Battalion Notes – The Act

Erich Roden

The Battalion Chief (BC) position, or whatever your rank department designates it, is one of front-line, administrative authority and management of field operations. This includes not only the fireground and scenes of emergencies, but inside the actual firehouses under your charge in a respective, geographical Battalion, too. The administrative stuff and firefighting operations are the easy part of your day, as we have all of the rules, regulations, standard operating guidelines, policy and procedures, ordinances, and union contracts we need to guide us through the day. What’s difficult is how you develop your own voice and personal act to manage all of the above that makes you genuine and competent. 

A sage, experienced chief officer gave me some sound advice when I got promoted to BC: he said, “It’ll take you an entire year to feel comfortable in this position.” I originally dismissed this as hyperbolic management advice that he had to give everyone, but he was absolutely right. Although you’ve spent some time as a company officer, you soon realize that you can’t forget where you came from, but you aren’t there, anymore. Here’s another way to put it: when you’re a firefighter, all of it’s funny; a company officer, half of it’s funny; and a chief…none of it is funny. The fire department is a complex system to begin with, but the BC position is the one that becomes the gatekeeper between line and management. It’s acceptable to integrate into the firehouse communities within your battalion, but no matter what you think, they all want you to be a chief when it’s time to do chief stuff; to take things seriously and with a sense of urgency and importance when approached. Conversely, your bosses expect you to implement policy and procedure without being a contrarian, manage personnel issues with an administrative lens and make sure everything goes according to plan. Simple?

Think back to the last fire that went bad, the personnel misfortune in a firehouse that occurred while you were clocked-in and or rumor that is polarizing every kitchen table with something the Battalion said during rounds. What is the first question the troops will ask? Yep, “who was the chief working, that day?” Every scenario above always begins with a top-down analysis of responsibility. How the inferences and analysis will go depends on what they think of you as a chief. This is subjective, but also where group-think rears its ugly head in terms of context and perspective; however, if the troops consider you a competent and serious chief officer, then you’ll be in good hands as they work through the issue at the table and include rational thoughts about how things went wrong. If they think otherwise, then you’ll take the blame and we all know that blame is a powerful motivator to throw shade at the department – under your name and watch. Regardless, you have little control over your reputation at any rank. Sorry, but it’s true. All you have control over is how you are as a manager and person – and how you react to being called-out on your reputation or quirks. Your act will always precede you, and not everyone will buy it, even though it may have few or inconsequential flaws. This is because everyone has their own expectations and ideology of what makes a (good chief). This isn’t a bad thing. If we were all the same, we’d always have the same problems and solutions to everything and that isn’t what progress is made of. 

So what makes a good chief? Think about the chiefs you looked up to since your first day in the firehouse: were they all the same type of person? Have the same level of competency? Have the same ethos? Expectations? Demands? The answer is rhetorical because it’s a sound, “No.” Moreover, you can always name more than a few chiefs that everyone loved, and you’ll realize after thinking about it that they were different in many aspects. So why is there consensus on likability with these chiefs and not with others, even though they were sometimes markedly different? The answer is simple: they were consistent with their own act. You may not have appreciated everything about them, but you knew they were good chiefs because they were genuine in how they ran the shop. They may not have won at every kitchen table or fireground, but they gave it their all at both. Being genuine means that you find the place your voice (persona) fits between what management wants you to be vs. what the troops hope you will be. I don’t care what anyone thinks, you can’t fake-it-till-you-make-it. Everyone can see through your act and that’s why you need to give a solid year to figure out which one you’re going to stick with. That doesn’t mean you can’t change, I certainly have in a few areas of my own, but it’s the one you’ll feel comfortable portraying because you feel genuine, too.

