This past week I found myself being very stressed out with my work. Not so much the duties I perform everyday but the recent frustrations I have with the way things are being done, or not done. We all have our pet peeves. We all have the things we are passionate about. Most of mine are very simple and just to name a few; pride in uniform appearance, training, accountability and passion for the profession we spend months or years trying to get into. At the end of this frustrating week for me I had the opportunity to get out and do some training with a brand new member of our department. It was amazing how quickly all my frustrations, all of my internal conflicts, all of the things that were making me have a very difficult week just disappeared. How did this happen? By stretching some lines!
It was amazing how quickly I was able to forget about what had been bothering me. I have always felt this way when doing training. I get focused on the details of what we are doing and become lost in the thrill and the satisfaction of a good training day. I focus on making sure I share all my knowledge that other officers and firefighters have given me. I try to make that moment the most important time of my work day and ensure that I, my fellow firefighters, and that brand new impressionable firefighter get the best training possible. Not many things are better than pulling cotton off of your engine company and perfecting the stretch and layout of your hose line. Not many things out there are better than working down a hallway clearing rooms as you move towards the seat of the fire in a fast and efficient way. Nothing beats putting your heads together to figure out the best way to take a hoseline to the seat of the fire. I love going to fires. If I am not going to them the next best thing is to train and talk about going to fires! All of this prepares you for the battle that will ultimately take place. Be ready for it, get out there and stretch some lines!
Training is our life blood; it’s what helps make a company great. I can remember days in the firehouse where all of us were down and out for whatever reason. Maybe we hadn’t had a fire in a while; maybe something within our department was upsetting us. It could have been several different things. When this cloud gloomed over us, what did we do? We got out there and stretched some lines. The content of the conversations in the firehouse that day quickly turned from the negative trash we were focusing on and suddenly we were discussing engine company tactics. What hoseline would we pull here? What length would get us to the fourth floor? How fast can we coordinate fire attack and ventilation? There was no longer that feeling of frustration. That was quickly replaced by the satisfaction of a job well done on the training ground, and a positive discussion at the galley table with a fresh pot of coffee. This whole day was flipped upside down just by getting out there and stretching some lines.
Engine Company work is the foundation of our Fire Service. It is the most important piece of apparatus on the fireground and with a well-trained, discipline crew can be an unstoppable force in the fight against old man fire. We have many weapons on our Engine Companies. Make yourself versatile with your cache. Move through the different hose selections you have and perfect them. Before you begin to stretch, take a look at the way your hose is packed. Ensure all of the hoselines on your truck are ready to go! This means taking the time to pack them correctly on the Engine. If they are packed poorly, they will deploy poorly, and take minutes off the clock when trying to push to the seat of the fire. Take pride in the way your company looks and the way it will perform when called to action. I would suspect that the crosslay is the most commonly pulled line off of the Engine. It’s set for a fast attack and a quick knockdown, as long as there is a well-trained crew to deploy it. Practice taking your crosslay to every type of situation you may encounter. If all you are doing is stretching some hose throughout your station, you are not doing enough. Identify several other structures that are in your response area and take your Engine there to practice deployment. Go up in elevation, around several corners, and make stretches to the front doors that sit very close to the street as well as houses that sit back from the curbline. Don’t forget about the weapons on the back of your engines. I have seen companies make poor stretches with their crosslays where they could have easily stretched off the back with a better result. Maybe there was tunnel vision? Maybe all they train with is crosslays. Just because the crosslay is quick and easy to pull, doesn’t make it the right choice every time. Depending on location of the fire and apparatus placement along with some other factors, there may be a better option. Practice with your apartment loads or leader lines. Stretch down wide and narrow hallways, stretch up exterior stairwells and balconies. Determine before the fire who is responsible for what portion of your apartment load. For example, one person will be dedicated to taking and deploying the bundle of 1 ¾” hose and one person is responsible for moving the 2 1/2” hose with the gated wye to the right location. Performing this way will eliminate too many hands in the pot and allow for a more precise deployment and not the headache of firefighters pulling hose in several different directions. Don’t let the 2 ½” handline sit on the truck and collect dirt. Just as you want to perfect your movement with the smaller handlines, you do the same with the 2 ½”. There are several different techniques out there that will work for you depending on the staffing you have in your department. I won’t sit here and give you the dozens of techniques but I will offer some pointers that others have told me and allowed me to be successful. Take the time to set it up correctly prior to advancement. A well deployed 2 ½’ line that is layed out and charged outside prior to making entry will make your job much easier. Have the right length and manage your couplings. As you move forward with an attack try to avoid getting up and down while lifting the hose, keeping it as low to the ground as possible. This will prevent you from reaching fatigue quicker. Commit staffing to that line early and until it reaches the seat of the fire. This goes for any line for that matter. There is no reason to commit firefighters to secondary lines if the primary is not at the seat of the fire. As discussed earlier, much like the 1 3’4” hose, stretch that 2 ½” line in as many different scenarios as possible.
We all have things that will challenge us, make us lose sight of our mission. There will be things that frustrate us in our profession from time to time. Next time you find yourself down and out and notice that there is a funk lingering throughout your firehouse, fix it. Incorporate some company training. Get the firefighters in your firehouse excited about having an engine company that is ready to fight. There is no greater weapon out there than a well-disciplined, highly trained engine company ready to put a fast attack on a structure fire. Go to work expecting bad things to happen and make sure others do the same. I am sure I will feel this way several times throughout my career, and so will you. My suggestion to you, because I know it worked for me, is do something that will take your mind off of it while at the same time sharpening your skills. Grab the firefighters in your house and get out there and stretch some lines!