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Please provide your tactical opinion on the following scenario. At 11:31 pm an all volunteer fire department (members responding from home) was paged out to a "possible car fire" at a local gas station. Engine 1(1980 model 1000 gpm/500 gal tank) with two personnel (both recently graduated from Vol FF certification course) was first to arrive on scene at 11:35. Engine 2 (2000 model 1250 gpm/1000 gal tank), driven by myself with one other firefighter on board was approximately one minute later on arrival.
Engine 1 equipped with two 150' "1 1/2" crosslays with 125 gpm combination nozzle and two 1" booster hoses on reels with 60 gpm single gallonage combination nozzles. Also, side compartments contained doughnut rolled 1 1/2" with 125 gpm combo nozzles for direct connection to pump panel.
Upon my arrival I witnessed the two Engine 1 firefighters and at least two others preparing to open the rear doors of an enclosed metal cargo/utility trailer parked 30 - 50 feet away from the gas pump island. The trailer was unhitched from the towing vehicle. The trailer cargo space was about 12' long by 5' wide and 6-7' tall. It had two rear doors that swung open in opposite directions and one side door on the right front side. There was a plastic skylight cover on top, but it did not appear to have vented. There was dark gray and brown smoke pushing with moderate pressure from the top seals of the rear doors and an there was an obvious burn pattern on the lower left side between the tire and rear doors. I was told at a later date, that the firefighters inquired from the owners about the contents of the trailer and they were told that it was loaded with furniture and suitcases. If the rear doors had not been locked, the first engine would have already begun applying water before the arrival of Engine 2.
Based on the above conditions, what would be your tactics and hoseline choices?

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It's going to be difficult for any of us to armchair quarterback this one because we weren't there! Do you have a SOG, SOP, or some sort of written procedure for vehicle fires? That's what I would try to follow.

Anyway, my opinion based on what you typed is to use the 1.5" pre-connect with 125GPM nozzle from engine 1 to extinguish the fire. I would then have engine 2 establish water supply and secure utilities (fuel pumps). When engine 2 finished that assignment I would have them set up RIT or relieve engine 1 for rehab. The RIT assignment or rehab of engine 1 crew would depend on whether or not engine 1 made an interior attack on the trailer or not.

I hope this helps.

Jason
Thanks for the reply. First, we are very inadequate as far as SOG's go. My main concern that night, was that we had a completely enclosed trailer with very little confirmed knowledge of the contents. The owner stated that it was furniture and suitcases. Turns out it was packed full of cardboard boxes and plastic tote boxes full of various household items and clothing. Also there was a gas weedeater and a gas leaf blower just inside the rear doors, both with a small quantity of gasoline in the tanks. There was also a plastic gas can that appeared to be empty. Due to the "unknown" nature of the fire, I was very concerned when I saw that the first on scene crew was going to open the door using only the booster line, especially since it is known that the booster lines on this truck have very low flow rates and pressures, probably due to the age and conditions of the nozzles and hose. I was not the officer in charge that night, and the statement I made that the line was not large enough was not respected by the crew operating the truck. It has become a heated topic among us, as they believe the booster lines are sufficient for using on all types of vehicle fires regardless of the intensity. Fortunately, the fire was not very well seated into the contents and everything turned out ok this time. I have not been able to convince them that if those gas cans had flashed, the outcome could have been tragic. The baffling part is the 2 guys have just completed a 200 hour Volunteer Firefighter Certification course and the use of booster lines is highly discouraged in that training for anything other than small well identified fires. Thanks Again.

Jason Gennaro said:
It's going to be difficult for any of us to armchair quarterback this one because we weren't there! Do you have a SOG, SOP, or some sort of written procedure for vehicle fires? That's what I would try to follow.

Anyway, my opinion based on what you typed is to use the 1.5" pre-connect with 125GPM nozzle from engine 1 to extinguish the fire. I would then have engine 2 establish water supply and secure utilities (fuel pumps). When engine 2 finished that assignment I would have them set up RIT or relieve engine 1 for rehab. The RIT assignment or rehab of engine 1 crew would depend on whether or not engine 1 made an interior attack on the trailer or not.

