The Rural Engine Company
Truth in numbers!
The majority of the American fire service is composed of a Rural demographic. This being the case the majority of tactical deployments are mirrored unrealistically to urban department’s models, typically the closest city to said organization. This is not wrong as we should take what busy and structured organizations are doing and make it work to our demographics. The key is taking it and making it work for us, this does not mean copy and paste.
In the Rural setting you may be rolling up with anywhere from 1-3 members on your company. You cannot expect the successful results of an urban company by emulating the same application with a three man company. You will have 15 guy in 5 mins in the city and 5 guys in 15 minutes in the Country side.
With the ability to have resources assigned, staging, and responding your attack package can follow a structure to allow for assignments to augment attack. For instance, in an urban department I may assign attack to first on, then follow it up with a backup line and a RIT crew, consisting of all Engine companies.
Where as in the rural setting my company reflex times, man power, and experience level will decide my orders for me. For a large amount of Departments in the rural setting a front load or stack up attack model is the best option. You see we want to overwhelm this fire with what we can and then fill in the blanks. It is after all water on the fire that gains our ground of this is where we want to take our hold. Stopping the fire in the fastest manor possible will give you more survivable space to start your life saving searches.
Front loading or stacking up is simply the act of marring companies to achieve one goal. The initial and most important goal is that of attack. E 1 first due will start the attack, E2 second on stacks up and gives their water to E1. They then join up with E1 on the line with the goal of getting water to the fire. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but if you put the fire out you don’t need a backup line!
Using Water to Save Water!
In the Rural setting we must realize that we only have the water we brought most of the time. Stacking the first two tanks together will give you 2000 gallons and in some cases 4000 gallons, this is if you are not replicating urban specs for rural engines.
How do we make the most out of this water? We utilize an equalizer! This may be from a deck gun or a 2.5 line. The concept of this is to take back time by overwhelming the fire. This shall not be for more than 5-10 seconds. With two tanks tied together this will result in 100 gallons in 10 seconds from the deck gun or 50 gallons in 10 seconds from a 2.5.
This is the equivalent of an air assault prior to sending the ground troops in with small arms fire. The simple action will make the fire manageable for 1.75 flows and prevent the chip away small bits result of attacking a larger fire with small lines. We want to hit it hard, equalize it, and then go in with maneuverability and kill it. Let’s be clear I am not saying drag a 1.75 around to the Charlie side to hit a room and contents. I am saying with minimal man power you can take back time and maintain structure with a brief heavy hit, quick water, or BLITZ…. call it what you would like.
Again, with limited man power we have to operate the rural fire ground with a Dual deployment. The second due company that stacked on E1 will serve as a dual role, attack/search. When they search is important. They will search but also move hose. Their job is to get the nozzle to the fire with E1. Once the nozzle is at the fire we have established our starting point for E2 to search. They want to start at the point where a victim would be most severely threatened, this is at the fire and moving back to the uninvolved area.
This hose advancement will allow the search crew to have the comfort of knowing water is on the fire, it will speed up the advancement, and adds critical manpower to the attack crew until water is on the fire. With a Two or three personnel company the stack up method creates a single urban engine out of two rural engines. As far as methods of search I prefer a pivot or an oriented search. This type of search is not a holding hands search and is the most realistic style search no matter your demographic.
1. A guy remains oriented
2. There is a defined path
3. The speed is faster and results are the same
4. The searcher can be led by a TIC
In the urban setting water supply can be handled by the first Due or the second due. There are two reasons for this with the first being staffing. With a 4 man company you can drop a firefighter and still have enough to mount your attack as first in and take another assignment as second in. The second reason is because there is typically a hydrant with in a distance of the amount of supply line carried.
In the Rural setting with the closest hydrant a mile or miles away you can’t lay in and you also will have a two man or one man truck in most cases if you can lay. The fix is what my mentor calls the booster tank back up. We effectively make the most out of our people and water with this method, it also allows the stack up concept to take place. The idea is to come in as first in and start your attack, second in gives you their tank water and either joins you or takes the next priority assignment. In most rural settings this will give you a minimum of 2000 gallons of water. With the proper nozzle and hose selection this results in 10-12 min of water if we opened the nozzle and never closed it. Now in the residential setting this is an outstanding amount of water. To be clear we do not abandon a sustainable water supply, we are simply front loading and making the most of our time, people,
and water with the first two arriving engines.
As important as this function has been made out to be, I feel its check box location needs to be re-evaluated. We are not seeing a ton of successful RIT deployments. It could be that no one wants to be in the function so they are not prepared when called on, but I think it’s more of a proximity reason. With more Maydays being saved from their own company or companies near them it just makes sense that the closer you are to the issue the more likely you will be able to help.
Take the minimal success rate and add it to the short staffed rural department, is RIT justifiable? Would it make more sense to get that company you would have assigned RIT, and get them is a position to speed up getting water to the fire?
With a Fire knocked down you eliminate the need for RIT just like you eliminate the need for a backup line. In the Rural setting the most critical strategical and tactical deployments should be Extinguishment focuses. Get the nozzle in motion and build around the needs of the nozzle.
“The Rural First Engine Due” has no choice but to be a robust company. You must take an immediate action to kill the fire and maintain the livable areas. Do not think water supply before any water has left your tank. We have to get away from the check box incident. Our goal and only function as the first due is to get the fire out, as second due it is your job to assist this process. Think smart and think with the rural deployment, built on the successes of the urban engine, adjusted for your manpower and water system.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
15 year veteran of the East Montgomery County Fire Department in Texas. Has served in each role at the East Montgomery County Fire Department from Volunteer to Fire Chief. Served as Incident Command over a Unified command structure for Hurricane Harvey. Experience in Rural Fire ground strategies and tactics. Fire Fighter advanced through the state of Texas, Fire Instructor 2, Fire Officer 4, and Hazmat Tech.