard an alternative method from Chief John Salka.  His theory is fairly accurate.  Shouldn’t the firefighter just tell us Who, What and Where?  If the firefighter gives us that information then the officer outside the structure, who is in a much less stressful position, can ask the appropriate questions to get more information.


We need to ensure that we not only train firefighters on MAYDAY parameters and procedures but that we also have a plan put in place to help a firefighter should this situation arise.  It really doesn’t matter how good you are at calling MAYDAYs if your department doesn’t have a plan in place to help you.  This requires you to train, discuss, communicate and address the issues you might have with calling the MAYDAY.


Electrical Hazards


As firefighters we respond to many incidents where down power lines become an issue.  This video is a reminder that power lines can energize fences, structural components, water, etc.  Always use caution around these lines and evaluate your incidents constantly.  At this recent mobile home fire; firefighters were performing an attack when the service line at the rear of the structure fell and began arcing against the mobile home.  This could have caused the entire metal framed mobile home to become energized.  All firefighters were notified on radio and face to face to ensure they were aware of the hazard.  This was already a defensive fire so it was decided to back away from the structure until the power company could safely disconnect the line.

Firefighter Positional Assignments


Many fire departments all over the country utilize riding assignments in order to pre-assign a firefighter’s roles and responsibilities.  I have heard of many arguments for and against riding assignments.  I encourage you to thoroughly research the different methods that are being used and find a method that works best for your department.  In this article we will break down assignments into three common types.  We will then review the advantages and disadvantages of these methods. Reservoir Fire Department

In order to grasp an understanding of why departments use assignments let’s use an analogy to get started.  Every time we respond to a working fire we are essentially running a play just like a football team.  We can compare running offense and defense to the roles of the engine and truck companies.  Even if you do not have an official “truck company” you still have to play defense or you will lose the game.  If you took the best football players in the country and assembled them on a team with no playbook they would not be very effective.  They may be a very talented group and make things work, but giving them specific roles and responsibilities will enable them to perform much more efficiently.

Sandlot Football

The first, and most inefficient method of making assignments would be to assign the roles and responsibilities when you arrive on scene.  Just like a quarterback would draw routes in the dirt before running a play in a sandlot football game.  This is without a doubt the most inefficient method of assigning tasks.  However, many departments are bound to a version of this method due to a lack of staffing or fluctuation in response.  This is typically where volunteer fire departments are at a major disadvantage.  Many volunteer departments never know how many firefighters will respond or what equipment will arrive at a given time.  To combat this problem volunteer firefighters can do a few things to ease the confusion.  If riding in an apparatus firefighters can predetermine roles and responsibilities based on riding position or can rapidly discuss the positions prior to arrival.  If you allow P.O.V. response to fire scenes, then assigning functions on the fire-ground instead of specific tasks will make the assignment process much more efficient.  For example: assign firefighters to perform horizontal ventilation instead of telling them to go grab specific tools and which window to break.

Offense and Defense

The second method of positional assignments would be to assign each arriving company a role and responsibility.  This is basically like understanding that you will be playing offense or defense but you still do not know exactly what position you are playing.  This is largely because you lack the staffing to fill every position on the team so you might have to play running back and wide receiver.  In this method departments typically make assignments based on the order you arrive on scene.  The first arriving engine is generally Fire Attack, the second engine is typically Water Supply and the third is a Support Role.  This is a great way to have the advantage of predetermined roles for departments that are small and lack the staffing to assign detailed tasks to each firefighter.  For instance, if the department does not operate an aerial or dedicated truck company you can still assign the truck company functions to the third or fourth due engine.

Teammate Positions

The last and most efficient method of creating positional assignments is by assigning riding positions.  Now you not only know if you are playing offense or defense, but you also know exactly what your position is and what your role will be when the center snaps the ball.  This is typically used in larger urban departments such as the FDNY.  The more firefighters you have the more detailed your assignments can be.  The FDNY will give you a role, responsibility and even a tool assignment for each riding position.  While this helps fulfill the essential fire-ground functions it is very difficult for most departments to take riding assignments to the level of the FDNY.  Most departments will have to meet somewhere in the middle.  This is just simple math, when an engine is staffed with five firefighters they are able to perform more efficiently because each firefighter has a more focused responsibility.  If you are a textbook junkie you might know this as the division of labor.  Using riding assignments will reduce the duplication of effort on scene and will offer an enormous advantage to departments capable of assigning riding positions.

