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Auto Fire PPE: Fire I v. Real World

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  • Auto Fire PPE: Fire I v. Real World

    Hi everyone,

    I have a question regarding auto fires and PPE. I just completed Fire I, HazMat Ops, and the other stuff and I was quite recently turned in as a "fourth" at my VFD but I was riding as an observer and subsequently as a "fifth" for a few months. I started late in life - I am a lawyer by trade and 40 years old, but I wanted to be a fire fighter my entire life. The class education and instruction was excellent and I scored at the top of my class on all exams and practicals. I only say this because my question deals with "book smart" v. "real life on the street".

    Last night I was at the station and we were toned for my first call as a "fourth". It was toned as an auto fire at the scene of a car accident with unknown injury. We were the first due engine (single engine response) and had 5 on board (driver and officer up front, 3 in back). Prior to boarding the rig, I started the two minute drill and then once on board I bottled up, face piece, hood, helmet and all, regulator in hand, ready to roll. Full blown PPE. I was told by a firefighter next to me (not an officer) that I could take my mask off, attach the regulator to the mask, and clip it to my harness so its ready if I need it, but that I did not need to have the face piece on, along with the hood pulled over, etc. because it would fog up and it was not 'yet' necessary. I told him "that's not how I learned it in Fire I" and he said "well do it how you learned it". I did notice that the other 2 in the back with me did not bottle up at all but had the remainder of PPE donned.

    When we arrived, we found a car into a pole and tree with the occupants sitting on the ground. No fire. The car was totaled.

    Now, mind you, I exited the cab in full PPE and SCBA ready to rock and roll. The others went to assess the victims and the scene. For the next few minutes (well, probably less) I started doffing the SCBA because I could not see crap with the fogged mask. I will say I felt a little bit like "wow I am the new fourth and based on what I saw from the others, did I go overboard here?"

    In my mind, I bottled up because what if there WAS an auto fire with occupants trapped?

    The other firefighter who told me originally to clip the face piece to my harness said he thought I was over-excited and was trying to help me based on practical real world experience, but said I did nothing incorrect.

    So, on the next auto fire call, do I bottle up with face piece on, hood on, and the full 2 minute drill or is it basically different on the street in real life?

    Figured you folks have more experience than me on this issue.

  • #2
    Around here, for a report of an auto fire, we'll bottle up, but leave the facepiece off. If a chief, officer, or pd gets to the scene first, and reports a working fire, then we'll put the facepieces on, when we're about a block away. That way we're ready either way. For most "reports" of a car fire though, you probably won't need the facepiece. But I agree with the guy in your truck, do it the way you were taught, and let your own experiences guide how you'll prepare yourself. The other guys have been through tons of these calls before. Though I wouldn't reccomend not having a bottle at least at the ready, do what you feel comfortable with. It's your safety first.


    • #3
      personally i don't ever put my mask on until im out of the truck and about to fight fire. its alot easier to see, talk, and hear without it on and only takes 10 seconds to throw on your face. especially on something like a car fire there's not going to be a huge rush to put it out. if there was someone trapped in a car on fire its more than likely just going to be a recovery anyway. do what you feel comfortable doing though....

      just my 2 cents


      • #4
        An auto accident with unknown injuries... you don't need to put on an air pack at all.

        Listen to the radio reports... if the car is on fire when you get there, it should only take you between 30 and 45 seconds to don the pack, exit the truck and pull a line.
        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


        • #5
          In my opinion (for what thats worth) you did fine. Its better to be ready than to not. I wear my pack for EVERY call there is a chance it could be needed. I don't put my mask on, but it is attached to the regualtor for quick donning.
          "If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."



          "Criticism is prejudice made plausible."
          - H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)


          • #6
            Cool. Much appreciated. On that call, we did hear a radio report of a second caller with a corrected address and someone in the cab commented "multiple calls" so that factored a bit toward my adrenaline. It is interesting to learn and see the differences between practical evolutions during the class and real life.


            • #7
              First, you didn't do anything wrong. You were preparing for a worst-case scenario.

