Browndale Fire Company  
Fire Station 43  
Standard Operating Guideline 

Date of Issue: June 28, 2010
Effective Date: June 28, 2010
Developed by: Ronald Richards, Fire Chief  
Issued by Authority of: Ronald W. Richards, Fire Chief  Ronald W. Richards

S.O.G. 500-10-2
Ladder Company Operations


It is the intent to establish a guideline to insure appropriate activity for the ladder company.

This operating guideline is developed to insure all Station 43 assigned or riding the ladder complete the mission of the company in a safe and efficient manner.

The fire chief is responsible to insure that objectives on the fire ground are completed in a safe and efficient manner. 

The Ladder Company is a special service that supports the engine company. It is imperative that all personnel assigned to the ladder follow these guidelines to insure the completion of the company’s mission in a safe manner. 

The Ladder Company officer will supervise the operations of the ladder company.
Firefighters are responsible to follow this guideline.


VENT FOR FIRE is accomplished to facilitate the Engine Company’s ability to advance to, and extinguishment of, the fire. This venting is normally delayed until the Engine Company has its water, and is ready to "move in".

VENT FOR LIFE is accomplished to facilitate movement of members into an area where there is known or suspected life hazard. With an inherent calculated risk of eventually "pulling fire" it is performed as part of an attempt to reach possible survivors as soon as possible. These actions must be coordinated with the inside teams.


A. Ladder company operations on fire floor.
B. Determine life hazard and rescue as required.
C. Roof ventilation and a visual check of rear and sides from this level.
D. Laddering as needed.
E. If a second ladder company will not arrive within a reasonable time, make interior search and removal of endangered occupants above the fire.

Is an ongoing evaluation of the problems confronted within a fire situation. Size up starts with the receipt of the alarm and continues until the fire is under control. This process may be carried out many times and by many different individuals during a fire.

The factors which all members must consider in size-up are:

A. Time governs the life hazard. Night fires mean poor visibility; buildings locked effecting delay in access. A tenement fire is more serious at night than in the daytime.

B. Life is the most serious factor at any fire. The location of the life hazard in relation to the fire and the life hazard to firefighters must also be considered.

C. Area - Building or occupancy area. Large areas to be searched requiring search lines. Large areas generate fires of great intensity, heavy volumes of smoke and severe heat.

D. Height - Building height will govern the use of the Aerial and/or Tower Ladder and ground ladders.

E. Construction -Non fire proof contains vertical voids that allows for extension. Alterations may have introduced larger voids, both vertical and horizontal.

Wooden "I" beams, lightweight truss, Energy Efficient Windows and membrane roofs can affect the safety of operations within the structure. The presence of front or rear fire escapes or party balconies will also have an effect on fire ground operations.

F. Occupancy - This determines the severity of the life hazard and the intensity of the fire. For example: A commercial occupancy with an increased fire load on the first floor with apartments above.

G. Location and Extent of Fire - A fire in the cellar, shaft, or apartment on the top floor will determine access and areas to be searched.

H. Water Supply - Hydrant availability, and the placement and readiness of hose lines.

I. Street Conditions - Effect apparatus access and the placement of aerial apparatus to the fire building.

J. Auxiliary Appliances - Standpipe/sprinkler systems, and the location of outlets, O S & Y, and/or check valves.

K. Weather - Snow and freezing conditions, wind velocity and direction are major factors in safety and fire operations.

L. Apparatus and Equipment - Be aware of the units on the scene. The arrival of those units assigned on the alarm, Engines and Ladders, 1st due, 2nd due, etc.

M. Exposures
May be adjoining buildings or areas within the fire building itself (auto exposure). i.e., floor to floor via windows, and across shafts or adjoining apartments.


The Ladder Company will institute a two team offense that will cover their area of assigned responsibility.

