With the recent budget crunches (long story short: overtime) we are being faced with, for the first time in our history, firefighting with 3 man engine companies. While most smaller communities have been dealing with this as the norm (or less) we on the other hand haven’t ever done this (if you’ve known me for an appreciable length of time you know I come from a small city in an outlying surburb of a major city in southwest Ohio), but I’ve done it before.
Reassuring my co-workers that we can make it work hasn’t been very productive.
It requires a level of situational awareness we haven’t had before, and the modifications to our style of play, depending on the staffing for that day, is a new concept. “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible) is the unofficial motto for any military or paramilitary organization, and so it must be ours also.
One of the lost skills we don;t use is the forward lay, or simply the first arriving engine stopping to either take or set up to take a hydrant as they move towards the fire building. I found this to not be a concept that many here do not grasp easily, as it has always been taught “on the street” that the first engine goes to the fire and “holds” (this is actually in our SOP) the fire in check until a more sufficient water supply is achieved. Two companies have to be on the ball and work together often to get this sort of synchronization.
This is different from what I had always learned (and some candidates for promotion don’t get because “we don’t do that here”) is that the first pumper takes it’s own water supply. This extra expenditure of effort on the front end saves skin on the back end (literally and figuratively) because of the assured water supply gives the hoseline an infinite supply instead of the traditional 2 or 3 minutes.
In a 3 man engine environment, we move from having a dedicated nozzleman to having a guy that can, at minimum, get out of the engine to drop down a section of hose and wrap it to the hydrant, and get back on the engine to go the fire and still be the nozzleman. This requires a load of physical training, especially endurance because it’s the equivalent of running a mile in turnouts then going to the fight with energy to spare. If you are in shape (which many of my brethren across the job aren’t) this should require little additional effort.
The time to prepare was yesterday.