              Having said that, you got sound advice from your partner that he learned from real-world experience that is applicable to this particular situation. You will learn very quickly that, despite what you see on TV, cars don't normally catch fire when they crash. They do, however, steam a lot from busted radiators. Joe Cellphonecaller sees the steam, remembers last night's A-team episode, screams "run for your life, she's gonna blow", and you get toned to an MVA with fire.

              In the very rare case where there is actually a fire, you will almost certainly have plenty of warning from the cops, multiple additional calls, or by simply seeing the smoke column.

              Finally, welcome to the fire service!


              • #8
                Originally posted by EFD840 View Post
                Having said that, you got sound advice from your partner that he learned from real-world experience that is applicable to this particular situation. You will learn very quickly that, despite what you see on TV, cars don't normally catch fire when they crash. They do, however, steam a lot from busted radiators. Joe Cellphonecaller sees the steam, remembers last night's A-team episode, screams "run for your life, she's gonna blow", and you get toned to an MVA with fire.
                Finally, welcome to the fire service!

                lol!! And, thanks! I love it so far, with my only regret that I did not start much earlier in life.


                • #9

                  I think that you have already received the information you originally set out for regarding car fires… However, I think that responding to ANY call even Building fires, with the face piece on is not the best idea. You want to be able to take a good look at the building before you go charging in. It could save your tale. Plus, you wouldn’t want to miss someone hanging out of a window because of a fogged up face piece. As far as when to put the pack on… when in doubt wear it. Good luck with your future.


                  • #10
                    We don't "mask up" until we exit the rig and then only if conditions dictate.Put your hood on around your neck,it can be quickly pulled up if needed.Like D/C Gonz says,radio traffic will often indicate the need. Eliminates fogging and allows a better first in view.Other opinions may vary. T.C.


                    • #11
                      I just scanner over your story and want to say you did fine.

                      Me- I was always thought- "When you step off of that rig, you should be fire ready". Now, being a nozzleman on several working vehicle fires, I think it looks good for our department and to the public to step off of a rig, instantly grab a line and go put the fire out. The public understands this and may not know about putting masks on, donning SCBAs, etc.

                      Now, currently, I will bottle up and have the mask ready to donn, very ready. Where I only have to flip back my helmet and throw the mask on. AND, I will also do this if I see smoke showing enroute because my Captain might need to talk to me or give me some on scene instructions.

                      And lastly, if we roll up and there is no fire, I still might leave my bottle on "just in case". It makes up look good and if there is a flare up, we are covered.

                      Hope this helps.


                      • #12
                        Yes all of this is very helpful. Thanks!


                        • #13
                          I just connect my mask to the regulator and then hang it off of a biner on my coat where i can unclip and don the mask. But whenever we are en-route to any call that may involve fire i will at least don my pack and have the mask ready "just in case". Unless we get a report of no fire from dispatch or pd. Oh and i dont wear my pack on Brushfires, just my hood, pants, helmet and goggles and coat if fire conditions require it because in texas when its 102 out wearing your coat can be a real problem on grassfires. Better safe then sorry. Also im still a young'n and dont need to be breathing crap that may shorten my life...
                          Last edited by res1cueffd; 01-17-2007, 01:46 PM.
                          Rescue 1



                          • #14
                            Mask doesn't go on until you've had the opportunity to properly size up the scene.

                            Pack on the back, air on, mask straps adjusted to your head. Then mask is left hanging so it can be donned "Catcher's mask" style.

                            With the mask off
                            -- you have a much better field of vision when specifically sizing up and looking for hazards
                            -- you have periphery vision to redue the risk of tripping while laying out the line
                            -- you're not wasting air trying to keep it from fogging up
                            -- you can be clearly understand each other as you confirm what you will do with your partner and/or officer
                            -- it gives you 10, 15 seconds to go over the plan in your mind as you watch the fire / building as you slide the mask back on, hood up, helmet on.

                            Stepping off a truck with the mask on is the definition of "tunnel vision" from the word go.


                            • #15
                              Very good. Thanks guys.


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