Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brotherhood isn't dead

“Never Forget” is a slogan that the American fire service enjoys using. People never forget major events, brothers that have gone before us, or historical fire service moments, though it often drifts far from a firefighter’s daily thoughts over time. Sometimes a small show of brotherhood is delivered in a way that makes it difficult for one to have an important memory far from their thoughts. I have questioned over the past few years if true brotherhood is a dying breed. All too often it is preached and brotherhood slogans, tattoos, and stickers are popular, however it has as of recent seemed to me that the brotherhood of yesterday may not be the brotherhood of today’s world. Earlier this month, I was shown that brotherhood is not as far away as at times I feel it is.

I began my time in the fire service with the City of Raleigh Fire Department Explorer Post. At age 16, I was approached by a few Raleigh Fireman, two of which would become lifelong friends, about joining a small volunteer fire company near my home. This organization had saved my own mother’s life in 1996 when she was trapped in a van under several trees during a hurricane. I decided that is where I wanted to be. The night I became of age, I joined the Falls Fire Department, a decision that makes the list of my top 3 best decisions of all time. Never have I encountered an organization that had a bigger concentration of skilled fireman, dedicated members, or that fostered a family atmosphere of that caliber.  I was fortunate enough to make some lifelong friends, learn some very valuable lessons about life and the business, and create a foundation for my career at the Falls. From the first day I joined that little white firehouse on the outskirts of Wake Forest, North Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina, I was told that the organization was on “the closure list” as the County of Wake continued to find solutions to consolidate the Wake County Fire Service in a fiscal savings move. Fortunately, the leadership of the organization dodged closure for many years, mostly due to their dedication and shared love for a one of a kind organization. In 2010, it became apparent based on the information given to the organization that closure was inevitable if a merger wasn’t completed. We met as an entire membership and decided the route in which the majority wanted to move. It wasn’t an easy time at that little white house, knowing that shortly, your identity would change…. Forever.  That date would be March 25th, 2012.

Falls Fire Department was formed in 1969 when citizens of the Falls of Neuse Community in Northern Wake County, North Carolina saw the need for fire protection in their small cotton mill community. The Falls of Neuse Community Club, which operated a small “hall” type facility, offered the newly formed fire department use of their building. The first members of the organization built the bays and money raised by the ladies auxiliary bought their first fire truck from Durham Highway Volunteer Fire Department. Lacking sufficient funding and requiring an upgrade to the “phone tree” style of fire call notification, the first members of the organization found a wooden telephone pole near a utility sub-station and using a tractor dragged the pole down Falls of Neuse Road to the new firehouse. The pole was raised and a civil defense air raid siren was placed on the pole for notification of a fire call. There were no contractors, no foreman, no architects, and not much money. What they did have was dedicated fireman, drive, passion, and members that placed their own homes up to secure funding. In 1970, Falls Fire Department was chartered by the State of North Carolina. These traits continued flawlessly throughout the life span of the fire department.

Until 2005, the newest Fire Engine in service was a 1994 E-One. Wake County had begun purchasing fire trucks for the county fire departments as they controlled all of the budgets and tax generated monies. In an effort to further set into history the organization’s identity, the new Pierce Pumper-Tanker was painted in a Black over Red paint scheme, a color combo that was not used in the North Side of Wake County. The back door had the patch, designed by members several years earlier to showcase the old Erwin Mills Cotton Mill and the Falls of Neuse Road bridge over the Falls Lake Dam release. Directly below the patch was the organization’s nick name, “The River Rats”, a name taken from a band of lawless men that called the Falls home and later the name of the community baseball/softball teams. In 2009, that fire engine’s twin was purchased. With two of these beautiful pieces in the house, you would have thought all of the Falls Fireman had won a million bucks, especially since we were an organization that always lacked funding, did more with less, and had the smallest, oldest firehouse in the county.

