Ladder Rescue Critique

I have never conducted a rescue before, so naturally I was very amped up with the report of victims and then identifying one in the window.
(MSP608, YouTube)

Occupant trapped on the floor above


For any non-fire service folks that might watch this video, it is a great example of why you should close your doors when you sleep or if you encounter fire. To reiterate what was at the tail end of the video, due to reconfiguration this house only had one stairwell on the back side of the house, but the fire barely made it to the bottom of the steps. There was zero fire damage in the room the victim was located, but all of the toxic smoke easily made its way to that room due to open doors. Fire/smoke find the path of least resistance, so keep those doors closed to buy yourself time in the event of a fire.

For any fire service personnel interested in the valuable lessons (or armchair quarterbacks ready to point out mistakes) I learned from critiquing myself:

Cliff notes version at the bottom

  1. I have never conducted a rescue before, so naturally I was very amped up with the report of victims and then identifying one in the window. This led to a couple mistakes / misjudgements which in the end didn’t hurt anyone, but could have led to more problems.
  2. I’ve been using single FF ladder techniques since about 5 years ago when they were still called “unconventional.” I like to think I’m proficient and I’ve always been a “practice until you don’t mess up” kind of person…but I still flubbed on extending my ladder after I had thrown it. Maybe I need to take a little from Aaron Fields and push myself more under stress until I DO mess up. I guess that’s when you really skirt the boundaries of perfection.
  3. I tunnel visioned on getting to the victim and completely missed that I threw my ladder over top the uncharged hoseline that the first engine company deployed. It was a green line and blended in with the grass, but no excuse I still neglected the basic FF1 skill of actually checking for ground obstructions. Luckily one of the driver/operators identified that and corrected it before I climbed up.
  4. I should have masked up before ascending the ladder. I’m not slow, but my original thought was that I didn’t want to waste any time getting to him. If he had lost consciousness I would have had to then mask up on the ladder to go get him. While I have practiced that it’s not often, and it would have been different in this high stress situation.
  5. The victim was not very heavy, I’m wondering if I could have kept him sideways and lowered him as if he was an unconscious victim. Having to coax him down each step of the way wasted precious time. We had potentially 3 more victims inside with no where close to enough manpower.
  6. With that last point, I gave this my 110% physical effort right off the bat not even considering the fact I might be retasked, which I was. I wasn’t even off the ladder with the victim when my Deputy Chief ordered me and two others to the Charlie side to search for the other 3 potential victims. If I hadn’t had the “break” of coaxing the victim down the ladder I may have been too gassed to do much work after that. I don’t slouch when it comes to cardio, but this was definitely a good reminder to always stay on top of it.

TL;DR – calm down, slow down, remember big picture

FirefighterNation & FireRescue Magazine:
Choosing the Right Ground Ladder
Engine as the “Truck” in the Volunteer Fire Service
Ground Ladder Considerations
Know the Role of the First-Due Truck Company
Riding Assignments for the First-Due Truck Company

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