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Firefighter Proving Grounds

"Firefighter Proving Grounds is a community dedicated to the advancement of strategy and tactics in firefighting and technical rescue."



The deadly half-story living space of a 2.5 wood frame private dwelling


Those working in areas with numerous 2.5 frames with interior stairs leading to the attic have all seen the living space above. These top floor living spaces are often bedrooms for kids, especially in urban areas. If there is a fire on the floor(s) below these rooms, they can be a death trap for anyone. Being above a fire is an extremely dangerous place to be, especially for kids.

Recognizing the 2.5 frame with fire below on-approach is extremely important, especially during sleeping hours when most fatal fires occur. On arrival, the “mind-triggers” registering with the crew should be automatic. Whether the fire is on the first floor to the second, the second to the attic, or all floors below, that half story should be treated as a priority. Looking through the windshield and seeing fire or smoke showing, you already know where it’s going. Now, assignments, size up, and coordination with the engine and truck must be instantaneous.

butler1These are the things we must consider:

Apparatus Placement (Engine, Truck)

Where’s the access? (Engine)

How many sections? (Engine)

Fog or smoothbore? (Engine)

Ground ladder or aerial? (Truck)

Any obstructions present? (Truck)

Proper radio channel? (very important for everyone!)

Is there anyone out front on arrival that can answer that first question, “is there anyone inside?”

 A mother acting hysterical in a bathrobe pleading with you to get her 3 kids out of the attic is probably not exaggerating. A mother-in-law in the basement apartment with a second-floor fire is a lot safer than 3 kids in an attic above. The on-approach interview can be so valuable.

Life is the number one priority and with good evidence of entrapment it’s time to make decisions based on conditions and manpower. Consider that you may be arriving with just an engine or truck and working alone for a few minutes, and plan in accordance.


butler2There are many variations of the half story living space in a wood frame home as far as windows, dormers, finished or unfinished attics, and those may factor into fire conditions, ventilation and egress to name a few. Also, the entire structure is combustible. Another factor is the presence or absence of smoke detectors. Even if they are present and working are, they placed at the bottom of the stairs or the top? Often, they are placed at the bottom causing a delayed alarm.

Consider the fire load in a “sleeping” area. A smoking mattress alone is enough to kill everyone in the loft but consider the fire BELOW on the second floor that usually has 2-3 bedrooms and a hallway. That smoke and fire is heading north right to the interior stairs leading to the half story living space, the attic above. The door on the second-floor landing leading to that sleeping area may be closed buying them some time. But it’s not a fire rated door and will burn through quickly.

There are usually two ways out of a burning attic, the interior stairs or the window(s). Consider the stairs may be compromised with fire and smoke making it impossible to descend. The other option is out the window which is 2.5 stories above ground level.

Hopefully for those in the attic, the fire department response is quick and a ladder is placed to that window while simultaneously attacking the fire below and sending a member above to search for life. This can all be done with 5-6 firefighters, but there are situations when apparatus and manpower won’t be enough. We should always train for these situations BEFORE they occur. I like to call it “event-forecasting” and it’s a great kitchen table or drill night discussion for any department. Whether you’re the first arriving engine with a ladder that won’t reach or the first arriving truck with no water (outside the can) we must improvise, adapt and overcome, especially during a rapid rescue situation with kids in the attic.



Some things to remember:

Many 24’ and 28’ ground ladders will reach attic windowsills and balconies where they need to be placed for rescue even if the angle has to be adjusted to “improper.” I assure you the victims won’t complain.

Start attacking the with tank water. With 500+ gallons, water supply is often never needed for 3 rooms and a hallway and there’s very limited time to make a grab in the 2.5 frame.

There is no “I” in VES for the 2.5 frame as the door to isolate is at the BOTTOM of the stairs on floor below and that would be counterproductive to enter the area of search and pass any potential victims to go down the stairs, close the door, and come back up to search.

Use that mind-triggering and think about the kids above anytime there’s fire below the attic in the 2.5 frame.

Author: Brian Butler  @urbanfiretraining

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Becoming a Successful Ladder Company Chauffeur

Ladder Company Chauffeur

Ladder company chauffeur’s have a lot to consider when responding to a fire.  A successful apparatus placement is only attained when the operator is focused and is taking all factors into consideration during response.  So how do we set ourselves up for becoming a successful ladder company chauffeur?


Achieving a successful aerial placement begins long before the apparatus even leaves the barn.  There’s a lot more to being a competent truck driver then driving around, tootin’ the horn and waving to your fans.  The operator must have an in-depth understanding of the vehicle and the expectations placed on them when responding. 

Take a class, learn from, and listen to your senior men and experienced operators. Ask questions.  Well thought out, appropriate questions.  Members should be more than happy to help you, as long as it looks like you’re paying attention and trying to put it all together.  They can’t just hand you their knowledge and experience. You’re going to have to put in your own time and earn your own experiences.

