Whaddya Think?

Hey all, came across this video on Statter911.com. After watching the video I clicked on the comments as I saw there were more than 40 at the time. After reading them my blood was boiling. The thing that got to me the most was the number of people ripping this department for their choice of attack tactic. Seems the “we need to crawl in and get everything” crowd is alive in well, at least as they sit behind their computer screens and keyboards. Take a look and please tell me what you think.

Ok, so there are some issues in the video. There are on every fire. I’m not talking about air horn blasts, speed or purpose of movement or not coming off the rig on air. Those were points brought up in the comments as well. I really don’t care about those for this particular discussion. What do you guys think about the choice of a transitional attack? That’s what the all-knowing commentators seem to be blasting these guys for the most. I personally think it was a solid choice. You have houses very close to each other, the flames form the B side window are getting pretty close, the wind appears to be helping push it in that direction. Why not knock it and then go in to mop up? Aside from maybe using the B side window instead of the A side window like this particular crew did, I think I would have made much the same choices.

I think this argument of “aggressive interior” versus “ultimate safety yard-breathers” is getting a little out of hand on both sides. The recent comments by the chief from the USFA to the VCOS were, in my opinion, irresponsible and unprofessional. If you don’t know what I’m talking about click the link and read what he had to say. It’ll only take a minute. But so too are comments saying that you need to crawl in on every fire, get to within inches of the seat of the fire (so your gear gets nice and crusty looking) and then beat the red devil into submission. A transitional attack, used correctly, is an extremely effective tactic.

Much of what I have written on this platform has dealt with my belief that we are losing our “edge” as a fire service. I think that the comments made in Clearwater  are indicative of a growing trend in the fire service that believes any risk is too much risk to take. I disagree with that statement but I also disagree that every fire has to be a balls-out, hard-charging, fix bayonets attack. Instead of being labeled as a supporter of the “aggressive interior attack” I would rather be known as an advocate for smart, well trained, thinking firefighters who are not afraid to do their jobs or fulfill their calling. A chief I know recently likened some firefighters to robots who have an order programmed into them. They dutifully turn, leave the command post, vent the window and then turn and return to the command post for their next order. Since their order didn’t specifically tell them to take their hook and sweep inside the window after they vented the newspaper read, “the victim was tragically found deceased after the fire was extinguished, mere feet from a window that could have led them to safety,” instead of, “after firefighters broke a window to clear smoke and heat the victim was found and removed. They are now recovering in a local hospital.”

The most useful thing on a fireground is a thinking firefighter. The most useless is a non-thinking firefighter.


9 comments on “Whaddya Think?

  1. I’m a little torn on this one, based upon the fact that my choice would be situational as far as my staffing is concerned. Arriving from my volly department with 2 people on the scene with God knows how many enroute, I’d favor the transitional attack simply because I’m limited by my pool of resources. At work, I’ve got 4 engines, a ladder, a rescue, and a B/C hell bent for leather and right in my back pocket, so an interior attack on the seat of the fire would be my strategy there, based upon the fact that I’ve got multiple people to do multiple things. There are too many variables and unknowns for me to go too deep into it the discussion, but I’ll stick to my guns. I’ll say this, if you utilize the wrong nozzle pattern on the window attack, you’ll turn any viable victim that’s in close proximity to the fire room into a lobster.


    • Jas, I agree you have to know what you’re doing on the knob. And I certainly don’t advocate fighting the entire fire from the window, I’m just talking about darkening it down and then going in and mopping up. I agree with your point about staffing. That’s why I wonder if that was the issue on this job. Chief on the line, seemed like more officers than firefighters and their late arrival. Maybe they just don’t have too many options. Again, I’m not bashing this department. I was really just stunned by the comments posted about this job and how they ripped the use of this particular tactic.
      Stay safe buddy.


  2. I am always very hesitant to comment on an incident based upon a video- and I won’t do so here. However, I do have a couple of things to say on some points you brought up.

    First of all, there is NO argument that can be made against making a decision to put water on fire instead of waiting until you have enough manpower to mount an effective interior attack. All the data shows that even a quick application of water from the outside makes for a safer attack. Should you find yourself next to an open window of a flaming room alone on a charged nozzle waiting for the rest of your crew to gear up, PUT SOME WATER ON THE FIRE!

    Secondly- I, too, throw up a little in my mouth when I hear the extremists on either side of the safe vs. aggressive nonsense. I have been making the argument that what we need are smart firefighters and officers who make the decision appropriate to the conditions presented rather than smearing on the war paint or, conversely, trembling in the front yard and watering the house. We need to get away from either/or. It’s so 90’s.

    How refreshing to hear that we may finally understand that intelligence trumps testosterone (or lack thereof) on the 21st century fire service.

    Nice job, Chris!