I won’t get into a ton of different types of chief personas, as there are many, but there are always the ones you thought were the chiefs that you were going to be like, if given the opportunity. How do you pick one? Start with those chiefs mentioned above that you wanted to be like as a firefighter: What worked for them? How did they interact with the troops? What did they do when they saw something that they didn’t like? What particularities did they expect at fires? Who were mine? I’ll give you one that immediately comes to mind anytime someone asks who my ‘BC Crush’ was as firefighter and company officer:

Battalion Chief Leo Harper 

Chief Harper was what you’d call a “Black Socks” chief. His peeve was uniform and appearance. Chief Harper was known as the most squared-away guy back in the day and was black and white with rules, regs, standard operating procedures…everything – an old-school chief. He treated everyone the same, and was also know as the fairest of them all, but I always felt like he treated me a little better. I was lucky to work with him when I got a good truck in his battalion after a few years on the job. He and I also connected on a personal and professional level because he was always the one I wanted (hoped) to have the final say on things, in life and the job. Whether it was a polarizing memo, policy, or issue, his stance was always the one that was or seemed right for everyone involved, even the antagonist. That’s harder to figure out than you think, but he mastered it after a thousand years on the job. He garnered so much respect, that when the announcement came over the house PA that the Battalion was in quarters, everyone quickly tucked in their shirts, put black socks on, took of their ‘illegal’ hats and always walked by a mirror before heading into the kitchen – even those who were detailed in for the day. He was great at fires; didn’t mind the “Suggestion Box” at the Command Post when bosses begged for an assignment (more on managing this in another installment); always took care of the troops and never minded taking one in the shorts for someone in his Battalion, as long as they looked presentable…

Chief Harper is now long retired, but he stays active with the honor guard and has come to every one of my promotions. He still gives sage advice to this day and I recently got to chide him about his particular peeve with guys’ appearance in the old days while we were at a department event. He said, “look, a guy out of uniform isn’t disrespecting me, he’s disrespecting his officer. That’s why I always gave tickles for appearance.” Read that a few times and tell that me that he’s wrong. Yes, he’s of course right. Chief Harper is one of several that I fall back on when analyzing a situation or culture of a firehouse. Take some time to reflect on the ones that make you, too, and work on incorporating their attributes into your own persona in a way that makes it a sincere part of your voice and act. You’ll get a few shots at figuring it out over the course of your first year or so, so don’t rush it. Don’t be afraid to ask your confidants if you appear to be over-doing it, or worse, not being genuine or the company man that turns everyone off. You’ll notice it right away when you’re believed by the troops, by how they respond to you, ask you for help or refer to you when things go good or bad. 

Good luck.

Plan for Your Recovery

Ray McCormack

At standpipe operations, short stretches can occur. They often occur from an incomplete distance estimate, elongated travel route, or a misjudgment of necessary nozzle reach. If you find yourself at a place that doesn’t provide extinguishment of the fire, and there is no hose left to advance, then you’ve stretched short. 

Stretching short is dangerous because the fire is still active and we can’t do anything about it; The fire attack has now devolved into a holding operation at best. So we need to extend our hoseline quickly to recover and extinguishment the fire. 

There are two locations to add additional hose to your hoseline. At the outlet or at the nozzle. Adding hose at the outlet will require the hoseline to be shut down at the outlet. Additional hose is usually added into the stretch at the outlet location on the floor below. This location typically provides a clean environment for making the necessary connections. The down side is that now we have to advance all of the lengths forward and into position to hit the fire. Crews will be working hard against hose water weight over long distances and up from the floor below. 

Another option is to add an additional length of hose with a nozzle attached at the original nozzle location. Once the extra length is attached, it is often the only piece of hose you need to advance. This makes the recovery stretch easier. The downside to this is that adding additional hose will take place on the fire floor. Poor visibility is common and a physical barrier to keep the fire away needs to be provided. You must shut off the original nozzle and spin off the nozzle’s tip to add a length of hose to it. If the female hose coupling is larger than the shut off threads, an Increaser is needed. Flake out the new length and charge it; Add a hose strap to the bale of the original nozzle and tie it off so it can’t close. The new length has to have its own nozzle. 

