Ten Minutes in the Street: On-scene, with Engine 21, Second Alarm….
A full alarm assignment has been dispatched to a reported fire in a townhouse, with possible trapped occupants. It’s a weekday morning and a holiday. Numerous calls are coming in while you’re enroute as the first-due engine (Engine Co. 21). You can hear on the radio that Engine Co. 13 has arrived on-scene at a commercial fire, across town and has smoke showing. (HERE).
You’re pulling into the neighborhood and you’ve got smoke showing and as you pull up to the parking lot entrance, it’s evident you have a working fire in a townhouse occupancy. You can see numerous people frantically waving at you as the engine pulls to a stop at the top of the road to drop the line and pick up a hydrant (Boxed arrow).
Here’s what you have so far….
• Townhouse Occupancy. The occupancy is the Second from the end unit. There are a total of eight (8) attached townhouses.
• The structure is wood frame Type V construction built in 2001. You know for a fact that the complex was built with engineered structural systems, wood I-beam floor support system and conventional gable truss roof.
• The townhouse units are all two bedroom units that are, located on the number two floor. The units have three levels that include a basement.
• There are cars that are parked directly in front of the building on the Alpha side.
• You can tell that emotions are high with the civilians, as the engine pulls up to the curb on the Alpha side… there’s a confirmed report of a trapped person on the second floor….
• You can see visible fire lapping up over the roof line coming from the Charlie side.
• You’re the first arriving unit, the truck company is right behind you; you have a four staffed engine as does the truck company. Mutual aid units are enroute on the initial alarm. A Battalion Chief is coming, but is not on scene at this time.
• As you get ready to key the mic, you can hear Engine 13 at the other fire transmitting a working fire in a commercial occupancy….looks like it’s going to be a busy day…
• You’re requesting a second alarm….As the first-due officer, with fire showing, a report of a trapped occupant and known features of the building and civilians yelling at you to get in there and rescue the person….what are you going to do? Provide a narrative of the issues, challenges, concerns, needs, strategy, tactics, risks, urgency, etc….
I am going to have the truck company lay in a line to my engine first. My 2 firefighters are going to make entry on the first floor of the fire building and proceed to the second floor with a charged 1-3/4 handline and perform a search as well as fire suppression. Once the truck company arrives they will ladder the 2nd floor on the Alpha and Charlie sides for egress for the interior crew. Once that is done they will cut a trench cut on the Brovo side of the involved structure to try to stop it from spreading that way through more units. The next arriving unit will assist with interior ops. I want an engine crew to search the Delta side for extension and occupants. I want 2 EMS units on scene to assist with wounded civilians and also for rehab of firefighters. I will call for PD for crowd control. I want an officer of another unit to be my eyes on the Charlie side of the structure since it will be too hard for me to go back and fourth. I will have a company set up as RIT as well.
Issues - The fact that the housing units are joined together and probably share the same attic space.
Challenges - Getting to the second floor safely and being able to even do a search with the amount of fire already showing.
Concerns - My main concern besides getting to the trapped victim is fire spread through the attic space as well as roof collapse.
Needs - Manpower and fast. We need to keep this fire contained to the building of origin or we're gonna have a long day.
Strategy - Keeping the fire contained to this one unit.
Tactics - Interior attack with a trench cut on the Bravo side of the structure. A fast primary search of the second floor first then the first floor.
Risks - The roof over the fire may be compromised and could collapse without warning.
Urgency - There is a high sense of urgency to get this fire under control soon and to rescue the trapped occupant that the other civilians warned us about upon arrival
First off, I would hope that with units responding to another major incident, I would be thinking about requesting additional resources before I arrived. Especially if those units will be traveling a greater distance due to the obvious committment of my other resources. Second. I would like to secure my own water supply on the way in. May have to wait a while for the next in Engine company. I would assign the truck company to confirm an actual victim rescue and to carry out that task first and foremost. If no immenint rescue, my priorties would be focused on an aggressive interior attack to remove the hazard and a quick primary search for any victims. It appears the fire is contained to a room and contents, for now. After knock down and search I would be concerned with adjoining units either for additional victims or for fire extension. Obviously all of the things already mentioned apply, ventilation, crowd control issues, utilities, secondary search for victims, RIT, EMS for us and for potential victims, and finish my 360 at some point. Sure I am missing something, but those are my few thoughts. Hope all my additional resources made it to carry out all these tasks.
