Why the Quint Works for us; The Driver
By Lou Comenale and Justin Ientilluci
A couple of posts ago we wrote how the Quint works for our department. That really was a quick overview of our operations and training using the Quint. If we were to dive deeper into our operations using the Quint we have to look at each position. Many people could make an argument for the officer sitting shotgun being the most important personnel on the Quint, not that they are wrong, but the driver is just as important, and probably busier than anyone else on the fire ground.
We cannot speak for all the personnel in our department, we can only speak for how we operate and try to empower more to operate. As drivers of a Quint we like to think we are aggressive of the fire ground. This word, aggressive, has been thrown around lately through podcasts, blogs, articles, lectures, training, so on and so forth, and it seems only to be bestowed upon the firefighters going in and fighting the fire. As a disclaimer, when we talk aggressive, we are not talking about driving aggressively. We strictly are talking about fire ground operations.
Depending on when the Quint arrives on scene, in our department, it will either be first, second, or third, will dictate how much work the driver has to do. If the Quint is first on-scene an aggressive driver will be doing so much work that to someone who doesn’t know fire ground operations it might look like a chaotic firefighter. With our department’s staffing, three personnel to the Quint, the driver first needs to spot the apparatus in an optimal position for hose line stretches and use of the aerial. The driver also should be cognizant of leaving enough room on the roadway for the next due apparatus. With the Quint being first due, and our SOG’s, the Quint will operate as a “base unit.” Once the Quint is positioned, the truck in “pump” mode, the personnel exit the apparatus and start going to work. The driver can help pull hand lines, in many cases the diver might pull and flake out the entire pre-connect, this is done so the fire fighter and officer are free to do other tasks (a well trained firefighter should be able to pull and flake a dry 1 3/4 inch hand line). After the hand line is in place, the driver can start getting water in the line. Our Quint carries a 500 gallon booster tank, it also has a preset feature on the pump, with a push of the button the pump will increase the pressure gradually to 150psi. This feature allows the driver to go on to his next task, getting the aerial in a “ready position.” The “ready position” is both outriggers out and truck in interlock. With predetermined tasks and firefighters training the way they fight, the jump seat firefighter should have placed the officer’s side outrigger pad before getting their hand tools, the outrigger pad is located below the hand tool compartment. After the aerial is in the “ready position” the aerial can be operated by any firefighter that has been trained on it, if there isn’t anyone that has been trained but another pump operator is on scene the driver/operator can operate the aerial device. Many times a volunteer firefighter shows up and takes control of the pump or operates the aerial device. By this time multiple things could be going on, the next due apparatus is pulling up and laying a supply line or the Quint is still operating alone as the “base unit.” If a supply line is being laid, the driver should get the supply line connected, establish a good water supply and top off the booster tank. If the supply line hasn’t been laid or the water supply has been established, the next task the driver should do is get at least one ground ladder in place. Many times firefighters are hesitant leaving the apparatus while the pump is in operation, my question to them is, Why? While operating a pump a good ear can tell if the pump is operating smoothly, or if there is a problem. An operator should also be able to tell just by the sound of the pump whether water is flowing or not, a keen eye can also tell when the hand lines are jumping around. If you cannot rely on your sense of hearing, all fire apparatus now come with lights that you can see from a good distance. That being said, with training and some time on the pump an operator should be confident in leaving the pump panel, to throw a ground ladder to a second story window, if there is a second story window for a ladder to be thrown too. Our Quint carries: two 16 foot roofers, one 24 foot and 35 foot extension ladders, along with a 14 foot a-frame/combination ladder. The one family residential homes in our district are composed of ranches, split level ranches (side or center splits), raised ranches, cape cods and colonials. Besides the couple of colonials, which have living space in the attic, (which would be our second floor/division two) can be reached by the 16 foot roofers. If there is not a second story, and depending on where the fire is located (‘A’ side of the structure), if man power is limited, the driver/operator has acted as outside ventilation. This has been done with coordination and extreme discipline. If the fire is located on the alpha side of the structure the driver/operator can vent the window once the line has reached the seat of the fire and operating, this usually only occurs on one room/room and contents fires.
What happens when the Quint is second or third due. In extreme cases our Quint will lay a supply line to the first in Engine, if they haven’t “made” their own water. This is usually avoided because we are giving up four functions for one. We also have to wait for the next incoming aerial or call for mutual aid if an aerial device is needed. If the Quint is not laying a supply line then the Quint can operate as a Ladder Truck. The driver operator should still spot the apparatus in an optimal position for the aerial and hand lines to be deployed. It might be used as a secondary “base unit” for back up lines. Second or third due the driver/operator should be ready to go to work just as if they were first due. The driver/operator should still be getting the aerial in “ready position.” Once the outriggers are down and the truck is in interlock the driver/operator can get some ground ladders deployed or assist the rest of the crew with their tasks. Ground ladders, since being easily deployed, are usually the first means of gaining exterior access to the second story or roof. Depending on the need, the aerial can be used as a second or third means of access to the second or third story and even the roof. The driver at this point is at the whim of the incident commander and might just be integrated with the other two personnel.
Much of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the driver/operator of the Quint. The officer has the responsibility of the crew, training, and direction but without an aggressive driver/operator a lot of essential fire ground tasks will be forgotten and go undone. It doesn’t surprise us that in many departments the driver, operator, chauffeur, is a promotion, with the amount of responsibility they have. In our department everyone needs to be trained on operating the pump, aerial, and throw ground ladders. Firefighters with foresight, proper training and the “right” type of aggressiveness helps us to make the Quint work.