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Topographical fire truck staging considerations

When deciding where to park a fire truck at a scene, apparatus drivers must factor in the vulnerability of the staging area


The responsibilities that come with driving the fire truck are often accompanied by a certain amount of pressure to perform well. One of the things you need to be aware of when arriving at a scene is where to stage the apparatus.

There are many things to consider when staging the first- or second-arriving fire truck at a chaotic scene. Often, the driver is directed by the officer on scene where to stage the truck, and hopefully they will take into consideration the physical challenges that may arise when deciding where to park the fire truck.

One area to be concerned with is the topography, or the physical attributes of the land. Regardless of any other factor, the lay of the land is paramount when deciding where to stage the fire truck. We are reminded of this again with the incident on Nov. 30, 2017 in Medford, New York.

As you will see in the video, the first-arriving truck almost became a victim by being burned up due to where it was parked.

Biggest dangers to fire trucks on scene

The two most common types of calls that endanger fire trucks are:

  1. Fuel fires.
  2. Wildland fires.

With fuel fires, the topography question needs to be answered when staging the first-arriving truck. Fuel that is spreading will do so by finding the path of least resistance, and will follow the path carved out for it. If that path happens to be in the same direction as a parked fire truck, it will not deviate around it.

What would have happened if the fire truck in the video had caught fire? It would only add to the problem by making it a bigger problem. We have witnessed other calls where fire trucks parked in the wrong place have caught fire because the fuel that was spreading went right under the truck and engulfed it.

For some departments this would be a huge loss; having to replace a fire truck is not cheap, as well as the stress it places on a department being down a truck. When responding to vehicle fires or fuel spills, the driver needs to look at the lay of the land when arriving on the scene to determine where is the safest place to park. Staging a fire truck uphill is going to be the best spot for these types of fires.

When you are assigned to drive the fire truck, make sure to take into consideration the most important topographical question: Is where I am parked a vulnerable spot for any fuel runoff or flaming trails?

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