Read and understand your operator’s manual.  Don’t have one? Get a copy.  Somebody has to have it.  This will help you to better understand the actual capabilities and limitations of the apparatus. It will also help to clear up any inconsistencies or reinforce some concepts you weren’t quite getting.ladder 2

Understand the limitations of your vehicle, and be good with regular maintenance.  Take the information you’ve gained from reading the manual and talking with experienced operators, and put it to work for you.  Hopefully when you do apparatus checks, you check the vehicle in the same spot every time.  There’s value to this.  I know people want to get out and set the truck up in different places, but when it comes to routine checks and maintenance, consistency is important.  Try and set it up in the same spot.  Why?  It’s good because if the rig sounds the same and reacts the same way when you’re doing the truck checks and putting the aerial through its paces, you’ll gain confidence and an understanding that things are in working order.  If for some reason when you’re doing your checks, and the vehicle begins to react differently, or is making strange sounds, it’ll be easier to troubleshoot the problem.  This will pay off on the street when you’re working the truck and something happens or doesn’t sound right. 

Once you’re comfortable and confident with the operations and functions of the apparatus, it’s time to hit the streets.  Get used to driving the truck.  It’s not your F350.  It’s bigger and heavier, and doesn’t handle the same way.  Pay attention to the length and check your mirrors frequently.  Anticipate rear end swing and make sure you plan for it.  We could write a whole article on the actual driving of the apparatus, that’ll be for another day.

Practice. A lot. All over your response area.  Set your rig up on real structures on real streets with real obstacles.  During the day, at night, and at routine calls.  Your town expects you to do fire department stuff when there’s an alarm.  Take advantage of these opportunities and work to get good spots.  It will raise your confidence and ability, and show others what is needed to get a good spot.  In training, it’s ok to fail.  I’d much rather you try and get a spot at 3 in the afternoon in a no stress environment and not get it, then fail when I need you to get that spot at 3am when it matters.  When you get out and set the truck up in places and fail, you learn what that looks like, understand what is needed to modify your position to get the spot, and can reposition.  You also learn that some spots just can’t be had.  Listen - If you only go to the high school on Sunday morning and set up in an empty parking lot with no obstructions, you’re not going to learn very much.

ladder 3 Let’s talk about preparing for response.  You need to be constantly sizing up.  Time of day, weather, traffic patterns, seasonal changes that affect your town, etc. the considerations are endless.  Know what’s important and how this will affect your response and set up.  And this is all before the bell hits.  At the receipt of the alarm, you need to start thinking about these considerations and put it all together. Based on the address you should be able to get a picture of the what you might be responding to.  Is this a commercial or residential area? What types of building construction and occupancies are usually found in this area? It all matters.  Start to think about it now, and not when you’re making the turn on to the block.  Continue to listen to the radio for updates and modify your plan as necessary.

Know your streets? The smart box – cell phones and GPS – are no substitute for an educated driver.  Knowing your neighborhoods and streets will raise your confidence when responding.  Getting directions from a computer that has no idea what you’re driving or what you’re trying to accomplish can set you up for failure.  Expecting your officer to give you turn by turn directions is also unacceptable. Your officer has a lot to consider and needs to focus on the situation at hand and formulate a plan.  You should at least know how to get to a particular neighborhood by taking the appropriate main roads and routes.  Streets don’t move.  So, if you’re serious about your craft, you’ll pay attention and learn them.

Once you get close talk with your officer and discuss any last-minute considerations – direction of travel, side of the road the fire is on, approaches of other responding units, wires and any other potential obstacles.  Driving around the block to approach from the opposite direction might pay off in the end with a better spot.  Talk it out.

ladder 4

Approaching the block.  This is where you will earn your keep.  Slow down.  Speed here does not equate to being aggressive, and it will only lead to limitations later.  As you approach your target, be professional and talk it out.  Confidence is contagious.  When you talk out what you see, this helps to slow you down, focus the crew and set a professional tone.  Identify your priorities, as well as any obstacles and obstructions. What does your officer want you to focus on?  Call out the fire location, any victims, wires, trees, parked cars, whatever you think is going to have an impact on you getting a good spot or not.  Talking it out gets everyone on the same page and sets the expectation.  Maybe the crew in the back sees something the crew in the front doesn’t. Work out the plan with your officer and crew, and verbalize the final expectation.  “I’m going to park on the A/B corner, kick the cab out and shoot the outriggers between the parked cars. That’ll get us two sides and the roof.”  If the officer has any problem with this, now would be the time to discuss it, otherwise, it’s a go, and the expectation is set. If you need a spotter to get into a tight location, let someone know before you hit that parking brake.

ladder 5

Being a successful and relied upon ladder company chauffer takes time and practice.  Pay attention to the details, be honest with your abilities, and your confidence will go up.  The end result is that you will become a competent and confident operator that your peers will learn to depend on.

