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