companies operating on the fire floor in the primary immediately dangerous to life or health area.
● Three chief officers (battalion or district chiefs).
• The first as the incident commander.
• The second as the fire floor division supervisor
or fire suppression branch director.
• The third as lobby control.
OK, so the above resources can get us off to a good
start; complete an investigation; establish if there is
a fire; and, if there is a fire, initiate fire attack along
with search and rescue.
If there is a confirmation of a “working fire,” the
nationally accepted standard of practice is to immediately call for additional resources. This is usually, in
most systems, a request for a second alarm.
The bottom line: You want to stay well
ahead of the resource curve and try to maintain an uncommitted tactical reserve, keeping
in mind most of your tactical reserve needs to
be in staging, ideally two floors below the fire
floor. Remember, staging at a high-rise fire is
inside the building. The additional resources
called for and initially arriving outside are in
an area that should be referred to as BASE.
The actual act of calling for help can and
should be authorized at many levels within
fire department systems. Clearly, the incident
commander can and should call for help as
necessary. Remember, calling for help is not just
the responsibility of a chief officer. We must
train all our company officers that it is OK for
them, even the newest, most junior fire officer
in the right front seat, to feel comfortable and
confident to call for help when they see fire
showing from the 10th floor.
There are numerous cues that will guide us
in the decision to call for help. When our fire
dispatchers contact us and report that multiple
calls are being received reporting a fire, that’s a
clue. Smoke or fire showing on arrival is another
critical clue. But remember, just because nothing
is showing from the outside of a large high-rise
building, that does not mean there isn’t a significant and dangerous fire deep inside that building.
It all boils down to reflex time. Our reflex
time at a high-rise fire is very significant.
Call for help early, because it’s going to take
significant time (reflex time) to get the help
where you need it.
• Call for help.
• Proactively establish mutual- and
automatic-aid agreements with neighboring departments.
• Establish shared procedures, equip-
ment, and radio channels with your neighboring
• Train with your neighboring departments.
Dave McGrail is a 36-year veteran of the fire service and an
assistant chief with the Denver (CO) Fire Department. He instructs
internationally on a wide range of fire service topics, specializing in
high-rise firefighting operations. McGrail is the author of the book
Firefighting Operations in High-Rise and Standpipe Equipped Buildings, published by (Fire Engineering, 2007). He has two associate of
applied science degrees in fire science technology, one with a focus
in fire suppression and the other with a focus in fire prevention.
McGrail also has two bachelor of science degrees, one in human
resource management and the other in fire service administration.