There was a fire in 2007 on a European fire-ground that represented a typical ‘routine’ approach faced by firefighters all over the world. The fire involved a small single-story abandoned warehouse but there were surrounding buildings that posed some moderate exposure risks from a developing fire. The initial response consisted of just five firefighters on a single engine, with limited backup for the next twelve minutes on-scene.
As this book will show, a lot can happen in twelve minutes on the fire-ground. In this case two firefighters died. What went wrong at this ‘routine’ fire? Or was it just ‘one of those fires where the hazardous nature of the profession took it’s inevitable course?
Firstly, understand that there is nothing ‘routine’ about firefighting! If firefighters get into the habit of making ‘routine’ approaches to fires then they will become complacent. Rule number one – ‘Complacency is the firefighter’s worst enemy’! Secondly, there are nearly always things we can do to reduce a firefighter’s exposure to risk. For example, we can pre-plan more effectively and we can communicate more effectively, as well as taking actions on-scene that will secure team safety and save lives. Thirdly, we should provide safe operational ‘systems of work’ based on clear directives and protocols (SOPs), with an overall objective to optimize the tactical deployment of on-scene resources. Finally, we must effectively train both firefighters and commanders from differing perspectives and across a broad range of operational issues; but most specifically, to observe, ‘read’ and understand changing fire conditions. This point is absolutely critical and provides the underpinning knowledge needed to stabilize and control fire development within a structure whilst securing the safety of crews on the fire-ground.