A. Officer Position
B. Forcible Entry Position

C. Chauffeur Position
D. Outside Vent (OV) Position
E. Roof Position
F. Utility Positions

Due to the unpredictability of staffing, the inside/outside team concept will be maintained with a minimum staffing of 3 personnel. The interior team will have a crew of two.


TOOLS:  Portable radio
Hand light
Officer’s tool
PW Can

Go to the suspected fire area via the interior stairs of the fire building.


1. Performing an immediate size-up and gives necessary orders.

2. Insure that entry doors are chocked open, to enable the stretching of hand lines or access by other members.

3. Takes command of forcible entry, locating the fire, search and removal of victims.

4. Maintain control of interior doors.

5. A decision must be made whether entry into the fire room by the inside and outside team can be made safely before a charged line is in position.

6. Control the horizontal ventilation on the fire floor, by the inside and outside team.

7. Penetrate to the seat of the fire and try to contain it by shutting a door or using a portable extinguisher. A thorough primary search must be started at this point. Ventilate as required in order to conduct this search, keeping in mind that the fire can be drawn to the area vented. Verify that all areas of the fire floor have been covered.

8. Inform the engine company officer of fire location and any unusual layout that will cause difficulty in reaching the fire. Provide and maintain an unobstructed path through which the hose line can advance. Furniture, appliances or other articles blocking the advance of the line, will have to be moved.

9. be aware of structural features that would endanger exposures or permit extension, such as shafts, voids, etc... Relay necessary information to the Incident Commander.

10. be aware of and await return of members operating in other locations. Secure information regarding their observations and operations. If any member has not been accounted for in a reasonable time, take prompt action to locate him/her.

11. Company officers must maintain communication with members not operating under their immediate supervision to determine their status. The interval between contacts should be frequent enough to provide for the safety of the firefighter being monitored without monopolizing the radio frequency.

NOTE: Members are under the "Immediate Supervision" of an officer when:

A. They are within sight and/or hearing of the officer.
B. They are working with a search line or hose line which is under the supervision of an officer.

12. Insure the safety of his/her members on the fire floor by close supervision. Prior training, combined with adequate communications and control on the fire ground is necessary for the safety of all members.

13. Control operations on fire floor that will affect members operating on floor above. Be aware of changing conditions on the fire floor that could endanger units operating on the floors above.

14. when necessary, ensure members are reminded of their designation as safety team members.


TOOLS: Axe/Halligan 
Portable Radio

POSITION:  Door to the fire area. Reached via the interior stairs of the fire building.

1. Forcible entry.
2. Immediate search and removal of victims.
3. Locate the fire.
4. Ventilate as required and ordered.


The chauffeur must have a working knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of all members of the ladder companies and how they are likely to execute their assignments under different fire situations. Monitoring the handheld radio will be of assistance in making decisions. The chauffeur should have the ability to evaluate a problem and then make a sound decision to cope with it.

Portable Radio.

The chauffeur shall select the tools that he/she deems necessary to complete his assignment.

The front of the fire building.
The chauffeur of an aerial ladder shall not operate in a manner that will in any way impede his/her return to the pedestal and cause a delay in positioning or repositioning the aerial for rescue or removal operations.

The chauffeur must notify his/her company officer of intended destination when leaving this primary position.


1. Position apparatus for complete coverage and immediate use. If unable to attain this position the Incident Commander must be notified.

2. Raise and use aerial and/or portable ladders for rescue.

3  Roof access if necessary.

4. Vent the fire floor.

5. Ladder chauffeur should remain on turntable when members have entered the building by aerial ladder and are in precarious positions such as: a floor over a heavy fire, the roof of a building with a heavy fire condition.. The chauffeur should keep alert as to the who, when, where of members using the aerial ladder.

6. If the chauffeur is aware that the 2nd ladder company is not in service or will not arrive in a reasonable time, he/she shall team up with another available member to try to get above the fire via aerial or ground ladder.

7. For purposes of efficiency, the OV and Chauffeur shall team up while keeping in mind the necessity to be available for the use of the aerial or portable ladders to assist members in distress.