I'm asking for a third alarm - this one is a much bigger problem than the other fire, and if I'm competing with the other fire for resources, we need to make sure that everyone knows that the fire with the immediate life threat gets the bulk of the resources.
This one has a high potential for structural collapse, especially on Division 2 of the fire occupancy, so we need to get a quick knock on the fire and a quick search of Div. 2 as the primary two tasks.
Rescue/Life Safety - Immediate Rescue Problem - Div. 2, then life safety issues for interior firefighters
Exposures - Cockloft is already becoming involved. Attached exposures on Side B and D. Detached exposures on Side C.
Confinement - Confining this fire is going to be difficult, particularly in the cockloft.
Extinguishment - A quick knock on the main body is the immediate goal - we're going to be here for a while prior to hitting the Fire Out benchmark.
Overhaul - later, much, much later.
Ventilation - The fire is autovented, but VES is likely a useful tactic here.
Salvage - later, much, much later.
1st Alarm Assignments
1st Engine - Search to the Fire with a 1.75 inch line. That means hoseline through Side A and upstairs, searching the primary access and egress pathways as the line is stretched. I usually would go in with a wet line on this type fire, but with no fire downstairs, I might risk advancing the line dry and calling for water at the foot of the interior stairs.
2nd Engine - Water supply, then a backup 1,75 inch line.
3rd Engine - RIT
1st Truck - I wouldn't split the crew initially - I'd ladder Side A lateral to the fire and conduct VES. If that didn't locate the victim, I'd move the crew with two ground ladders to Side C and conduct VES there.
1st Rescue - Secondary search of the interior if the engines and truck can't find the victim.
1st Chief - COMMAND, in the front lot across from the fire.
1st Medic - Prepare to receive the victim and treat for burns, smoke inhalation, and possibly trauma.
2nd Alarm Assignments
4th Engine - Establish secondary water supply on the street, laying in left to right. Advance a leader line between the fire apartments and the detached exposures, and wye it down to two 1.75 inch lines. One line can support VES in the rear, while the other can protect exposures on Side C.
5th Engine - Division 2 in the Side B exposure, attack the fire in the cockloft and hopefully prevent extension.
6th Engine - Division 2 in the Side D exposure, attack the fire in the cockloft and hopefully prevent extension. This is the lower value assignment due to only one apartment being threatened on this side.
2nd Truck - Split the crew. Officer and irons conduct interior search of Side B attached exposure, then the attached Side D exposure. Driver and tiller raise the aerial for roof access on Side B.
2nd Rescue - RIT
2nd Chief - Division C
3rd Chief - Safety
2nd Medic - Rehab, in the front of the parking lot near the street
3rd Medic - stage on the street, crew assists other Medic crews as needed.
EMS Chief - Medical Group Supervisor
3rd Alarm Assignments
7th Engine - locates tertiary water supply source on the street to the right of the fire and stands by at the hydrant.
8th and 9th Engines - Stage on the street. If we're not making quick progress on the fire and if we can't find the victim by now, they're searching the rest of the attached exposures on Side B - the ones not immediately adjacent to the fire.
3rd Truck - Level II staging.
3rd Rescue - Join 2nd Rescue and beef up RIT.
4th Medic - Staging
5th Chief - Accountability
6th Chief - Staging
We should be able to get the interior fire knocked pretty quickly, but the cockloft fire is going to take all day.
We need to get ceilings open and view the condition of the trusses and engineered systems quickly. If they're damaged, we may have to go defensive on this fire. Once we get the victim rescued, we can detune the aggressiveness and stay defensive or work from aerials on Side A if needed. We're also going to be doing lots of chainsaw work to get to the cockloft fire.
I'd consider piercing nozzles and Class A foam for the cockloft fire if we can't steam it out with a quick indirect attack - the foam will reduce the water weight on the trusses and will help protect the truss members from heat.
I don't have much tactical experience yet. I pretty much go where told to, which is usually with a nozzle in hand. But am gaining a lot of useful info in these threads (thanks Chris). I find these very helpful.
Just a question though, Mr. Waller. With all thats going on with your 3 alarm call, Why is accountability so far down on the list with so many bodies involved in so many areas? I can fully understand why not setting it up with the first alarm crew. But if I had guys in the fire, I wanna know who and where they are and how many. Just something I'm thinking about.