If the new length you’re adding doesn’t have a nozzle attached to the line, you must shut down the hoseline at the standpipe outlet. The nozzle is removed and the additional length is added to the original line. The original nozzle is then placed on the new length. Do you need to supply additional pressure for the extended hoseline? If the friction loss for your additional length isn’t high, it’s probably not necessary. Remember, we are trying to fix a distance issue. Now advance again and put the fire out already.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Battalion Notes

Battalion Notes will be a continuing series that discusses the important issues and fires going on in your Battalion. If you aren’t aware, chiefs do talk between tours, so there are a lot of things to exchange between them as the other takes the throne for the day. Although we usually discuss and consider these things to be boilerplate personnel and staffing issues, or a fire or two that you went to, it can be much more complicated than that. The fire department is a complex system to begin with, anyway, and for the context of this series, things will center on what you can expect (or not) to encounter at the firehouse or on the fireground in more detail, and with empiricism from our chief officer contributors. We’ll explain and discuss the things that myself and others have encountered over the years, faux pas, misfortunes and wins, and what should be expected when a chief officer shows up to work. These posts’ conversations have the ability to continue in the Comments link at the bottom, so please join in and leave some things in there that you would like us to write about in the future. I’ll be getting other nice chiefs to write, as well, and your thoughts are just as important as ours.

Let’s get this going, then:

Calmness is Contagious

Erich Roden

This is good topic to start with, as it is one of the best pieces of advice that a revered, senior Battalion Chief (BC) gave me when I was promoted to BC. We all know who the ‘Screamers’ are on the fireground and they come in all ranks and sizes; however, the worst offenders are usually chiefs. Although these are the extreme examples of communication breakdowns and ensuing chaos on the fireground, other examples are more benign (anxious and excited transmissions, et al), but can lead to the same disorder just by how they impact your psyche. Posit: You’re responding as the first arriving chief officer to a private dwelling fire and the dispatcher transmits a “we’re getting numerous calls on this” message. I don’t care how many fires that you may have gone to, your body has just released even more adrenaline and cortisol to manage the increase in stress. This leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure and just plain old energy itself and can reduce your ability to critically think and review the plan for the type of building that you’re going to. How do you manage this? Easy. Breathe deeply (Zen-like) and tell yourself that you got this. I’m serious. It is well-known that simple breathing is perhaps the greatest response to increase in stress. So take that deep breath and consider:

You have been a company officer, you have pulled up to lots of fire and people running towards you; you have experienced the two-minutes of terror of knowing that you’re it until more help arrives; that your rig will have a couple of hoselines coming off of it, soon, and that you need water – now. Conversely, you know that your truck company is in front of the building and is staying there until you take up, and that you have to get the engine company in the building, sort out who is where inside with help from the screaming occupants outside – and how you’re going to get to them. You have probably done all of the above before you made chief, but now you’re the one ultimately responsible to make sure this all goes according to plan when you arrive by organizing it all, quickly. So start there with the fact that it may be like that again when you get there and that you got your stuff together then, so it’s time to do it again – light some incense if you have to…

Now, what happens next is what can unravel all the above, and set a horrible tone (pun intended) for the rest of the incident. If the first due engine or truck officer makes an excited, rapid and anxious transmission – that the dispatcher was actually right that there’s going to be lots of fire for everyone – then it’s your job to bring the incident back down to a standard operating guidelines level. Make a calm transmission that you received the message and take another breath as you pull up – maybe focus on getting your PPE on for a split second more to reboot, then take another look at what you’re in for by looking at the building(s) again.

I’ll use a great perspective made famous by the late Andrew Fredericks, who made the seminal statement about excited people on the fireground, that “a garbage man doesn’t get excited when he turns the corner and sees garbage.” Andy was always right about things and the same holds true for us as responding firefighters. If you have buildings in your area, then they could have fire in them at anytime, even lots of it or more than one of them going at a time, some days. Therefore, always mentally plan to pull up to one throughout your tour and realize that it’s up to you to put it out or grab someone who’s in there. Realize that your department has a plan for it all and think about the first few things that you will need to do, should it be on when you arrive.

