“The fire service’s weekly safety column”
By: Ray McCormack
Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.
Raising the Bar above the Ground Floor
Raising the bar to improve and go beyond expectations in search of excellence is admired in athletics, science and firefighting. How high is the fire service bar when it comes to hoseline operations? For many, the bar is sedentary and easily forgotten. When engine companies stretch dry to the second floor of a private dwelling, because advancing a charged line would be too difficult, do we nod in agreement? Or do we ask that the bar be raised to fight against such apathy?
The role of the engine company on the fireground is to raise the safety level for all those involved. When an engine company does not command a charged hoseline, or does not cover areas of extension or egress, it is not fulfilling its secondary role. The primary role of the engine company is to protect life with direct intervention. If no visible life is endangered by a flame front, then the engine transitions to its secondary role of: life protection through “egress-ownership.” Once the travel and rescue route is claimed, suppression can begin. The tertiary role of the engine company is undoubtedly fire extinguishment.
The majority of times, the best laid lines cover the last two roles. We must not only know the mechanics of stretching, we must also understand the ‘why’ behind it. Why place a line in a particular spot? Which one of the three bases are we trying to cover? You must know what will work in your area and devise plans accordingly. You must understand that setting the bar high is not an encumbrance to success, rather, it is a benchmark of professionalism.
Anyone can open the bale of a nozzle; that is not difficult; what is difficult is getting the nozzle close to the point of application by using the correct pathway. The hardest fights often present themselves before we see any fire. It is the hot and dark journey that is the true test, not necessarily a room of fire.
When an engine stretches a dry line inside a home, it is taking a risk that the fire will not only behave for them, but also will allow them time to prepare. This as we know, is not a good bet. The role of the engine is to have water at all times while inside a house, so that if an error or an omission comes to light, it can be dealt with swiftly. Some get confused as to when to charge the hoseline. The building makes your decision for you. Those that have fire rated public areas and homes which do not afford the same level of security are dealt with differently.
To think that an engine company would consider the task of stretching a charged line to the second floor of a private home difficult is not something to be shared. If we allow a level of “stretching mediocrity” to reach the second floor, then perhaps it is time to raise the bar so that everyone is better protected; and tactical safety is maintained above the ground floor.
Next Tactical Safety – Glimmers of Training