E-One 100' Platform

One of the most direct counter arguments to making predetermined assignments is that every fire is different so if we make predetermined assignments it will limit the abilities of the firefighters to adjust and adapt.  If you are using this logic then essentially you are saying that a football team should go to a game without a playbook or without knowing who should play what position.  Football coaches do not throw out their game plan because the defense they face this week is different from what they are used to.  When football players know their responsibilities they are able to audible to another play when the need arises.  Firefighters should be capable of doing the exact same thing.  If you know your role is ventilation and the fire requires a vertical vent, you do it.  If the fire requires PPV, then you audible and perform PPV.  The worst case scenario is that the fire did need a vertical vent but no one was assigned the responsibility of performing ventilation.  It is also said that every fire we respond to is different.  While this is true; what we do at every fire is typically very similar.  You do not have to over complicate things.  It doesn’t matter if you are fighting a single story residential fire or a multi-story high-rise, you will have to perform the same functions.  The only difference is that it typically takes more personnel, equipment and resources to perform those functions.  Let’s take a look at the common essential functions.

Fire Attack

This is typically the assignment of the first arriving company.  The faster and more efficiently we put water on the fire the better it gets for everyone.

Water Supply

Water supply is typically assigned to the second due company.  This may require the company to perform a forward lay to supply an engine with water, connect to an FDC or standpipe system, or perform a relay operation.

Search and Rescue

This assignment is usually given to a truck company but can easily be assigned based on your arrival on scene.  Crews might perform forcible entry, throw ladders, or perform searches in order to rescue victims.


Ventilation is typically assigned to a truck company also but can be performed by any engine company with the necessary equipment.

We can elaborate tremendously on the above essential functions and can argue that many more essential functions could be added but with using the K.I.S.S. method those are the functions that need to be filled.  If we had one Incident Commander, one Driver/Operator and eight firefighters we should be able to fill each of those functions.  As the incident becomes larger and more in depth then it will require more resources to perform the same functions.  Take the time to evaluate your department’s game plan and discuss how your assignments could help you perform on the fire-ground.

We have also provided you with a short video on Positional Assignments.

What is your Game Plan?


Firefighters preparing to enter a house fire. What is your Game Plan?  The scenario is posted below and comment in the comment box beneath the post.

You are the officer of the first due engine dispatched to a residential structure fire at 1300 hours.  The initial response is 3 Engines, 1 Ladder and 1 Battalion; each of the Engines are staffed with 3 and the ladder is staffed with 4.  Your second due engine is 5 minutes out.  Each engine carries 1000 gallons of water and has a 1500 GPM pump.  The hydrant is 500 feet away and will deliver 1000 GPM.  Here are the specific questions to answer in the comment section below:

#1) Will you lay in your own supply or does your department typically utilize the second due for this?

#2) What size/length attack line(s) will you stretch?

#3) What type of ventilation will you use, who will perform this function and when?

#4) Will you perform a Primary Search and if so who will perform this function?

#5) Do you see anything interesting about the construction of this structure?

Feel free to elaborate on the way you would attack this fire and any department SOP/SOGs that determine your tactics.

Pre-Entry Checklist with Helmet Cam Video


Prior to making entry into any structure fire you need to have a quick checklist to complete.  This needs to be routine and automatic with the process feeling second nature and never skipping a step.  Performing this checklist before every entry, even those that seem mundane or "routine", will help eliminate mistakes that could get you injured or killed.  Although there are many steps to perform before deciding to make entry and what tactical objectives you have we are focusing on the moment just before you enter the door.  We use the simple steps of DOOR, WATER and AIR.  Take a look at the video below and let us know what you think in the comment section.  You will also find this video located in our "Videos" section of the website.

Nozzle Reaction can own you....


How often do you flow water or practice hose handling and nozzle operations?  Nozzle Reaction is very real but controllable with the right techniques. If you do not know Aaron Fields and his work you should look into it.  He has a great quote, "You cannot fight fire and fire hose at the same time".

The Extended Attack


Why use an Extended Attack?

We use the extended attack as a method of simply extending your traditional pre-connect.  There are many situations which require you to use an attack line longer than what you typically lay in a pre-connected line.  This tactic has taken on many names and is used all over the country.  Although they are all similar in concept each department tends to put their own spin on it.  Here are a few common scenarios where the extended attack tactic can be very beneficial:

Garden Style Apartments - There are many apartment complexes without FDC’s, standpipes or sprinkler systems.  When we encounter a fire in one of these units we must stretch our lines to attack the fire.  In this case an extended attack will be hand stretched to the unit on fire, traditionally called the “Courtyard Stretch”.

