Where should the Company Officer be?

When should you be on your knees? LOOK at that NOZZLE!!

There is always the extreme. We need to find a middle ground.


 This is a BIG ONE! Where should the Company Officer of the First arriving Engine be? Should He or She be on the attack line inside? Should they be outside commanding the nozzle firefighter that is inside by them selves or under someone else’s supervision? The question you need to ask is; why do I believe/do what I/you do?

Why do you believe in what you believe? Why is your opinion correct/ the way? Has it been time tested under real conditions? Has it always worked? Is it what’s right for the citizens?

Some Fire Departments have their first in Officer Stand outside holding a radio with a pretty vest on. Does this make it a safe realistic fire ground?

What is really the one thing that can make everything better on the fire ground, when stuff is burning?

31 thoughts on “Where should the Company Officer be?

  1. If you have 4 guys then the CO can be outside setting up command. For this post i will keep the beliefs to the 3 man company. My belief is the first officer should be inside with his nozzelman under a normal 3 man engine company operation. NO FF should enter a burning building alone. This is where knowing your crew comes in handy. If the CO knows his crew and feels confident that the driver can perform the duties of command till the next officer arrives, then the first in engine can have the CO and nozzle FF inside while the driver is establishing command and he can be relieved by the next officer arriving on scene. I know the retorts are going to be that the driver cant possibly establish command, he has too much stuff to do. If he has so much stuff to do why are we delegating him/her to throw ladders, take windows, force doors, etc… Everyone should be trained on the aspects of command. We as firefighters need to be a jack of all trades, including all the roles we could be put into as a FF. We all know the saying, “the first five minutes depicts the next five hours.” Get command established, get an attack plan drawn up, and most importantly execute! The only thing that is going to help the situation, is to put the water on the fire!

  2. This is an excellent question. I am a huge advocate of firefighter safety and some of my view toward nims and ics might be considered controversial. ICS is absolutely necessary; however, no other action saves more lives and corrects/confines the problem (fire) than the properly placed line in the proper time (rapidly). This begins with a thorough size up by the initial company officer and continual situational awareness. The line should be placed under the supervision of the company officer, who ideally should be doing nothing but supervising. Unfortunately, in many departments who utilize a three person engine, the company officer becomes both the supervisor, backup firefighter, and corner jockey. That is why it is also so important that, under these limited circumstances, an additional crew should also help facilitate this line before committing another line that might not reach the fire as well.

    For me, as a company officer, taking command under the aspices of first due, is: making a good size up, making tactical decisions, deciding operational mode, and where to place the line. It does not mean the obligation of hanging out in the front yard while my limited crew takes a beating, allowing the fire to escalate. The second due officer should continue the situational awareness, allow his crew to further facilitate the first line, and then await the first arriving chief in the yard.

  3. All depends on the fire, but I say if you have a 3 man crew and its a working fire, then the CO can make a size up over the radio as they are arriving to let other responding companies know what they have, then command should be passed to the Driver/Engineer and the Firefighter & CO make an attack on the fire!

    Picture this…..1500 Sq Ft home, 30% involved, next arriving company is 2-3 Mins behind you. Do you as the CO stay outside in the yard and let your 1 FF do everything by himself??
    I say NO!!
    What are you in charge of at that point that the Driver/Engineer cannot handle? Nothing!

    Get your ass with your FF and put water on the fire!!

    And that’s my 2 cents, lol

  4. 99% of the time the CO should be right beside the nozzle man. On a 3man crew this becomes difficult but must remain a top priority. Depending on what dept you work at depends if the first due CO will assume command. I’ve worked at both & can tell you from experience that the first arriviving CO assigned to take command & stand out front while his crew (many times much less experienced!) moves in does nothing but waste resources & makes his crews job that much more dangerous (dont confuse this with a situation where you wont have command personnel responding….thats different). In my department the first due passes command unless there is a significant delay with the battalion & even so, he has the option to pass command to the next arriving CO. Jim hit the nail on the head….rapid, well placed line= fire goes out & most of the problems go away. We have SOPs for a reason….companies should be able to operate independently for a short while without a white helmet in the front yard telling them every move….& drivers do have a lot to do including being the defacto IC & possibly give some basic diections if need be. One last thing. DURING THE INITIAL PUSH THE CO SHOULD NEVER BE THE 3RD MAN ON THE LINE….ALWAYS WITH THE NOZZLE MAN! THAT IS THE TIP OF THE SPEAR & INCHES CAN MEAN MAJOR CHANGES IN FIRE CONDITIONS. Stay safe!