Below is a fire that I had a couple of nights ago that the cops called in after a vehicle pursuit led to two houses on fire when we arrived. Looking at the CAD in my buggy, I knew that it was on before we were even called, so did everyone else responding. I’ll speak for myself, but I’m sure everyone was anxious about we would expect to find upon arrival, due to the time of day (2am), but the first arriving engine officer arrived and calmly reported what we had: a car launched into two houses, caught fire and extended to both structures. How do you think this impacted everyone before they got there? Yep, it calmed everyone down and surely brought everyone’s head back to where they were supposed to deploy, based upon their order of arrival. Take a look:

It was a lot to take in, upon arrival, but the troops killed the fire quickly, treated the occupants of the vehicle and everything went according to plan with no firefighter injuries. Imagine how the incident would have gone if the first arriving officer, or worse, me, transmitted a bunch of excited and anxious messages. Losing your calm does nothing but make everyone vapor lock and focus on what could be causing you to lose your mind, not about what they have to do when they arrive. I’m not saying there is always a loss of clear communication in these instances, but there is surely a loss of the messages’ effectiveness. The best thing to do when you have an incident that will be tough to put together, even with the right standard operating guideline for occasion, is to take another deep breath of Zen. This will slow your heart rate just enough for your brain to kick back in and allow you to make calm transmissions to get things under control, your companies deployed and rigs placed where you need them. This will also reduce the excitement in everyone who hears the transmission and you’ll notice it immediately when companies report to the command post in a professional manner, ready to kill, to let you know they’re there. If you’re excited, so will they be, even before they head inside or topside.

The same also goes for your demeanor and body language. Be firm and stand with poise, but realize that command presence is essentially calmness in the face of uncertainty and uncontrolled incidents. Just because a chief officer has a command board with companies’ locations correct, doesn’t mean they’re down to sea-level at the incident or running the incident properly. Command presence is knowing how well everyone is actually doing in their locations, because they feel calm enough to talk to you at an incident without getting screamed at, regarding transmitting progress and actions. Companies will immediately see this going on as they arrive and you’ll soon realize that your calmness is contagious, as things soon get better when everyone is thinking clearly and carrying out the plan – and making calm transmissions back to you. Give it a shot while headed to your next fire, and have the troops practice this, as well. Be the Calm Battalion.


Instructor Tips, Part I

Ray McCormack

Fire training evolves from concept through execution. Those involved may be involved from the beginning or just for selected phases. Just when you think your program is complete, be prepared for revisions. We often believe that our programs are fully squared away, only to find that there is something missing – That means you’re paying attention to it.

All of our training should be able to both expand and contract. It can expand after seeing new avenues of discussion that you didn’t see before. You must also streamline the material by ditching what doesn’t work. This allows for new information to be shared. Programs contract by deletion of repetition. Hammering a point home is different from repeating certain, or all the information, over and over again. This is common when videos that explain a topic are shown and then explained again by the instructor often word-for-word without additional insight. The video is a platform for the instructor to build on, not lay on.

Instructors who can bring first hand experiences to a firefighter training course are priceless. Their stories (hopefully to the point) give the listener an opportunity to place themselves in the story while allowing the instructor student wall to be broken for a bit. 

I have had many opportunities to co-teach, which is challenging in and of itself; however, when it works well, it’s seamless. One tip if your partner forgot a section of their talk: don’t tell the students. Either bring it in somewhere else if you forget it and move on. 

Just before concluding, give the students something to think about before you solicit their response. This will give you a chance to think back on anything you may wish to clear up or cover after their replies. Engage them, ask pointed questions, allow for various opinions, and Good Luck!

Keep Fire In Your Life

Bending the Rules of Water

Ray McCormack

Applying water to a fire is different from applying water on a fire. Building fires exist in defined spaces and often extend from them as well. The introduction of fire streams to building fires to knock them back, knock them down and extinguish them, demands targeted water placement for a specific duration.

Water application from a building’s exterior through an opening, such as window or door, is an example of a vertical surface breach. The stream’s shape may be tight, or cover the opening, depending on the user’s choice. It may move about or be held steady; It may strike upwards towards the ceiling, or downward on the window frame. The stream may be aimed straight ahead hitting whatever surface is opposite it’s entry point, or it may be placed far away so that it falls inside, having reached the end of its break-over cycle.

We have many ways to attack from inside the space as well: Your stream can be pointed upward, downward, side to side, bounced or moved in a pattern. Nozzle movements have a greater chance of being blended together inside, because you are usually on the same level as the fire. You can more easily judge what what stream movement is required at certain times and locations. Exterior water through an opening, by it’s very nature, is restrictive.