Narrow Driveways / Reduced Accessibility - When we encounter houses with narrow driveways or located on steep hills this may require us to position the apparatus much further away than we would typically position ourselves.  This is especially true in rural communities where a water shuttle would be greatly hindered if the first in apparatus took the narrow driveway without performing a split lay.  Stretching the extending attack will allow the primary pumper to be positioned in a much more accessible location.

Hydrant Nearby / Backup Delayed - Detroit Fire Department has mastered this tactic.  When arriving on scene and you know there is a hydrant nearby you can perform the extended attack in reverse, or laying out your line instead of stretching the line.  The first in pumper can stop at the structure on fire, firefighters will drop the bundle or pre-connected extended attack and then the driver will drive to the hydrant or water source.  This is simply a reverse lay with an attack line.  This tactic can be very beneficial for several reasons.  It will allow one pumper to provide the attack and the water supply.  It will also leave the front of the structure open for truck companies or additional companies.  Also, if you know your backup will be delayed you will not risk running out of water if you choose to make an aggressive attack.

Should we pre-connect the extended attack or not?

This question should be answered with input from your department members.  You may even choose to carry both a pre-connected extended attack and a separate bundle or high-rise pack.  Having your extended attack pre-connected has obvious advantages, speed of deployment being the primary most notable.  However, having the bundle separate will also enable you to have some versatility that you would not have if the line was pre-connected.  You could perform an upper floor attack from a balcony or stairwell without having to lay line up the stairs.  You could either send the female of the bundle down, or in cases where hose is limited, bring your bundle’s supply line up (usually with a rope).

Stretching the Attack

The “Courtyard Stretch”, “Skid Load” and “Wyed Lines” are all versions of stretching an extended attack.  The purpose is to extend the reach of your typical pre-connect in situations it normally wouldn’t reach.  In this tactic we hand stretch the line to the location of the fire.

Reverse Laying the Attack

This tactic has been made famous by the Detroit Fire Department.  The first in pumper will stop at the structure on fire, firefighters will drop their attack lines at the structure and reverse lay the supplying line to a hydrant.  This will keep the engine self-contained, meaning they will catch their own supply and also feed the attack line(s).

The 100’ Hose Bundle

100' Hose Bundle

For an additional video of the 100’ Hose bundle go to our website or our YouTube channel.  We have made another video to show you how to load the bundle and deploy the bundle.  Here are a few uses for the bundle:

Use in the Extended Attack

High-Rise or Hotel Pack Operations

Extending an already operational pre-connect

Repairing a failed line already in operation

The length of your bundle will be completely determined by your local response area and how you intend on using the tactic.  A 100’ bundle is very manageable for most firefighters and is much easier to carry upstairs if you will use the bundle as your high-rise pack or hotel pack.  However, a 100’ line will disappear quickly when you start stretching it into a structure.  Remember 50’ is recommended at the door to an apartment unit and around 100-150’ should be at the door to a residence.

Break the Glass They said, It will work They said...


Breaking the glass on a commercial door is not always an option. Remember there are many huge disadvantages to breaking the glass out of a commercial storefront door.  You will also run into doors like the one above; this door has additional security measures attached to the door.  Gapping a commercial aluminum door can be challenging, especially if it has a deep set mortise lock.  One option is to start at the bottom and gap as much as possible to use a rescue saw.  You can cut the bolt but it will take a little while considering the hardened steel.  Another option is go through-the-lock.  Through-the-lock methods are often not understood or practiced due to a lack of training and understanding.  An educated firefighter can generally perform a through-the-lock method faster than a conventional forcible entry method on these doors.  If you are still one to say "Just Break the Glass", then consider the other implications.  Not all doors that look like this have glass in them, some are lexan.  Many doors have either interior or exterior bars that will hinder your entry even if you do break the glass.  Finally, if you decide to take the glass you have just removed your shield of protection should the fire take a turn for the worst.  A wide open entry with no ability to shut the door can cause ventilation problems among other things.  If you were to break the glass on an interior entry, then you have dramatically effected your ability to create a barrier to hold back the fire's progress.

Carabiner Quick Tip


IMG_0697 A friend of mine taught me this tip a long time ago and I have used it ever since.  Many people who work around rope on a regular basis will mark their equipment with color coded tape.  This helps you identify who the gear belongs to.  Also, if you tape a carabiner you can tape the spine toward the gate opening end.  This way when you reach to grab a carabiner with one hand you will know which way the gate opens.  This is extremely helpful on symmetrically shaped carabiners since it is hard to tell sometimes.  The above Carabiner is a pear shape and you can tell that the tape mark indicates the gate opens directly across from the tape.