The Back Up Firefighter

As a firefighter riding in the engine we all want to be on the nozzle, fighting the fire head on, producing a solid fire attack to the fire and getting cheers from our fellow firefighters for a quick solid knock. However, not everyone can always be the nozzle man and get to be face to face with the fire. Sometimes we need to be the backup or the setup man if you will. It's not pretty or glorified but in this line of business someone has to do it and at one point in time many of us get that assignment. The assignments may be cumbersome but a solid, ready to fight backup firefighter is critical to a successful and aggressive interior fire attack.  

As the old saying goes, "the fire goes as the fire line goes" and without an experienced backup firefighter, the advancement, fire suppression and a long day at the office will prevail; not to mention a not too happy nozzle man. 

Here's a few tips every backup firefighter on the line should consider.

   1. Ensure there are no kinks in the line, especially the first 50 feet behind the nozzle. Kinks will be detrimental to a sufficient fire flow and delay hose advancement.
2. Hit the hydrant and establish a water supply to the engine. If there is a short crew, this may be the job of the backup firefighter. Ensure your hydrant skills are efficient and ready to go. Timing is everything.
3. Force the door. If the engine is first on scene, ensure the line is stretched and be prepared to possibly force the door if needed.
4. Search off the line. Perform a primary search if no truck company is in place yet. 
5. If needed, be the second or third set of eyes and ears for the nozzle man. Watch the fire's behavior and carefully monitor conditions in the room and update the nozzle man and officer if there's a sense conditions are deteriorating and a flashover and/or collapse is imminent.

If you're assigned as the backup firefighter get ready before the call comes in (physically/mentally)and ensure all PPE and equipment is ready to go. A successful fire attack is counting on it so get ready and stay ready.

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 17 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ, a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor, a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. A martial arts practitioner and former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is also a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor, Functional Fitness Instructor and Nutrition Coach.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University, and a A.A.S in Liberal Arts - Business from Middlesex County College. Nick has spoken at the 2017 & 2018 Firehouse Expo in Nashville, TN as well as at numerous fire departments within NJ and fire service podcasts.

You Have Just One Job

 "This shouldn't take too long." I'm not talking to anyone;that's just the thought in my head as I get ready to clean the bathroom today. On the first floor of my house there is a half bath that is just after the front door, on the right side. It's just close enough to the door that if you pull in to the parking space, Dukes of Hazzard style, and busted through the front door to use the bathroom, you can make it without an 'accident' happening. The bathroom needs cleaning. I go to work using an assortment of cleaners; being careful not to cause a hazardous environment needing 911. Now, it's time to mop. That is also the time things go in a new direction. I go to the hallway closet a few feet away on the other side of the hallway. I see a mop handle sticking up, but there is all this stuff in the way. I start cleaning the closet to get to the mop to clean the bathroom. I now have two bags of things to throw out, brooms and other floor cleaning devices neatly arranged, but no mop. A wide area search (of a townhouse, mind you) leads to finding the mop in another bathroom upstairs. To recap, I have cleaned the closet, to find and clean the mop, so I can finish cleaning the bathroom. But while cleaning the mop, I notice there may be a leak coming from the sink I used. So, after cleaning the closet to get the mop, I found and cleaned the mop, then found the leak, then cleaned up the water from the leak to clean the, uh…what was I supposed to be doing again?

At that moment, I see myself in a place I have been before. Perhaps you have found yourself in that same place. I have one thing on my mind to do. In the process of working on that one thing, I accomplish 3 or 4 other things. Never what I set out to do in the first place. Once I realize the situation I am in, it was easy to tell I didn’t use my focus habit.What habit do I use to keep my focus? The yellow sticky note habit.

People who have worked with me have seen and made fun of my yellow sticky note habit. I admit, it's definitely a little odd. I can't remember how I got started using it, but I've done if for a while. I take two 3-inch yellow sticky notes and stick them together back to back so the sticky parts are at opposite ends. Now I have a 3-inch paper that I can write on both sides. On only one side of the note, I write the date and everything I want to try accomplish that day. The rest of the day, the list resides in my pocket. Periodically for the rest of the day, I look at my list and see what I have done, and what I still need to do. Whatever I don't finish, goes on the list for the next day.

