I want to cover some issues regarding the importance of fireground reports.  We often refer to the fire service as being proactive when in reality we are one of the most reactive businesses out there.  Look at the gear we wear, the apparatus we operate, and the codes that must be enforced.  Almost all the safety and regulatory issues have come about as a result of someone getting damaged.  That having been said, there is no excuse not to be on the lookout for things that might cause damage to our personnel on the fireground and beyond.

To be proactive on the fireground, all firefighters must have their eyes and ears open and understand that if they are not in the direct eyeshot of the Command Post, what they observe may have a detrimental impact on not only themselves, but on other areas of the fireground as well.  The fact that they may be the only ones seeing this condition demands a report to be made to Command immediately.  Timely and continuous information must become a major portion of your fireground safety plan.

fe1 11-10-16

Photo by Ron Jeffers

Take a look at the picture above.  We are confronted with attached two-story buildings of wood frame construction.  One shows very heavy fire damage on the interior as well as the exterior.  This fire vented out of the first floor right side and spread across the combustible asphalt shingle exterior.  If also spread through the interior stairs to the second floor and the cockloft.  An interesting note about this picture is that the fire spreading laterally on the combustible wall stopped when it met the front wall of the B exposure.  This is because it is asbestos siding.  It does not burn.

That aside, the major issue at this fire is not what we see here, but what was seen on the roof.  Companies on the roof observed a heavy HVAC unit on the roof of this old wood frame building.  It is certain that the roof was not reinforced to hold the load.  In proper fashion, the Ladder company on the roof notified Command of the heavy roof load and the location of the fire (in the cockloft).  Command responded by initiating the evacuation tones for those operating in the fire building while maintaining interior defensive positons in the exposure.  The unit eventually crashed through the roof, but no one was inside the structure at the time.  In this case, the information furnished by the roof report saved lives.  Had Command not been aware, there certainly could have been personnel on the top floor and on the roof at the time of failure.  Check out the picture below.  I don’t know it this is a 2.5 ton, a 5 ton, or 100 pounds.  If it hits you on the head, you are not going home



FE2 11-10-16

Photo by AA

Below is another one of those weird buildings where if we have no intelligence or proper reporting, we can make mistakes that could cost lives.  Suppose in the picture below, you were told that someone was trapped on the top floor at the rear.


FE3 11-10-16

Photo by AA

You might take a look at this and figure that the 24’ extension ladder or even a 14’ roof ladder off the engine might be the ladder for the job.  Without any prior intelligence, this seems like a reasonable assumption (remember what happens when you assume).  Once you got to the rear, you would be looking at a whole different situation as shown in the picture below.  What was the second floor on the A side is the fifth floor on the C side.  No ground ladder is reaching this.  If you already committed your only Ladder on the scene, you (actually the victims) are in trouble.  A proper report from the rear via recon or prior knowledge would lead to an adjustment in apparatus positioning.  Just because we always do, it does not mean the Ladder would always get the front of the building.  Here it might be better to position at the rear.


FE4 11-10-16


Photo by AA

Questions, comments, column suggestions, kudos, or criticism – email is

Email me if there is something in particular you would like me to cover

Tune in with me and Chief Jim Duffy from Wallingford, CT to Fire Engineering Blog Talk radio for Fireground Strategies and Other Stuff from the Street.  Our next show will be on December 19th at 7:30 PM.  Call-ins encouraged.

Quote of the month:  “I can be your friend and I can be your boss.  If I can only be one, I have to be your boss” ,  BC Frank Vasta, ret.

“A friend can get you killed.  A boss will get you home” , BC Steve Quidor, ret.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *