Firefighters Injured in Los Angeles Church Fire

Two were caught in a roof collapse and a third was shocked by a nearby power line

Fireground and Mayday Audio:

What is the staffing of companies given the rapid intervention assignment in your area and on the first alarm? If not on the first alarm, why?

Can companies assigned to the RIT, RIC or FAST your fireground realistically be expected to handle more than one downed or missing firefighter?

As the fireground incident grows, does your Incident Commander request additional companies to be assigned as a RIT, RIC or FAST?

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We use a truck company with five firefighters and an officer for all structural fires. Also certain large scale emergencies. May sound l like a lot to some of you but it is not. Even a relatively simple rescue of a downed firefighter will require that whole company. Complicated rescues or multiple rescues could easily require several units as RIT. The original assignment of personnel will still be required to perform their normal fire suppression tasks.

Additional units can be requested as incident grows. 

What is the staffing of companies given the rapid intervention assignment in your area and on the first alarm?

For my dept, the third engine (staff of 4) is the RIT team.


If not on the first alarm, why?

There really is no excuse not to have it. Staffing issues would most likely be the biggest reason as to why not, but so does having archaic standards like 2 in 2 out. It is easy to fall on that standard as though 2 people would be able to perform RIT (absurd), yet the standard is there and an easy caveat for bean counters to use against adequate staffing.

Can companies assigned to the RIT, RIC or FAST your fireground realistically be expected to handle more than one downed or missing firefighter?

Realistically, NO. In fact having that minimum of staffing is difficult to realistically rescue one downed FF, let alone 2 or more. Part of a MAYDAY plan should include an automatic upgrade of the alarm level to get more companies rolling. If it turns out that the RIT can get the FF out, so be it, but err on the side of having more ready to respond.


As the fireground incident grows, does your Incident Commander request additional companies to be assigned as a RIT, RIC or FAST?


For us, no we don't, but it makes sense to have additional companies, if there is interior operations going on. The main purpose of RIT is for crews operating INSIDE a structure. If the operation becomes entirely defensive, then realistically, there is no need for having a RIT team standing by.



The question I would pose in relation to this discussion is: Does the RIT team solely stand by, or can/should they be utilized to perform exterior operations that can be stopped if a MAYDAY is called?


For us, the RIT is used to perform tasks like setting ground ladders, force entry, utility control, etc as needed.

I work with two volunteer depts. so staffing issue are always a constant struggle. As far as RIC goes we do establish RIC quickly and efficiently but in the event we have 2 or 3 maydays we would be in trouble for sure as would most departments in my area.

Staffing. One engine is assigned RIC on the 1st alarm. It is typically the last engine to arrive. Three or four personnel. Auto aid and mutual aid companies are not used for RIC as per policy.

Additional companies and/or 2nd & 3rd alarms can be requested.

RIC usually gets the utilities assignment at the same time.

RIC will only be able to handle a simple rescue on their own. The assumption is that other on scene resources will assist.

Well first off, firefighters in my city hardly every suffer serious injuries or are downed, so we don't have a team specified on the rescue of downed / missing firefighters (and no, it's not like if we wouldn't work inside the structure) Actually, our FD doesn't even run any ambulance, neither for public EMS nor for their own firefighters.

For a structure fire, or just the smoke- / automatic fire alarm, we always get dispatched with a Command van, a Chief, 2 Engines and a 100ft Tower Ladder (all together at least 19 ff, all from one station). When the building is in the historic city center, or a big / problematic one (due to dangerous subtances stored/used there, heavy traffic or sth like that), then further Companies from the VFD, each one with a Van and an Engine are dispatched as well (also 1st alarm). So we actually have quite a manpower on scene, which in case of a ff downed, would be capable of sending someone in to search/rescue that ff. As for the paid FD in my city, this wouldn't be a problem since any ff is trained on working on any position (this also rotates every month, so even when they are currently on one of the Engines or the Aerial, they still know and have work experience with heavy rescue operations etc.)

With that manpower at one station, we are also capable to rollt out to two fire alarms at the same time - then the convoy of Command, CHief, 2 Engines and Tower would be splitted up and extended by another Tower, so both alarms would be approached with a leading position (Chief/Command), one Engine and 1 Tower. If there really is a fire, further units would be dispatched immediately; so there are always enough ff on scene in order to rescue a downed ff when necessary.

For difficult heavy rescue operations which reach beyond the capabilities of the FDs (e.g. building collapse), then we can also dispatch the local station of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief; Not here, but in some areas they are also dispatched as 1st alarm together with the local FD.

You have been lucky up to this point. There will eventually come a time where one of your firefighters is seriously injured or trapped and will need to be rescued. No trapped or unconscious firefighter has ever enterd a building thinking he/she would go down. When this happens you will wish RIT had been addressed beforehand. You say there will be enough manpower on scene to deal with it. Will this manpower be pulled from firefighting duties? Who then will fight the fire? The downed firefighter will not be helped much by discontinuing firefighting efforts. You will be surprised by the amount of manpower required to locate, package and remove a downed firefighter. Not to mention supervision. Will the supervision also be pulled from firefighting efforts?