8. A situation that can arise is the obvious need to use the aerial for the roof firefighter but at the same time there is an apparent need to remove an occupant. Consider the following factors in reaching a decision as to its initial use:

a. Emotional state of the occupant.
An agitated, frightened occupant or one threatening to jump should be removed first.

b. Fire/Smoke in the immediate vicinity of the occupant.
The occupant must receive instant attention if he/she would be endangered or seriously disturbed by any delay in his/her removal.

c. Location and severity of the fire.
A rear first floor fire will not normally require immediate removal of occupants from the 3rd, 4th, or higher floors in the front of the building. Conversely, a fire on the upper floors rarely requires removal operations on lower floors.

d. The Time Element.
When aerial ladder is needed both for removal and roof access, roof access can be given priority if the person to be removed is in no immediate danger. If any doubt exists remove the occupant first. After roof access has been attained, the aerial ladder may be used for the removal, keeping in mind that the ladder must be repositioned as quickly as possible to avoid endangering the roof firefighter should the roof position become untenable.

9. When approaching the alarm location and there is no visible indication of fire, position apparatus so that it can be moved to provide maximum coverage if necessary.


TOOLS: 6' hook
Halligan tool
Handheld radio
For top floor fires the saw is taken in place of the hook.

Except for assisting the chauffeur in front of the fire building when aerial or portable ladders are needed for rescue or removal, assignment is to ventilate the fire area from the exterior providing lateral ventilation. If the location of the fire is not obvious from the exterior of the building the OV should communicate with his/her officer. Once the location is verified the OV can then reach the correct window from a lower or adjacent apartment or from a ladder at ground level. 


1. Store Fire:
Ventilate the rear of the store from the exterior. If this would expose people on a fire escape, ventilate immediately after they are out of danger. If a delay in ventilation is encountered and/or anticipated, notification should be made to your company officer.

2. Top Floor Fire:
Proceed to roof with saw and halligan to vent fire apartment from roof level, and then assist the roof firefighter with roof vent.

1. Assist in laddering for rescue work.

2. Lower fire escape drop ladder, or position a portable ladder.

3. Vent for fire: Ventilate fire floor from exterior. The OV has the responsibility of timing the exterior ventilation with the advance of the charged hand line. Communication with his/her company officer via handheld radio must be maintained in order to coordinate and control lateral ventilation.

4. Venting for life: Prior to venting from the fire escape, the OV must receive permission from his/her company officer via portable radio. The OV might not be aware of conditions inside the structure. Entry and search will be completed if he/she teams up as follows:

a. When the fire apartment is in the rear, the OV and Roof Firefighter (or another available member) shall team up and enter the fire apartment from that fire escape.

b. When the fire apartment is in the front, the OV and Chauffeur (or another available member) shall team up and enter the fire. In both situations, they will affect the removal of any occupants but still consider fire severity or extinguishing operations which may endanger them. 

When the OV must assist the chauffeur in a removal operation, or the OV is unable to descend from the roof, the officer may dispatch a member of the forcible entry team to perform outside ventilation after they have forced the door to the fire apartment. Entry and search will be completed if he/she teams up with another available member.


Portable Radio
Life Saving Rope

Roof of fire building.

Roof ventilation is critical for search, rescue and extinguishment of the fire. NOTHING SHALL DETER the member assigned the roof position from carrying out the assigned duties. The duties of the roof firefighter demand an experienced, observant and determined member capable of decisive action.


1. Adjoining Building
Generally, there are contiguous buildings making this the safest and most dependable method. Be aware of possible extension of fire to exposures.

2. Aerial Ladder
The aerial ladder is used when the building is isolated or the roof cannot be reached, or accessed from the adjoining building, due to a difference in height or obstructions caused by security barriers, fences etc.. Roof access from the aerial can be dangerous. The cornice slopes towards the roof and in some instances there is a high front parapet wall. Use caution stepping off the aerial, especially when visibility is poor.

