Tactical Safety: Taking Sides


Tactical Safety for FirefightersTaking Sides

By Ray McCormack

There are only two sides to a fire building: the inside and the outside.There are those who want us to stay outside for a variety of reasons. There are those who see us as incapable of making good decisions regarding entry. There are those who fail to truly understand our capabilities employing interior fire attack.

Fire, smoke, occupancy, construction, time of day, troop strength, timing, and water issues are all valid reasons to stay outside and many can be misread or exaggerated keeping you outside. We are all hazard – “check”. We are firefighters – “check”, but wait. There seems to be some difficulty in pulling the interior extinguishment pin for some. If your scales tend to tip toward the outside and you know that it isn’t really necessary, then why would you continue?

Do you feel that the inside of the fire building is too dangerous for your firefighters to operate in? What happens when the exterior option is off the table? What are you going to do then? Are your tactics going to tame it? Have you sat down and figured out what your extinguishment is going to look like?

Are you operating under an assumption that our capabilities don’t include interior success? What is missing from your extinguishment platform that you have trouble handling a bread and butter fire. It can’t be equipment because we all have the necessary hoses and nozzles. Do you believe there is no such thing as a bread and butter fire in the modern age? If so, that is a bad assumption.

To arrive at a burning home and base your operations on exaggerated conditions places most firefighters in a state of paralysis, and that must be fixed so that your people know they can be successful with either option.

Finding the tactics that you need to get extinguishment done is not an unknown, but it may take practice for some. Start by not feeding it unnecessarily and its bite will be less powerful. We need to get our people inside to find the savable and the injured. I know that I want someone coming for me if I’m inside, don’t you?

Keep Fire in Your Life

11 thoughts on “Tactical Safety: Taking Sides

  1. We must go inside to get the interior rooms. You cannot get water to the interior rooms from the EXTERIOR. What do You think? What is your FD doing? How do you look at today’s fire attack? What are your questions? Ask them here and someone will give their opinion.

    • I am reminded of an old newspaper article I recently came across. Midway Volunteer (at the time) FD arrived on scene to a “fully involved” house fire. Crews were on scene fighting fire for 30 minutes when a victim was found in a back bedroom. The victim was not burned and died the following morning apparently from inhalation injuries. I wondered how that would be perceived if our peers read the same article today. Playing arm chair QB, a proper size-up and effective interior tactics and search, probably would have saved that life.

  2. Just go to http://www.firefighterrescues.com to see that civilians are being rescued from burning homes everyday. Firefighter Rescues . Com only receives a fraction of the rescues being made and it is still impressive. The Rescues are being made from the INSIDE and not the OUTSIDE. I love Ray’s question on what would you want if you were inside. Don’t forget to sign up at http://www.firefighterrescues.com for The Rescue List. It’s FREE…. Just click on the FOLLOW button..

  3. I believe the discussion is great. However, I hate to hear the bravado and “only one way to do it” attitude. Every fire is different, every department has different resources and capabilities and every situation will present itself a little different based on all of those factors. I have no issue directing my crews to “reset” the fire in certain circumstances. I also have no problem pushing through the front door. But to ignore the science and studies is irresponsible and to box yourself into only one method or technique is just short sighted.

    Study, train, be smart and act according to conditions, resources and capabilities, not ego or bravado.

    Jason Hoevelmann

    • The article does not ignore the science. It is about the real strength of the fire service and that is to go inside. Some departments just do not have the will to go interior and use other extraneous factors to shore up their choice.

      • Ray,
        I probably should have posted my response on here on your UFM Facebook page. I agree with a lot of the article itself, my beef in most cases is the one dimensional thinking on both sides, and that is where my comments were directed. Also, on a different note, I seem to have lost your digits, can you email them to me at jhoevelmann@gmail.com?

        Thanks, and keep up the good work.


      • Sorry, I left something out on the last post, my post was directed more at the comments from your Facebook page as opposed to the article. Sorry for the cofusion.

  4. “Fire, smoke, occupancy, construction, time of day, troop strength, timing, and water issues” all reasons to shoot for a quick extinguishment at the seat of the fire. Rapid placement of the first line with large commitment to the push inside and a good fire-ground pace the vast majority of the time takes risk off the table. Nothing like drowning the beast early in it’s life. Too often non-critical tasks are put before the key stone of the flowing line….

  5. Leadership and troop confidence are both important elements in whether the interior operation action is successful….or not. Good fireground leaders are becoming harder to find. Too many have more education than experience. Both are equally important. The fire service in general as is the country these days, concerned about political correctness. Many departments have “watered down” hiring practices to appease “the system” rather than hiring the best of the best. In many jurisdictions it’s a shame what its become. Bottom line is….Leaders need to Lead, the rest will take care of itself.

  6. My department recently adopted a transitional attack SOP derived directly from the UL & NIST studies. I have always considered our department to have aggressive interior tactics and have been extremely proud of this fact. However, for us to continue in this fashion when we know there is a more efficient & effective means, I believe, would be negligence on my part as a leader. Our SOP calls for exterior water application when fire is venting from an opening and is quickly accessible. Once knockdown is achieved then an aggressive interior push to the seat of the fire will occur. If I had someone tell me to do this 25 years ago I could have saved a lot more property and maybe more lives. I know there would have been a drastic reduction in firefighter injuries. Delays to the seat of the fire are always possible, no matter the training, experience or aggressiveness of the crews involved. Due to this a transitional attack when conditions permit should become a standard not an option.

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