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As an officer on an engine, what is your job? I've taken notice recently in reviewing NIOSH fatality reports and talking with members from other departments that it is not uncommon for the Engine officer to be on the nozzle. Is this really a common practice? If so, why?

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Having the engine officer on the nozzle is WRONG!
The job of the engine officer is to supervise their crew.
The officer is the supervisor. He needs to be aware of the changing conditions and watch out for the safety of the crew. Fire may wrap around the attack crews position, to leave another member of the crew to watch for these changing conditions is wrong.
When I was an engine officer, with a three person crew, my job was behind the nozzle man with the third person as the door man. If we were the initial attack my third person was pumping, I was one busy dude. I was constantly moving from the front of the line to where it was caught and back to the front of the line always in voice contact with the nozzle position. If we were the backup line we positioned about two thirds of the way in as the atack line and protected the dominant verticle channel in the structure. I was constantly upstairs and back down watching conditions aware of the attack line and members searching. Gut busting work as any job in interior firefighting, but extremely important for all firefighters and civilians alike.
Jay
Jay,

I agree completely. On my job the officer's position is supervisory, typically right behind or next to the nozzleman. Every once in a while you hear of a boss who can't let go of being a firefighter. These are usually newly promoted officers. Our typical stretch covers the nozzle and door positions with the officer sometimes required to cover the back-up position (if the officer has to work then this is the best place IMO) Anything less than this, even on a simple private dwelling fire and your asking for trouble, especially if you have an inexperienced crew. Occasionally we'll get all positions covered by the firefighters with the officer left to do what he is supposed to do. Supervise and protect.

If you are on the tip or humping hose your not completely focused on what is going on around you. The officer should stay as uncommitted as possible to ensure that his focus is on whats above, below, in front and behind the advancing line.

I was just amazed at hearing and reading that in some places having the officer on the tip of the line is OK.
I have had a few officers "steal" the nozzle on occasion, my experience has been that they were poor leaders in general, and it extended onto the fireground. Somewhat short handed, it's unfortunate that the officer on our department tends to end up humping line, forces him to take the "umpire" boss style you (Lt. McCormack) teach about, whether it's the appropriate style or not.

With the officer on the knob it makes his focus far too narrow, unable to see the big picture. When you make the decision to seek promotion, you need to realize that your time on the nozzle is pretty well over.
An Engine Officer who grabs the nozzle is no longer supervising anything, rather, he just becomes the highest paid Nozzleman in the company...Hands off and eyes up Boss!!!!
Thats so true Keith, if your duties place you behind the nozzle team,(Umpire) you probally will not be able to assume any other leadership position even if it is called for.
I completely agree with all those who feel that the engine officer is not a nozzleman. Of course he isn't that is not his/her job. However, having spent 12 years as an engine company officer in, what were at times, understaffed engine companies I learned that you can never say never. There were times when the only firefighter on the backstep may have lacked the experience for a particular set of circumstances that a given building fire may present. Remember in days gone by, those days years ago when most departments were adequately staffed, junior firefighters learned the nozzleman's job by working with talented and experienced senior firefighters. It might be years before a firefighter was able to hang his helmet "on the pipe" for the tour. The officer, in those days, had the luxury of being off to the side of the nozzleman and waving the wheat light. An engine officer today has to be a lot more savvy. For the safety of the new firefighter and the rapid advancement of the line and knock down of the fire there may be times you find yourself on the nozzle. Is this the ideal situation, of course not. It would certainly benefit the officer, in the long run, to act as somewhat of a player-coach. Let the inexperienced back step firefighter begin the stretch. Coach and encourage him or her through the advance of the line. If taking the nozzle for a minute or two to get up or down a set of stairs, into the final room, around a corner, down a hallway is what you need to do then do it. The nozzle should then be returned to the firefighter immediately. Again what I am describing is an officer in charge of an understaffed engine company with an inexperienced firefighter on the nozzle during a particularly challenging firefight. If the fire is a relatively bread and butter job then keep your hands off of the nozzle and let the new kid earn his wings with some OJT. Inadequate staffing is a fact of life in todays fire service. The job of the engine officer has become much more difficult and "hands on" than it was in the past. If you have an experienced firefighter(s) and/or your company is safely staffed then, leave the nozzle alone, just do your job and let the firefighters do theirs. You can say this or that should never happen, and that is all well and good... Until the new guy has a frozen moment when you least expect it. So, I hear you guys and I agree with all of you in principle, just never say never...

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