The current fire environment affords us the same stream options as legacy fires; however, we now know more about our streams’ deflection traits than before. Paying attention to how water works inside is something all firefighters need to know. 

We must remember that the ability to collect available information and form it into a class is readily available to anyone who wishes to pass on the latest stuff. Passing it on is not enough when dealing with firefighting.
I have used simple hallway props for years to show how different streams and their placement impact the interior, firefighting and safety. Attempting to replicate exterior stream techniques on interior firefighting is a dangerous tactical error that firefighters need to know how to avoid. 
While water doesn’t bend around corners, it’s effect can come close if you throughly understand interior fire attack and stream deflection. 

Keep Fire in Your Life 

Occupy Wall Street

Ray McCormack

For firefighters, occupying interior space is the goal. We occupy interior space to safeguard egress, provide extinguishment, and to rescue occupants. We use walls to guide searches, to use as location markers and to provide cooling when hit with a stream. When the engine is able to apply surface cooling to walls, this will aid our forward advance. 

While air flow rates don’t vary greatly with differing nozzle advancement techniques, surface coverage can. Not all application techniques are equal. Some use an upside down ‘U’ for water application, or as I like to call it, a lower case ‘n’. I prefer a circular nozzle movement. With a circular stream motion, we can also pick up the floor – That’s a bonus over the n method. 
The proverbial long, hot hallway may not be in everyone’s repertoire, however, shorter versions exist everywhere. You often have choices on how to progress toward the fire room. Some will flow while moving, some will stop and flow, and some will attempt no flow at all. The last choice gets riskier, the closer you get – Learn how to ‘know when to flow’. We are worth a few gallons of water. 

Flowing the line on the hallway walls provides at least twice the surface coverage of the ceiling. We now have three surfaces resisting flashover. The upper portion of the hallway walls, in addition to the ceiling, is where our steam has its biggest impact. With a circular stream motion, we can also pick up the floor. That’s a bonus over the n method and adds the final surface to be cooled to prevent flashover – The new fire tetrahedron. Floor temperatures directly impact firefighter safety. Picking up the floor on your advance reduces the chance that its heated state will contribute to flashover. There are other reasons to sweep the floor as well. Got any favorites?

Applying water to walls that are not radiating heat back because they are distant has little value. Approaching a second floor, front room, adjacent to the open stairway, calls for a narrow circular stream motion. A wide circle or standard n places water on the far wall or stairway adding little value. Instead, focus on the room ahead, cool the close wall and floor using a tighter method. 

Walls provide more than directional guidance, they provide flashover protection, but only if you wet them. Advance along the hallway wall opposite the fire room and you will get water in the room earlier even in a narrow hallway. Rolling out the red carpet of water in the hallway pays a dividend of safer passage. Invest in your stream and Occupy Wall Street.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Next: Draining Lines – Lifting Spirits

Managing Survivable Spaces on the Fireground – Coordinating the Engine and Truck

Erich Roden

Take a look at the above video and report linked above, and let’s discuss a few considerations for managing survivable spaces in private dwelling fires. To put this into practice, I’ll break some operational considerations down between the engine and the truck. Although they will both manage Survivable Spaces in a coordinated manner, it’s important to understand the role of each unit-type, individually, so that we understand what where we need to be, and when we’re supposed to get there. There are many misnomers regarding survivability and when we would conduct and interior vs. exterior attack. I won’t get into the debate about them here, but it is important to briefly discuss when an interior vs. exterior attack is warranted, so that we can get to the right spot to make the grab when it’s viable.

UL’s FSRI put out a good video showing some decision-making fire conditions that warrant an interior vs. exterior fire. The video can be found here.

For the purposes of this article, however, please review the Tactical Considerations in the video (course), to get an understanding of what the engine and truck need to consider in determining the most survivable spaces within the dwelling. It’s an obvious fact that we will search every inch of a private dwelling, but getting water on the fire as soon as possible, protecting the truck company(s) searching and giving viable occupants the most amount of our efforts, is the game plan. In private dwellings, regardless of the time-of-day, bedrooms and living areas such as living rooms and basements (office areas, additional bedrooms) will be the areas in which most people are hanging out, while at home. These living areas are common in every private dwelling, based-upon typical layouts: bedrooms on one-side, living room and kitchen on the other in ranch style dwellings, et al. Moreover, knowing where the primary means of egress is these dwellings is as important as it is the point at which you will reach and protect those in Survivable Spaces.

