A common fire service trend being seen throughout the country is the decrease in retention of volunteers and the downsizing of career staff. This has resulted in an approach typically described as "doing more with less". While the phrase itself is a bit of a cliché, it holds truth and great value in the way that many departments are equipping their apparatus and training their first responders.
In this article, I’m going to focus on a first-due engine company response to a working residential structure fire and offer some quick tips on coordinating horizontal ventilation with an advancing hose line where there is a possibility of a rescue. The engine is staffed with four (4) personnel: The chauffeur, a company officer, and two (2) firefighters.
SCENARIO: Engine 97 arrives to a two (2) story modern construction raised ranch style home with a heavy volume of thick black smoke pushing from the second floor, A/B corner of the structure. It's Saturday afternoon and there is a motor vehicle in the driveway. With the chauffer readying the pump for suppression, the company officer conducting a rapid 360 of the structure, and the nozzle firefighter stretching to the A side entrance, the remaining firefighter is responsible to perform coordinated ventilation as the line is moved into place. Performing coordinated horizontal ventilation correctly will create an atmosphere more conducive to occupant survival while also increasing visibility and creating a cooler working environment for those operating on the hose line.
Here are four (4) quick tips to help you complete the tasks needed to perform outside horizontal ventilation without the assistance of an additional firefighter. To accomplish these tasks, you will need to don full structural turnout gear (including an SCBA), a 16’ roof ladder, haligan bar, and a 6’ roof hook.
Utilize the foundation of the structure to “foot” the heel of the ladder while you raise the ladder hand over hand to the upright and vertical position. This eliminates the need for an additional Firefighter to “foot” or stabilize the ladder as it is being raised.
Move the base of the ladder away from the structure and place at a 75 degree angle. To ensure that you have an adequate angle, place your toes at the heel of the ladder and extend both arms out in front of you. If your arms are stretched and parallel with the ground and your hands are resting on a ladder rung, your angle is sufficient.
To prevent the ladder from kicking-out as you ascend, utilize a haligan bar to take the place of another firefighter. Place the haligan bar at the heel so it extends across both rails and drive the adz end into the ground. This will secure the ladder in place and prevent it from kicking-out.
With the 6’ roof hook in hand, extend your arm and the hook as far up the 16’ ladder as possible and secure the highest rung possible by catching the rung with the portion of the hook that points in the downward direction. This will allow you to safely and swiftly ascend the ladder while maintaining three (3) points of contact at all times. Not only does a 6’ roof hook give you the greatest height when capturing a rung, it allows for you to work from a safer distance from the window you are ventilating. You can now coordinate your ventilation tasks with the advancing attack crew.
As budget cuts and other staffing constraints continue to hinder our ability to provide adequate fire ground staffing in a timely manner, we must continuously learn and train to adapt and overcome by developing tactical approaches that provide for the most efficient and effective service while maintaining our own safety on the fire ground. Your ability to operate independently, maintain fire ground communication and still account for your own safety depends on a skill level developed by your commitment to training and proficiency in your fire ground skills