Moving now back through time again to 2010, the tough decision was made to merge with a local organization that had a great relationship with our organization, had similar values, and that would allow the newest generation of Falls Fireman a place to call home and grow in the fire service. By this time I had risen to the rank of Battalion Chief within the organization.  I had encountered some leadership challenges prior to this point, but none like I would find myself having to deal with. The biggest challenge of all was to keep some of the best fireman I had ever known, motivated, trained, and willing to devote their time, when they knew the end of the Falls was quickly approaching.  All of us attempted to continue like we had another 10 years left. The day to day operations continued and calls came in and the trucks went out. The organization had gone through some changes prior to this time, the biggest being that a 24-7 volunteer staffing program, with part time personnel assistance during the week days was required. The community had grown and with it came neighborhoods that none of the fireman could afford to live in. With not many close enough to respond quickly from home when a fire call was dispatched, home response died. We were challenged to staff our trucks every night and weekend with a qualified crew. But like everything else, we rose to the challenge and for the most part, succeeded.

Leading any group of people, whether it is firefighters, police officers, or vested corporate employees is a paramount task when they know the end is in sight. How do you find the will power to appear to your men that everything is alright when you are just as upset and scared as they are? The answer is simple. You find it somewhere deep within or you fail. As a leader in this situation you have to hide your feelings for the most part, put on a motivated hat, and give everything you have within you to encourage your men.  I am not sure that any leader can understand that plight, unless you have attempted to lead individuals in a merging or closing organization. It was the most difficult challenge of my career.

Volunteerism in itself is a different animal completely than the paid fire service. I know that the common argument is that both are the same fire service. While I agree that both do the same job in terms of Fire-Rescue, there is a distinct difference in the two firehouses. Having served in both capacities for many years, I can say from experience that it is different. While I love my career, there is something to be said about my volunteer years. Volunteering in mostly volunteer organizations is a big commitment. You take on this commitment with little to no compensation. For generally free, you give up time with your family to train, fundraise, and to respond to emergency incidents. There has to be a true love of the job and the community to place yourself in a volunteer position. The bond that you form with those that volunteer beside you is one of the strongest bonds one can experience. There is a bond in the paid fire service, one that I personally promote and enjoy, however the volunteer bond is different. I had and still have a second family from the Falls. We know each other’s families; we relax together, have cook outs together, party together, and sacrificed together. The support network that existed at Falls was one that I have yet to experience anywhere. Our community was our family. If anyone in the community needed help, we were there. The community and the fire department becomes part of you. It’s not about the fun, the thrill, or the status, but of something much much larger; something to this day I cannot put into words. It is a special thing to be a part of an organization like this, one that my mere description cannot accurately depict.

On March 24th, 2012, a large group of members met at the firehouse at 2100 hrs. We sat in the firehouse smoking cigars, drinking Arnold Palmer Tea (a Falls thing), and told old war stories. It was one of the best times of my life. Everyone laughed as we all talked and for a moment, everyone forgot that in less than 24 hours, things would be changing. On the way home that night, I cried. I knew what the next day would bring, and even though I was very optimistic about the future with our new organization, the pain of losing part of my soul burned deep.

On March 25th 2012, we met at the firehouse in dress uniforms for the merger ceremony.  As I had dressed that morning, I remembered the hard work it took to even have those dress uniforms. As an organization we had waited tables at a local restaurant to raise the money for uniforms. I sunk inside remembering that it was the last time I would wear that uniform.

