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July 17, 2005
Pumpers, Please Pull Past . . . 
By Michael Stanley
As we respond to a house fire there are many critical decisions to be made. Such as should a water supply be established? What size attack line should be pulled? And, what form of ventilation should be used? One of the most important decisions that an officer or acting officer can make on the fireground is where to place apparatus. By properly placing rigs during the formative stages of an incident, a plan of attack can be developed. This correct placement will allow for each type of apparatus, whether it is engines or aerials, to be utilized to their full capacity. If the first-arriving apparatus is in the correct position, then other units will be able to follow suit.
Throughout this country, the vast majority of the working structure fires are located in single-family dwellings. Based on this knowledge, many facts about these structures must be considered. The first item to consider is the style in which the roof is constructed. 

Either because of potential heavy snow loads or contemporary architecture, the majority of these dwellings will have peaked roofs. Some of these roofs will likely be at very steep angles to keep snow and rain from accumulating. The slope may be to such a degree that it will be unsafe to operate on it without an aerial apparatus.

Another crucial factor to be evaluated is the way in which the dwelling is constructed. With the increase in population growth in many communities, these homes are built using lightweight construction techniques. Techniques that are directly attributed to the collapse of the roof occur after only several minutes of direct flame contact. Again, it very well may be hazardous to perform roof operations without the use of an aerial ladder.

The responding units also must take into account that statistically, an engine company will be the first unit to arrive on the scene.This implies that the actions of the officer on that first-arriving unit will set the tone for the rest of the incident.The first arriving officer must be forward thinking enough to assure that the incident will unfold in a desirable fashion. John Mittendorf says it best in this book, Truck Company Operations, when he states, “The first-in officer must ssume the responsibility for considering both engine and truck company responsibilities.”  He also goes on to say, “If the first-in Truck Company cannot spot properly to a building due to a poor engine company placement, it is normally the fault of the first-in officer.”
Naturally, this poses the question, where should that engine park?The majority of the time the ideal scenario is for the engine to pull past the house. This has a number of benefits; the first being that it allows the person conducting the size-up to view the alpha, bravo, and delta sides of the structure. 

Although a complete 360-degree survey is encouraged, the three-sided size-up will at least allow the officer to gather enough information to start establishing some strategic priorities. Furthermore, by pulling past the house, the first-arriving Truck Company will be able to spot in front of the house.This will enhance the “scrub” area for the aerial ladder. In the Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics, 2nd Ed., John Norman defines the “scrub” area as “the area that can be physically contacted by an aerial device. The positioning of the apparatus has direct bearing on the scrub area.”

By having a larger scrub area, the aerial apparatus can be utilized to its full potential. Rather than trying to use multiple firefighters to move multiple ground ladders to affect rescue, one engineer could effortlessly and expediently move the aerial ladder.Also, as previously mentioned, the aerial ladder provides a much more stable work platform for roof operations.Without the use of the much safer ladder, firefighters could be needlessly endangered by slipping off a roof or falling if a building collapses.

Some additional options for engine company placement are to pull short of the fire address or to position themselves across the street.Although this does not allow for a view of the third side of the house, it still provides adequate room for the soon-to-be-arriving Truck Company.

Clearly, there are a number of advantages to the trucks being positioned in front of the house. However, there are no apparent reasons that can be listed for the engine to be placed there.It becomes an issue of mathematics; the engine companies are carrying 200-250 feet of pre-connected hose; the truck companies come equipped with a 100-foot ladder.It is important to remember that more hose can always be stretched, but no matter how hard you pull, you will not stretch the ladder one more inch!

In conclusion, it is imperative that the fire attack is begun in a manner in which sets crews up for success. If the rigs are not placed appropriately from the onset of the incident, the fire crews will be forced to endure this mistake for the duration of the call. That being said, all officers and acting officers need to be deliberate in their decision-making when arriving on scene. Remember, Pumpers, Please Pull Past!

About the author: MICHAEL STANLEY has been in emergency services since 1993, with the Aurora (CO) Fire Department since 1996. Currently, he is a truck company lieutenant and a member of the Technical Rescue Team. He also has served as a firefighter, paramedic, educator and hazardous materials team member with the department. He possesses an Associates degree in fire science technology and another in emergency medical services. Mike has completed a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational leadership for emergency services and is now working on a MPA. He lectures locally, regionally and nationally about a variety of topics that include weapons of mass destruction, leadership and fire suppression to emergency responders.