  5. having not read any of the replies prior to mine…I’m putting this out there…as the first line goes, so goes the fire…not only does this suggest placement of the line, but operation, proper operation…getting th eline to the seat of the fire and protecting that nozzleman with another set of eyes and ears inside that structure, especially if the nozzleman is “green”…the driver should be versed enought to handle command until a higher authority arrives…we now know to put “water on smoke”, black fire…your nozzleman may/may not have an understanding of what this is…also the TO has the TIC he/she can be looking at the layout of the house, for thermal signatures and/or victims…the TO needs to communicate conditions on the inside to provide information for water issues on the outside…Drivers need to be keenly aware of RCFC and smoke condition(s)…an experienced TO will not commit so deep as to jeopardize themselves or the nozzle team…contrary to popular belief, you may have to achieve a slight knocdown from outside (WITH A SOLID/STRAIGHT STREAM) to assist with nozzle advancement if you encounter black fire on arrival or prior to making entry…you can always adjust tactics when you have 3man engine companies, especially when told that the money is not there to provide 4man companies and that it will change your working conditions…or so I have heard…that is all

  6. 1) You can’t pass command to someone who is not there. 2) No one should work inside alone. 3) If command has not been transferred the first in officer is still in command (e.g. deciding & acting). 4) Water on the fire is critical to occupant & firefighter safety. 5) Command is also critical (ongoing assessment of conditions). Company staffing is a key limiting factor. The short answer is that it depends.

    The following is based on a fire beyond the incipient stage and action by the first arriving engine (no other companies on scene), resources responding but will not arrive in the next couple of minutes:

    Two person crew, offense is not an acceptable option.
    Three person crew, if no persons reported offense is not an acceptable option.
    Three person crew, persons reported offense may be acceptable, company officer inside with firefighter.
    Four person crew company officer in command outside (in BA as is the engineer to meet two in two out), offense may be an acceptable option.

    This is my perspective from th Fire SUV.

  7. Brett Overlander My question is this: if you are the only one on scene, WHO are you commanding? Your commanding the guys going in on the attack line or search or whatever depending on the mode of operation YOU as the CO chose. It doesn’t matter if your r…iding 3,4, or 5 FF’s. How can you command/direct them if your not with them and monitoring the conditions that YOUR crew is exposed to. The guys still responding should know what to do if your department has a descent set of SOG’s in place and you gave a size up on arrival. I ask you this, if something bad happens to your guys on the interior, and your standing outside like a bystander talking on your radio, are you prepared to live with that the rest of your life?

    • Donald Merritt ‎@ Brett, I Think that was well put!
      In the fire service we are having to adapt and over come more than ever. We’re having to do more with less so we adapt. We do what we have to do to get the job done safely and we all go home. I see nothi…ng wrong with the drive assuming the call sign as command on your first due rig. Your company officer is incharge of operations so assisting in attack or search operations is where he is and what he is doing. The Driver is a very important to the interior crews. He is there outside eyes. The Driver can see changes in conditions and reports them to interior crews. The company officer doesn’t have to be in the front yard to be effective on a first in assignment. The proble in the driver assuming or assisting in the role of command is that we let/put unseasoned firefighters in the role of driver when they need to be learning to be on the nozzle or do a search not be in command.

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  9. My short answer/opinion is this: The company officer should be behind the nozzleman on every interior attack, period. The liability of sending a crew in by themselves involves too many variables that can injure and even kill a crew.

    My long answer/opinion is this: One of the essential command functions is a strong initial command at the very beginning of every incident. The company officer arriving first due is essentially the initial IC. If he/she is giving a size up, giving orders to his second and third due, and implimenting a strategy, he or she is in command of that incident. The company officer can always opt to pass command to the next officer depending on your SOGs, but it isn’t necessary. The first five minutes (of the incident) dictates the next couple hours. Having an IC call the shots from the arrival on scene creates an effective operational strategy that supports the overall incident action plan. Having an organized scene (initial IC) from the very onset ensures that any unsafe, uncoordinated, and wasted effort doesn’t occur. This same system also can prevent freelancing. There is also a misconception that command cannot be passed to someone who isn’t there. You don’t have to have a face to face briefing with someone to take command. A short radio report from the initial arriving IC (inside) is all you need. You don’t need to stand out in the front yard with a radio and a funky neon vest to initiate the command sequence. Is it ideal for the initial arriving IC inside to see everything going on? Absolutely not, but the effort spent on the front end makes quick work on the back end. That’s my .04 .

