You Don't Have to Ride a Ladder Truck to be a Truckie
The first engine arrives on the scene of a working structure fire in a two-story home. Thick, black smoke covers the house and bright, orange flames leap from a first-floor window from the rear of the house. It's 0200 HRS and there is a minivan and an SUV parked in the drive way. The first arriving officer gives an arrival report, requests another alarm assignment, and passes command.
After completing his arrival report, the officer tells his firefighter to stretch an attack line as he begins to circle the house and prepare his plan of attack. A rescue truck (ALS or BLS transport truck staffed with firefighters) arrives, the crew exits their truck, and they approach the scene where they find the officer, who has just completed his 360 size up. The officer announces to the crews on scene that the fire is in the kitchen, which is located on the first floor, on corner Bravo-Charlie. He then gives the following tactical assignments: rescue crew gain access through the front door and complete a primary search of the second floor; engine crew advance the attack line to the kitchen area and confine the fire.
A chief officer arrives and establishes command. The second engine pulls onto the scene and is told to establish a water supply and stretch a back-up line. The next arriving rescue truck is told to ladder a second floor window on side Delta, where two occupants are seen screaming. Other crews arrive and provide a rapid intervention crew and medical support.
The fire is quickly brought under control and all of the occupants are safely evacuated from the house. The engine companies continue mopping up hot spots and the crews from the rescue trucks are then re-assigned to ventilate the first and second floors with a positive pressure ventilation fan and to check for fire extension.
Notice something interesting here? All of the "truck company" assignments: forcible entry, search and rescue, ventilation, and overhaul were performed at this fire by the crews assigned to a rescue truck. This is common practice for many fire departments nationwide that operate at fires with limited, or no, ladder companies, which usually perform these truck company functions. You don't have to arrive on a ladder truck to perform truck company functions!
Now, this article was not written for those fire departments that have and operate established ladder trucks or truck companies. But for those fire departments who, for whatever reason, be it limited funds for manpower or equipment, or a limited fire suppression philosophy, do not have identified and appropriately staffed and trained "truck companies" (ladder companies). Everyone, especially those firefighters assigned to the rescue trucks, should be familiar with truck company operations. After all, you are riding on a rescue truck!
I know most firefighters believe that the glory job is in maneuvering the nozzle like a machine gun and extinguishing the fire. WRONG! The hard core, get down and get dirty, let's get physical jobs on the fire ground are the truck company functions. They are the back bone of all structural firefighting operations.
The point of this article is simple: Yes, everyone should have the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform truck company operations. But, if you are a member of one of the many fire departments across the country that provides emergency medical services, and you are assigned to a rescue truck, then you, especially, need to get out there and practice what you will be expected to do at a structure fire: TRUCK COMPANY OPERATIONS!
Because truck company operations are truly the workhorse of the fire ground, it requires that firefighters have a knowledge and skill level in many diverse areas. The firefighter must be able to conduct those various functions that support the engine company's mission and objectives.
Think about the following questions regarding truck company functions, and how they relate to you, your equipment, and your department's operating guidelines:
Search & Rescue
1. What are your department's procedures for searching without a hoseline?
2. What tools would you use given the task of searching a single-family or multi-family building or a large open area?
1. What size ladders are carried on your department's apparatus? Where can they get you?
2. What are the laddering procedures for rescue versus ventilation operations?
1. What are the critical considerations when performing vertical ventilation on a roof?
2. What tools are needed for a roof ventilation assignment?
3. How do you set up positive pressure ventilation at a single-story or multi-story structure fire?
1. What tools are needed to force entry through the following obstructions:
Lighting & Power
1. How can portable power and lighting be brought to a building?
These are just a few questions to start you thinking. If you don't know the answer to some, or all, of these questions, then you need to start reviewing and practicing. Fire department training divisions should develop and deliver "back-to-basics" truck company training for everyone.