 The ceremony began a block from the firehouse with only Falls Firemen and a pipe and drum band. I was driving Falls Car 1 as the rear of the procession with a personal hero of mine, a founding Falls Fire Department member, Chief William Jackson. On the hour, the air raid siren sounded for the first time in over 6 years (it was turned off due to community complaints about the noise……) signaling the start of the ceremony. The Falls Firemen marched to the firehouse to begin the ceremony in fine fashion. The ceremony went well with speeches, motivational talks, historical references, and a radio sign off by the only remaining active charter member, Chief William Jackson. We marched into parade formation and each Chief Officer inspected his line of Falls Fireman. I was the last Chief to inspect my members. I spoke in a whisper to each of them as I walked down the inspection line. Most were crying which further tore my heart. Following my inspection I marched to the Wake Forest Fire Chief and the Falls Fire Chief, saluted, and said aloud through tears, Company 21 is ready. Following the inspection we took our oath together for the Wake Forest Fire Department.  The new chapter was here and honestly, we were scared and excited at the same time for the new opportunity.

I am no longer volunteering with the organization. I did not leave on any type of bad terms, but simply because of time constraints. From March 25th, 2012 until now, I have worried that the legacy, history, and memory of Falls Fire Department would be forgotten. That single event changed me as a person. I have worked in a few different organizations at many different levels and in many different capacities. Falls Fire Department was remembered by those that had a part in its history, but like anything else, a historical memory that had moved away from everyone’s daily and weekly thoughts.

On September 26th 2013, the second of our twins, Tanker 217 was to be delivered to the Town of Zebulon Fire Department in Zebulon, North Carolina. As part of the merger deal with Wake County, we had to give up the truck to be redistributed to the county fleet. Assistant Chief Chris Wilson of the Wake Forest Fire Department, the former Falls Fire Chief sent me an invite to ride on the truck to Zebulon for its final voyage.  I had since left the organization and was delighted that Wake Forest Fire Department thought of me to take 217 to its new home. I had ridden that truck to its first call, a working residential fire, and I would get to ride with the crew of its first call on its final ride. I dug a Falls Fire Department shirt out of my closet for the ride and we delivered the truck to its new home. I smiled as I drove home that night.

In early November 2013, I received an email with photos of the truck. Zebulon had repainted the truck to match their white over red paint scheme fleet. It was the next photo that made me sit back in my chair in awe. The Zebulon Fire Department had purchased a plaque honoring the Falls Fire Department and placed it on the side of their new Engine 92 in a private dedication ceremony. I thought “wow” as my eyes filled with tears, “what a generous show of brotherhood”. That simple gesture reminded me that people don’t forget parts of history that matter. It also provided me with living proof that the brotherhood of firefighting is alive and well. The latter of those two reminders/lessons is the most important part of Zebulon’ show of brotherhood. They reminded many that brotherhood is much more than the stickers, tattoos, and verbal remarks. It is about living it.

A special thanks to the Zebulon Fire Department, Zebulon NC, and Lee Wilson Photography for contributing to this article.


Justin Graney is the Officer Development Instructor for Tailboard Firefighting of North Carolina, an Airport Firefighter in Raleigh NC, aFirefighter with the Youngsville Fire Department in Youngsville NC, and formally a Battalion Chief of the Falls Fire Department in Wake Forest NC.



Monday, October 7, 2013

"It is all what you make of it"

My entire life, my parents have told me “it’s all what you make of it.” Like any kid, I would roll my eyes and say, “ok whatever”. The truth is, everything in your life is “all what you make of it.” As a firefighter in today’s fire service, this statement is true more than ever.

I believe that we can all agree that the fire service is changing. In some ways there is change for the better and in others, it seems the changes occurring are having a negative effect on the service. Change occurs daily, like it or not. It is a much different fire service today than 10 or even 20 years ago. In today’s fire service, your mind set as an individual has the biggest effect on your company and your performance.

We live in a world of political correctness, human resources, and lawsuits. I am not being negative; it’s simply the truth. Has good come from the influx of these types of game changing factors? Yes. No longer can you haze a firefighter for not pulling the line right by duct taping him to a telephone pole and soaking repeatedly with the line he pulled wrong. (Yes it happened, and yes I learned how to pull the line…..) No longer can you pull a prank of a sexual nature on the female firefighter. No longer can you degrade a person to the point of a mental breakdown for not producing. Do these things still occur? Yes, but on a lesser scale. Do these behaviors and consequences bring about change at the targeted audience? Often times yes, but in a time not so long ago. The only practical way to bring about a change in behavior in today’s fire service is to act as a mentor to your brothers and sisters, create a positive, productive individual from day 1, and foster a workplace that is centered around the people and firefighting/EMS first and foremost, and everything else second.