Hoping for the best and then winging it if and when something goes bad is a naive policy, IMO.

Well on each of the two Engine two ff put on their SCBA, the two other ones in the back of the cab control their SCBA packs etc while responding to the scene. Arriving on scene, only two ff from one of the Engines will be sent in, the two other ff from the same Engine set up the water supply. In case of one/both ff are down, the other ones with SCBA already on will go in to get them out. So the other ff on the Engines (e.g. the ones who set up the water supply), or any other ff on scene, can jump into the position of RIT. The ff with SCBA from the 2nd Engine usually aren't sent into the building simply because we don't wanna "use them" too soon in case of another call coming on. In case of a real fire we rather dispatch one or two companies from the VFD, and then they will go into the building to fight the fire.

As for locating downed ff: Since they are in constant contact to the group leader (2nd man on the Engine / Co-driver), the group leader always knows where they are in the building. In small private houses it's easy because of the limited number of rooms etc, and as for all big (and public) buildings, we have all structure plans of the particulary building and thus can follow the firefighters on the plan. And since we have both a Command van with 2 operators and a Chief on scene, the actual firefighting can be continued while the others get the downed ff out.

It's not a naive policy, it's just flexibility: Having ONE full time station with dozens of trucks in a city of 200,000 inhabitants, covering 90% of the city's area within a 6 minutes response drive, that's asking for a lot of flexibility for the case of multiple calls at the same time. I have to add that the fire prevention in my city is really excellent: we hardly get real fires, most calls are technical assistance stuff like crashes and so on. When I compare it to another city here which is just a little bit bigger: We only have a class 1 command unit, capable of operating the normal everyday calls, other cities also have class 2 and class 3 command units, for larger incidents and for the real big scenes. And that other city I wanna compare it to, that sometimes has 3 or even more calls for the class 3 command truck in a week. They aren't as flexible as we are, they don't have a as good communiction (we conduct the operations of big calls from the dispatch center in out station, whereas they need the truck on scene). And here in my city most fires don't really get the chance to get bigger, even though we have a real hitoric city center with a extremly high fire load (and they don't have a historic center as such at all).

And remember: those 5 units, that's just the 1st alarm, when there MIGHT be a fire, at that point it isn't confirmed yet. When it is confirmed and likely to take some time (so when it's more than just a burning sofa or sth like that), then the VFD will be dispatched as well

I'm sorry but this is a ridiculous post.  Firefighters hardly ever suffer serious injuries?  So there's no need to have RIT because no one was injured in the past?  What happens when someone does get injured?  Do you guys rarely go interior?  

We operate as safely as possible but we still get hurt.  Usually not serious injuries, but it happens.  We just had a firefighter get transported to the hospital this morning at fire.  Within a few hours we had two working fires and a separate two alarm fire.  That's over 200 firemen operating.  Accidents will happen.

We send 5 engine, 2 trucks, 1 rescue on initial box alarm.  1 additional engine and truck on the working fire dispatch.  5th due engine on the box is RIT and pulls a line to side A to standby in front.  Working fire dispatch truck is also RIT and reports to side A with basket containing saws, hooks, bars, air cylinder and some other things.  Every few years companies get sent to the training academy for a day or RIT training as well.  This is one thing that our department is actually prepared for.


I know where you are coming from and do agree, but it looks like Paul is in Germany, so their tactics, responses, building construction, etc do differ.

I'm afraid they're going to have to learn the hard way.

no, as I said we do go inside the buildings, and John Crabbe is absolutely  correct, I am from Germany, so our building structures and tactics differ a lot. And yes here in my city injuries aren't very often, and those injuries which occur usually don't have sth to do with a collapsing structure. And for the case a ff does get injured, two other ff will go in to get him out (if not already done by another ff who is together with the one who suffered the injury). And when he's outside then we already have EMS from on scene - for a smoke alarm usually two to three ambulances and the EMS Chief.

And as I already stated, over here fires usually became are minoritry compared to technical assistance / rescue calls. It can take quite many hours until the next fire alarm gets off, but then it still doesn't mean that there really is a fire.

Big fires are very very rare here: the latest dozen big fires already are in a timeframe of years; just some examples:

1. Broken gas pipeline underneath a city bridge, the fire got so hot that the bridge gilders melted, plus there was a gas cloud, but none got injured

2. 3 story building fire in the historic city center: the building structure didn't collapse, neighb oring houses weren't damaged and none got injured

3. Burning grain silo, none got injured

4. (not a fire, but floods) Also in the 2 once-in-a-hundred-years floods in 2002 and 2013, no ff from our city got injured

The biggest fire in our city's post-war history was back in 1998, a 3rd alarm fire in a chemical plant: 412 firefighters (61 put their SCBA on) responded with 74 units from 23 fire departments. And also in this fire no firefighter got injured: all five slightly injured people were workers from the chemical plant

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