After arriving, an accurate description of what is going on is the
simplest way to describe what the first-due company officer or
units need to do. It’s easy to look for the obvious things, and they’re
important, like smoke location and characteristics, building design,
and fire. This information needs to be consistent and accurate.
Many like to downplay the importance of a thorough size-up, but the information is critical for the incoming IC and for
additional units. This is especially important when considering the
preassigned actions for incoming units. There is a big difference,
for example, in a two- or three-story house as opposed to a true
half story. There must be trust in what is being communicated to
prepare incoming units for what they will be dealing with.
Additionally, the size-up needs to include the 360. There should
be a follow-up report if the officer finds anything that needs to be
reported. This information should not have to be asked for by the
IC. This must be in the operational guideline. Does the company
officer report that there is nothing to report or does he just report
information that is important?
We only require our officers to report pertinent information—
for example, two stories in the front and three in the back. There
is a bulkhead or walk-up stairs on the rear if we are dealing with a
basement fire. Or, simply the lack of exterior access on a basement
fire. Maybe an egress door is open, and you’re going to hook a
foot and check the immediate area. That information needs to be
relayed to the IC.
Ensuring this information is trained on and passed along accurately helps to continue the building of trust between the IC and the
company officer. This is important for the IC to be able to compare
what the officer is telling him vs. what the IC is seeing. Another
important part of this is the fact that there are occasions when the
IC may be remote or not directly in front of the fire building and is
depending on information to make decisions. A lack of trust creates
hesitation and indecision on the part of the IC and may force him to
stop or change a tactic when it may not be necessary but was based
on poor information by the company officer.
By using actionable and realistic operational guidelines with training
and a calm demeanor, this observation provides the strong start that
is needed for success at any incident. The trust in knowing that the
company officer is well armed and decisive with an understanding
of operational expectations makes the job of the IC easier and more
effective in putting resources where they need to go—or not go.
MAKING THE ATTACK
When crews make an attack and begin their operations, there are
some important bits of information that need to be communicated to
the IC. This list is not exclusive, and you may have a system that has
this information built into it. However, you must train on relaying
information while operating, and the IC must learn to be patient.
As a company officer, there was nothing that would frustrate me
more than an IC who was impatient, constantly calling me with
questions while I was helping with the task and directing members.
I learned that the more we drilled on what he wanted and what I
needed to provide, the better we got on the incidents.
For me as an IC, I want to see the what the company officer is
telling me. I want the conditions to match the information he is providing. If that’s not the case, I need to start thinking about changing
our strategy or providing additional resources. Again, this comes
with trust, frequent communication, and drilling together often.
The following is information that needs to be relayed from the
company officer to the IC. For this list that is built on the trust
between the company officer and the IC, patience on the part of
the IC and recognition on the part of the company officer are key.
I have found that providing this information does not remove the
company officer from performing his regular tasks. If given time,
the company officer can easily give the IC the information he
needs to control the incident and adapt as needed.
• Victims found or reported as missing in the fire building
should be reported to the IC immediately. This needs to
include if any changes in operations are taking place based on
• How many lines are coming off with the initial company? This
lets the IC and incoming units know that water supply needs
to happen fast.
• Where are the lines going and for what? This is critical for the
IC and incoming units to know. Yes, it should be obvious for
crews to see a line going in the front door, but the IC may not
have the ability to see that. Fire attack? Protecting the search
crew? Holding an exposure? That information needs to be
• Regarding making entry, provide information on from where,
the size of the crew, and company number. Include your task
and whether you have protection or not. Searching may be
necessary without the initial protection of a handline—this
needs to be conveyed to the IC and incoming companies to
ensure that a protective line gets put in place as soon as possible. If a crew does enter without a line, report conditions and
location of the fire if possible.
• Are things not going as well as expected? Report that and state
why, if you know. Do you have hoarder conditions? Is the
building cut up, making it hard to progress? Is there difficulty
in finding the basement stairs? Was there a drastic change in
heat and fire or visibility? These are critical components to
communicate to the IC.
• Have you found the fire? This is a must if you are asking for
ventilation. The IC should not blindly ventilate without eyes
on the fire.
Strategies for finding success
on and off the fireground
BY JASON HOEVELMANN