So what’s a Survivable Space?

A Survivable Space is actually any area away from the immediate fire area or a room with a closed door in a private dwelling. It is true that we consider private dwellings one large fire area, due to the following four reasons:

  1. Open interior stairs (usually center of dwelling)
  2. Limited separation between floors and rooms
  3. Combustible construction and contents
  4. Limited secondary means of egress (no fire escapes and or balconies)

However, when considering Survivable Spaces, the adjacency to the fire’s original location is the key determinant in survivability and where to initiate the search. Knowing where occupants are likely hanging out is the first step, but if conducting an interior attack (smoke showing, little to no visible fire) or an exterior one (heavy fire showing at or near the primary means of egress), another consideration must be quickly evaluated, based upon how fast the first due unit(s) arrived: the Fractional Equivalent Dose (FDE).

The FDE is measure of the time a victim is exposed to the fire’s thermal and toxic effects, in relation to their proximity to the fire and elevation in that space. This simply means that those closest to the fire and or on a bed are in the worst possible situation to be in. Therefore, it is important when conducting an interior attack to quickly get to those rooms with closed doors and then attempt to grab anyone in an open one, second, if immediately next to the fire. This may seem counterintuitive, but posit:

Once you get water on the fire, those exposed, unprotected by a door, to the fire the longest have the least chance of survival – even before you even arrived. Those overcome by the toxic and narcotic effects of the fire gases only have the greatest chance, and these victims are usually behind closed doors. Of course we will still get into the open rooms as fast as we can, and I’m actually differentiating these two scenarios by a minute or even seconds, in most jobs, but both differ in terms of odds, prior to arrival.

I’ll use a fire that I had several years ago as the first-due Battalion Chief, where I realized just how the position of door to the victim impacts survivability, to prove my point:

We arrived at a duplex with heavy fire auto-exposing the second floor apartment with the report of a child trapped. Companies arrived to find two floors of fire. An auto repair shop employee next door made a tremendous move to search for the child under heavy fire conditions, prior to our arrival, but was chased out by the fire on the first floor. As I arrived, the father of the child and relatives grabbed me, screaming, and pointed to the first floor where they assumed their child was at. I assumed the worse as the entire first floor was fully-involved in fire at that point. We immediately got water on the fire and the trucks and rescue company began their search without hesitation. I was about to key my shoulder mic to tell the rescue to bring the child out the back door, to spare the family of what they would see when the child was found. Until…

Down the gangway of the dwelling, came a member of Rescue 2 carrying an intact, lifeless child to us in front of the fire building. I know I wasn’t the only one who was stunned, because all of our collective experience at that fire has shown otherwise, the typical condition of victims removed from that much fire. He brought the pulse-less, non-breathing child to the awaiting ambulance, where the five year old was revived and taken to the burn center.

Here’s video of the fire:

The child was found on the first floor, in the immediate fire area, behind a door in the kitchen. Although he was exposed to the effects of the fire’s thermals and gases, he was able to be removed and revived just by being on the right side of a door. In fact, he even returned to school just a week or two, later – Amazing. How did this grab happen? Easy. The engine got water on the fire as soon as they got there, and the trucks and rescue made it a point to get to the primary means of egress to begin their search. This was a coordinated attack and search and proves that it works – if things go as planned.

Now that we have an idea of where we’ll immediately find viable victims, let’s get into what the engine and truck need to do, together, to get searching firefighters to these areas. The first thing to do is locate the fire, then the decision on what type of attack to make can be determined, and when firefighters are able to get to the Survivable Spaces in a private dwelling.