In this climate I discussed in the previous paragraph, is there a negative impact on the fire service? Without a doubt. Sometimes a firefighter needs a swift kick in the behind to get them back on track. The manner in which we give that kick has changed. Years ago, we actually physically gave that kick, which will get your fired and sued. Now, that kick comes through positive reinforcement, training, mentoring, reality check conversations, and if the point still doesn’t get across to the troubled firefighter, possibly some harsh words that bring the person back to earth. Just make sure those harsh words are free of racial, sexual, religion based comments. I am a firm believer that as a leader, both formal and informal, you do everything in your power to help a firefighter that is struggling. If they continue to fail because they just don’t care, they need to be shown the door.

Earlier in this post, I made the statement,

“the only practical way to bring about a change in behavior in today’s fire service is to act as a mentor to your brothers and sisters, create a positive, productive individual from day 1, and foster a workplace that is centered around the people and firefighting/EMS first and foremost, and everything else second.”

By using the above as a guide to groom the individual development of the crew, you create an individual that can think on his or her own, an individual that is driven, and an individual that understands “it is all what you make of it.”
A firefighter in today’s fire service that is driven to consistently build their skill level through training, learn from every run, and prepare for the worst case scenario can find that the fire service may be a lonely place at times. A firefighter that does the right thing day in and day out may find that the fire service may also be quite a lonely place as well. It is times such as these that your entire career is centered upon the statement “it is all what you make of it.” If you let the outside factors that frustrate you, upset you, and bring you down, change your course, you have failed. Set your compass, and head in the right direction, even when it hurts. “It is all what you make of it” each day at work. If you come to work in a bad mood with a lack of motivation, guess what? You have chosen what to make of it. When the rest of your company isn’t motivated and you are in the bay training alone, you have chosen what to make of your tour, and can often positively influence your brothers and sisters.

Choose positive firefighters to associate with and confide in. I often reach out to my mentors who remind me to stay the course and keep pushing, even when the road seems impassable. Those simple text messages from my mentors are often the motivation I need to regroup and continue.

Finally, I have heard the statement recently, “going to fires builds morale.” I agree fully. When I fight a fire regularly for a stretch of time, my morale is wonderful. Responding to fires cannot be the only factor that controls your morale. Fires are down in this country. Simply stated, we do not fight the amount of fires that we did even 10 years ago. Should our focus on being ready to fight fire change with the lower numbers of working fires we encounter? Absolutely not. My current assignment does not see much fire. I continue to recite to myself everyday, “it is all what you make of it” when I go in for a tour. In my mind, the big one can drop in at any time. I sharpen my skills, prepare my equipment, and treat every time the tones drop as the real deal. It is my career, my company, and my fire district. “It is all what I make of it.”

What are you making of your day? It is your choice.

Justin Graney is the Officer Development Instructor with Tailboard Firefighting of North Carolina, a Fire Engineer with the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Fire Rescue Department in Raleigh NC, and a Firefighter with the Youngsville Fire Department in Youngsville NC.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rapid Intervention: A dreaded assignment or progressive task for the elite?

Rapid Intervention: A dreaded assignment or progressive task for the elite?

Years ago, I hated to hear the words “Engine 212, take Rapid Intervention.” There was nothing worse than having to grab the assignment of RIT (before the terminology changed to “RIC”). You don’t get to fight fire, search, or get dirty and worst of all, you grab a RIT bag and stand in the front yard for hours.

