The following video from East St. Louis plainly illustrates the need to be a deliberate engine company. In viewing we learn that the lineman recognizes two signs of the first floor being compromised. We also see and hear how the lineman communicates to the rest of his company about:
– First floor integrity/hazard
– Need to check for exterior basement access
– Repositioning the initial handline
– Using the reach of the stream
‘Situational awareness’ and ‘risk analysis’ are terms being used in the fire service in various ways. Basically they mean no more than you being aware of your surroundings. The deliberate firefighter, and engine company, will be the one that constantly sizeup the fire and make the best choice with the information they are getting.
– Known vacant structure; gauge our ‘speed’ and adapt
– First floor is bad; hold up the advance through the front door
– Bulk of fire looks to be in basement; need to find exterior basement access
– Unable to reposition first line; communicate to the second-due engine company
– Hold the fire on the first floor at the exterior door; gauge our ‘speed’ and adapt.
The fire in the video shows us the quick recognition of a compromised first floor and a change in tactics. To use this video for your own personal reflection or to discuss in the dayroom, ask:
– Would our attack have been different if the structure was not a vacant structure?
– How many of my crew do I expect to be ‘hands on’ the hoseline as we pass through the front door?
– What if the lineman, backup and/or officer fell through the floor? What do we know to do?
– What if I had fallen through the floor? Would I revert back to training or panic?
– How do we communicate to other companies that we have a basement fire and cannot move into Division 1? What do we expect the other companies to do when they arrive?
– If we have to reposition the initial handline, and we cannot reach the rear (stretched short), do we extend the first line or stretch a second?
“House Fire Close Call/FCII Helmet Camera” Rob Schield, FireVideo.net
“Fire In The Basement: Do You Know What You’re Running Into?” James Rose, WithTheCommand.com
“Basement Fires” Weekly Drill, FirefighterCloseCalls.com
“Basement Fires: A Reminder and Perhaps a Clarification” Charles Bailey, TinHelmet.com
“6401 Gwinnett Ln. Presentation” Firefighter Mike Wells, PGFEMS
“Basement Fire Procedures” PGFEMS
“Mayday Procedure” PGFEMS
“Fire Below! The Importance of the ‘Basement Check’” Nick Martin, Firehouse.com
“Past success is no guarantee of future success” Charles Bailey, TinHelmet.com
 “Often, we only become aware of the unrecognized basement fire because something bad happens:
- We can’t find the seat of the fire.
- Conditions on the floors above become untenable.
- The floors begin to weaken.
- Fire comes through the floor.
- One of US goes through the floor.”
Fire Below! The Importance of the ‘Basement Check’ Nick Martin, Firehouse.com January 2009