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Hello everyone, im a long time reader of both the magazine and these forums but this is my first post.  I would like to get everyones input on the size-up they do at emergency scenes, especially officers.

I myself am Captain, and I recently had an interesting fire experience with a mutual aid assistant chief, I will tell you the details and you can decide for yourself.

We are all volunteer departments in my county in New York.  Mine is a small department, with only 10-20 active members, an engine, engine-tanker, brush truck, rescue, and ambulance.  We rely on automatic mutual aid during daytime hours and have agreements with 3 of our nearest departments.  Last month, I was getting ready for work at around 5am and we were toned for a structure fire along with our auto mutual aid dept.  Their assistant chief was driving through our district at the time on his way to work and responded direct to the scene within 3 minutes of call.  I called enroute to the station and our assistant chief called enroute to scene, so my dept has 2 officers on air and enroute.

This mutual aid chief gets on scene and simply cancels our mutual aid and FAST response (without notifying us).  Im thinking that its either not a fire, or a false alarm.  I get to the station and one of our guys is saying its a small smoldering fire in the back corner of the house...ok...Now Im confused.  We gear up and Im on the engine-tanker right behind our engine.  We get on scene and this chief is in his street clothes, no gear or pack, hands in pockets telling me its nothing, just a tiny flame near back door...ok

I go and do my 360 and I see the small flame, next to a back sliding glass door, windows are all black and hot to the touch.  I go the the open front door and there is smoke down to my knees and I FEEL the heat through my bunkers.  Now Im thinking this chief shouldnt be a chief.

I yell for my guys to stretch a line to the front door and I go pack up.  Less than two minutes later Im packed up and my crew is going around back with the line, 300 foot stretch with a 200 foot crosslay, and the front door is only 50 feet from our engine.  I get to the crew and they are all anxious to tell me that the line isnt going to reach the back door.  I say "EXACTLY why I told you to stretch to the FRONT door."  They all say at once that the other chief told them to do this...Now I want this guy off the scene alltogether.

 

Turns out it was a good sized fire that took a laundry room, dining room and kitchen before running low on air and just smoldered.  The flame he saw was a drape that caught and dropped and was still getting air, probably form the sliding door draft.  When they took the back door, the air rushed in and as I was going through with the nozzle, the laundry room 6 feet in flashes over and the fire is racing across the ceiling.  Luckily I was waiting for that and hit it hard.  This could have been a lot worse and our FAST had been canceled.  I ordered everything to respond back to the scene including another department with tanker and manpower, the dispatcher was a little confused until I talked to him on the phone.

Good scene size-up is key to the outcome of the call.  Always do a thorough 360 degree walkaround and get all the info you can before commiting units and canceling resources.  My assistant chief was pissed, I told him what happened and he went to talk to the mutual aid chief.  He understands the importance of size-up now, especially when responding to our calls.

Any input?

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Brian,

                We also are a very small volunteer department that depends highly on mutual aid departments for a big portion of our additional fire response. This seems to be a huge issue of complacency on the mutual aid chiefs behalf. Normally if another department arrives first we can trust them to make the correct decisions including an appropriate size up and determination of what equipment will be needed. Sense you have had this hashed out judging from what you said has there been any feedback from the Chief of this mutual aid department?

                Glad everyone turned out alright, like you said it could’ve been much worse

Brian, your department is like mine small rural and 10+ members (active) and we would have done the same as you, respond anyways , We rely on automatic mutual aid and train with the departments that cover us, I can say because of the training and responses with these departments we  trust the scene size up by the first on scene, And yes a 360 degree walk around is a must for any size up, If i drive the first out apparatus i start my size up as soon as i leave the station and when on scene try to get at least a three sided view when parking the apparatus if applicable . Sounds like your scenario could have been much worse and at least no one got hurt

From what I understand, the Chief of that department, who has an excellent working relationship with our chief, heard about this call and was furious.  He talked to all his officers at the next meeting and explained to them when going to mutual aid fires to act according to their SOP's and do your job.  He talked to the chief in question and reminded him to do good size-ups for everything and do not cancel mutual aid when its not your call.  At the very least he should have contacted either my assistant chief or myself on the air and given us a report and allow us to make the decision.  He understands that now and we have some mutual aid drills planned for this summer so we can work more closely with our MA departments.

And our FAST is made up of members of different departments from all over the county.  They are paged out and they respond to the scene in their POV with their gear and an air pack that is on loan to them from their department for FAST use, our county coordinator has the FAST bag with the tools and other supplies, as well as extra packs and spare bottles in his truck.  So these guys that started to respond to the initial call and were cancelled by this chief had turned around and headed back home, than were called out AGAIN by me.  They were confused too and were all circling around our chief when they arrived to hear what happened!!  They almost took out the assistant!!  Kind of ironic that the team thats supposed to save your life wanted to end it!! LOL

It turned out good though and the house was saved, insurance paid for it and they are moving in so thats what counts the most right?

Thanks guys for your replies and stay safe out there.

Dan Rice said:

Brian,

                We also are a very small volunteer department that depends highly on mutual aid departments for a big portion of our additional fire response. This seems to be a huge issue of complacency on the mutual aid chiefs behalf. Normally if another department arrives first we can trust them to make the correct decisions including an appropriate size up and determination of what equipment will be needed. Sense you have had this hashed out judging from what you said has there been any feedback from the Chief of this mutual aid department?

                Glad everyone turned out alright, like you said it could’ve been much worse

That is truly what it’s all about, I’m glad that this situation was corrected within this AC’s department and I hope that this has been a learning experience for all involved. It is impressive how one decision and one quick stroke of laziness can negatively affect the operations of a fire scene. One poor choice (I’ve made my share) can endanger the safety of both our brothers and our community.  

Be safe

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