I believe that the time has come to share some of the firefighting tools and talents which I have gathered over the past 48 years. The knowledge of these is necessary if we are to properly use our system of firefighting strategy and tactics. Like any system, the key is to use the procedures each and every time you face a fire. By using our method consistently and continually, you will become proficient in its application.
During any given year, there are certain types of firefighting operations that you will see on a fairly frequent basis. While the frequency of each will vary according to the community, these are the incidents you will see on a fairly regular basis. These frequently encountered incidents are the building blocks for more complex operations.
For you see, even a complex operation is, in reality, a whole bunch of simple operations jammed together at the same time. By becoming proficient in the basics, you will be better able to combat the complex issues.
One And Two Room Fires
Every year we encounter a wide variety of spectacular fires in the trade journals. Scores of firefighters labor to operate a wide variety of equipment to handle "The Big One." It makes for great press and it massages our heroic image of ourselves as being all that stands between our world and its destruction.
Unfortunately, many fire departments gear their training programs around this scenario. Master streams are developed, and ladder pipes, as well as other elevating platform streams are utilized practicing for "The Big One." We acquire those skills which will serve us well, if we encounter the big one. In some cases, we even budget for the big one; that is if we are lucky enough to have the bucks.
A review of the professional literature tells a quite different story. The large-scale fireground operation is a rare bird indeed. Even in a major metropolitan city, the truly big fire is not a commonplace event. However, what we do encounter is a great many smaller incidents.
Most of our actual fires require but a single hose line for extinguishment. We can remember studying a textbook figure many years ago that stated that approximately 90 percent of actual fires were controlled with one line. Our three decades of experience tell me virtually the same story.
What then is the purpose of this discussion with you today, if most of our fires only need a single hose line? Quite simply, these one-line fires are extremely critical, because if you do not place that single line in the correct place, you will end up with a big fire. And if you do not cover that single line with an appropriate back up line, you are courting disaster.
Perhaps the biggest problem we have faced is complacency. We tend to suffer from the, "we can handle anything" disease. This is a serious matter, particularly in those fire departments with a low firefighting workload. Complacency can also be compounded by the "one-size hose line fits all," approach to firefighting. This is the syndrome where the department only knows how to use one hose line, regardless of a fire's magnitude.
We can recall a number of discussions with those firefighters who conducted our in-service training during the early 1970's. Many of these men entered the fire service right after World War Two. In those days there were literally just two sizes of hose to use. You either hit the fire with a booster line, using your small tank capacity. Or you laid out with a 2-1/-inch hoseline, taking the time to make suction at a hydrant, stretch your lines and go to work.
These were the people who then were blessed with the introduction of the 1-1/2-inch attack hoseline. They were so glad for the increased efficiency, lower weight, and easier maneuverability of this new hose, that the used it whenever they could. And in some cases they have misused it. Many times a fire got out of control, because an initial attack line was too small for the purpose intended.