I hope this helps.

Jason
If you have an early stage vehicle fire you could probably get by with a booster hose but my attitude is....why take the chance? You'll might as well pull the pre-connect which will put the fire out and make you look like a rock star rather than retreating with the booster and looking like a jabroni!

Why don't you request an incident critique to discuss your issues? I think that would be a proactive step to unify your department's tactics with vehicle fires. Good luck.

Jason

Stacy Cantrell said:
Thanks for the reply. First, we are very inadequate as far as SOG's go. My main concern that night, was that we had a completely enclosed trailer with very little confirmed knowledge of the contents. The owner stated that it was furniture and suitcases. Turns out it was packed full of cardboard boxes and plastic tote boxes full of various household items and clothing. Also there was a gas weedeater and a gas leaf blower just inside the rear doors, both with a small quantity of gasoline in the tanks. There was also a plastic gas can that appeared to be empty. Due to the "unknown" nature of the fire, I was very concerned when I saw that the first on scene crew was going to open the door using only the booster line, especially since it is known that the booster lines on this truck have very low flow rates and pressures, probably due to the age and conditions of the nozzles and hose. I was not the officer in charge that night, and the statement I made that the line was not large enough was not respected by the crew operating the truck. It has become a heated topic among us, as they believe the booster lines are sufficient for using on all types of vehicle fires regardless of the intensity. Fortunately, the fire was not very well seated into the contents and everything turned out ok this time. I have not been able to convince them that if those gas cans had flashed, the outcome could have been tragic. The baffling part is the 2 guys have just completed a 200 hour Volunteer Firefighter Certification course and the use of booster lines is highly discouraged in that training for anything other than small well identified fires. Thanks Again.

Jason Gennaro said:
It's going to be difficult for any of us to armchair quarterback this one because we weren't there! Do you have a SOG, SOP, or some sort of written procedure for vehicle fires? That's what I would try to follow.

Anyway, my opinion based on what you typed is to use the 1.5" pre-connect with 125GPM nozzle from engine 1 to extinguish the fire. I would then have engine 2 establish water supply and secure utilities (fuel pumps). When engine 2 finished that assignment I would have them set up RIT or relieve engine 1 for rehab. The RIT assignment or rehab of engine 1 crew would depend on whether or not engine 1 made an interior attack on the trailer or not.

I hope this helps.

Jason
Hey Stacy

Here's a Southern Hemisphere perspective for what its worth. Again, without being there it's very hard to picture the scene as you saw it. We would probably use the booster line in this case, but having said that I support your point of view. It's very difficult to argue because if there is any doubt, the higher flow pre-connects will (or should) win every time. Our boosters flow 70gpm with 100psi nozzle pressure, and I think that flow should deal with a fire in the size container you describe, IF it contained normal class A fuel. Without knowing for sure, the larger line is the safest choice, as you point out. Sounds a bit dodgy only responding with 2 on the engine. Is that normal practice? If so, I understand your concerns about them opening up the container of fire without you guys to back them up. I don't think they should be opening that container without at least 4 of you, just in case something bad happens. Sometimes it can be possible to apply water into the container without opening the doors, perhaps by punching a h*** in the side, or by opening the side door 3 or 4 inches for just enough time to apply some water. Then shut the door and observe. Repeat if necessary. A sort of compartment fire attack (unventilated). 2nd engine in, secure scene, water supply and back up. All in SCBA of course.

I think you're right one with your thoughts on this one. At least you know that your guys will be safe, and thats way more important that rushing in without all the information, with only 2 guys...for what?

Just my thoughts. Keep up the good work.

