Great answers. This is a subject that once again was recently discussed while just shooting the shyt over coffee and there are always many opinions and great suggestions. Our job is to protect: 1) life and 2) property. Training and experience play a key role. We can discuss our individual tactics and training which is incorporated with our experience all day. Many factors play a role along with reading the smoke and fire conditions which also help to determine what our risk vs. our gain. It’s always best and recommended to have a line in place to protect us but we all know that isn’t always possible. Back to the basics! Our size up, occupancy, time of day and manpower all help to determine our level of risk. In the end, it all comes down to the firefighter/officer /IC to deter ine, in seconds, that the factors involved give us and advantage to conduct a search safely and we all go home in the end . It’s not easy but that’s what we do.
i guess its a matter of "where you were raised". Capcity and i are from the NE and its not a matter of who's right or wrong, its the culture of the dept. you're in. searching without a hose is a NE thing and something he and i are are used to. In the south where i am now, they search with a handline, (but they also run 5 person quints). This is one another of my favorite subjects under the heading of "does anyone teach young firefighters how to "read" a fire?"
It is not "wrong" to enter a building without a hose line. It is a valid tactic, done all the time all over the country. Laddermen to the floor above fire, no hose, to do the search. Laddermen searching the fire floor not with the hose line, engine does that. It is not even "best practice" to have a hose, it is just the way you do it. It is done differently here, it works.
FETC, You are right on the mark, as is Ben, Capcity and Westphilly. In most city departments large (NY, LA, SF, DC and such) and small (Spokane, Salt Lake, Boise, Camden etc.) this is the day to day way of doing business. Fisrt engine takes the attack line, second lays in and take a backup line, first truck searches with no hose, vents, forcible entry. The following engines and trucks as assigned (RIT, second attack line, more search teams etc.) It happens everyday in cities all over the country. To say it is wrong or not safe is ill informed. We are trained to work this way, do it all the time and it is sucessful. Capcity tries from time to time to explain that fighting fires in the city is different from rural and suburban firefighting because of many factors. This is how it is different, enter the fire building to do a search without a hose line is standard practice in cities. It is not in other setting because of many factors, staffing, training, experience etc.
Searching IS ladder work, I know you are new, ladder or truck work is as follows. Forcible entry, ventilation, search, rescue, reconisance, salvage and overhaul. I think there is a learning curve here, keep at it, read, ask, study.