Riding Positions Through The Captain's Eyes  
By Captain Jim Williams 
Old Forge Fire Department/Engine E-93  

For the next 3 months I will explain how we  developed riding positions, how they changed our methods in fire fighting, and how they are being used today.  

I hope my articles will reinforce our commitment towards doing fundametnally sound engine company work and possibly enlighten some departments not using riding positions today to consider doing so. 

My experience in this topic has come from 22 years of state and local training in the classroom as well as on the job. I have been a company officer for the past six years. It also helps to have good teachers.  Please look at this as a learning tool and I hope my articles can do for you what it has done for us. 

In 1988 I met a New York City Fire Lieutenant who was assigned to 35 Truck.  In a short time we became very good friends. One of the first things I wanted to do was go out and ride with the New York Fire Department and see what it was really like!  

There has been a lot of written about it and even videos showing them going to different types of alarms.  I was a good student in my trips out to the big city, learning everything I could.  One thing that really stuck in my mind was how each member of the engine, truck, and rescue always had jobs set for them before they even pulled out of the station.  

When they sat in  a particular seat on whatever apparatus they rode,  their first due assignment would be set for the tour.  Over the next two years back at our station we would discuss how the city did it and   we tried to find away to adapt them to our small town.  

The first thing we did was go to a enclosed cab making it safer for all members.  We then put a first due assignment on each seat.  We looked at our layout of the cab and picked what seat would do what's task.  Now you have to realize that in 1990 we had three companies in Old Forge and it really wasn't broken down who did what.  You could act as an engine, truck or even both so you needed to be able to adapt quickly.  The concept sounded great but it was time to get in writing. 

So we took our 10 man cab and divided the seats into engine assignments and truck assignments. This is how we broke it down.... 

  • Seat 1 is the Officer's seat. He has to determine what we were going to be on any specific response.  He also had to figure if he was going to be command on that specific call by determining if we were the first due apparatus without a chief officer enroute. 
  • Seat 6 and Seat 7 is assigned Attack Team 1. They would pull the first line off the apparatus. 
  • Seat 3 and Seat 4 is assigned Attack Team 2 who would pull the backup line. 
  • Seat 2 is assigned forcible entry, equipped with a set of irons. 
  • Seat 5 is the can man and he brings the PW extinguisher. 
  • Seat 8 is the chauffeur...... get us there... get us water. 
  • Seat 9 is the layout man. This position is responsible for laying out the supply line
  • Seat 10 is the supply man.... he helps the chauffeur.
I hope the first segment will set the tone on what will follow and open some eyes to see it's never too late to change!!  

For several months we did a lots of drills every weekend.  Now you could imagine all the negative comments we received in the first year because this was a big change in our area.  

One thing you learn in this business is change doesn't come easy.  We then decided to pick what seats we had to fill by the type of call and amount of manpower we were going out with.  In that period it was common to go out the door with 8 to 10 people in the cab.  

I can recall one night when we were seating around watching a movie and were dispatched for structure fire with possible entrapment. As we pulled out I remember looking back in the cab and seeing "a full house".  That night it just seemed to go like clock work.  We pulled the first two lines on the fire, did forcible entry, and completed a primary search of the residence.  It was very satisfying that night to see how the planning and training had paid off. Knowing your job before you stepped out of the apparatus made it so much easier.  

Yes, it did work, but it needed more refinement and so did our whole system in the borough.   It was time to take the next step.   We first had to change our officer structure, and then adopt a true Incident Command System. In the next article we will explore how that all happened. 

Please provide us comments on this article.  Email us here....