So yes this is going to be another search article. I wanted to address some things I think about searching on the fireground after reading some more of the “Why We Search” articles over at www.backstepfirefighter.com. I do agree that search is important, it is a lot of times the victims only chance between death and survival. However we have to realize that even at our best, most well-trained, physical peak that the chance for survival of the victim is still low, and we must be able to recognize when we should and should not search, or even enter a building, and yes there are those times no matter how many people still may be in the building. So in order to be at our best and give the victims the best chance for survival we have to constantly evaluate what we are doing and if it meets the needs of our district, the fires we are running, and the citizens we are serving.
We all know that we need to take tools with us in the fire building, these tools are either based on riding position, occupancy, or personal preference. For example when I was assigned to a truck company we typically had 3 on the rig (Driver, Officer, Firefighter) The firefighter and officer would take care of all of the interior truck work and take along with them 2 hooks, set of irons, and the TIC. Typically the irons would be split with the officer carrying the axe, and firefighter carrying the halligan. The driver and in the rare case of a 4th person would handle all of the exterior work, and would choose their tools based on the assignment needing to be done first. Sometimes it was ladders, and hooks other times it was a rotary saw. If we were to go to a hotel, or multi family occupancy the interior team would add a hydra ram (to force multiple doors fast) and typically a water can.
The water can was always something of great debate, since the main job of the Truck is to search, and we need to search fast a lot of guys felt the can slowed them down. Others thought that since we are typically searching away from the hose line the can provided a bit of protection and would allow the search to be extended if fire was encountered. Both sides of that argument have merit, and make a lot of sense. However one thing no one ever talks about is how distracting the can is. What I mean is that when you give someone the can they feel like they have to use it. On many fires I have seen guys on the truck take in the can, initiate their search, find the fire and instead of radioing to the chief or engine officer the location of the fire and continue their search put the fire out (or try to), and then immediately go to pulling ceiling, overhauling, etc. and not finish the primary search. I have seen this in multiple types of occupancies. I have also seen the Truck company guys locate the fire in the kitchen and abandon their search and try to extinguish the fire with the kitchen sink sprayer.
I always thought the can was and should be a fluid tool that I could add or take away when the situation arose. For single family dwellings and we arrived after or at the same time as the engine I left it. If we arrived before I brought it. For commercial, multifamily, and hotels I always wanted to bring it because the speed of the line stretch was slower typically and we needed to get in there and begin our search. I however never used it to extinguish a fire unless it was in danger of trapping us, I felt it was better to radio the location, and try to confine with a door (if available), or give it a few shots to slow it down and then continue my search.
I will add that if you have enough guys on your Truck to dedicate to the can and his job is to find the fire and keep it in check until the line is in place then that is awesome, and keep brining the can. However if your dealing with a similar man power situation to the one I described I think a review of operations is in order to see what benefits you are actually getting from taking the can.
So what do you do? Do you take the can no matter what? Do you pick and choose? Leave some feed back in the comments section. By the way great webcast on forcible entry on Firehouse.com today check it out here: http://www.firehouse.com/webcasts/todays-forcible-entry-facing-new-challenges-every-door-and-window Stay safe and thanks for reading!