NOTE: The interior stairs are NEVER used for the following reasons:

  • Danger of being trapped above the fire.
  • Banked heat and smoke may prevent member from reaching roof.
  • Will lead to a delay in roof ventilation when it proves dangerous or impractical.

The duties of a roof firefighter demand an experienced, observant and determined firefighter capable of decisive action. The responsibility of this position covers three broad areas; life, communication, and ventilation. Roof ventilation is critical for search, rescue and extinguishment of the fire. NOTHING SHALL DETER the member assigned the roof position from carrying out the assigned duties. The roof firefighter should always confirm his/her way off the roof as soon as he/she reaches the roof. The roof firefighter is responsible for the following:

1. Opening the bulkhead door and skylight, or scuttle and roof level skylight over interior stairs.

2. Probing bulkhead landing for victims.
3. Probing for roof level skylight draft stop.

4. A perimeter search of the building for persons trapped and those who may have jumped or fallen. This search shall include the sides, rear and shafts of the building.
5. Locating the fire and making a visual check for extension across shafts or by auto exposure.

6. Transmitting vital information to the Incident Commander, either directly or through the company officer, on conditions observed from that vantage point.

7. When necessary, team up with the OV to VES the fire floor and, if not needed for search on that floor, proceed to VES the floors above the fire. 

8. When necessary, team up with 2nd Roof firefighter to VES all floors above the fire.

9. At top floor fires, venting top floor windows from roof level. He/she is also RESPONSIBLE FOR UTILIZATION OF THE SAW to vent the cockloft and top floor when necessary AFTER COMPLETING INITIAL DUTIES.

10. Conveying information to 2nd ladder company. Inform them of the extent of the search completed, so that all floors above the fire may receive a thorough search. Also inform the 2nd ladder company when proper examination of exposed interior stairs and public hall has not been made due to other duties. The 2nd ladder company shall complete the above mentioned examinations.

11. Reports back to their company officer (generally located on the fire floor) when assignment is completed or when relieved by 2nd ladder company and apprise them of all pertinent information.
12. Roof Ventilation
Building will have either a bulkhead with a skylight or a scuttle with a roof level skylight over the interior stairs.

a. IF BUILDING HAS A BULKHEAD; open bulkhead door. These doors are almost always self closing. To keep the door open, either remove the upper hinge or block the door open 

b. IF BUILDING HAS A SCUTTLE COVER, remove scuttle cover. This may be difficult because scuttle cover may be nailed down, have several coatings of tar at the seams and/or secured by hooks, chains, etc. on the underside of the cover.

c. Heavy smoke and high heat issuing from the bulkhead doorway or scuttle would obviously require further ventilation such as removal of the skylight.

The absence of these indications does not necessarily mean that skylight ventilation is not required. Opening a bulkhead door or scuttle cover will not always give a true indication of interior fire conditions; the door to the fire apartment may not be open, either because it has not been forced or because it is being held in a closed position. Evaluate other factors (heavy smoke or fire showing from several windows, etc.) in determining the amount of ventilation that will be required when the door to the fire apartment is opened.

d. Remove skylight over stair bulkhead or on roof level. If fire and smoke conditions are obviously heavy, immediate venting of the skylight prior to the removal of the scuttle cover to relieve the interior would be justified.

e. If difficulty is encountered opening the bulkhead door, vent the bulkhead skylight first. Units operating below shall be warned by portable radio, prior to breaking glass. Pause after breaking the first pane, as this serves as a warning to members below and also allows roof person to determine the wind direction.

f. Work with the wind at your back, when possible. When protective wire screens cover skylights insert tool beneath screen to remove glass. Skylights at roof level may have been removed and openings covered with roofing materials. It may be necessary to cut a hole over the stairs to vent stairway. The Incident Commander should be informed that a saw is needed to accomplish this.

g. Remove skylights or coverings over all shafts if indicated by heavy heat and smoke conditions. This includes dumbwaiter shafts, light shafts, etc. To insure an unobstructed outlet for shafts other than dumbwaiter shafts, probe with hook to detect possible presence of a glazed sash or other covering and remove it.

h. After removing roof level skylight or scuttle cover, returns can be opened into cockloft to gain knowledge of conditions or to ventilate. 

