It’s Not Fully Involved
We have all been responding 1st due to a reported fire when the radio comes to life with the arrival of PD on location. The officer reports “a fully-involved house fire.” The adrenaline rush we had starts to fade with the realization we won’t be going interior to a house or building that is completely involved in fire.
But is it? Is the entire occupancy completely consumed by fire with no possible chance that a victim might be able to shelter in a small area of refuge? The term “fully-involved” is used too often, many times incorrectly, describing fire conditions by the first arriving unit. This is often PD, a Chief Officer, or in career departments the Officer riding in the front-seat. We always preach pull past the building so you can get a 3 sided view. But have we accurately been able to take in the entire building to know how involved it is? Throughout the country many victims have been saved in buildings that many would have written off mentally through the lack of aggressive tactics. Just recently a couple was found alive in a burning home after almost 40 minutes of active fire involvement. Was this a miracle? Regardless of experience, it is highly ineffective to presupose the survivability profile of a fire from an exterior survey. Therefor ENTERING the building and conducting a disciplined and controled search is paramount. Experience has shown this to be the best option for the occupants. It might only be possible to make it a few feet into a doorway but knowing that over 30% of fire victims are overcome while in the process of evacuating, a few feet might be all you need. We might only be able to sweep the floor of a bedroom while attempting VES. That sweep may find someone who was attempting to open the window for egress.
We took an Oath for them, and we must make every effort to maintain a disciplined and aggressive mindset. Keep this in mind the next time you are first to arrive on scene, and give that size-up report. Be descriptive and accurate. If you see fire out 2 floors on 1 side of the building report exactly that. If fire is thought the roof transmit that. When giving a report of smoke I tend to use volume, velocity, density, color (VVDC). Smoke can be light, medium or heavy. It can be lazy or pushing(under pressure). When talking about fire I try to use the term blowing out the window or from the roof vs fire involvement in room at ceiling level.
Lets also make sure to educate the PD officers in you community on the importance of an accurate arrival report and the negative connotation they can create. This will not only help us as firefighters, but also the citizens we swore to protect.