Mike D
Thanks for the support. 2 on an engine is usually typical. All of our engines are single-bench-seat cabs that can seatbelt 3 but is pretty crowded with turnouts. Depending on time of the day, we usually have 2 in each engine and others respond in fire department pickup trucks or personal vehicles. Getting back to the booster line. In 2001 when we took purchase of our newest pumper, I went up against a raging car fire with the booster line and was very impressed with the knockdown combined with the ease of handling the line. Shortly after that I attempted another car fire with the booster line of the Engine 1 (1980 model) and I was lit up pretty toasty because of the lack of nozzle pressure and volume. I decided right then that I would never make that mistake again and up until recent times it was considered standard procedure to pull the 1 1/2 preconnects on all car fires unless the fire was limited to engine compartment only. Thanks again.
Stacy

Michael Dombroski said:
Hey Stacy

Here's a Southern Hemisphere perspective for what its worth. Again, without being there it's very hard to picture the scene as you saw it. We would probably use the booster line in this case, but having said that I support your point of view. It's very difficult to argue because if there is any doubt, the higher flow pre-connects will (or should) win every time. Our boosters flow 70gpm with 100psi nozzle pressure, and I think that flow should deal with a fire in the size container you describe, IF it contained normal class A fuel. Without knowing for sure, the larger line is the safest choice, as you point out. Sounds a bit dodgy only responding with 2 on the engine. Is that normal practice? If so, I understand your concerns about them opening up the container of fire without you guys to back them up. I don't think they should be opening that container without at least 4 of you, just in case something bad happens. Sometimes it can be possible to apply water into the container without opening the doors, perhaps by punching a h*** in the side, or by opening the side door 3 or 4 inches for just enough time to apply some water. Then shut the door and observe. Repeat if necessary. A sort of compartment fire attack (unventilated). 2nd engine in, secure scene, water supply and back up. All in SCBA of course.

I think you're right one with your thoughts on this one. At least you know that your guys will be safe, and thats way more important that rushing in without all the information, with only 2 guys...for what?

Just my thoughts. Keep up the good work.

Mike D
I would have treated it like an offensive attack into a possible backdraft condition compartment fire. Big water, open and then clear the door. There is no life safety issue, so there is time to think this through. If I'd really been on my game, I'd have pulled the piercing nozzle and let that thing eat for 5-10 minutes.

You didn't mention if everyone was packed up and I'm a bit concerned the disrespect. These are "no nothings" They don't get to have an opinion, unless it's a RED FLAG safety issue. And they really have proven that they should not be allowed not grab a rig and take off on there own. In the department that I vollie for, the Chief approves who can drive what rig and there is no one that drives a structure engine unless they have several years of good service and job knowledge.
On any fire other than grass/wildland fires 1 ½ is the smallest diameter line acceptable for fire attack as far as my opinion goes. There is to much risk involved in operating a booster line for fire attack, by the time we arrive we are already behind the eight ball in most cases. In this case there is a confined area that doesn’t have enough ventilation to get it really rolling, now I noticed that you had said there was a plastic skylight that had not ventilated by the time your company arrived. That in my mind would tell me that there has not yet been enough heat to melt that down so therefore an aggressive attack seems feasible. Once again I wasn’t there so take my opinion with a grain of salt. But back to the real question at hand, a booster line for any fire attack may it be mobile property or a residential structure doesn’t provide enough GPM to protect your firefighters In the case that something would go wrong. Boosters are outdated and dangerous as far as I’m concerned.
As it was stated by the others, it is very difficult to address this issue because I was not there. First of all, you are crippled and behind the 8 ball already just with manpower or the lack thereof. With the scenario and info that you gave, here is how I would hope to handle that scene. E1 crewmember establishes command,dons full PPE, and stretches one of the crosslays and prepares for attack. E1 operator clears the crosslay hosebed and charges the attack line from the booster tank. E1 crewmember directs his/her stream to the sides and top of the trailer to attempt to cool the container. E2 operator establishes water supply for E1 operator who will then swithc from booster tank to hydrant water. E2 crewmember dons full PPE and joins E1 crewmember on the attack line(they will switch positions to put the E1(OIC) as the back up and E2 crewmember as the nozzleman. E2 operator dons full PPE and uses a ground ladder and hand tool to open the plastic skylight on top of the trailer to relieve any superheated gases and to avoid any backdraft potential. Once the skylight is open, E2 operator secures the utilities(other gas pumps by the master shut off that should be in clear sight somewhere on the building( in the time it takes him/her to do this, the fire is venting through the skylight). E1 will reposition the attack line to the rear access doors of the trailer. E2 operator will then force entry via the rear doors in such a manner as not to stand in the the open doorway. E1 will then direct their stream into the trailer in a circular motion, extinguishing the fire. As is I said, manpower is the biggest hang up in this scenario, but situations usally dicate actions. Also, I was not there and I do not know the operations of your Department so please do not take my words as Gospel.
Stacy,