Utility position:

Hand Held Radio
Hand Light

Exterior of the structure

This position is responsible for laddering the exterior of the building as required. He will work with the roof man and the chauffer to insure the building is appropriately ladders. Additionally this position is responsible for control of utilities.

Teaming up to vent and search

After duties on the roof have been completed, the roof firefighter shall descend the rear fire escape to team up with the OV firefighter to VES.

Where the fire is in the front of the building and there are three or four apartments on a floor, the OV and Chauffeur will be teamed up in the front of the building. In this situation, the roof firefighter can then team up with the 2nd roof firefighter to VES the floors above the fire using the rear fire escape. Pay particular attention to the top floor, especially the public hallways.

THE PUBLIC HALL AND STAIRS, INCLUDING BULKHEAD LANDING ARE FREQUENTLY SEVERELY EXPOSED AND REQUIRE EXAMINATION FOR VICTIMS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The roof firefighters can get from the rear apartment to the front apartment using the public hall, or if necessary, open the common wall between apartments. When searching the floor above the fire, assist in venting the fire apartment by venting windows below with a tool. In either case, the company officer shall be notified when and where the search will commence.

A PRIMARY SEARCH is an immediate search for life. This primary search is rapid but thorough and systematic.

A SECONDARY SEARCH Is a thorough and painstakingly complete search, to insure that no possible victims are overlooked, as children may hide in closets or under beds or in bathrooms. The secondary search must also include the entire perimeter of the building and all shafts, basements/cellars, etc.

Firefighters must be aware that removal of draperies or curtains and the moving of large objects, or furniture although frequently necessary, may hide a victim or seal off a closet or other area being used as refuge. Another area that will frequently hide a victim is the entrance door. As a victim will usually try to reach a means of egress, they often can be found in the vicinity of or behind the entrance door.

Officers of units performing search shall be certain that the area in the vicinity of the entrance door, and behind the entrance door are searched for possible victims.

After a quick check of this area the room or apartment search can begin. A thorough search is required on all floors above the fire for several reasons. A partially open door, even on a remote floor, may have allowed an apartment to become heavily charged. This open door would be even a greater hazard on the top floor where heat and smoke could have mushroomed prior to stair bulkhead ventilation. In addition the presence of energy efficient windows may intensify the extension of heat, smoke and gases to the upper floors via pipe recesses and/or improperly fire stopped vertical arteries.


The public hallway and the entire staircase up to the roof bulkhead door must be examined as soon as possible for those civilians who unsuccessfully attempted to use the interior stairs.

When searching or examining a number of apartments it may be quicker to enter from the related fire escape then to force numerous doors. This does not change normal forcible entry procedure for access to fire floor and the floor immediately above.

If for any reason a thorough search of an area has not been completed the firefighter`s officer must be informed and a carefully executed follow-up search shall be initiated. Search for life shall not be confined to the structure alone. The perimeter of the building, shafts, courtyards, etc., must be checked for victims who may have jumped or fallen.

Since the first due ladder company is responsible for the fire floor, it shall conduct an exacting primary search on this floor as soon as conditions permit. The second ladder company, which is responsible for the floors above the fire, should conduct a thorough primary search on all floors above the fire. Upon completion of the primary searches, the secondary searches shall be conducted as soon as conditions permit and shall be conducted by units other then those who conducted the primary search of these areas.

After opening the door, the inside team may find conditions too severe to enter before the Engine Company has their line charged and are prepared to advance. In this instance they should probe the area with a hand or tool, then close the door, being careful that the door does not lock. When the Engine Company has water, immediately crawl in behind the engine company to search and ventilate all rooms.

