Time is a firefighter's enemy

The urgency firefighters show in taking mitigating actions at a working fire goes a long way to determining the amount of fire damage


The one common issue that we face as a fire service is time — and time is always running against us.

We strive to increase our response times by strategically locating our stations within a certain distance inside our response area. We staff our trucks so that we can do more in less time. We try to beat the clock when rescuing persons from their perilous situations.

We face time as an enemy.

Whenever we arrive on the scene of a structure fire, our actions should show a sense of urgency. This does not mean firefighters should be running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.

Rather, it means they should move urgently and purposefully, taking steps or actions to help mitigate the situation.

The public is our number one concern — they are the ones who call us for help and they are the ones who, for the most part, fund our ability to serve. When they are watching our every move, they can be very critical of what we do, how we do it and when we do it.

Move like it matters
Understandably, the civilian public does not know our job or the reasons behind our tactics or actions. However, there are occasions when the public sees what we do or not do, and they have their critique bang on.

Take, for instance, the video below. What we have here is a case of time working against us and the fire crews on scene not trying to beat the clock.

The first-arriving crew members don't seem to show any urgency in their actions. As a firefighter, it is hard to watch this situation unfold while there is a developing fire occurring and no immediate action being taken to mitigate it. 

This is even harder for a member of the general public to watch, especially if it is their house.

With all of the tactics that are available to us to overcome different situations like limited manpower, fire development stage and phase, immediate rescue required, exposure protection, etc., there is no reason why immediate actions can't be taken.

The domino effect seen here is with the fire itself and the responding crews. As time ticks on with getting everything set up, and no real urgency being seen, the fire continues to grow. And a growing, unchecked fire produces a bigger problem for all in the end. 

Put some urgency into your steps and actions. It shows that we care and are there to help. 

About the author

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is currently a full-time firefighter in Ontario, Canada. Mark is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He is a local-level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and an instructor for the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He is also the lead author of the book "Residential Fire Rescue." You can contact Mark with feedback at Mark.vanderfeyst@firerescue1.com.

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