Staffing saves lives!

10 15th st sw E9 crew

We’ve PROVED it twice in just a little over a week!

It’s been busy around here lately. We’ve had several fires this week which is not all that uncommon but two of them involved rescues, which is. We do a good job with fire prevention / education and smoke alarm programs (we give them away, install them etc) and it’s paid off. Typically, on most of our jobs, the occupants (if any) received early notification / warning and were able to safely escape.

In just a little over a week though, our members have pulled 6 victims out of 2 significant fires. These two fires have a few things in common, one of which is the reason I believe neither of these fires resulted in multiple fatalities.

For the most part, the same companies responded to both of these fires. They both occurred in the Northwest section of the City and were handled by companies from the North Battalion. For the most part, Stations 3, 2, 13 and 5 (along with auto-aid from County Station 1) handled the incidents. They occurred on C & A shifts.

Ironfiremen of Face Book HERE

Ladder rescueBoth fires occurred in multiple occupancy dwellings. The first one displaced 34 residents and resulted in 5 rescues! With the help of FF Gish, FF Thompson and Capt. L. Thompson, I was fortunate enough to make one of those “grabs”.

It was the only one caught on video but again I’ll remind you that it was 1 of 5 made that night.


That video and story HERE

Yesterdays fire displaced another 30 residents and resulted in a single rescue. That victim has been flown to UVA’s Burn Center and is listed in critical condition.

Engine 3Another common factor with these fire is the fact that Engine #3 was first in on both. (Find Station #3 on Face Book HERE)

Here’s the biggest factor they had in common …. on both fires, Engine 3 (the first arriving) was staffed with 4! It’s AMAZING the difference just one person can make when operating at a fire (Just to be clear here, we count the Chauffeur and Officer in our staffing so that means they had 4 members total).

Due to vacation (scheduled days off), training, members being detailed to other stations etc, we typically run with only 3 (a single firefighter in the back … Engines and Ladders). Where that extra person makes a difference is in time and efficiency.

staffingSeveral years ago (1987), Chief V.Dunn of the FDNY did a study on the effects of staffing. It took 4 person crew 10 minutes and 23 seconds to stretch to a fire on the 5th floor.

It took only 5 minutes and 50 seconds for a 5 person crew to make that same stretch! Chief Dunn said “when the hose stretch team was reduced 20%, the hose stretch time was increased approximately 75%”.

Despite his study being almost 30 years old now, I believe his numbers still hold true. I’ve seen it first hand! I’ve been saying and writing about it for years….

Read “It’s all in the numbers and meet our members part 5 HERE

Other related articles of mine HERE and HERE

Read the 2010 NIST Fireground Field Experiments HERE

It will never happen to us …. right? I wouldn’t bet on it. Without proper staffing PEOPLE DIE! If you don’t believe me, PLEASE take the time to watch the video below ….

That’s a very power video! I’ve posted it several times and it’s worth the time to watch. I only hope some of the right people are seeing it.

Read “The Illusion of Death” HERE

So that (I believe) was the biggest issue with these two fires and subsequent rescues … STAFFING.

by Roanoke Fire EMSOn the first fire, Captain Perdue had a crew of 4 and his Medic unit was in house and assigned to the call (6 members in total). He was able to split his crew and start pulling victims while getting water on the fire at the same time (keep in mind that his chauffeur had to man the pump and he was giving a size up, making assignments etc).

Shortly after his size up, Captain Perdue transmitted that he had multiple victims hanging out of windows (of the upper floors) and the hallway / stairwell heavily involved with fire.

Without adequate staffing that night, Captain Perdue would have had to make a decision … attack the fire or go for the victims. Either tactic, without the other; could have proven fatal.

Again I’ll say here that Captain Perdue is a VERY strong Captain and has a well disciplined crew. Each and every member on scene that night did one hell of a job and the result was a positive outcome.

Our latest fire occurred just yesterday at a retirement community. The fire building was a 5 story apartment complex occupied by senior citizens. It’s a “regular” run for us that is usually no more than “smells and bells” (burnt food etc).

It’s very easy to become complacent on these runs but again, Engine #3 was first due with another STRONG crew. It was an A-shift fire so our very own Rhett Flietz (aka The Fire Critic) was on! Rhett is the Lt at #3-A (the chauffeur with “acting” ability). He and his Captain (Mac Craft) have their young crew “dialed in” and every time they roll out, you can guarantee ¬†they “expect fire”.

photo from

photo from

Once again, E3 was blessed to have 4 on the rig. They received the call around 6:30 pm for an automatic fire alarm. I’m sure the call sounded “routine” coming in at meal time.