The Officer of the inside team must be notified before venting is attempted by the OV. After venting, this firefighter shall team up with another available member prior to entry and search. If entry is not possible, this firefighter shall probe the immediate area with hand, foot, or tool. If the adjoining apartment is charged with heat and smoke, the officer of the inside team must be notified by the firefighter that his/her entry will be made into this adjoining apartment for VES when he/she has teamed up with another available member.

The second ladder inside team is assigned an extremely difficult position in the apartment over the fire. Prior to proceeding above the fire the second arriving officer should insure that the officers on the fire floor are made aware of his/her intentions so that those operating above can be warned of any situation necessitating withdrawal. Initially, they may not always be able to attain this objective, however, they should make an aggressive attempt to gain a foothold on this floor while keeping in mind a safe means of egress. Access to the apartment above the fire may be gained via:

• Interior stairs
• Fire escapes
• Through a common partition wall
• By crawling across the public hall from a tenable apartment on the same floor if conditions permit
• Aerial/portable ladder

All members operating above the fire must be constantly alert to conditions on the floors below them. The existence of resources to control the fire situation on the fire floor does not guarantee that their position will remain tenable.  When operating on the floors above the fire, members should force one or more doors on each floor to provide an area of refuge if they have to vacate the interior stairs.


NOTE: The engine and ladder company officers operating on the fire floor must make the units above aware of any conditions affecting their safety. These officers are responsible for the control of the door to the fire apartment.

1. Life hazard. (known or suspected?)
2. Status of line.(charged or uncharged?)
3. Door to fire area.

  • Forcible entry complete?
  •  Integrity of door?
  • Control of door?
4. Location and volume of fire.
  • Fire in front or rear of apartment.
  • Light medium or heavy fire condition.
5. Has ventilation of fire apartment been effected?
6. Is roof vented. (skylight, scuttle, bulkhead?)
7. Type of occupancy. 
  • Number of apartments ?
  • Location of fire escapes ?
  • Interior stairs (combustible or non combustible?)
  • Construction of apartment doors?
  • Has building undergone renovations introducing many voids?

Ventilation is the systematic removal of heat, smoke and gas from a structure, followed by the replacement with cooler air to facilitate other fire fighting priorities.

Ventilation is a vital factor in all operations and is of particular consequence with respect to the life saving function. Premature or incorrect ventilation may rapidly increase the fires intensity and the area involved causing:

  • Difficulty in extinguishing and confining the fire.
  • Possible death of a victim who could have been removed and saved.
  • Endangering inside team.

Entails the opening or removal of the windows of the fire apartment or area.

These windows maintain their integrity longer than ordinary single pane windows in a fire environment with the following effects:

  • High heat buildup in fire apartment and floor above.
  • Possibility of a backdraft/flashover.
  • Difficult to vent properly.
  • Cause rapid extension.
  • Discoloration due to high heat is not readily apparent.
  • Difficulty in determining the fire apartment, room or floor.
The ladder company officer must control lateral ventilation by the inside and outside team. Uncontrolled lateral ventilation could cause backdraft/flashover jeopardizing the safety of members searching the apartment.

A. Venting for Life
Accomplished to facilitate the movement of members into an area where there is a known or suspected life hazard, with an inherent calculated risk of intensifying the fire. It is performed as part of an attempt to reach possible survivors as soon as possible.

Situation No. 1 -Inside team enters the apartment first.
The outside team cannot vent until given permission by company officer.

Situation No. 2 - Inside team unable to enter the fire apartment first.
The outside team must be notified via handheld radio to attempt VES from exterior. When the attack line is in position and ready to advance, the ladder company officer must communicate with the searching outside team members before the apartment door is opened so as not to endanger their position.

B. Vent for Fire  - Accomplished to facilitate the engine company advance to and extinguishment of the fire. This venting is normally delayed until the engine company has its water and is ready to "move in". This ventilation from the exterior is coordinated and ordered by the officer of the inside team.

