Sunday, January 10, 2010

Columbia Fire Department - Staffing Puts Fire Out


In the midst of all the feel good stories circulating in the Simulacrum it is time to focus on what is a fact and not a myth. Staffing, per NFPA 1710-1720 or better, puts fires out with a reduction in injuries to firefighters and civilians. Instead of focusing on what's not working let us praise a department that does it correctly, albeit in the midst of a turbulent year.

On a frigid night in late December this author was sitting with members of Engine Company 13 in Columbia, SC. Tones dropped indicating a fire in a hotel with multiple calls stating the fire was visible and victims were inside. Four engines, two ladders, two rescues and three chief officers were on the initial alarm. Each of the apparatus carried four personnel per NFPA 1710. (We covered this at Halligan and Hose's Website)

Riding with Engine 13 the author saw smoke rising into the sky as Ladder 7 reported on scene with fire showing from the Alpha side of the structure. Engine 13 arrived right behind and the Captain and his crew stretched a line to the interior hallway to block the fire from the rest of the building. Occupants were pouring out of the upper floor.

As the ladder and additional units went to work it became clear that what started as a major fire was quickly being reduced via the efforts of the full staffed first alarm assignment. Even as a second alarm was called, and it was the proper call, Engine 13 was knocking the bulk of the fire back into the rooms of origin. To make a long story short they got the fire under control along with the balance of the first alarm.

No lives were lost and property damage, at $300,000, was significantly less than what anyone would have predicted arriving on scene. Several factors contributed to a sterling effort:

  1. Staffing
  2. Aggressive Interior Attack - (put the fire out and it saves lives)
  3. Coordinated Efforts
  4. ICS
Though Columbia has been a victim of closed engines (2 were out of service. One has been reopened and the second will reopen next month) they have maintained staffing. Risk analysis is in use and the firefighters and command officers understand what they are up against. In some locations this fire would have taken lives.

That's the bottom line.
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1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with this author. Fully staffed engine and truck company's are imperative to fire suppression. Our department is at the point where we have are down to a 5 man shift manning both an engine and a ladder. If it is a garden variety fire the engine rolls as a 2 man unit, and good luck to them, if it comes in as a working structure the second man on on the engine flips to the ladder so it is a four man unit. We fight off of the ladder while the single man engine secures a water supply,( we try to use reverse lays) he/she then join as an attack crew member. Hopefully (and most of the time)due to EMS or PD radio traffic the on duty officer has already struck a second alarm bringing in off duty personnel prior to the time we arrive on scene. It would sure be nice to know that we have the properly manned equipment when we start our shift but in this day and time I fear that is nothing more than a pipe dream.

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