Size Up’s: Necessary or Just Unnecessary Radio Traffic

While listening to some radio traffic from around the county I noticed a number of fire dept’s who give these long drawn out size-up’s and some who simply say they have a working fire or they don’t. My question to you is a size-up necessary or is it unnecessary radio traffic? If you deem it necessary tell why? Also who should give that size-up? If you find it unnecessary explain why also?


  • Jerry Swift says:

    A size up is critical especially when it is a structural incident. The size-up paints a picture for other responding companies so that they have an idea of what is immediately taking place. What should be identified in a size-up? The term “Working Fire” is old, worn out and useless. All it states is that something is burning with no details. Give me some details if i’m responding to assist you. Examples: Private Dwelling Fires- 99% of all private dwellings are wood frame. Keep it simple! Battalion 1 is on scene…heavy fire conditions on the number 2 of a 2-story private dwelling….command established -OR- Battalion 1 is on scene heavy smoke conditions throughout a single story private dwelling command established. That paints a short but well rounded picture of what I will be faced with when I get there. It shouldnt matter what the private dwelling looks like. “We” should already have an idea through a pre-plan or hazard risk assessment program. Commercial Incident: Battalion 1 is on scene heavy fire conditions throughout a one-story Type II building command established -OR- Battalion 1 is on scene with a moderate smoke condition from the 1st floor of a 3-story Type III building command established. Again, it shouldnt matter what the building looks like. “We” should have already conducted some type of pre-incident survey or target hazard assessment on our commercial occupancies. I have been involved in the fire-rescue service in an area of numerous structural incidents for the past 31 years. I hear good conditions reports and I have heard some really bad ones. Train yourself to get out of the habit of using the terms “working fire”, “at this time”, “Show” me this and “Show” me that. Those are the unecessary statements that prolong radio transmissions.

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    The size up IS important. A dissertation on conditions, Giving commands to every other company and broadcasting your every thought is a bit much. Yes, if there is something another company needs to know tell them. I’ll give an example of what I would consider a good size up or necessary.
    “L-2 has smoke showing 3rd floor of 3 story wood frame 20X30 .”
    “L-2 has command”
    then if there is any extenuating circumstances
    “have L-1 & E-1 come in on Valence St, there’s construction on their end of the block.”
    Done and done.
    I don’t believe in broadcasting your every move, and in case this goes to court maybe a bit of ambiguity mixed with facts would make it easier to defend your actions.
    Just saying.
    Stay Safe.

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Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at

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