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More Lessons Learned

We had a fire yesterday, and as with anything there are always lessons you can learn to make you better.

The fire was dispatched and from a long distance away you could see a large column of smoke in the sky everyone knew we would be going to work! This fire happened to be in a rural area of the county so multiple engines and tankers were called early on in order to perform a water shuttle. The first engine marked on scene with a single story, single family residence with fire through the roof. After a 360 was done they entered into a defensive mode of operation concentrating mostly on protecting exposures with the amount of fire, limited initial water, and occupant accountability established via the home owner.

Other companies began to arrive and a water supply plan was put into action, and multiple 1 3/4 lines were stretched. I was on the third engine as the apparatus operator, and was placed into a water supply function that was never utilized because the fire flow never developed to a point were it was needed.

Lessons Learned/Observed:

1. Give clear concise radio reports/stay calm: I get just as excited as the next guy when we get to go to a fire. But the initial radio traffic from some of the first arriving units was almost unreadable. I know our orders were confused with several units and our plan and role was changed several times while responding due to confusion.

2. Line Selection: You could see the smoke column from a long ways out, fire was through the roof on arrival, and several moments later the roof failed into the occupancy and most of the house was on fire. ALL of the hand lines pulled were 1 3/4. Needless to say they did not have a significant impact on the fire. Even in a rural water operation if the fire requires bigger handlines you have to pull them. I agree with he initial pulling of the 1 3/4 for exposure protection and to put out the spreading grass fires, but once the water shuttle was established larger lines would have been put into place to actually put the fire out. The fuel burned out fo this fire more than the lines put it out.

3. Situational Awareness: The initial hand line that was pulled missed a portion of the grass on fire and pulled the line through it. This caused there handline to burn through and fail. Luckily this was a recoverable mistake because the companies were exterior. Had this been interior it could have been deadly. Sweep in front of you as you advance even on the exterior, and keep your eyes open.

4. Rehab: This was a positive point of the fire. The rehab section was great, it was a shady spot with chairs, and plenty of fluid and energy replacement items (although when a granola bar says “delicious” on the label, don’t belive it). Also vitals were being taken and proper work rest cycles were implemented. In my opinion aggressive rehab is one of the keys to prevention of line of duty deaths, hopefully it can provide early detection of health problems on the fireground and allow firefighters to work the remainder of their shifts relatively well rested.

5. Tool selection: You should always bring something with you when you go tot a fire. Engines bring hose, Ladder, and Rescue companies bring tools. In this case some of the Engine companies had to bring up hand tools for the overhaul process, and you could see the inexperience in tool selection. All three members of one engine company brought up three 3 foot long “closet hooks” with D-handles. In my opinion they are useless and just about any fireground process. The D-handle is dangerous, I have personally seen guys hold onto it and slam a tool into a wall or ceiling, hit a stud and break their wrist. Also its 3 foot long. In order to use it on a closet you have to actually get in the closet and pull stuff down on top of you. With a 6 foot hook you can stand outside of the area and pull it down onto the floor for the engine company wet down. I recommend reading this book http://www.fire-police-ems.com/books/bt4875.shtml it is still the number one source for research on the actual pros, and cons of all fireground tools.

6. PPE/SCBA: it is imperative even during defensive operations that you wear the proper PPE/SCBA. While opening up the soffit on the structure so the engine company could have greater access to the roof line a firefighter from the first due truck became covered in tar. The hot tar from the shingles had pooled in this location and when he stuck the head of his tool into this area the tar splattered and landed on his SCBA mas, tool, and some of his gear. Had he not been wearing all of his PPE he would have been badly burned, out of work for a while, and depending on where it landed maybe in danger of losing his career. I don’t know about any of you but I love this job, and I want to do it for a long time, so I am gonna do what ever it takes to continue to do it. As my Captain says “Never Sacrifice Your Safety For Your Comfort”

Overall this was a pretty good fire, and any fire you can learn something at and improve on is a good one. What lessons have you learned at your recent fire? Please share them in the comments section, and of course spread the word about the blog.

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