Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Fire Attack Teams

Fire Ground Effectiveness Sub-Model

Fire Attack Teams

The following examples define what activities a crew of three, four, five or six fire fighters could be expected to perform, without compromising fire fighter safety, when undertaking the initial response to an emergency. Total fire ground staffing will be dealt with separately. It should be emphasized that the activities outlined below represent the functions that can be carried out by the crew which is first to arrive and assemble at the scene.

Three Person Crews:

Interior rescue and suppression operations should not be attempted except in limited circumstances*. It will be possible to establish fire ground command, complete with size-up, followed by the sequential assignment of single tasks, in the order dictated by the situation. Single tasks that can be safely accomplished include:

  • establishment of a water supply from a hydrant (if available)
  • establishment of pumper operations
  • laying of one hose line to the point of entry into the involved structure
  • limited exterior fire fighting including the raising of a ladder beyond the first floor of the structure
  • limited exposure protection of surrounding structures
  • setting up of a ground monitor
  • external rescue using a ladder extended to the point of exit for those persons in the building capable of self-help
  • rendering first aid to persons who have exited the involved structure
  • forcible entry operations
  • shutting off utilities to the structure
  • limited ventilation functions
  • very limited salvage capability

It must be recognized that some of the foregoing operations, particularly those involving ground ladders, will in all likelihood compromise fire ground command and/or pumper operations.

Operations which cannot be accomplished safely until such time as additional assistance has arrived on-site include:

  • deployment of back-up protection lines
  • conducting interior suppression or rescue operations *
  • ventilation operations requiring access to the roof of the involved structure
  • the use of large (65mm) hand-held hose lines
  • establishment of a water supply from a static source within reasonable time limits

Significantly, it is difficult to provide fire fighters with the rest breaks required for them to cope with the problems associated with the build-up of metabolic heat. Command and pump operations will be compromised as the situation evolves, particularly if additional assistance is not immediately forthcoming.

*Note: For interior fires rapidly gaining in intensity, crews of less than four fire fighters should not attempt interior suppression or rescue operations except in very limited circumstances (such as a victim collapsed in close proximity to a window or exterior doorway, or where the fire is confined to a very small, readily accessible area).

Four Person Crews:

Four Person Crews are limited to Three Person Crew functions, as described in the previous section, until such time as a water supply from an external source is established. Single sequential tasks, based upon the demand of the situation, which may be accomplished following the establishment of a water supply include:

  • two person interior search and rescue with no hand-held back-up line
  • two person interior structure fire fighting with no rescue component and no hand-held back-up line
  • limited roof level ventilation operations
  • laddering operations
  • salvage operations

In addition, the increase in crew size to four persons provides for improved command and pumper operations through the assignment of a single function to the driver and supervisor.

However, either the driver or the supervisor will be required to assist with certain functions, such as setting up and providing assistance for the safe operation of ladders for roof-level ventilation.

Staff limitations dictate that exterior tasks can only be accomplished with the exclusion of interior operations. It is not possible to provide hand-held back-up protection lines. Other operations possible to a limited extent include:

  • use of large (65 mm) diameter hand lines
  • establishment of a water supply from a static source
  • establishment of a second point of entry and approach to the fire location in the structure
  • preparing for a second area of search and rescue for person(s) in need of rescue

Five Person Crews:

Five Person Crews represent a larger team and provide an enhanced level of efficiency and effectiveness. Five Person Crews can take a hydrant supply line for the pumper on approach to the emergency scene plus any one of the following:

  • simultaneous carrying out of Four Person Crew single task interior assignments as described above
  • all Three Person Crew exterior operations as single tasks following the establishment of water supply as described above
  • support of ground level activities

Five persons at a fire scene remain limited in their ability to:

  • conduct co-ordinated multiple activities
  • conduct effective fire fighting operations when the fire extends beyond the room of origin

Six Person Crews:

Six Person Crews provide adequate personnel to perform all Five Person Crew tasks described above, plus:

  • co-ordinated assignment of multiple tasks
  • establishment of a second rescue team
  • simultaneous rescue and suppression

Studies have shown that there is a definite teamwork advantage if Six Person Crews arrive on one vehicle versus those same six people arriving on two separate vehicles*. It will be necessary to verify, through simulation and field study, if two crews of three fire fighters arriving on a scene simultaneously are equivalent to one Five Person Crew arriving at the scene on one vehicle.

All functions necessary to reduce personal injury, loss of life, and damage to property and the environment can not be conducted on a prompt and efficient basis with a single crew even where staffing levels of six fire fighters are present. Accordingly, the first vehicle and crew dispatched to the scene of a fire for initial response must always be supplemented as quickly as possible with additional fire fighters.

* Note: Fire departments should not exceed the designed safe passenger load of the vehicle.