-Wow Jason, this one is manpower intensive and there is just no way around it! If you cannot put at least 3 engines and 2 ladders (plus support units) on scene right away you are going to play catch until the fire runs out of things to burn.
-I like the old Tom Brennen axiom, "Put the fire out and generally things will get better". However, in these multi occupancy dwellings the Search priority becomes huge when creating a Rescue Profile during the initial size up and the Search must be aggressive. At least 2 Companies must be dedicated to Search Operations immediately and VES should be implemented. Given the photo, it is a safe assumption that there are at least 8 apartments and that means someone, somebody somewhere is going to be home. You cannot make any assumptions as to who is home based on cars out front, not on this one.
-There must be an LDH water supply to support a minimum of two 2.5" hand lines; 1.75" attack lines will not knock this fire down. Remember the added flex time involved stretching up stairs; this will exacerbate conditions and allow the fire to increase, thereby necessitating the 2.5” hand lines... you’ll want the big water. This example should have the IC anticipating structural fire involvement and numerous victims; that’s the nature of these poorly constructed apartment buildings… build cheap and charge crazy rent.
-An old timer once gave me a great Rule of Thumb for stretching the 2.5”.
1. If the fire has control of more than one residential size room
2. If there is a lot of smoke and no visible fire
3. If you’re going up or down stairs
4. If the occupancy is commercial or multi occupancy
5. If your insides tell ya to…. stretch the 2.5 hand line. Given the conditions in the photo there is no way that a 1.75” attack line can put out enough of GPM’s to deal with the BTU release taking place. The inch and three quarter will not suppress this fire but it may contain the fire in an area until the fire has exhausted all the consumable fuel.
-Aggressive Truck Work at this fire essential; aerials and ground ladders will be needed to support Search operations and Ventilation evolutions… this is a must. Venting must happen at this fire. Another Brennen-ism, “Vent an ye shall live”. Windows accomplish immediate vent results, roof operations take longer and have the potential to spread the fire from Room and Contents to Structural Involvement, decide which tactic you will select based upon on scene factors.
-Captain Dale Dye (USMC ret) said, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals discuss logistics”. In this example water supply is going to be huge, as will apparatus and ladder access. And the very act of laying lines for proper water supply will cause further restriction of responding apparatus creating logistical issues in what appears to already be a small parking lot in a congested apartment complex. Staging areas should be identified in the event this becomes a multiple alarm fire. An area for evacuees must be established as well as early requests for assistance from organizations like the Red Cross, and the Utility companies. The IC should further anticipate the need for police assistance with controlling spectators, which is sure to happen in this type of scenario.
Michael: I like your Rule of Thumb for stretching 2.5". I'd like to use it next time I teach Engine Ops.
Looking at this photo I instantly thought of a few apartments in my city where I work. I agree with Michael that my gut would tell me to stretch the 2.5" right off the bat even though I know that it could possibly take 2 companies to help. I also know that the likely hood of our guys stretching a 2.5" is slim. The majority consider it a "defensive line". As far as considerations go: With our resources, I'd strike a second alarm for the needed manpower. Our Ladder Company will have to get the search started ASAP. Water supply will have to be established quickly (knowing the hydrants before the alarm comes in will make this easier and assist greatly in spotting the apparatus).