Author: Nick Esposito @truck_tactics

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Tool Breakdown: Cordless Angle Grinder By: Top Floor Tactics & Urban Fire Training


The DEWALT 4.5-in 20-Volt Cordless Angle Grinder an incredibly lightweight and useful tool that unfortunately gets overlooked more often than not, simply because many don’t understand the full capacity of where and when to apply it. DEWALT 4.5-in 20-Volt Cordless Angle Grinder has become a tremendous addition to the roof or outside vent firefighters complement of tools. Weighing in at only 4lbs yet delivering 8,000-RPM of high-power cutting and grinding fury. This little tool can pack quite the punch on the fireground.


Two separate blades can be used with this tool, similar to a partner saw.IMG 3613

Diamond-Cut Blade, with up to 70x more life as an abrasive disc. This single blade will outlast as many as 70 abrasive blades providing the lowest cost per cut. Unlike traditional abrasive discs that shrink with use, the Diamond Cut Blade maintains its size and consistent cutting depth, even after a thousand cuts. However, these blades cut noticeably slower than the traditional abrasive disc.

Aluminum Oxide blade or (abrasive disc) is much more affordable and alternative than the diamond cut blade. You will cut much faster with the abrasive disc but expel your blade almost instantly when attacking something of substantial size.

I prefer the aluminum oxide blade over the Diamond Cut Blade for this tool solely for the application of an angle grinder. Most times, this tool is for attacking quickly and taking short cuts rather than using a forcible entry partner saw, where your cuts are extended, or a large area needs to be opened up, such as roll down gates or faced with multiple locks.

Now let's talk about why the DEWALT 4.5-in 20-Volt Cordless Angle Grinder has become a game-changer on the fire ground and examine some of the scenarios where you might want to put this tool into operation. Yes, this tool makes quick work of standard padlocks and steal linked chain, but it's so much more than that. Think about the roof firefighter operating on the floor above in a fireproof multiple dwelling. By law, all multiple dwellings should have child safety gates in place. If conditions dictate to get the KO curtain into operation quickly, or more importantly, the Life-Saving rope, the angle grinder will make quick work of the child gates clearing your area quickly and effectively to carry out your job like a professional.

IMG 3615With that in mind, some companies carry bolt cutters to the roof (especially when taking the adjoining building) strictly to ensure you will be able to remove any fencing that separates yourself from the actual fire building.The angle grinder only weighs 4lbs, and if modified with a sling or strap, in my opinion, it’s a no brainer to take it over the bolt cutters when going to the roof.

Also, carrying the DEWALT 4.5-in 20-Volt Cordless Angle Grinder, when assigned the outside vent position, provides almost countless opportunities to put this tool to work effectively. Think about how many obstacles you face merely just getting yourself into position. Locked gates, chains, and fences, just to name a few. I can think of more times than not where I've thought to myself fuck I wish I had the saw while making my way to the rear. Now once you gain your position on the fire, you can attack window bars, child gates, or fire escape gates like a gentleman.

IMG 3618

Also, this tool becomes a tremendous asset while operating at vacant building fires.Think about how awkward attacking carriage bolts of HUD windows can be, especially when operating a saw above your head from a portable ground ladder. With the angle grinder, you can now comfortably take HUD windows where previously it had been challenging to get the saw into position.

Whether it’s operating off a ground ladder, cutting locks, gates, window bars, or fencing, the DEWALT 4.5-in 20-Volt Cordless Angle Grinder is a tool that will change the way we operate on the fire ground. Be aware there are many Cordless Grinders on today's market that hit different price points yet are very similar in use. Find what works for you and your department, and take steps to change the game.

Authors: Mick Farrell @Topfloortactics

Captain Brian Butler @Urbanfiretraining

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Multiple Dwelling with exposure issues


Building Information:

Non-Fireproof Multiple Dwelling with Single Room Occupancies throughout (SRO)
Heavy Clutter on third and fourth floors

Note: For this drill the first due engine is connected to a positive water source and is 50 feet from the main entrance

This drill is part of the Firefighter Proving Grounds "Size-Up Series". This series is designed for firefighters to drill and train with their departments using their SOP's


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FFPG is a Proud Supporter of HEAT STRAPS LLC


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"Size-Up Series" Mixed Occupancy #4




This drill is part of the Firefighter Proving Grounds "Size-Up Series". This series is designed for firefighters to drill and train with their departments using their SOP's


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"Multiple Family" Private Dwelling


Building Information:

 3 Story Peaked Roof Multiple Family Private Dwelling

***There are two entrances with different addresses***

Note: For this drill you are responding to a report of a fire in a private dwelling with people trapped.


This drill is part of the Firefighter Proving Grounds "Size-Up Series". This series is designed for firefighters to drill and train with their departments using their SOP's


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Mixed Occupancy #3


Building Information:

4 Story non-fireproof mixed occupancy

No sprinkler System

Note: For this drill the first due engine is connected to a positive water source and is 50 feet from the main entrance

This drill is part of the Firefighter Proving Grounds "Size-Up Series". This series is designed for firefighters to drill and train with their departments using their SOP's


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