How to best place fire trucks at vehicle fires

Make sure the rig is positioned to best attack the fire and not become compromised if the situation changes

As we begin a new year, I would like to extend to you my sincere wishes for a safe and prosperous year for each of you. We have made it through another year and we need to begin the work of ensuring that 2017 ends with all of us making it safely through.

This month, let's look at truck placement in relation to vehicle fires. The attached video shows an incident involving a truck fire on a public street.

Look at this incident from the “what if” perspective, as the responding fire department did an excellent job of not becoming involved in the development of the truck fire.

Notice how the responding fire trucks parked when they arrived; they staged themselves parallel to the truck on fire. This plays an important role, as it kept the firefighting rigs from becoming involved with the truck that is on fire when it began to roll.

Usually, we will block off traffic or angle our parking to provide a safe work area. This method of traffic control sometimes puts our responding trucks in the travel path of the vehicle that we are there to deal with.

If that vehicle does start to roll away, it may roll right into our trucks.

By positioning our responding trucks away from or out of the direct travel path of the vehicle that we are called to deal with, ensures that we do not become involved.

Unexpected threats

The dispatch for the call was most certainly for a truck on fire — so the department responds with that information or mindset of having to deal with a truck fire.

But when the truck rolls away, it comes to rest near a building. Now the responding firefighters must be prepared to deal with a possible structure fire involving a vehicle on fire as well.   

I mention the mindset here because for some firefighters, responding to a vehicle fire may only involve wearing limited personal protective equipment as opposed to being fully prepared with all the right PPE for the “just in case” moments.

The right mindset allows firefighters to be prepared as the event unfolds and takes an unexpected turn, such as the truck rolling away toward a building.

In the scenario in the video, what can we do to help prevent this from happening?

If time permits, we can place two wheel chocks on one tire. In the case of the attached video, there was no time to do this; the truck started to roll away as soon as they arrived on scene. But if we can place the chocks in position, it will help.

Vehicle fires are a common call for most fire departments. And for the most part, they play out with us arriving and putting them out without any further complications.

But make sure to position your truck so that you will not become involved in the problem.   

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