As can be seen in the above UL video’s Tactical Considerations, if there is little to no visible fire showing, then you have to get inside to find it and get after it. Conversely, if there is heavy fire showing near the entrance, then you have to do something about the fire, first. Regardless of whether or not you’re conducting an interior or exterior fire attack, the focus has to be protecting the primary means of egress so that searching firefighters can operate in and off the path that the occupants will use and or be near. Bedrooms and living areas are always near a stairwell, so the principal operation of the engine is to make sure we can operate there as soon as possible. This means immediately putting water on the fire to allow the engine to advance their hoseline, unimpeded. That means the truck has to wait until the engine has taken care of the fire, or can protect them, uninhibited, while trying to find it (coordinated search). Getting inside before the hoseline, when heavy fire is present, creating a flow path without water, and then getting chased out due to heat conditions before you even get to a bedroom (open or closed door) is simply marginal firefighting. And remember, always check the basement, first, before advancing into the first floor or above, particularly in newer dwellings. Basement fires are often a cause of heavy smoke on the first floor with no visible fire. Never go above without being certain of what’s under you.

When conditions allow, and the fire isn’t located and defined, a coordinated search in conjunction with the hoseline’s advance is the fastest way to get to victims with the lowest FDE exposure. The engine officer must ensure that the truck doesn’t get too deep into the dwelling so that the nozzle firefighter has to worry about them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held up water because I didn’t want to steam-out the truck that was out of my purview. Remember, once you’re inside the door, and a window near the fire area is open, you’re in the flowpath and so are the victims. Advance with the truck, if possible, open up on the fire, when found, and protect the truck as they remove any victims by keeping the hoseline between the fire and the rescuing firefighters.

If an exterior attack is needed, in the event the entire floor is involved, or the engine officer knows that there is no chance of operating via the interior stairs, due to the venting, visible fire, then hit the fire and give it the whack that it deserves. The truck should be ready to go as soon as it’s darkened-down and get in there to the living areas, post-haste. This will still be a comparable timeframe to the other scenario, but the engine officer makes the call as to what’s going to happen when heavy fire is showing upon arrival. Remember, if the Chief shows up and people are bailing out, then he or she is likely going to “call it,” go defensive, and we’ve wasted the opportunity to reach those in Survivable Spaces due to an avoidable, bad decision – keep it coordinated and it usually goes according to plan.

Tactical Tips for the New York Style Standpipe Stretch

Ray McCormack

Using three 50’ lengths of hose allows for most standpipe stretches:

Attach the hoseline to an outlet on the floor below the fire.

If the outlet is in a scissor stair and it’s damaged, go down two floors and make your connections in the same stairway – one length of hose should reach.

Using a light weight 2” lead length can reduce total weight by 50 lbs from a standard 2 1-2” length of hose and requires less outlet pressure than 1 ¾” hose.

A 2” lead length with a 1” tip will deliver 210 gpm at 50 psi nozzle pressure along with 77 lbs of nozzle reaction.

When charging the hoseline, do it slowly. Let the hoseline fill up completely before bleeding the nozzle. This reduces the chance of the hoseline getting caught in open treads and stairway voids. It also stops us from chasing false kinks in the hoseline.

The firefighter at the outlet needs to get a reading on the initial pressure being supplied so that they know how far they are from the target pressure.

The hoseline needs to be bleed long enough to obtain proper operating pressure from the outlet and the nozzle must be opened fully to accomplish this. The initial pressure being supplied to the hoseline may be very high, so open the bale slowly. Once operating pressure is obtained, shut down.

All hose packs should be kept intact while the coupling connections are being made.

The nozzle pack should stay strapped together until reaching the fire floor landing in the stairway. At that point a decision is made as to the type of stretch, wet or dry. That decision will determine where the nozzle length will be flaked out.

The last length in the stretch should be laid down closest to the standpipe outlet.

Bleeding the line will take place within the attack stairway for a wet stretch. If performing a dry stretch to the fire area, bleeding the line usually occurs in a hallway, close to the fire area.

Try to avoid bleeding the line in the direction of the elevator shaft, if possible. If the elevators are ahead of the line, bend the hoseline back toward the stairway and bleed the line.

If the lead length is laid out on a return style stair, up to the half landing above for a wet stretch, make sure that the nozzle-half of the length is laid-out on the exterior wall side of the stairway for a rapid advancement.

New York Style Standpipe Hose Stretch

The midpoint of each length is painted for easy identification.