    • Thanks John. Yeah, again, not trying to rip this department or dissect the entire operation. Like I said I was shocked at how vehement the comments were about employing this tactic. Maybe people just don’t understand the transitional attack. I dunno.
      The whole aggressive versus safe thing…well, I think that if we are all well trained and have a willingness to perform our jobs then that whole argument will go by the wayside because people will start making better decisions. but ‘dats just me.
      Good to hear from you John.


  3. Gary Lane says:

    I honestly have some issues with several things in this video… the biggest of which is the nozzleman laying down the knob and walking away… and then allowing a Chief to pick it up no less! Seriously though, as it relates to the use of some water through the window(but please not on a fog!) and then “transitioning” to the interior… Not my first choice, but I dont mind it if there is a reason for it. If these guys only have 2-3 guys and one of them is an overweight fire chief, well then the window is probably a good option. Really it just seems like the guys need a little bit of training and some practice with the right instructor and I bet they would be 100 times better in just a couple of hours. Since we dont work there and I wasnt on the fire personally, I would still be interested in hearing a first hand account/explanation of the why and how they do things.


  4. DaveOC says:

    I gotta tell you I’m not a huge fan of the transitional attack…..because if you take a look at that fire it’s basically a single room and contents fire when they arrived. There is no huge volume of fire, it’s self vented and there is no real exposure problem. Are we really going to start extolling the virtues of the transitional attack for single room and contents fires ?

    My primary function on a fire is search and had I pulled up first on this fire I would already be inside trying to search the parts of the house not on fire.(Yes we oftentimes search without the benefit of having an attack line in operation.) I would not appreciate a later arriving Engine company steaming me from the front yard. Granted that was (probably) not the case in this video as no one else was inside prior to flowing water.


    • Dave I agree with you for the most-part. I’m not extolling the transitional attack. I do think it is a viable option in certain situations but certainly am not saying lets hit every fire from the outside first. I think that this department did what it could given the situation. Like Gary alluded to in his comment below I think this department might have some staffing issues and a few training ones as well. I’m not all about 2-in-2-out and all that stuff but if they were operating within their means, so to speak, I don’t really have a problem with it.

      Something I’ve noticed since getting into this blogging thing is that most people comment from their own frame of reference. Meaning that you make points from what you know. In your department you state you routinely search without the benefit of a line. I have no problem with that. I’ll bet none of the guys in this video have ever done that. It’s probably because of staffing issues, order of arrival on scene and a host of other issues that this is never done. So in your view the transitional attack wouldn’t be high on your depth-chart for the game because you may have adequate staffing and companies with dedicated tasks i.e. Engines do Engine work, Trucks do Truck work etc. But these guys probably have Engines doing Truck work and vice versa, if it gets done at all. Therefore their depth-chart might be quite a bit thinner than yours or mine.

      Again, I was just originally shocked by the comments on Dave Statter’s site blasting these guys and belittling them over their choice of tactic. I just happen to disagree given what I saw and what I may correctly or incorrectly surmise about their department and operations. The transitional attack is a tool in the tool box. It has it’s place. But I’m not extolling it as the primary attack method of choice.


  5. Ed Hartin says:

    Chris, I think your observations are on track from several persprctives. First is thinking critically without being critical. It is easy to criticize, big tougher to consider how the multiple elements of context influenced decisions and actions. second is the issue of aggression (e.g., the need for “aggressive” firefighters to effectively accomplish the job). do a search on the term aggression and see what you find. The right amount of water in the right place, in the right form puts out fires; not an emotional response. Competence and craftsmanship are the keys.


  6. Luke says:

    So I usually just read these articles and put what I learn on the note card in the back of my head for when I need it. Whether I am learning from right or wrong. After reading the link in your blog and then reading the comments on the video and then the comments on here I had no choice! First let me start by eliminating the ” aggressive interior attack” comments. Hitting the fire from the outside before you go in is not saying you are not doing a “aggressive interior attack”. I see this everyday, guys who are so closed minded (uneducated) on anything different but if they would look at the facts they would see that things are not different. just becoming more efficient. In this video (despite the other problems they had) they made the right choice with blitzing the fire. It was already a good working fire and it was seconds away from catching the exposures on fire. Also, there is nothing saying that you are not making a interior attack. All you are doing is knocking this down so it stops licking out the window to buy yourself time to go in and mop up. Everyone is assuming that the “transitional/Blitz attack” is a surround and drowned. It is not ! you hit it for a few seconds and then you have no choice but to go inside and pull ceiling and mop up. If you really think about it what is the difference from hitting it from the window outside, or stretching a line through the house ( which is going to take a few more seconds) and hit it from the hall way. This tactic works and its still a “aggressive” tactic. The study’s prove it works! I would have made the same choice as these guys pulling up to this fire. Would my guys have known their jobs a little better YES! but the decision they made was right. Chris I am with you.

    One more thing based on the comments on the other sites. The whole yard breathing thing! you want to preach safety. Think about your size up with a fogged up mask! a good firemen gets his mask on at the door with his gloves on STANDING UP!


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