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Effective engineers do more than drive

Video shows four ways a driver supported engine and truck crews

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When dispatched to respond to a structure fire, the driver’s first role is to get firefighters to the scene. Once on scene, the driver’s duties have only just begun, especially if they are part of the first-arriving apparatus.


When dispatched to respond to a structure fire, the driver’s first role is to get firefighters to the scene. Once on scene, the driver’s duties have only just begun, especially if they are part of the first-arriving apparatus.

Unfortunately, some drivers believe that when they arrive first on scene, all they need to do is operate the pump and that’s it – their job functions are complete – but this is far from the truth in terms of what they can do to contribute to the positive outcome of the operation. The driver is an asset that can be utilized in many ways for support functions.

Many fire departments have standard operating procedures or guidelines (SOPs/SOGs) outlining the driver’s duties depending upon the order of their arrival to the scene. Such guidelines are good to have, as they help with the effectiveness and efficiency of the driver.

4 more ways to contribute on scene

In our corresponding video, we can see an example of a driver who is both effective and efficient throughout the operation. As you watch the video, focus on the driver of the first-arriving apparatus and what he is doing during the first few minutes of arrival. He does four things beyond his initial driving role:

1. Quickly charged hoseline: The first thing you will notice is how quickly the hoseline was charged once it was deployed. As soon as the two firefighters had the hoseline off the truck, flaked out and are donning their masks to go in, the line is charged with water. With this quickness, the crew going in is not waiting for water but rather the opposite – the hoseline is waiting for them.

2. Ongoing hoseline management: The second thing you will notice is that once the line has been charged, the driver follows up the hoseline to ensure there are no kinks, bring some more hose to the front door for advancement, and ensures that the hose will advance without any obstructions. Even though the second/back-up firefighter is supposed to do this, the driver is double-checking to be sure that the interior crew will not have any issues with their hoseline.

3. Tool transfer: The third thing you will notice is that the driver brings needed tools to the front door for the crew going in. And these tools are the tools that are needed for the situation, not just hand tools for the sake of hand tools. You will notice that the driver brought roof hooks to the front door, as the crew will certainly need it for overhaul work later in the incident.

4. Pulling the backup hose: The fourth thing you will notice is that the driver pulls off the secondary backup hoseline. As the first crew makes its way inside, the second hoseline is being pulled off and being flaked out for advancement. This makes the job of the backup team easier, as their hoseline is waiting for them ready to go.

Training time: Driver assists

After watching this video with your company, take the following steps to support training that’s focused on fire department drivers:

  • Review the department’s current SOPs or SOGs. Does the SOG/SOP highlight or detail what the driver can do on arrival for a structure fire? Are there any provisions for the driver to exercise judgment calls to assist with the crews? Is the language of the SOP/SOG too tight, restricting the actions of the driver?
  • Conduct a training session to practice all the support functions that a driver can do: pulling a handline, charging the handline, then pulling off a second handline and charging it, too.
  • Practice certain skills when checking in the truck, such as one-person ladder raises. This can be accomplished on the front apron of the station at any time when the driver is checking in their truck. This helps to make sure the ladder works properly as well as increase skill proficiency.

Supporting a positive outcome

The example displayed in this video is what makes an effective and efficient driver – doing the most with the least. He is not going in to fight the fire, but all the support functions that he provided will aid in the operation producing a positive outcome.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.