In this edition of “KTW” Captains Denning, Schneider and Smith will discuss (1) ways to inspire your command, and (2) attic fire considerations. These topics and experienced-based opinions should be points of discussion among all of us.
Operational Question: Attic fires in SFD’s present unique firefighting challenges. What are some of your tactical considerations during these types of firefights?
CII Gary Smith, FS78-B: When employing attic fire tactics my goal is the preservation of contents and structure throughout the extinguishment and overhaul process. In order to do this timing and discipline are extremely important.
Companies should initiate salvage below the fire and work from involved to uninvolved. Salvage should continue until the affected rooms are protected or a knockdown is achieved. Quick and efficient salvage is critical during the early stages of an attic fire.
On average size SFD’s I deploy a 1” and 1½” handline. The 1” facilitates ease of manipulation thus enabling a more effective stream application, and the 1½” is a backup in the event the 1” can’t handle fire conditions. Ultimately, a handline must be deployed inside the attic to allow horizontal stream application or you’ll find yourself chasing the fire and increasing damage.
You may need to delay opening the roof until salvage takes place. Venting too early will fuel the fire (oxygen) and eliminate any chance of an indirect attack. In certain cases (clear communication and with IC approval) handlines may be effectively used by vent teams when access to the fire is difficult from below.
CII Rick Denning, FS73-B: Attic fires in SFD’s can be a tactical challenge as they’re often hindered by our overaggressive nature. A solid personal size-up along with fire attack and vent team discipline is key to effective extinguishment with these fires.
First, you must decide whether to vertically vent or to hold off and attempt an indirect attack (steam conversion). This attack method is doable in newer type-truss construction as well as in older conventional construction. Obstacles such as scissor trusses, vaulted ceilings, compartmentalization, lightweight construction, attic storage, etc. can also make attacking these fires difficult.
The following must take place in order to effectively suppress an attic fire: clear communication to the IC: immediate salvage (cover furniture, bag floors, etc.), deployment of a 1½” (max) handline, maintain roof integrity with vent team in place, no ceiling pulled (yet) and locate attic access (scuttle or hole pulled).
The lead F/A officer should now communicate their intension to coordinate extinguishment then ventilation. Prop-open the scuttle hole (or small pulled hole) and use an inside ladder to access the attic and utilize a fog stream to effect extinguishment.
CI Erik Schneider, FS10-B: There are two parts to a successful attic fire: (1) self-discipline while coordinating fire attack, and (2) utilizing an inside ladder to provide attic access.
F/A teams must also show restraint in pulling ceiling until salvage is performed, and vent teams should delay opening the roof until after the attic has been accessed.
Although it’s common during attic fires to initiate F/A in a kitchen or bathroom because of tile or linoleum floors, I do not agree with this tactic. In older homes these rooms tend to be small and not centrally located, and in newer homes the kitchen can oftentimes be the most expensive room in the house.
Upon attic-fire confirmation, immediately communicate this to the vent team. Salvage equipment and an “inside” ladder must be brought in and furniture either moved or covered. Floor runners should also be deployed immediately. I prefer salvage covers to plastic because they’re sturdier and faster to deploy. When salvage is complete one member dons their B/A while other FF’s pull ceiling to expose three rafter’s – one bay for the ladder, the second for the FF, and the third for the handline.
Leadership Question: An officer can either contaminate his workforce or inspire his command. Give us two examples of how you’ve inspired/motivated your Command?
Denning: My best assignments have been where the front office projected a united front on all three shifts. As such, bad-mouthing of the other shifts is never tolerated as our belief is, “This is one fire station – one shift.”
My members can call me anytime for guidance, or to simply request assistance with a home remodel or project. I enjoy promoting work parties as many of our members have unique talents that can be shared. This not only bonds our members, it also assists in developing a more capable work force.
It’s your duty to inspire and motivate rather than to pollute and destroy, and this can be done in many ways. Your members “Won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” Lead by example and define in their eyes the true meaning of leadership. Your work ethic and professionalism should never be perceived, but witnessed.
Schneider: Motivating a fire company is oftentimes difficult as there are no easy answers. To me it starts with Leading by Example – checking your equipment in the morning, wearing your PPE’s, demonstrating a great attitude, and participating in training exercises alongside your crew are ways in which to lead, motivate and inspire.
Cooking a good meal when it’s your turn is also important to your crew, and NOT just prior to battalion inspection. Also, the way in which you manage your own timekeeping (paying back trades, using sick time, etc.) is key as it can either set a positive or negative example. None of us are perfect, so don’t be afraid to admit slip-ups on the fireground or in the front office. FF’s value honesty in their officers.
You should get to know your crew’s likes/dislikes, strengths/limitations, as well as their individual aspirations. Some FF’s are motivated by praise while others are driven by challenge or reward. There are also those that become inspired knowing you trust them enough to place them in a leadership role. Keep in mind this isn’t easy and will not happen overnight.
Smith: Every crew is made up of members with a variety of knowledge, skills, abilities and experience (KSAE). For any captain, especially a new one, it can be difficult to motivate and inspire using the same approach from one member to the next.
Upon assessing my crews KSAE’s, I like to empower them by using their skills to enhance the overall effectiveness of the crew. By imparting their KSAE’s onto those less capable, the team builds from within. I have them teach to their strengths to instill trust and confidence all while ensuring their understanding of the importance of realistic and stimulating training.
I concentrate on the present, the future, and the overall development of my crew. Therefore, I don’t worry why a member was unproductive in the past, as I can’t do anything about that. I also do my best to treat them with respect and dignity, and try never to council them in front of others. I make my expectations clear and my action consistent, and I will often seek feedback in an effort to gage our collective effort.
In next months KTW Captains Dave Mack, Marty Svorinich and Steve Marotta will discuss (1) challenges for a newly promoted captain, and (2) water supply issues on the foreground.
Facilitated by Jerry Bedoya, Capt II, FS 10