Simple Truck Company Duties That Can Break an Incident

In past articles, we’ve gone over the assignments of the first- and second-due truck companies (if you’re lucky enough to have either, or both). We’ve discussed the main categories of truck work, including forcible entry, search, ventilation, laddering, overhaul and a few of the other critical components. In this article, we’re going to focus on a few of the finer details of truck work, including those related to window sashes, oriented strand board (OSB), storm/screen doors, door chocks and butting ladders. From a distance, how your crew handles these details says a lot about you and your crew.

Window Sashes
When it comes to clearing windows, one of the first things you learn in rookie school is how to “make the window a door.” But when it comes to clearing windows on the fireground, it seems like this is the first thing crews forget.

Taking a window, whether it’s from the inside or the outside, involves cleaning the entire window, including the sash. Leaving the sash usually means you’re also leaving shards of glass around the outside. Although it may not be a big deal at the time, it could have devastating results later in the incident, as someone could get hung up on the sash or cut by the glass during a hasty retreat. The bottom line: Develop the discipline to finish the job. It doesn’t take as much time as you think, and it will save time (and could prevent injury) in the long run if the window is needed.

OSB is becoming increasingly common on today’s fireground. With the number of vacant buildings on the rise, there’s a much higher chance of encountering a boarded-up door or window. And when you do, remove it—completely! Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Removing OSB coverings isn’t that difficult, but it’s one of those things that firefighters tend to exhaust themselves trying to do. Before you swing, take the time to size up the covering and, specifically, how it’s attached to the structure. OSB is usually attached to the side of the structure and/or trim using screws or nails. It may also be attached (sandwiched) over the opening using bolts and a couple pieces of 2x material.
The type of attachment determines how you’ll attack it for removal. With bolts and 2x material, the quickest and easiest way—with the hand tools you should have with you—is to drive the bolt heads through the OSB. By driving the heads through, the 2x material will fall away to the inside, and the OSB will fall toward you, uncovering the opening. There may be large, flat washers behind the bolt heads, but with a little extra effort, they’ll push through as well.

When the OSB is attached with screws, the difficulty will be determined by the number of screws and the age of the OSB. The more screws there are, the more you’ll have to work the tool (preferably the Halligan) while prying the wood away from the underlying attachment (usually the siding or trim). Remember, pry near the screw head so the wood doesn’t break away and splinter—that will just make the job slower, tougher and more frustrating. The older the OSB, the easier it will break up and splinter (due to being dried out and swollen). In any case, slow and steady will usually prevail when prying the piece away from the structure.

One telltale sign of frustration during the removal is a slow and steady operation that turns into a battering session, with the tool against the OSB covering. In this scenario, the removal is initially a controlled operation that gradually causes frustration and then defaults to muscle over mind—and eventually fatigue, exhaustion and a lack of OSB removal. Partially removed pieces of OSB with busted-up holes in them are a sure sign of poor truck work.

The bottom line: OSB coverings left in place are ultimately blocking an opening that could be used for egress, light and/or ventilation.

Storm/Screen Doors
Storm and screen doors are another problem area on the fireground. How many times have you seen firefighters trying to bend part of a storm door, twist a hinge, tie back the handle or something else to keep the door from getting in the way? Here’s a tip: Take it off and get it out of the way! Many of today’s storm/screen doors are made of small-gauge, thin, machined aluminum, which is also very sturdy. Firefighters will approach these doors and spend a lot of time trying to pry them open at the handle or latch mechanism (if they are locked), usually leading to the “beating” technique that leads to wearing them out and then, ultimately, frustration.

Spiking the pike (pick) of the Halligan into (or slightly behind) the trim or supporting wood that the door is fastened to, and then prying it away, is usually all it takes to defeat the door. This action will begin to pull the door away from the structure and starts the process of removing it completely. Two problems solved—entry and easy passage.

Once you’re through the outer door, if the interior door is causing problems, remove it as well. Often, closing a wedge in the door, near the hinges, will pop the door right off and allow you to get it out of the way completely. Sticking the adz of the Halligan between the door and the jamb, just above or below the hinge, and prying up or down will also easily peel the door from the jamb in most cases.

Door Chocks
You’re wondering what more can be said about door chocks, right? The importance of chocking doors goes without saying, but it’s one of those fireground functions that is constantly overlooked or omitted. It’s both an engine and a truck company function, which many times allows one group to blame the other for not performing it! The bottom line: Chock doors when passing through; you’ll regret not doing it if it’s a self-closing, self-locking door!

Our chock of choice: a piece of wood. Sure, there are plenty of commercial products out there, but we have a bucket of wooden chocks and a box of sliced-up tire inner tubes in one of the lockers at work, and when we use them (or lose them) on the fireground, we grab more when we get back. Note: Don’t use your tools to chock the door!

Butting or Healing Ladders
Here’s a subject that’s sure to raise your blood pressure. If you can recall our discussion about ground ladders a few columns ago, you’ll remember that efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to moving and using ground ladders on the fireground. Why? Because we’re on task-overload at the front of an incident—too many things to do and not enough people to do them!

As a general rule, we don’t commit a person to a ladder once it’s placed on the fireground. Part of placing the ladder involves making sure it can support itself during its intended use—to a window, to the roof, for exterior overhaul, whatever. Certain times of the year make it pretty easy to sink the butt/feet of the ladder into the soft ground (those are the easy times). Other times of the year—or the times when we’re placing the ladders on pavement, concrete, ice or some other difficult base ground—securing the ladder is a bit more complicated.

Firefighters love to solve problems, but what they don’t often realize is that many of the solutions tend to create a whole new set of problems. And it doesn’t take long to get sidetracked on a tough fire!

The point of this brief discussion: Self-foot the ladder when possible. Sink it in the ground, strike two footholds into hard ground with the back of the axe, butt it against another building or into a seam in concrete; do whatever you can to secure the ladder in place. DON’T make it an incident-long fireground event! If you can’t foot it in the location you started, then consider moving it to another location. If there’s an immediate operation waiting on the other end of the ladder—a rescue, for example—then get help before you get overcommitted. Note: DON’T use a ladder when you know (or don’t know) that it will not support itself during its use. If you don’t know, then you know to NOT use it.

Final Thoughts
There’s a quote that goes something like, “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” This may not be the case on the fireground. With this in mind, never forget to work smart, not hard. The older you get, the more it matters.

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