This installment of LODD drills comes from 2006 and the loss sustained by the brothers and sisters of Green Bay, Wisconsin Fire Department. The LODD occurred August 13th 2006.
From the official LODD Report:
August 13th, 2006, 1223 hrs
Arnold W.“Arnie”Wolff, Lieutenant
Lieutenant Wolff and an engineer were ordered to enter the front door of the house and perform a left-hand search. Another two-firefighter crew entered and went to the right.
Within minutes of their entry, a partial floor collapse occurred, and Lieutenant Wolff and the engineer fell approximately 10 feet into the fully- involved basement. Maydays were transmitted by Lieutenant Wolff and the engineer.
Lieutenant Wolff fell into a room that did not have windows, and his path to an exit was blocked by debris. Fire conditions advanced markedly after the collapse, and firefighters were unable to reach Lieutenant Wolff. His body was recovered approximately 13 hours into the incident.
Link to NIOSH Report: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200626.html
Most of us were taught in probie school (recruit school, basic firefighter, whatever name your organization gives its initial fire service indoctrination) that we search on our hands and knees. We crawl along in zero visibility, ever vigilant to stay low, we keep our head looking at the ground (also partially due to the SCBA hampering your neck’s movement). If we are searching with a partner, we search like Elephants walk into the circus, latched together. Perhaps you were taught as I was, to hold the boot of the partner in front of you. You are now blindly going wherever your partner does, including into walls or your partners hind parts!
Read this month’s LODD report and remember the sacrifice of our lost brother from GBFD. Take some time to refine your search techniques. Instead of a heads down, four points of contact search, take a heads up approach. First and foremost, stop crawling! Crawling on all fours places all the weight on top of you (SCBA) and can propel you forward if you need make a sudden stop or take evasive action.
Conduct your primary search in a position where you keep one leg out in front of you and the other leg bent under your body (a cross between a duckwalk and totally on your knees). In this position, your body will remain upright to observe fire conditions and obstacles (Photo 1). This body position affords us many positive benefits in the firefight. Allow your personnel (in full PPE) to complete a search in utilizing this position. Time how quickly they move, show them how much more area they cover using this technique versus conventional crawling. Allow them to feel how much more control they have over their body in this position.
Once that is done, take the drill to zero visibility! Place them in a room with obstacles and hazards. Assess their ability to find obstacles and hazards with the front leading foot. Have them determine what the obstacles are (wall, bunk bed, table). Next, mark the area, which they cover during their search to determine how much area they cover. Lastly, have them search in pairs and give the warning of “Hole in floor”. They should instantly sit back onto their back leg and recognize the stability of their position (Photo 2).
- Primary Search is rapid! We often are searching without the protection of a hoseline and in a structure that has been subjected to fire for an unknown amount of time.
- This modified position allows quicker movement through the hazardous environment while covering more area.
- Allows the front foot to serve as a probe, findings walls, holes, or other obstacles. This is much better than your head, awkwardly outstretched hand or facepiece.
- Outstretched leg allows the FF to quickly sit down onto the rear leg to keep their weight centered. This not only could stop you from falling into a hole but also creates a “roadblock” for your partner who may be searching behind you, from pushing you into the hole.
- Keeps your eyes in front, and ahead of you, to observe any rapidly changing fire conditions that may demand a retreat.
As with all of our drills, we take a moment to remember this fallen firefighter and the supreme sacrifice he made. Honor his memory by training everyday and getting out into your response areas to learn your buildings. Stay “Combat Ready.”