Tactical Scenario # 1

You (your crew) is ordered to search the third floor of a building.  The chief says “we have multiple reports of people on the third floor, go get them”.

You know it’s not that simple or I wouldn’t write about it.

We’ll call the building a standard 3 unit row house 20X40, end unit.  Single front door and front stairway, fire escapes in the back.  Get the picture?  OK. Now for the problems.  Engine first due is trying to make the front stair, they are currently pushing a 2 1/2 up to the 3rd floor, but cannot get past the return between 2&3.  Engine second due has ascended the fire escape with another 2 1/2 and is making an attack from the third floor fire escape, they are unable to push in.  The truck company reports from the roof that there are multiple layers of roofing and venting will be delayed.

What do you do now?  You are now behind a string of 8 -Balls.

Our course of action: 1. vent every window we could reach, there weren’t many.  2. “Motivate” the company on the fire escape to take a more aggressive approach to the fire (unsuccessful) 3. Enter the 2nd floor, search, then assist the company in the front stairwell to make the push to the 3rd floor  to bring the fight to the fire.  Which turned out to be the best option.

I’ll share the outcome later.

What would you  have done different or similar?  Why?


  • HallwaySledge says:

    Anchor, you were obviously involved in this job so any second-guessing could be dangerous and I certainly don’t want to offend, especially since you were apparently fed a s***t sandwich with this scenario.

    Question 1- Was the first-due out of line or were they hung-up in the stairwell?

    Question 2- Was the second-due unable to enter because of legitimate conditions or as you say, lack of motivation?

    Question 3- You mentioned the available windows were vented, any chance for a VES through those windows?

    Concern 1- Whatever I might do to get my company into the 3rd I am going to be blasted by the 2 1/2″ from the second-due.

    Concern 2- If I’m in there getting blasted by the second-due and the first-due manages to make the floor me and my crew are going to be caught between opposing streams.

    Concern 3- If the conditions were legitimate for not being able to push in do me and my guys need to be in there and is anyone really salvageable?

    Option 1- VES through the vented windows.

    Option 2- Make the front stairwell to the apartment passing the first-due, radio the second-due and tell them I’m going in the front and to try and keep the stream toward the back if at all possible. Search the front area or to wherever the fire and stream application allows. Then back out, go around to the second-dues position and repeat from that direction. Depending on crew size you could split into two teams for that operation.

    Option 3- Go into the next occupancy and breach a wall into the 3rd.

    Option 4 (and crappiest)- Determine that given the conditions, line position(s), delay in vertical vent and the potential for many, many bad things to happen that its not worth me or my guys. Again, depending on fire conditions. I am not advocating just giving up because its a crappy situation.

    Can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thinking and the actual outcome.


  • anchorpoint1 says:

    Sledge, thanks for the concern. But if I believed the group of fire professionals on this site would purposely try to offend anyone I would not have posted it. You did a great job of asking the questions that needed asking. I do believe we did all we could, and I also believe that this is not an isolated incident type. Guys will face these types of incidents, and I believe they need to understand that sometimes right or wrong devolves into an “I did all I could” type of situation.
    So, enough of my beliefs. Answers. The 3rd floor was more than 50% involved in flashover, I suppose that information might have changed the whole story, and the reader’s opinions, therefore I omitted it. The first 2 companies actually did a great job of advancing the lines. The lack of motivation I spoke of was the information from the chief about the confirmed occupants, they didn’t know. The officer on the fire escape did the right thing by not allowing us in front of his line.(in my opinion)
    Your concerns were spot on, and in our haste to force our way in we may have developed a bit of tunnel vision. Yes windows were considered, not a legitimate option, they were way too small. We did help the 1st due in the front push up to the top floor and then broke into 2 teams of 2. Your 3rd option, a solid one, was prohibited by a brick party wall. Option 4, is indeed the crappiest but is also an option. Nobody wants to say I have 4 guys in the hospital because they tried to search mid flashover.
    There were 2 fatalities. And my heart goes out t the families. I think all companies at the scene did all they could and would not dream of implying otherwise. I welcome the responses in hopes of helping newer guys get a better grasp on what the are in for.
    Remember this; second guessing is what you do during the incident, Quarter backing is for people who want to feel better about themselves at other’s expense and learning is what professionals do. Thanks for your comment.

  • HallwaySledge says:

    Wow Anchor. You are correct, that information if supplied would have changed my entire thinking. In the interest of education and making us think thanks for omitting it.

    Sounds like the second-due officer was right on. As crappy as it was it sounds like it was a losing situation by the time your company got up there. Never easy to write off another human life but necessary at times.

    One last question. Did the Chief on the scene purposefully withhold the victim info given the situation? If so, and not having been there, it seems like it was a great call. I just wonder if he did it on purpose and the situation were slightly different and another way in was found if it could have affected the situation. Great call given the situation but maybe dangerous in the future? What do you think?

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    The chief had the normal reports from random people at the scene when the first 2 engine companies got on scene. But just before we arrived he got a few reports from building occupants of missing people and locations of them. He did not relay the information to the engine companies for whatever reason, knowing this chief he may have already decided it a no win situation and put it on us for the occupant’s last chance. I’m fine with that. I’m sure if conditions we more tenable he would have made a pointed attack and sent more assets to it.
    As for sending one crew for this task, I would have to say make sure you know the crew you are sending. The chief knew who he was sending, he knows we do good work and he knew our priorities are to one another. And as a result there were no firefighter injuries.
    I don’t want you to think I left anything out for the readers to trip up on, or so that you guys would say something way out of line. My only intention was for the reader to put themselves there and then say “where would I go from here?”
    Thanks again for the comments and for making good points for others to consider. Stay Safe.

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Anchor, sorry I’m late, but with what you gave initially, nothing like a rock and a hard place. Two 2.5″ not making the floor = no savable victims on that floor with a huge factor of jammin a Brother up. After reading the above comments, my gut would have been correct. I would have probably to keep the chief happy, radio out that the 3rd floor was untenable and advise him we would sweep the second, then ask the question I enjoy asking when I get put in a bad spot, Chief, what do you advise? Just my 2 cents Bro!

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