I admit it, it's happened to me... and I am sure that it's happened to you too. Honestly, it’s just easy to let it happen. You can try to justify it, in your own mind by saying that; it's just that we love what we do, and we want to do it all the time! When fire presents itself, we want to get right in there and go to work. While we know all too well the dangers and devastation that fire causes, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who rides firetrucks that doesn't want to go to them. That said, the tendency to rush into action can sometimes make "the job" more challenging. Even the best firefighters and company officers can, at times, be "blinded" by the auditory and visual display that is, the "Beauty of fire."
Bee-Boop...Engine, Ladder; now the adrenaline starts to build, interrupting what had been a rather slow Football Sunday. The cold snap is here, it’s winter, it's fire season. It's the middle of the afternoon, your on the apparatus floor as crisp winter chill hits and runs thru your bones, as the doors slowly rise open... that arctic air rushes in. Your rigs, your crew and you, gear up... to hit the street.
You are headed on a run for "a house on fire" when another round of adrenaline pops as we hear our friendly dispatcher announce "We are getting a few calls on this" or "Sounds like you might have something there" or better yet "PD is on the scene with fire showing."
Ah, it's going to be a worker... all the signs are right. As you turn the final corner you see the boss lean back, slide the window open to the crew and tell the backstep "looks like we got a job fellas." Whether it's "10-75 the box, K" or "Strike the Working Fire dispatch" it's on! Time to go to work, this is what we do best. We have trained ourselves to be a "Combat Ready" "Aggressive" firefighting team... everyone has the prepared, practiced and anticipated for our fire moment... and it is here, let's push right in!?!?
Whoa, fellas... the boss says: "one second"... What is he doing you wonder? Before he let's the team dance with this "Beauty of fire", he just wants to take one quick look at the dance card.
Before you enter the fire building...
1) IS THIS THE PROPER ADDRESS?
Many times we receive the initial phone call reporting a fire that is: behind, adjacent, across from the address we are responding to. If you arrive and it is different, ANNOUNCE it! Give the remaining companies responding a chance to make adjustments and respond to the right address.
2) HOW MANY STORIES IS IT? COUNT THE FLOORS!
Take a lap for PD's (Private Dwellings), get reports from outside teams at MD's (Multiple Dwellings), or reports from units responding from an opposite direction. Note terrain variations making more stories in rear than front or vice versa, the presence of walk out basements, setbacks... etc.
3) IS THERE ANY VISIBLE FIRE? WHAT FLOOR IS THE FIRE ON?
Let the incoming companies know what you see on your arrival. A fire on the top floor IS different than a fire on the first floor (unless it is 1 story) ...from many operational and tactical standpoints.
4) ARE ANY PEOPLE SHOWING?
Do occupants have the ability to self evacuate? What type and how many (if any) fire escapes are there? Are the civilians "really" in immediate peril or can we reassure them to shelter them in place? Should we make an internal or external (or both) attempt to rescue them? Remember LIP. Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, Property Conservation.
5) WHERE IS THIS FIRE GOING?
What are your exposures? This means both internal and external.
Internal: Within the fire building/apartment (a quick count mailboxes, doorbells, or a quick scan of the layout on the floor below can help here).
External: Outside the fire building. Fire communicating out windows impinging adjacent dwellings or auto exposing to the floor above might indicate a second alarm or additional resources being called for on your arrival.
KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND BLINDERS OFF! The few seconds you take in the street may make up countless minutes once in the building. Stay Alert.