We have had a lot of discussion around the station about when do you hit the fire from the exterior prior to going in and mopping up. I have always said if there is no chance of survival and the fire has control of the house then hit it from the outside first. Remember, Risk a lot to save a lot and risk little to save little.
Here is what I had the other day. When you finish reading the next paragraph, don't read the last one until you decide on your strategy. You might be surprised like I was.
The time was 0600 hrs, temperature 20 degrees, no wind. You are the officer on the engine company. You arrived with an Engine company, Rescue Company, Tower, and a medic unit. Staffing was 4 on the engine and rescue, 3 on tower, and 2 on the medic. Hydrant is 50 feet from the house. The structure is a 1 1/2 story, 1940s Cape Cod. Upon arrival you notice fire over the roof line from the rear. As your crew stretches the line, you make a lap of the structure. You encounter a male who is about 40 years old. He tells you that everyone is out of the house. The house has a dining room addition on the Charlie / David corner. The dining room and kitchen are fully involved and both rooms have self vented. The fire in the kitchen has extended out the window and entered the attic vent to the knee wall on the 2nd floor. Where are you going to begin your attack? List your tasks in order of priority. Remember don't look at the last paragraph until you make this list.
Here is what I thought about. There was a lot of fire in those two rooms. I was thinking about hitting the dining room from the outside and then go in and extinguish the kitchen from the interior. But, as I went back around to the front of the house, I noticed an elderly woman stumble out the front door. At this point I didn’t know if there were more occupants. We advanced the attack line thru the front door so the rescue company could search the rest of the house as we attacked the fire. The truck vented the knee wall. The second engine pulled a 2nd line to attack the fire at the attic vent and then entered as a backup line. It turns out the man who told me the house was empty is mentally challenged. Things are not as they always appear.
Larry, I agree with you and really it is difficult to get the picture without one and it does depend upon what is presented at the time. I don't have a problem with a transitional attack, or quick knockdown from the outside if it appears the fire is spreading fast to other areas, or where you are hitting the fire it doesn't push back to unburned areas, or you have to wait for resources to begin interior ops. Just to me the picture you painted I would have gone straight in from the unburned side.
However, this does bring up a good point when it does come to search and taking the "occupants" word. In the same light of many who may think an exterior attack is good, there are many who take on the word of an occupant that everyone is out. Perhaps that means that they have taken a true headcount, but there are many with an "old school" of thought that the structure isn't clear until we clear it. I'm not advocating brushing off such info, but something we need to consider, right up there with what constitutes "my baby" a person or pet? We need to also ask if the person saying everyone is out can also account for everyone as well.
My first thought is go in thru front door pushing the fire out and away from the structure. I am not a big fan on fighting from the outside, cause normally you just push the fire thru the structure. You never know what you've got or what you'll incounter and no run is the same.. Keep it safe all!!!!!!!
That's not always the case. PPV can rapidly spread the fire, it can extend the fire to interior exposures, attached exposures, or nearby detached exposures, and it is completely ineffective for fires that have autovented from several openings, as with the one in this scenario.
PPV prior to attack can be effective in unvented, ventilation-controlled fires. When you add PPV to a fuel-controlled fire, you literally just fan the flames.
Larry, the term "Transitional" attack includes a quick hit on the fire from the outside to darken it down and slow down interior flame spread, then moving inside with the line.
In this case, if the second engine was close behind, I might have the 1st engine hit the fire with a quick shot with a solid stream (the fire won't get pushed with a solid stream) from the outside and have the second engine take a second line from the first engine and go interior.
If the second engine is not close behind, your choices are a quick shot from the outside, then relocate to the interior to protect the rescue attempt - OR - just go interior initially.
Transitional attacks can remove some unnecessary beatings from the interior firefighters, but the trade-off is that they take anywhere from a minute to three or four minutes, which slows the interior attack.
If the structure is not in imminent danger of collapse and if adequate ventilation is quickly available, going Offensive initially generally is the best choice.
The real answer here is that we need several tools in the toolbox and use them when situationally appropriate.
We also need to continue size-up during the entire event - it's not just a one-time thing to check off on a command checklist and then forget. That includes changing strategy when something unanticipated occurs - like a victim stumbling out the front door.
One thing that can be a force multiplier is splitting crews. Regardless of how many firefighters respond on the initial alarm, if the initial companies have more immediate tasks than crews, two smaller crews can sometimes accomplish more than one larger crew. In this case, you could have the engine hit the fire from outside with 2, the rescue split with 2 searching and 2 taking a second line in, the truck officer establishing Command, and the remaining two truckies ventilating and throwing ladders for secondary egress. If the crews split, you need an accountability system that allows for it (Rescue 1-A and Rescue 1-B crew tags, for example) and each crew must have at least one functional radio at all times.
I would take a line in the front door to extinguish the fire, and the woman stumbling out of the front door would have made no difference. I will listen to what civilians say, but NEVER do I consider their reports reliable.
And I would have never considered an outside/exterior/defensive attack on this house from the description given.
The fire entered the attic via auto-exposure? Leave the fan on the apparatus, unless you want to burn the place down. Transisitional attack does make sense. Brief, just a quick knockdown. But it's always hard to make these sight on seen judgement calls, regardless of the picture being painted.
As for the taking the word of the victim encountered, well we always have to do a primary regardless, but I would have most likely been reasonably assured that his information was credible.
There is no such thing as never, or always in this business, except for never let your guard down, and always expect the worst, the most bizarre of circumstances.
I would not normally hit it from the exterior either, but if you do keep it on straight stream as not to upset the thermal balance or push the fire. I only thought about it on this one was to only hit the addition from the side and push it out the other side. The addition came off the back of the structure so by hitting the side of it would not have spread the fire. I only thought of this because both rooms were fully involved and the fire was venting over the roof line. As it was we took a beating in there so the rescue company could search.
I know some people advocate using PPV but I really don't like it. Unless you know exactly where the fire is located, has not spread to other areas, and no venting has occured it will work. You don't always have those answers. Like I said before, it's good in the lab, but not in the field.
Basically because the fire had vented out all of the windows and sliding glass door. The house was charged with smoke and she came from the opposite end of the structure. We ran into the heat because in order to hit the fire in the kitchen we had to advance thru the diningroom which we had just put out. It had enough headway that the ceiling collapsed on us as we advanced. The wall between the kitchen and diningroom was an old exterior wall that was blocking most of the fire in the diningroom plus it was gas fed.
Had a jon once that had the kitchen and dinning room totaly involved on the second floor apartment of a 'Cape Cod' that was a converted upstairs. Only one way in, the back, and the fire was venting from both windows and the door.
The other windows were entirely too small to fit through, so any VES from the front roof was not gonna happen.
After working through both rooms, we encountered an accordian-style folding doorway that sepertaed the back from the middle bedroom, and living room area. We encountered an unconscious victim there that was on the floor, face between two mattresses. Although smoke had penetrated along with moderate heat, fire did not.
It would have appeared anyone entrapped in this area would not be a viable save, but in fact he was.