In 2005, Captain Chris Wilson of the City of Raleigh Fire Department in Raleigh NC changed the world of Rapid Intervention for Engine 212 and many other companies in central NC. The concept of Progressive Rapid Intervention was introduced. No longer were crews simply standing around waiting for a firefighter to call a mayday while huffing and puffing because they were bored.

Who should be the Rapid Intervention Crew?

The most elite company you can find should be Rapid Intervention. Unfortunately, based on many organization’s “fire ground procedures”, this is not always possible. The solution? Train every crew in the organization, region, and state to operate as a rapid intervention crew to ensure everyone is the “elite” in this area.

* Disclaimer: Rapid Intervention Crew training should not take precedence over training on the basics of firefighting. It is the basics that will save your life and keep you from entering into a mayday parameter.

It is recommended that the Rapid Intervention Crew be established early in the incident progression to ensure protection for initial crews operating within the IDLH atmosphere. Many “fire ground procedures” have rapid intervention being established as early as the third due engine company or squad company. I recommend this set up with the first due naturally taking fire attack and the second due taking water supply if the first due doesn’t have one prior to their arrival. At no time do I recommend having a truck company or a rescue company establish rapid intervention. These special service companies are required for search, ladders, ventilation, controlling utilities, etc. that ensure incident stability and control.

What is a Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew?

A Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew is simply a tactically focused, driven company that operates in an accelerated manner to ensure the safety of crews working within the IDLH atmosphere. The Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew also maintains a state of readiness to respond to a firefighter distress call. The only route to maintaining this level of readiness is through a heightened state of situational awareness; a state which derives from training and experience. It is suggested that that most educated and experienced member of the company take the lead in Progressive Rapid Intervention so this level of situational awareness is achieved and maintained.

What roles and responsibilities is the Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew charged with?

Situational Awareness:

The Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew must maintain extreme focus at all times on the fire ground. It is not a time for chatting with old friends, joking around, or taking the job lightly. You are the tactical specialty unit that has the sole purpose of saving our own. Situational awareness must be maintained at all times through monitoring of all radio channels that are in use or may be placed into service, watching fire ground conditions, keeping orientation of where interior crews are operating, assessing any hazards that may exist on the fire ground and mitigating those hazards, and preplanning your deployment should the situation arise. Preplanning for a possible deployment is conducted by continuous crew briefings face to face, and by a continuous scene size up and periodic 360 degree walk arounds. Knowledge in fire behavior and building construction is required for successful RIC.


Throwing ladders for secondary egress and access is a major tool in the firefighter safety and survival toolbox. Any progressive truck company outside team will already be throwing ladders. It is the job of the Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew to ensure a sufficient number of ladders are thrown and that their location is announced through the communications system for all personnel on scene of the incident to hear and understand. The Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew needs to throw ladders that are in addition to those thrown by the truck company. Through incident situational awareness, there should be an understanding of where crews are currently operating, where they may be moving, and where they have been. This is achieved by assessing radio communications, reading smoke and fire conditions, and tapping into the crewmember’s experience from previous fire scenes and training.

Marking of windows and doors:

The Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew must have access to multiple flashlights and glow stick devices to mark doors and windows for interior crew orientation and identification of points of egress. Flashlights should be placed in any window or doorway that can be used as a point of egress. A solid beam of light should be emitted from the flashlight signaling the point of egress. It is not recommended to use a flashing light pattern as this can be mistaken for a distress signal.

It is recommended that the Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew use glow sticks to mark doors. There has been great success in using glow sticks in a smoke filled atmosphere with limited visibility. It is suggested that glow sticks be attached to the top of thrown ladders and to doors. Doors that are not chosen to be opened based on the contraindication of a negative effect on fire conditions, should have a glow stick placed around the door handle on the inside of the door. Rapid intervention should ensure that any door not opened is readily accessible and remains operational.
Glow sticks can be outfitted using fishing line or small gauge rope to be easily placed on the top of a ladder, over a doorknob, or in any other manner deemed appropriate.