  10. I know this is an older post, but I wanted to pile on with the nozzleheads before me. When I have four guys, I work my sizeup, 360 if possible, call an audible if the situation calls for a change, and begin forcible entry. Then I remain outside and work with the Engineer to facilitate water supply, OSV, ladders and command. Three man? Well, that’s why they call it Fast Attack. Get a quick read, meet the nozzle at the door, force entry and here we go. Safely, carefully, and agressively. If the fire goes out, nobody has to jump out the window.

  11. After a walk around, the TO can give the driver a quick next due assignment while the hose is being placed in service. I tend to think some people act as if a drivers job is to stand by the pump panel, even when the lines are set and flowing. Be Proactive!! It especially helps the First Due tactics, when the TO knows he can be used as an OV or other crucial first on scene position. A little off topic, but still on subject.
    Examples of drivers duties:
    -Lay out small section of LDH, 3″, or hopefully not- 2.5″ for next due truck to give tank of water
    – Bring PPV to front door, start and run on low, blowing to the side (not inside)
    – Secure Utilities
    – Throw ladders for next due roof ops,
    -And get more tools, air bottles, etc ready for ease of flow of operations.

    Might be another topic Ike!

  12. My department ran with three Firefighters. Our operations called for the first in Officer to perform a 360 then broadcast an action plan to dispatch. Command was passed over the radio to the second arriving Officer. The first due Officer entered the building and became “interior” while supervising the fire attack/search and rescue if necessary. We also had a system for a radio check on the command frequency prior to making entry which verifed communications and started the clock for personnel accountability checks. Once all mutual aid companies understood the guideline it worked quite well. We also used PPA immediatley when appropriate

  13. Inside with their COMPANY hence the name Company Officer. If you want to stand outside and give orders…STUDY for Chief. This goes beyond the fire ground. As a Company Officer you are resposible for the Combat Readiness of your Company. How can you determine what you need to train on if you are not inside with them to make that evaluation. Ladies and Gentleman it is called Leadership the key word being lead and if you are behind the nozzle firefighter that is PUSHING not Leading. There are fires where this will not be possible but few. Most have TIC and have a clear view when you are leading not following. You are the one responsible to decide to push or not to push and you have a heat shield in front of you if positioned behind the nozzle. If the next in companies can’t figure out who is in Command buy them some glasses so they can see your Engine or Truck parked out front.

  14. Kyle Rogers Chief to me this is a tough question, where are we talking, in town where the next due is 3 mins out or in the country where the next due is 15 mins out. Who is responding and what is the situation. As with everything in the biz there is …no blanket answer. Is the first engine tagging a hydrant or are we going for a fast attack on tank water, do we have 500 gallons on the next due, what are the smoke conditions, how experienced is the crew? I believe that the officer should be with the crew on the first due if there is another officer close. As we know conditions change quick and a driver might be too busy pulling a second line throwing ladders and simply making small pump adjustments for his crew to be a proper IC however to me the best way to answer this question is with a question. How experienced is your crew and what kind of training do they have? That is the real question!

  15. A lot can be learned by all the comments, our SOP called for the 1st arriving CO to establish command & size up, then pass IC to the next higher ranking officer, then step up to the next position, fire attack, ventilation etc, etc.

  16. I know I am a little late into this post, but here are my thoughts as a company officer.

    There was an instance that I was first arriving officer at a fire and I chose to stay outside. The reason was that I was incredibly lucky and had a crew of 6 on the truck that night. I had two quite capable firefighters deploy two hoselines and two other firefighters back those guys up. The house was way down a long and narrow road and I was the only officer that was actually on scene and not in the staging area. In that instance I felt my place was outside in command. If we had only a crew of 3 or 4 then I would have been inside.

    The officer simply needs to be inside on most occasions. This is why you must train and have a large amount of trust in your driver/operator. The driver position is not just a taxi driver. He/she is the officer’s eyes and ears while they are inside. The driver must be a capable firefighter that is able to watch fire conditions from the outside while the officer is one the inside with the rest of the crew. The driver is the ultimate multi tasker. The relationship between officer and driver MUST be one of trust. While the officer is inside, where he/she needs to be, he/she must be concerned with what the fire is doing on the inside primarily.

    The engine company is a team, each member just as important as the other. There must be total trust with each other and to gain that trust takes time on the training ground, chatting around the firehouse, and just hanging out with each other learning about each other.

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