Accountability is not far down the list. Accountability does not necessarily require a seperate chief officer to track it. We use the Passport system, so we have accountability that's easy to see, and to reach out and touch as long as everyone enters the system at morning shift change the way they're supposed to do.
I've found that the NIMS span-of-control numbers (1:3 to 1:7 Span of Control range, 1:5 is ideal) can actually be stretched a little in the initial phases, particularly if you have staged units and exterior RIT and EMS units that aren't in the hazard area. My 1st alarm has a 1:8 Span of Control for the units actually committed to the firefight. (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Engines, 1st and 2nd Trucks, 1st Rescue) with the rest not operating in or in close proximity to the fire. One chief can handle that level of accountability. When the 3rd alarm gets there, the span of control gets too large for one person to track. I'd start assigning resources to their Division officers, but track them at the Command post with a seperate Accountability Officer at that point.
I'm used to Accountability being ingrained in every member, and the officers ensuring that their people are tracked at all times. I forget that my department's accountability SOGs and practices are not uniformly followed. Thanks for bringing it up.
Thanks for the detailed reply Ben. We don't have any structure resembling the scenario where I live, but could experience this on mutual aid. Haven't chimed in on any of Chris' posts mostly because I feel really inadequate; most of my Navy training means squat on structural fires. Most of the variables are different. I learn a lot from these threads.
Order a second-alarm response (that's fire alarms job to find 'em and dispatch 'em) but consider a delayed response considering the simultaneous job. Ensure EMS (BLS/ALS) is responding if seperate entity from your FD. Lay-in (forward) but considering the cul-de-sac, if no hydrant is available at the end of the cul, lay forward using the opposite side to facailitate room for the truck.
Assuming the company officer is first officer on scene, radio size up, requests, and initial attack action, and report 'fast-attack' mode, or 'all hands' indicating passing command as engines crew will use all hands. If the hydrant IS outside the cl entrane, the hydrant will have to wrapped 'dry' as all four crew memebrs (less than 4 means your screwed...so are any occupants) are needed.
One firefighter will begin to throw and place a 24' extension ladder to prepare for VES, while the company officer attempts a quick look at conditions around the back. Luckily the fire is towards an end unit, making this somewhat easier. The conditions found in the rear indicate VES is required. A 1.75" preconnected handline is stretched to the doorway, and charged. The Offcier quickly backs-up the nozzle man, and advances up the stairs in attempts to hold the fire to the room of origin. The apparatus operator will have to back-up the firefighter making VES, who MUST find, and close the room doors to attempt to confine the fire.
Obviously, this an all-out, maximum effort by the entire crew, which leaves MANY positions uncovered, and some will argue is unsafe. However, with judicious use of on-board tank water, experienced and trained crews, a quick primary search can be done, and entrapped victims that are 'viable', and not already deceased may have the best chance for rescue if done correctly, and time cooperates.
Given the visible fire conditions, I would say this is a very good possibility for knock-down and rescue. Second-due engine will have to 'pick-up' the hydrant,finsihing the connection, and/or plaing their engine on the hydrant. Immediatly a back-up line needs to be stretched to the second floor. The first-due truck will take the front, and the aerial will be placed to the roof. It so appears that fire walls are in place, judging by the off-set appearences of each unit. The first-due truck will complete the secondary search, splitting the crew, with the other working off the aerial, and attempting to open the roof. If the presence of ridge vents are on the roof, then the crew will work to open this vent, and check for fire extension.
The ability to provide for rapid knock down, confinement and control of the bedroom fire will dictate the further supression tactics. Truck crews making the secondary search, and/or the engine company providing the second line (back-up line) will need to open the ceilings asap. Any signs of fire will indicate weakening of the ceiling and truss system, and likely rapid and complete fire involvement of the truss space. Likewise for the roof operations (again, off the aerial only) Finding fire in this space will be reported to command, and the subsequent immediate evacuation of all personnel will be made.
The third-due engine will be placed inside the cul de sac to the rer 'C' side of the fire building to facilitate stretching lines to the rear of the building, for exposure and operational protection, should the fire extend. The second-due truck will be placed between the exposre 'B'-a, and 'B' -b buildings, with crews entering both 'B' and 'C' buildings to check for extension. Obviously, any signs of extension will require additional alarms, and offensive placement of crews with hoselines, with the main strategy of stopping the fire from extending along the 'B' exposres...but I'm calling it U/C after knocking down the division 2 bedroom fire rapidly, cause that's the way I see it!