The First Three With Three “Low Staffing”

How would you handle this, with the first three companies being staffed with only three firefighters?


The First Three with Three


So many FDs are responding with crews of three and sometimes even worse; less than three. Three is not ideal for fire company staffing; but if this is what you have, then have a plan to maximize through alarm assignments/seat and tactical assignments based on arrival sequence. The first arriving company with water must stretch and advance an attack line 99% of the time. The other 1% may be a VES or some other rare first due tactic that must be performed over stretching the line. When first due is stretching there must be a competent company officer to size-up and give the direction of apparatus placement and attack line size. The placement of the apparatus should take into consideration full involvement of structure and ladder placement. Second, length and time to stretch attack line to fire area. When possible the apparatus should be pulled as close as possible to curb on fire side as to leave room for later arriving companies to get passed for placement and/or reverse supply lay. If the first due holds short, evaluate if the ladder can get passed for placement to fire building. The second part of a three person company is the driver and his or her ability to park and prepare for assault on fire. The driver must be able to multi-task and be prepared to enter IDLH if needed or directed because someone else is able to take over pump operations. This is not a perfect world, nor is the fire ground a real stable place. We must be able to change plans at a moment’s notice. Drivers in understaffed companies must wear structural firefighting gear and have SCBA available. They must be able to assist with the stretch while the CO is conducting the size-up “outside the apparatus”. The driver must have the ability to get feeder line in place for second due booster tank. Good length for feeder line is 75′. This will act as measuring stick for second due on where to position. This will help insure the second due does not block ladders that may need to be removed from rear of first due company. After the first line is properly operating and feeder line is in place the driver should stretch back- up line to point of entry to be manned by later arriving companies and / or in an emergency, the driver may need to operate it in case of rapid fire growth or vent point ignition while crew is still inside operating. Consideration should always be given to what type of ventilation and when it’s needed. May just place PPV Fan at point of entry and wait until interior officer advises its ok to start. They may even be directed to take one or two windows on front side of house. “Always keeping in mind that primary job is supplying attack water”


How many hallways has the nozzle firefighter been down? Can they make the push? Do they have the experience to work independant of an officer?


The Nozzle firefighter!

The firefighter that will most likely get the closest to the fire. They must be able to work independent of the CO under hopefully rare circumstances. This firefighter must be able to size-up, size and location of fire to determine proper amount of hose needed at entry point. Fifty feet is not always the answer. The fire service continues to respond to more and more, larger homes that require more than fifty feet at the entry point. This firefighter must have the discipline to call for water when the officer has yet to call for it and there is no other option. They must always bleed the line and confirm a good flow pressure in unison with the driver setting flow pressure. We must enter with a fully loaded gun.

The Second Three!

When the Second Due Company reports directly to the scene.

The firefighter must be assigned as the door/ point of entry control. This position can also staff the back- up line and watch for vent point ignition. After the initial attack line has advanced to its furthest point. Then the second due firefighter can start a search from this point, penetrating the building and hopefully joined by their company officer. Second due driver must position apparatus to allow for a feeder operation and also assist with attack lines if needed. Hopefully the third or fourth line would be stretched off the second due, to assist in line accountability. The second due driver should become the water supply officer and evaluate if the first two tanks will get it, or if the third due needs to lay and charge supply line from hydrant. If the fire has not been knocked down when the second dues booster tank is empty; the third due should be securing a hydrant. “When in Doubt, Lay it Out”. You can lay and not charge it or lay it and charge it. Either way, third due laying a supply line on a house fire is never a bad thing. With 6 already on-scene the initial line is staffed and searches should be underway or shortly underway. The second due driver should be prepared to receive hydrant water and continually feed first due and also pump additional attack lines. Second Due Company Officer must be ready to take command, when a command officer has not arrived and a fast attack mode has been initiated. They must reevaluate the fire scene and the first dues progress and consider the arrival time of command officer. Once a command officer has arrived they can assist with the primary search and or staffing the back-up line.

The Third Three!

The firefighter may on a forward lay be at the hydrant. When this firefighter is at the hydrant they must take the time to fully gate all hydrant ports and confirm a 5 to 10′ tail of supply to ensure no kinks when charging supply line. They must also take time to fully turn hydrant on. Before turning on hydrant, confirm the scene needs and wants it turned on. Just because they hear charge the line, does not mean the supply line from hydrant. This request over the radio could be for the back-up line and/or the feeder line from second due. Once the hydrant is charged the firefighter should advance down to the scene with purpose and possibly assist with LDH clamp or making the break/connection of hydrant supply line. After the hydrant is providing sustained water to the scene, them the firefighter can be assigned by the OIC. “Most likely Truck Operations”.


More to come on how to make the most out of limited staffing……..


Other options to consider: RIT, Forcible Entry of entry point and opposite entry point, vertical & horizontal ventilation.

How do you assign your first nine firefighters or first three companies at a working fire? Do you have seat assignments?

2 thoughts on “The First Three With Three “Low Staffing”

  1. Contrary to what Truckies will tell you more lives are saved by a properly placed hose line than an other tactic. If you know your staffing is less than desired fix your biggest problem the fire first. While searching is paramount failing to get water between the fire and the rest of the structure can take your primary search to a Mayday very quick. Lightly staffed companies must train more and be as effective as they can because there is no staffing to fix screw ups.

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