Just blocks away, dispatch advised responding companies that they had received a 2nd call advising a “large fire” inside one of the apartments. They arrived with heavy smoke and flames from the 2nd floor.

With assistance from County Wagon 1, Captain Craft instructed his crew to deploy a 2 1/2″ attack line up the stairwell. When they arrived at the fire room, they located a single victim. Firefighters Aaron Parker, Rachel Miller and Roanoke County Firefighter Teehan removed the victim from the building and began providing care. The victim was later flown to UVA Burn Center where she’s listed in critical condition.

Engine 3 ACaptain Craft (and a County member) remained on the line and got a quick knock down on the fire.

Again, this crew (as good and well trained as they are) would not have been nearly as efficient had they have responded with less than 4 members.

Here’s another related article from Firefighter Nation…

Read Engine Company Staffing & NFPA 1710 / NIST Research by clicking HERE

Other companies on scene included E2, E13, E5, E14, County Wagon 1, L2, L5, M3, M5, M101, County Medic 51, Salem Medic?, BC1,BC2, Chief 1, Chief 3, FM1, FM2, FM3 and INV1.

Searches were conducted, ventilation established, residents evacuated, salvage and overhaul operations conducted etc. Again, every member on scene put in some solid work!

Read the Fire Critic’s thoughts on this fire and watch his very own Helmet Camera footage by clicking HERE

So what do you think? Has staffing made a impact on your operations? I’d love to hear about it …. feel free to leave a comment and tell us about it. I’ll check back in soon but until I do ….

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines


  • Will Manuel

    Cap, I’m a part time employee at a rural Combination department. We have 3 shifts of 5 personnel each, 2 stations. 3 at one station, 2 at the other. No riding assignments (the call dictates which apparatus roll and who goes in which truck). Station 1 houses Engine, Tanker, Ladder, Rescue, Ambulance, and a “Unit” (pick up). Station 2 houses Engine, 2 Tankers, 2 Ambulances, Rescue Boat, and a Unit. Our minimum staffing on first due Engine is 2 personnel, first due Tanker is 1. For industrial/commercial alarms Ladder is first due with at least 2. This is always brought up at budgeting but the Borough will just not allow even 1 more on each shift, even with the FF safety risk this poses.
    Now, luckily there is a crew of about 12 part time employees know as On-Calls (I am one) who respond POV either to scene or station for additional apparatus, but we could still be 5 minutes after first due.

    Staffing has made an impact on operations. We have SOG’s (Guidelines vs. Policies) over SOP’s. Obviously we try to wait for personnel to stay 2-in-2 out, but sometimes we have to break this guideline. We generally don’t have a problem with getting good staffing at the scene…eventually…but we run into problems with only having 2 or 3 for the first 10 minutes. We also don’t have hydrants, hence multiple Tankers and 1000 gal on each engine.
    One thing that is implemented in case of fire calls is our “Auto Aid” with the neighboring town (only about 5-10 miles away depending on where the call is in our district). When we have a fire they are automatically dispatched with us, sending us a 3-4 person Engine Company (with a 1000 gal tank on Engine). Another implementation for every call is our “Stand By” and “Recall” systems. Every day there are 2 personnel assigned Stand By, which means that for every call that happens these 2 will automatically respond to the station (whichever station the call was for). For medicals they stay in house, for fires they grab a rig and go to scene (or go directly to scene if the Shift Captain tells them to). In cases of double hits there is a “Platoon Recall”, so not only are Stand By’s coming in, but the previous days on duty shift is requested in. A “Full Recall” follows if there is still additional man power needed. But sometimes you have to roll with the punches, you may not getting that staffing needed, Platoon and Full Recalls are not mandatory to respond to, however Stand By is.

    Just a couple of examples on policies put in place to try and help our staffing issues I guess.
    God speed, God Bless! RFB

    • Just_sayin

      Minimum staffing? You hardly have enough on duty personnel per platoon to staff a single engine company.

      • Will Manuel

        No kidding. But the fact that there is any full time staff is amazing. Budget is based on call volume, call volume is low and 90% medical, Borough Assembly doesn’t “see the need” for more staffing. Go figure.