Friday, November 23, 2012

Dont have a meeting on the stairs.

I would be willing to bet that 99% of you have been to some sort of fire involving stairs be it a low to mid rise building all the way up to a 50 story high rise, as well as the common basement/cellar stairs that we all just love to go down right. Like these below.

But the point of this piece is to reiterate on how we can do the job without jamming up the stairs, and how to train for fires involving these conditions

There are many problems involving tight staircases as well as burned out and or burning stairs. If you take the stairs from the above picture FIGURE 2 they are burned up really bad so at that point would you want to proceed up the stairs with 12 other guys? I know I wouldn't want to be on them! Or FIGURE 1 with six guys packed in there and need to get out now due to worsening conditions, be it fire conditions or building conditions? Lots of people have died from overlooking the obvious.
Why do we pack them tight with people? Why do we go and cram ourselves into this death trap so to speak?
I believe it comes down to a couple of reasons one of which is the ease of use and the second of which is a lack of "thinking outside the box".
Lets go over the ease of use first. Now lets face it folks, going up the stair case is in most cases the most direct and the easiest way to get from point A (first floor) to point B (second floor) that's just simple common sense you know. That can give folks a bad sense of "that's the best way during this situation" that's not always the case. Like I have said if the engine crew is using the stairs or if they are burned out, well you can see there may be a faster way to get to the second floor.
The other issue is a lack of "thinking outside the box". By this I mean are you thinking all possibilities, for instance FIGURE 3 which shows how to VES.
This brings up the next section. Strategies and Tactics for getting up there.
This topic is rather simple to explain, in fact all of this is basic skills nothing fancy like tight roping from building to building, right?
VES is a real good method again FIGURE 3 this works very well. If your not familiar with VES this is it below.

So as you can see you can get up there.
A good 360 can also show you alternate stair cases leading to the second floor.
JUST REMEMBER, DON'T BUST OUT THE WINDOWS IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO!!!! Yes, if you need to take them to get in, then by all means do it, but if you don't need to, don't. Kinda like the old "try before you pry" regarding forcible entry
In closing there are always alternate routes to the second floor if the engine has the stairs occupied and or they are burned beyond use, go with the alternate route. And please don't go and have a meeting on the stairs. And Happy Thanksgiving........... Next time we go over super realistic hands on training centers and props....

Thanks to Curt Isakson and County Fire Tactics for the use of there photos

and thanks to Gabriel Angemi for the use of his photos from his blog at


  1. VES and not clearing the window goes against the basic PURPOSE of VES. If VES tactics are warranted there is no time to FORCE the window it must ne cleared for a firefighters rapid entry and rapid exit. Even suggesting leaving the window shows a misunderstanding of the tactic.

  2. I went back and read it over. And I do not feel that I expressed the point I was trying to make. I was simply trying to show that there is more than one way to get up there. Be it by VES or by simply going thru the window. The part about taking windows vs not taking them was not entirely meant for the VES. I do not feel as thou I explained myself as well as I would have liked to. For that I am sorry if there was any confusion. If anybody is confused or would like to talk about it feel free to email me.