Time has taught me that the size of that paper doesn't allow me to put more on it than I can finish in one day. I stay focused, keep track of my progress, and I can evaluate if what I'm doing is more important that what is on my list. I use this at the station, at the office, and sometimes at home. I get laughs about my list at the station, at the office, and sometimes at home. I find that I am more efficient and productive at the station, at the office, and sometimes, at home.

My habit for staying focused may not be for you. It doesn't have to be. We all, however, need some way to keep focused on our intended tasks. Completing tasks, completes objectives. Completing objectives, completes goals. And completing goals is how ordinary people have extraordinary impact.

 About the Author

 NICK BASKERVILLE Nick has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 18 years of fire service time, with 15 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had

the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and as one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. Nick is one of the many trainers for Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) to offer awareness and prevention training about cancer in the fire service. Nick has the honor of being one of the many contributors for The Firehouse Tribune.

Nick is also a member of the public speaking organization Toastmasters. He holds an Advanced
Competent Bronze (ACB) certification. He also tells personal narrative stories that have been featured
on shows for The Moth, Better Said Than Done, and Storyfest Short Slam. Follow more about storytelling
and public speaking for purpose at Story Telling On Purpose (

Truck Company Operations: LOVERS__U

The fire service loves acronyms and we have a lot of them. For this discussion we are going to talk about the old acronym for all you truckies out there – LOVERS_U. Before we get into the acronym and details of it, let’s first talk simply about truck company ops.

Truck operations involve a variety of tasks; forcible entry, search, rescue, ventilation, ladder operations (ground/aerial), overhaul, etc. Nowadays with the lack of manpower, squad and engine companies may be needed to perform these operations at any time on the fire ground and are equipped with the tools to do so. Some engine companies may need to perform both truck and engine operations due to lack of manpower or the absence of a truck on scene and vice versa for companies who run quints.

Well here we are, a truck company; what do we do?

Let’s being here with LOVERS_U:

1. Size-up (Yes, truck has its own size up to do). Everything we do on the fire ground calls for a scene size up (and a continual one) to better help us make smart tactical decisions to effectively complete our tasks especially with ventilation. Can this start the LOVERS_U? Hmm….

2. Forcible Entry, if needed (for searching and fire suppression). Sometimes the doors may be unlocked so like they say, “trybefore you pry”. This action should be determined quickly upon arrival in the case of victim removals. Please remember to keep this simple. Remembering your basic tools such as the irons, a hook and/or saw along with variations or combinations of each, can save time and get the job done. The key here is to know your tools and how to use them efficiently.

3. Search (Rescue, if needed). This is very important because we are not only searching for victims but searching for fire both of which may or may not be identifiable from the outside which is why searching is critical on the fire ground. Let’s remember searching for fire can also be done by the suppression team as well. Don’t forget your TIC.

4. a. Ventilation for search team (Vent for life). By venting for life, it is allowing a lot of the thick, black smoke remove itself from the structure giving search teams inside better visibility and time for locating victims.

b. Ventilation for fire suppression (Vent for fire). By venting for fire, this assists the fire suppression team in making an easier push to the fire and much easier extinguishment. This is done with very precise communication between your crew, the suppression team inside and the IC. If done haphazardly, this can be catastrophic.

5. Ladder the building (ingress, egress, vertical/horizontal vent). Every window accessible should have a ladder on it for emergency egress and also for access to the roof and 2nd floor windows for vertical vent. Why not throw a ladder up while heading with your crew to your assignment? Kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

6. Overhaul/Salvage. Once the fire is determined to be out, now it’s time to get inside and open the place up. This is to look for any hotspots and perform another search should any victims have not been found. During this operation, SCBA is still required along with a TIC and hand tools. Using tarps are also considered to help salvage as much property as possible and avoid any smoke and/or water damage.

7. Utilities. This is also known as shutting  down the utilities. Depending on where the utilities are located, this is done by either an interior crew or an exterior crew. Having control of gas, electric and water will help increase the safety of all fire service personnel on the scene.

Now that we discussed primary responsibilities of the truck company, we can now collectively say we have described and discussed LOVERS_U. For all those on truck companies or working with truck company responsibilities keep this acronym in your toolbox when pulling up to a scene, during your pre plans and in your training. It’s a valuable guide to helping you get the job done efficiently, effectively and most importantly safely. 

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

 About the Author

 NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ as well as NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. A martial arts practitioner in Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai as well as a former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is also a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor and studying for the Functional Fitness Instructor certification.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.