I can understand the staffing, response and I can understand the guys pulling the booster line. If your guys are like our guys, they pulled the booster for two reasons, 1) it'll probably do the job or it worked before and 2) they're lazy. It didn't appear to be a big fire so they took the little hose. Standard fire fighter logic.
At first I did the math ((L)12x(W)5 / 3 = 20 gpm) and the booster line had the capacity for this situation. What caught my eye was that the trailer contained furniture. Most of the furniture and household goods we now have in our homes is made of plastic or some other form of petroleum. The above formula is time tested but some, including me, question if it still accurately applies to todays fire load. The next question to look at besides fire flow is foam usage. I don't know of many booster lines other than grass rigs that are plumbed for foam.
I agree with the other replies to your post, with the post about armchair quarterbacking being very accurate. I would like to think that if my department faced this situation they would have attacked with a 125 gpm 1 3/4" preconnect while using full PPE and SCBA and vented the skylight before opening the doors while having a back up crew in place.
Stacy,

I couldn't agree more with my good friend Larry. As usual, he is spot on for this one. The life threat is not there. The exposure threat is minimal to say the least. The fire is contained. All that is left is to extiguish, overhaul, and gather information for report and investigate. The bad news is, this fire probably could have been handled with a water can, and Nick the new guy and his partner in crime with their vast combined experience of less than one year, now think that a boosterline is sufficient to suppress a fire of unknown origin.

This is an easy one to critique because the members making the decisions did not need to be riding the seat or operating the equipment anyway. I'm very aware of staffing issues, as we have the same ones here, but I read this to understand that the first due response was less than 5 minutes from their homes. As fire service personnel, we don't fight car fires to save property. Anyone with experience knows we do more damage to vehicles putting them out than the possibility of property conservation anyway. We put them out to stop extension and prevent exposure damage and investigate why it happened to begin with.

The problem with experience is it is a double edge sword. Sometimes bad decisions are made with good results and experience is gained with bad habits learned. These are the hardest habits to break, but they must be broke before they are reenforced.

Good Luck!

Kevin
Larry Lasich said:
I would have treated it like an offensive attack into a possible backdraft condition compartment fire. Big water, open and then clear the door. There is no life safety issue, so there is time to think this through. If I'd really been on my game, I'd have pulled the piercing nozzle and let that thing eat for 5-10 minutes.

