Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Assembling Fire Attack Teams

Fire Ground Effectiveness Sub-Model

Assembling Fire Attack Teams

Fire Department Resource Delivery System Chart
Appendix 2 Fire Ground Fire Suppression Staffing Chart

The Ontario fire service is composed of volunteer, composite and full-time fire departments. The circumstances and characteristics of each department vary within each general category.

Although most volunteer fire departments serve relatively small communities, some have a large number of members serving a fairly large population. Some composite departments consist of a full-time chief and volunteers, while others include a number of full-time staff in several stations.

In view of this variety, it is not possible to make generalizations about the advantages and limitations of each form of organization. Strengths and limitations of each form must be evaluated individually for each department by considering all local conditions and the specific needs of the community. For example, departments providing medical aid response must place an additional emphasis on initial response time.

Factors which have been used in the past to determine the type of fire department to be provided for a community include:

  • financial resources of the community
  • availability of volunteer personnel
  • frequency of emergency incidents
  • range of services provided by the department
  • type of department preferred by the community
  • demographic characteristics of the community
  • level of fire risk in the community

The form of organization utilized by a department will have an impact on how the department assembles fire fighters at the scene of an emergency. Optional methods of assembling fire attack teams for different types of situations may be found on the Fire Department Resource Delivery Systems Chart. Any one or any combination of the options is considered satisfactory, provided that the fire attack team is operational within a time frame which allows for the efficient, effective and safe conduct of emergency operations.

All fire ground operations are time critical. Each reduction in time associated with a particular function (such as the period from dispatch until the first vehicle leaves the station, or the time required to assemble fire fighters on the fire ground) results in intervention at a lower level of the time/fire curve. Proper management of the various time elements is important, particularly during the set-up stage. It has been said that five minutes of well timed and well planned activity at this stage can avoid five hours of catch-up later.

Delivery Systems/Time Considerations:

The fire department must define, in advance, how both the initial group and total complement will be assembled and managed according to local conditions, resources and circumstances.

  • The department must develop operational guidelines necessary to achieve this objective and train fire fighters in their execution.
  • To provide effective, efficient and safe fire protection services the delivery system chosen must ensure a virtually simultaneous arrival of a minimum of four fire fighters.
  • The OFM recommends, where practical, a minimum of four persons be dispatched on the initial apparatus.
  • Where it is not practical for four fire fighters to respond as a team on the initial apparatus, options must be considered which will ensure the four fire fighters are assembled on the fire ground in a coordinated, rapid and consistent manner prior to flashover.
  • A total complement of no less than ten fire fighters, including supervisor(s), and, if possible, a minimum of two vehicles one of which is a triple combination pumper, must assemble at the fire ground.
  • Time is crucial. Rescue becomes a virtual impossibility in the room of origin after flashover occurs. After flashover, the opportunity for successful rescue from other areas in the structure rapidly diminishes. In addition, there is an increased fire fighting demand if intervention does not take place prior to flashover.

Preliminary analysis of existing literature indicates that it may be preferable to dispatch fewer vehicles with more fire fighters rather than the vice versa. In addition, although a limited number of key tasks can begin at the site with an initial crew of as few as three fire fighters, a fire in a single family dwelling requires the virtually simultaneous assembly of a single crew of at least four fire fighters and a total fire ground complement reaching a minimum of 10 fire suppression personnel including supervisor(s). The total fire ground staffing must be assembled within a time frame that ensures the safe carrying out of all fire ground operations and where possible, a minimum of two vehicles at least one of which is a triple combination pumper are to be dispatched. (See Appendix 2 for complete list of fire ground activities performed by the complement including incident command and supervision as required).

Escalating fires in single family dwellings, as well as fires in larger structures such as industrial or institutional occupancies, high rise, etc. may require additional resources.

Three key issues are to be addressed in the test simulations and field studies. The first is the total number of fire fighters necessary to efficiently, effectively and safely control a fire in a typical single family, two-storey, detached home. The second issue is the time required to assemble the total fire attack team. This research project is designed to address these issues. The third is the evaluation of the effectiveness of assembly of the fire attack team. This research project is designed to address these issues. In addition, the consequences associated with increases/decreases of total numbers of fire fighters, vehicles and time frames will also be examined.