Pine Bluff, Arkansas Video Highlights Quick Work by Minimum Staffed Crews

Submitter of past Backstep article is seen hustling the hoselines.

One of the videos from today features a working fire being fought by a department that we featured in an article last year about minimum staffing. The YouTube video, from Arkansas Fire News, shows members of the City of Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services fighting a vacant house fire on the morning of 8 November, 2011. We’re not sharing this with you as a matter of it involving a vacant house fire, although we could in order to highlight smart, safe firefighting depicted. It is instead better use of the video and a brief background story to share how well this nearly three minutes of video shows what a minimum staffed crew can accomplish.According to the video, Engines 1, 3, 5, Ladder 1 and Battalion 1 responded to the fire. We can see a sensible attack that is worth noting some correct engine company work. As you can easily see, the first line stretched and as the two firefighters on this line wait for water they do not place themselves up on the porch, despite the amount of fire showing. This seems like stating the obvious but we have surely seen similar fires where the nozzle team sat, or in some instances stood while fire rolled over them, waiting for the hoseline to be charged. Second, we see that it is only after the first hoseline is charged and operating that the second line is stretched, flaked out as best as possible, and then charged.

While this second hoseline was being placed into service we can see another firefighter begin what is presumably the 360 sizeup, moving from Side Bravo towards the rear and the seen again coming from Side Delta back towards the front of the fire building. Why do these initial acts need to be called to your attention? It is because that what we see being done was done by minimum staffed companies.

Back in October we ran a post calling for readers to send us how their two and three-man crews operate on the fireground, how they maintain a sense of readiness, able to “Expect Fire.” One of the submissions was from the 'engineer' you see in the video running those two hoselines, Senior Firefighter John Buchan of Pine Bluff’s Ladder 1. John and Firefighter/Engineer Joe Kisel are the Ladder 1 “company.” Ladder 1 is a two man truck company that responds to all working fires in the city and is second due to all motor vehicle accidents with entrapment as well. Staffing on the other apparatus is three and an initial structure assignment is three engines and either Ladder 1 or a quint. Staffing, as in the video we see, would be a total of 12 personnel including the battalion chief.

Buchan shared in his minimum staffing article how he and Firefighter Kisel approach each fire in a way that they can make the greatest impact as a pair. Here is some of what he wrote, “The primary responsibility of Ladder-1 on the fire ground is “Vent, Enter, Search”. Now this can be done one of two ways. VES with an engine company and hand line or VES without an engine company or hand line. Different calls will dictate which way we go. As we arrive on scene we will make a quick game plan from what we see showing.”

You can read more at “Two and Three-Man Crews Entry No.2: Pine Bluff, Arkansas” It is a good description of how a two-man truck company can arrive with a game plan and foundational objectives that are flexible, and make a significant positive impact in the fireground operations. Too often some companies approach dealing with minimum staffing as either a rare occurrence or a crap shoot. While it’s not the best situation, learning from departments like Pine Bluff can be a benefit.

If you operate with two or three-man crews we would like to hear about it. Feel free to comment (remember ‘Anonymous’ doesn’t ride here) here, on our Facebook page or email us at The useful tips for safe, smart firefighting might help another department.


Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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1 Comment

  • Bill Carey says:

    After further consideration, we have removed the previous comment. The poster had nothing of value to contribute and was inciting a career versus volunteer debate in the poorest form.

    Bill carey

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