(Photo from the Sherborn FD Facebook

As you see in the above sample photos, you simply tie the fishing line or small gauge rope through the top of the glow stick and drop it over door knobs and the top of the ladder at a window. Simple, cheap, and effective. If the window is cleared out (with the sash gone, as it should be) grab a nail, drive it into the window frame and hang the glow stick.

Removal of fences and window/door obstructions:

The Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew should remove any exterior fences, gates, or privacy walls that can obstruct access to the structure, egress from the structure, or delay rapid deployment of RIC.

Removal of window security systems and bars is recommended to allow for firefighter egress. In addition, removal of large bushes and shrubs is recommended to remove possible obstructions to the structure and to successful egress.

(Example Images obtained by google images)
Staging of tools and equipment:

A Rapid Intervention bag and assorted hand tools should be the initial staged equipment. In addition to this equipment, forcible entry tools, a dedicated hose line, and additional SCBA bottles should be staged.  RIC tool staging should be a sacred cache of equipment that no other company operating on the fire ground should touch or move.

Tactical set up:

The primary “Rapid Intervention Staging Area” should have a RIC bag supplied with a replacement SCBA system, a spare SCBA mask, cutting tools, various hand tools, rope, duct tape (for rapid mask repair) and webbing.  In addition, the staging area should have forcible entry tools, additional ladders, spare SCBA bottles, and a dedicated hose line.

During Progressive Rapid Intervention Crew Operations, there should always be two personnel that are in a state of readiness. This two person “Go Team” acts as the initial rapid response to a firefighter distress call. The “Go Team” responds with the RIC Bag, forcible entry tools, and a rope search bag for easy route identification by future RIC making access.

The members of RIC that are preforming “Progressive Rapid Intervention Operations” respond immediately to the primary RIC staging area when a distress call is transmitted. Once at the staging area, the other members of RIC prepare to deploy with the appropriate assets and tools needed as requested by the initial “Go Team” who has made access to the distressed firefighter. The staged RIC personnel then make contact with the “Go Team” and relieve them and continue to extricate the distressed firefighter from the situation at hand.

* It is imperative that the incident commander orders two additional RIC anytime a RIC deployment is encountered. This is called the “rule of 3’s”. For every RIC deployed, there must be two additional crews to replace that RIC.

Once Progressive Rapid Intervention Operations is concluded, it is recommended that RIC personnel be placed on at least two sides of the structure with appropriate tools to maintain incident awareness and rapid deployment availability.

Aircraft Firefighting RIC:

In the aircraft world, the same principles apply. Making any interior fire attack or rescue on an aircraft is no different than entering any structure that is an IDLH atmosphere. Ladders must be thrown to the aircraft for egress and hatches and doors should be marked with flashlights or glow sticks. Glow sticks are recommended over flashlights since the inside of an aircraft is a confined space and the bright beam of light that a flashlight emits may cause vision and orientation problems for interior firefighters.

Evidence preservation is of priority on scene of an aircraft incident; however attempt to secure egress routes that do not interfere with debris if at all possible. If the aircraft is in an area that has egress obstruction due to natural plants, bushes, or trees, assess the situation and prepare for a systematic and controlled removal of these obstructions for firefighter safety.

Keep in mind that the use of power saws on any metal surfaces may produce heat and sparks which may create a situation in which hydrocarbon vapors ignite. Ensure that there is a hose line available for quick suppression using AFFF foam anytime a cutting tool is in use.

Tool staging should include hydraulic power tools and crash axes in addition to the above stated equipment. In addition, take into consideration of the use of halon and dry powder extinguishers for Rapid Intervention Operations; however keep in mind that any compromise to the firefighter’s SCBA system may contraindicate use of these extinguishment products as they can cause further respiratory compromise of the distressed firefighter.

Rapid Intervention is not just a formality. Treat it as the most important task you will ever encounter. It is your own brothers and sisters you are there to protect. Be safe and even more importantly, be smart. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The scaled back fire alarm response... friend or foe?

