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Solid footing: 3 ways to achieve successful fire attack outcomes

A fire crew displays best fire safety and operational practices while battling a strip mall fire

Many times, we in the fire service look at fires and our response from a negative perspective to see where we went wrong or what was missed. We do this to learn for the next time – if we can identify areas that can be improved upon it, will help us down the road to be better. Sometimes, it is also good for us to look at different fire situations from a positive perspective – what went well for us?

This past week, while looking at some videos online from different fires across the country, I came across one that showed a lot of positive output from the crews in their operations. While you watch the corresponding video, look for three areas where this department excelled.

1. Hand line stretch

One positive practice to note was the hand line stretch. You will notice how the one firefighter advanced a hose line to the front door of the unit that they were going to enter. When this firefighter pulled the line, he did so with efficiency by grabbing the nozzle as well as a section of hose. By doing this, he was able to advance a good section or length of hose to the front unit door. This strategy ensures the firefighter will have about 50 to 100 feet of hose ready to pull into the unit with much more ease than if it were stretched out in a straight line from the nozzle to the pump discharge.

2. Fire officer safety check

Another positive: the officer ensuring that his team members were all using their SCBA. You will notice the team entering the unit is wearing SCBA and the officer watching them make entry motioned to the one firefighter to ensure that they were on air. This is the sign of a good officer looking out for his crew. Even though we have a responsibility to ensure that we use our properly assigned PPE, a good officer will also double check that his crew is safely using their PPE when needed.

3. Rooftop access

The last approach that was a positive output was the laddering of the building. You will notice the roof being laddered for rooftop operation access, but notice how the ladders are positioned. They are at least five rungs above the roof line and there are at least two of them in the video screen shot. Having these ladders extended well above the roofline at nighttime ensures the crews hopefully see and access them easier.

The three items mentioned above are nothing new for us in the fire service – they are very basic practices that we do on a regular basis; but by doing these basic items well every time, we are building a solid footing for ourselves to pave the way for successful outcomes both personally and collectively.

What other positive practices do you see in the video?

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.

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