You didn't mention if everyone was packed up and I'm a bit concerned the disrespect. These are "no nothings" They don't get to have an opinion, unless it's a RED FLAG safety issue. And they really have proven that they should not be allowed not grab a rig and take off on there own. In the department that I vollie for, the Chief approves who can drive what rig and there is no one that drives a structure engine unless they have several years of good service and job knowledge.
I want to thank everyone for their replies. You have all confirmed that I was not way off base with my opinion of how this particular call should have been handled. The truth is, the department completely mishandled this call along with many others and we are very fortunate someone has not been injured or killed. Not only were the first five firefighters arriving at this call not using SCBA, but none of them were wearing any PPE. Three responded directly to the scene and did not go to the fire station to get gear, but the two in the first engine neglected to even carry their gear with them. Only myself and the firefighter riding with me in the 2nd engine were wearing turnouts. While I was retrieving a set of bolt cutters, the owner provided a key for the padlock on the trailer doors, and as I came back into view of the trailer they had already made entry by throwing the doors wide open and charging in with a booster line. The intensity of the smoke, heat, and steam was evident by the way the nozzle man's head recoiled when he came in contact with the smoke. I had to yell at them just to get them to back out of the smoke. Again, I was not the officer in charge, but I immediately had a conversation with the chief, who was present, and he said that he would address the issues and he did. This then led to a very intense argument at our next drill meeting. A father and sons "trio" ( 2 sons were on the first engine) are of the opinion that they do not have to wear turnout gear, SCBA, reflective vests at highway accident scenes, etc. I have seen them fight fully involved vehicle fires with no equipment on. They also argued that the booster line is sufficient for all vehicle fires. Their justification for their beliefs is that they are "not afraid". I have been insisting for some time now that we all follow some of the most basic policies meant to insure our personal safety, and this has led to the trio to go on an attack against me. The father (over 30 years in the dept) and one son went so far as to tell lies trying to make me look incompetent in front of the other members. Between the lies and my unwillingness to some day be held accountable for their negligence, I decided to resign from the department. I regret ending 18 years of passion for the fire service, but I knew there was no way I could continue to work alongside these 2 guys.
Kevin Nowicki said:
Stacy,

I couldn't agree more with my good friend Larry. As usual, he is spot on for this one. The life threat is not there. The exposure threat is minimal to say the least. The fire is contained. All that is left is to extiguish, overhaul, and gather information for report and investigate. The bad news is, this fire probably could have been handled with a water can, and Nick the new guy and his partner in crime with their vast combined experience of less than one year, now think that a boosterline is sufficient to suppress a fire of unknown origin.

This is an easy one to critique because the members making the decisions did not need to be riding the seat or operating the equipment anyway. I'm very aware of staffing issues, as we have the same ones here, but I read this to understand that the first due response was less than 5 minutes from their homes. As fire service personnel, we don't fight car fires to save property. Anyone with experience knows we do more damage to vehicles putting them out than the possibility of property conservation anyway. We put them out to stop extension and prevent exposure damage and investigate why it happened to begin with.

The problem with experience is it is a double edge sword. Sometimes bad decisions are made with good results and experience is gained with bad habits learned. These are the hardest habits to break, but they must be broke before they are reenforced.

Good Luck!

Kevin
Larry Lasich said:
I would have treated it like an offensive attack into a possible backdraft condition compartment fire. Big water, open and then clear the door. There is no life safety issue, so there is time to think this through. If I'd really been on my game, I'd have pulled the piercing nozzle and let that thing eat for 5-10 minutes.

You didn't mention if everyone was packed up and I'm a bit concerned the disrespect. These are "no nothings" They don't get to have an opinion, unless it's a RED FLAG safety issue. And they really have proven that they should not be allowed not grab a rig and take off on there own. In the department that I vollie for, the Chief approves who can drive what rig and there is no one that drives a structure engine unless they have several years of good service and job knowledge.
Stacy,
I'm sorry that it had to come to the point that you felt that you had to leave. It's a bad day for all of us when the people that are calling for common sense and safety get dragged down by the mob that wants to do SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!!!!! instead of responding in a thoughtful and professional manner. I don't know how "over this" you are, and I don't know how firefighters a certified in your part of the world. If I saw a cluster like this in my part of the world, I would absolutely be making phone calls and dropping emails to our certifying agency. The stuff that happened before this incident that lead to the horrific decision making, the complete disregard of every current safety and tactical standard and the argument with command indicates a melt down in your department. Glad that you are out of it and you have your views on paper, because there is going to be a lost time or worse from these people. Some lawyer that used to be a firefighter is going to be asking pointed questions. As Ricky Recardo said so well: "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do".

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