Many organizations across the country have scaled back their automatic fire alarm response over the past 5 years. Many fire departments are simply having a single engine respond to fire alarm calls, while others have cut back the response to an engine and a truck. For the sake of this article, we will not address Department of Insurance standards or the changing of these standard to allow for the reduction in responding assets.

Why cut back the response?

Money. The number one reason for trimming back the response on automatic fire alarm calls is of a fiscal nature. The amount of money a fire department has in a budget year dictates the allowable response at times. With many public safety organizations feeling the brunt of the recession, responses have been scaled back to save money.  Personnel, fuel, equipment maintenance, etc…. all costs money.

Complacency. Many of the fire alarm calls in the United States each year are unfounded with no emergency present. The majority are false activations.

Loss of focus. With call volumes on the rise nationwide, cutting back on some of the incidents companies respond to eases the load on the personnel. The few “working fires” that morph out of an automatic fire alarm are forgotten when these types of decisions are made.

Bandwagon Syndrome. Everyone else is cutting back the response to fire alarms. Something must be wrong with us if we don’t do it also. Right?

Safety. Why place more trucks on the road responding to a call that most likely will turn out to be false? It puts the public and the responders at risk.

What is wrong with trimming the response?

Firefighters operate in worst-case scenarios. Every incident may be the “big one”.

Why do you monitor a home on a CO call? Simply because you are treating it as worst-case scenario and ensuring that there is no hazards present. When CO is ruled out, the incident is de-escalated. The same should be true for fire alarm activations.

Fire alarm activations are structure fires until proven otherwise.

The above statement is the bottom line. Our job is to treat calls like the real deal until we; the firefighters prove there is nothing emergent occurring. Trimming back the response does nothing but foster complacency. One Engine Company responding to an incident that we know should be treated as a structure fire creates a subconscious cues in the brain that de-escalates the situation prior to arrival causing firefighters to treat the situation with less efficiency. In addition, the scaled back response delays firefighters from arriving with sufficient manpower on a working fire and create situations that do not ensure rapid intervention is organized in a timely manner, especially with a crew already on the scene going to work. In many locales nationwide, there is also a time lapse from when the first engine arrives on scene, declares a “working fire” to the time it takes for the appropriate assets to be dispatched, to the time it takes the crews to respond.

One Engine Company or one Engine Company and a Truck Company are not sufficient.

What is the solution?

The solution is to have enough resources dispatched that can appropriately handle a “working fire” situation for a period of time while other assets are dispatched and responding. A minimum of three engine companies and a truck company is my recommendation for automatic fire alarms. It is a scaled back response that ensures success on the first few minutes of a “working fire” situation. The first due Engine Company and first due Truck Company responds in an emergency response fashion. The other units respond in a non-emergency fashion, however maintains their state of readiness (full turnouts, tools, game plan, etc…) Here is how it breaks down…..

1st Due Engine Company (Emergent Response)- Investigation, Fire Attack

2nd Due Engine Company (Non-Emergent Response unless upgraded)- Water Supply, Second Hose Line.

3rd Due Engine Company (Non-Emergency Response unless upgraded)- Rapid Intervention.

1st Due Truck Company (Emergent Response Assist with investigation, Forcible Entry, Truck Company Operations if required)

Why should the truck company respond emergent? They are a specialized unit that provides tactical support to the engine company to ensure incident success. (Forcible Entry, Ventilation, Search and Rescue, Overhaul, Secondary Egress etc…)

The fiscal impact of the above recommendation should not be taken lightly; rather decisions should be made to reduce spending in other non-essential areas so that incident response doesn’t take a direct hit.

The fire service needs to return to worst-case scenario mindset and make decisions that ensure tactical success. Remember, the community is counting on you to fix their problem and save their lives. Be smart with decision-making, ensure tactical success, and do so while ensuring success of the business aspect of the organization as well.

Be safe out there.