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The Crew

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The Crew

The crew, of above title fame are those who compose the riding compliment to fire apparatus everywhere. Unlike the popularly held belief held by the public and unfortunately some fire departments, firefighters don’t just jump on and off putting the wet stuff on the red stuff. It is in practice, a good deal more complicated than that. Each firefighter is a time tested technician, specialist and expert in a multitude of felids. From Firefighters and EMTs to Hazardous Materials Technicians and Paramedics, their skillsets are wide. As such the crew is a well oiled machine and not merely some guys thrown together, as famously said by District Chief of Special Functions for the Chicago Fire Department John Eversole, “Nobody calls the fire department and says, 'Send me two dumb-*** firemen in a pickup truck.' In three minutes they want five brain-surgeon decathlon champions to come and solve all their problems.” Hence there are set positions for each type of company in the fire service, which may vary by department are often roughly similar. These crews range in their manpower as dictated by the usual i.e. sick time, layoffs, etc. Hence what I dictate below are the average compositions in approximate order of importance.


Engine Company

  1. Driver, aka Engine Company Chauffeur (ECC), Motor Pump Operator (MPO), Emergency Vehicle Technician (EVD), or Fire Equipment Operator (FEO) to name a few: Obviously the most important position despite often being looked over due to not actually seeing fire duty, but is responsible for the crew’s safety getting to scene. Also of close importance is pumping, so that those inside are getting the correct water, in amount and pressure to put out the fire.

  2. Officer: Usually a Lieutenant or Captain, but sometimes a Sergeant or just the senior man. He is in charge of the crew as a whole and is responsible for all their on duty actions both on and off the fireground. In regard to operations he will usually assume the position of back up on the line (the guy behind the nozzleman).

  3. Nozzleman: As the name suggests he is the one with the nozzle and is responsible for putting out the fire. He will pull the line off and advance it to the fire, at which point it will, hopefully, be charged and put in service.

  4. Layout or Hydrant: He is the other man, along with the nozzleman who sit in the “bucket” or the back of the cab, often in jumpseats. Depending on how the riding assignments are set their positions are dictated by either the officer at the start of shift or by which side the fires on allowing the nozzleman to get off and always be on the same side as the fire. Hence the Hydrant man’s job is to pull the supply line off during the lay into a fire and then attach it to the hydrant. Once attached he will charge it on the order of the Driver unless a hose clamp is in place, in which case he can charge it immediately. Once charged he will return to the apparatus and will often become the third man on the line.

  5. Backup: While the normal manpower on an engine is four, and unfortunately only three sometimes, on occasion there are more. In which case the fifth man will become backup to the nozzleman and relive the officer of some of his tasks so he came focus on the bigger picture.

  6. Control: Will control the door to keep in the happy medium of two-thirds open, not enough to cause a flowpath but, open enough not to stop the hose line from passing by.

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Truck Company

  1. Driver, or Ladder Company Chauffeur (LCC), or Emergency Vehicle Driver (EVD): Again I consider this the most important position due its responsibility for the crew’s safety while going to the scene and the noticeable fact that someone always has to drive there. Unlike his engine counterpart, he doesn’t have to always be with his apparatus. Hence he may take up assignments such as venting the roof, along with vent, enter, isolate and search.

  2. Officer: Usually a Lieutenant or Captain, but sometimes a Sergeant or just the senior man. He is in charge of the crew as a whole and is responsible for all their on duty actions both on and off the fireground. During an operation he leads the interior team of himself, the can / hook man, and irons. Opposed to the exterior team of the roof man, outside vent and driver.

  3. Irons, or Barman: Responsible for forcing entry into the structure via the use of the iron set, composed of the halligan and flat head axe. When forcing the door, he opens the building not only to the ladder but the engine also, often also forcing a second door for egress / escape. Once inside he joins in the interior team’s objective of search and rescue through the primary and secondary searches.

  4. Canman, or Hook and Can: Utilizing the water can (a pressurized water extinguisher) to suppress any fire which the interior team may encounter during their search. While he may suppress small fires, larger fires are to be put out with a dedicated hoseline.

  5. Outside Vent Man (OVM): In charge of horizontally venting in coordination with the hoseline, along with laddering the building. Also the OVM will perform VEIS to search for victims independently of the interior team, due to this and that the majority of his duties are done alone based off initiative he is often considered the most independent of the crew. Also, if assigned to a tractor drawn apparatus, he is the tillerman

  6. Roof Man: The second member of the exterior team, his job is to vertically ventilate a structure via the use of saws and axes. Has the secondary function of salvage and overhaul along with the OVM.

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Rescue Company

  1. Driver: When assigned to a rescue or squad company, the driver will often perform much the same jobs as his truck company counterpart. Unlike the LCC, he also has the responsibility of setting up the tools, hydraulic and otherwise for use during rescue operations such as vehicle extrication.

  2. Officer: Again during fire operations as for the rest of the rescue company, performs the same tasks as the truck company. Yet, when doing extrication, he is in charge of doing the 360* scene size up and then creating the action plan for the operation at hand.

  3. Irons: During a technical rescue operation or TRI, he is responsible for the operation of the primary tool. This tool may be the cutters, spreaders, or the ram.

  4. Canman: In conjunction with the Barman, he runs the secondary tool or backs up the the primary tool during extrication operations.

  5. OVM: In charge of stabilizing the vehicle so that it is safe to work on and make patient contact. This is done with either box cribs, stair chalks, or struts. After initial stabilization he will continue to check and fix unstable cribbing. In this role, he is similar to a Safety Officer with the ability to stop operations if the vehicle becomes unsafe to work on.

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This is great regarding positions and operations, however we do things a little differently here. For the most part, most towns here in PR are covered by a single engine company, and these are typically configured with a 2 door cab, with only two fire fighters on duty. Due to staff issues the two firefighters assigned to the engine will usually have to be on scene handleing a fire for a good 30-40 minutes before a second due engine arrives, if there is anyone to man it the town next over. In these cases, the rolls are split almost 50/50. The driver can either be a firefighter or officer, and will operate the apparatus while performing officer duties on the fire scene. Then the second man would be the nozzleman/hydrant man. In these cases a defensive attack on the fire is taken until backup arrives and a search can be done. I have even heard of times when a single officer is on duty and has to operate a scene for a good 30 minutes before a second unit arrives. 

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Yes, as J stated in the introduction manpower is a huge issue. Hence the way I numbered the positions, as you said the two man engine perform the functions of Driver, Officer, Nozzleman and Layout which are the first four listed roles here. The idea behind numbering them was just that, the most important duties have a higher number so in cases such as you the crew performs those actions numbered the highest.  

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