Well boys and girls we are going to pick up where we left off on the last article — being an engineer. This was a request from one of my friends from Carolina Trace Fire Dept. We briefly discussed the area of being an engineer in the last article but we did not discuss it fully, which is what we are going to do at this time.
Let’s start at the station with your non-fire ground tasks. This truck is your baby and it needs to be treated as such. You do not leave a baby unattended for a long time and that goes for not leaving your rig unattended for a long time. This rig should be checked daily for proper operation and also for proper exercising of all the components. This is not something that is taught in the DPO classes, this is something that, oh wait, you have to put a little effort into and research exactly what should be done to the equipment on your rig. This goes back to the operator’s manual that a lot of you do not even know exists, much less where it is kept. Read it, it’s there for you. It’s free knowledge that is there for your use — read it, learn it and love it.
While responding to calls you are responsible for the safe operation of your apparatus and you should do so with due regard for the citizens of the public that you protect. Do not run emergency traffic if not needed. This is just increasing you chances for an accident or something happening. Know your rig. Drive it in your district to feel how it handles at different speeds, the turning radius, the average length of time on a tank of fuel — you should know these items. This is your truck. You should love it like you loved your first kiss. I am sure the first time was sloppy and all over the place but now it should be refined and smooth. Just like a relationship, it’s about what you can do for it, not what it can do for you — because it will return the favor.
When on location what is your job? Well, I am in no way trying to change your SOPs or SOGs, I am just throwing information out there. You should always be thinking of the next step when you arrive — pull TANK TO PUMP AND TANK FILL AND GET WATER CIRCULATING. It does not matter if you see just light smoke in the residence, you may still need the water in the truck and it is already one step closer. Next, if the attack crew has not stretched the line deploy, stretch that way so you can charge it and it be ready to rock when they get to their entry point. Go ahead and pull a backup line as well as a RIT line and have the correct amount of hose ready and the correct size hose as well. Big fire, big water — remember that. Always have a water source in progress whether it’s another engine or a hydrant. You should never run out of water. Conserve if necessary, but never run out because then there is no back up. The forest service keeps a good rule of never getting below a quarter tank that is always there for your protection.
Truck placement, let’s hit that real quick. The first in engine should make the crucial decisions for truck placement to allow for water supply. If it is a rural location with drop tank or area for ladder to set up, remember what is coming and position the rig as necessary. I cannot give you a specific for this because it varies every call. Every call will be a little different but the obstacles will be the same. Visit your location in advance and find the hazard areas that are hard to access so that you are already ready for that situation when it arises. Next, lines are deployed and if other rigs have not arrived think about if you were inside what you would need. Next, PPV ladders for egress and, depending on call area or district; you may not have anyone coming for 10 to 15 minutes so be ready for that. You are basically the brain behind the operation. Yes, command is making strategic fire ground decisions but you need to be making strategic apparatus decisions. You may think you may not need all of that equipment but think about the amount of time it will save already having it out and deployed if needed. It could make the difference between life and death. You need to continually keep an eye on your rig checking water and temps and pressures plus all other items as well. Remember that what size pump you have and what water you have going through it if necessary and get some back up if needed, but remember to be one step ahead.
Back to back up lines and RIT. I know everyone hates packing hose but it is going to be that one time when you don’t deploy that it is needed. It is kind of like an aerial — it may not be used on a regular basis but the one time it is it will be monumental to the fire ground operation. The fire service is basically built on repetitiveness and by constantly drilling in these manners you will constantly perform to these levels as well. It is time for us in the fire service to stop settling and strive to be the best not to a point where we fistfight but to the point where when other members come to you for mutual aid, or you come to them, they are thankful and not saying “damn we would rather have a new tool, it would be more useful.”
We are done with the fire ground it is time for cleanup. You should be involved in every aspect of clean up from the hose being packed to the bottles being filled. It is your responsibility to make sure your rig is ready for the next call. If anything needs to be fixed follow through and MAKE SURE IT IS DONE! Clean and check nozzles. Make sure you flushed the foam lines if foam was used. Make sure all fluid levels are back to where they need to be. Remember this is your baby and you need to love her. What happens when you treat your spouse badly? She usually treats you badly right back. Caress her and make her feel loved and she will return it to you 10 fold with years of service and operation. Do not be scared to share your knowledge, it is awesome to pass knowledge to the next generation.
Willie Wimmer (owner/head mechanic) started working for KME in 1996 while in school and continued to work there until 2007 when he relocated to the Outer Banks. He started with KME building trucks, moved into repairs and finished by traveling across country repairing trucks, selling and training on the apparatus. He has been an active volunteer firefighter since 1996.
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