Windows directly exposed to fire across shafts or directly over the fire, should not be opened until the exposing fire is controlled either by partial or complete extinguishment or by having a charged hand line at these extension points. It may be necessary to close windows and remove drapes, curtains, etc.

When using a fire escape for access to different floors, never vent a window that could allow fire to cut off the line of retreat.

While searching an apartment, severe conditions usually require the firefighters to vent each room as they advance. However, if they do not have another safe means of egress they may necessarily omit venting (or even close) a particular window which might allow fire to cut off their only exit.

NOTE: EEW`s may not give any of these indications, contact inside team before VES.

Venting from above
When venting the windows of the fire apartment from directly above by use of a 6` hook and an intense fire is suspected, the possibility of fire rolling up the side of the building when air is admitted must be considered. For safety the firefighter should:

A. Look down at the window to be remove.
B. Measure the distance with the tool.
C. Pull head back in the window and then swing the tool through the window below. The firefighter hand and arm will be protected by their clothing.

All members should carry a utility cord for use in operations, e.g., venting of windows on lower floors, guide line during search, raising or lowering tools or hose, etc. 


Prevent horizontal spread and ventilate top floor.

After preliminary roof ventilation, (bulkhead, skylights, scuttles, windows, etc.) when a serious fire occurs on the top floor or in the cockloft. In all fires it is still of paramount importance to provide rapid initial ventilation before getting involved in the slower work of cutting the roof.

If possible directly over the fire. To determine this location, check for:

  • soft spots
  • melting snow or ice
  • wet roof, steam or dry spot
  • sense of touch-on the base of soil pipe or vent pipe
  • knowledge of fire location gathered on travel to roof
  • looking over roof edge
  • portable radio communications
Initially approximately a 3`x6` coffin cut is recommended:
  • it is more manageable
  • it can be quickly expanded to a larger hole

It avoids the problems associated with holes cut in a roof:

1. Too large
Too time consuming, causes delays.

2. Too small
Will not grant desired relief and once opened, smoke, fire, and heat might make it too difficult to open further.

3. Too many holes
Unsafe. One large expandable hole is more efficient and safer than many smaller holes.
The saw is designed that whenever possible, roof boards and coverings shall be cut in one operation. Sometimes the cut section can be lifted in one piece. When this can not be accomplished, remove the roof covering first, then the roof boards. When many layers of roof covering are encountered, the saw blade may bind.

The size and location of the opening will depend on fire conditions. A suggested method to make an expandable opening "COFFIN CUT" is as follows:
A. Assume wind is blowing in direction indicated. (ideally at your back)
B. Cut #1 approximately 3 feet.
C. Cut #2 "knock out" corner cut for tool insertion.
D. Cut #3 approximately 6 feet.
E. Cut #4 to #7 approximately 3 feet.
F. Leave removed pieces of roof section next to opening to warn operating forces.
G. If larger opening is needed, additional opening can be made in like manner. (continuation of cut in desired direction)
H. Make sure that roof is not opened before cut is completed.
I. Push down ceiling to complete ventilation.

NOTE: When a fire is burning in a top floor apartment, it is not efficient to wait until the fire is "knocked down" before examining the cockloft. An early inspection can be made by going to a room adjacent to the fire (in the same or adjoining apartment) and opening an observation hole in that ceiling. If fire can be seen burning in the cockloft, the  observation hole should not be expanded until a charged hose line has been positioned. It is a good practice while waiting for the charged hose line to ventilate all windows in the apartment, because once the ceiling is opened the floor will quickly become filled with smoke. This is also the time to make sure that a roof ventilation hole is being cut directly above the fire.

The instructions contained herein are still valid in that total reliance cannot be placed on power equipment and the principles that apply to the use of axes still apply to the use of power saws.

A. Determine the location of the hole. Cut through the roof covering and remove it, exposing the sheathing. The roof sheathing is placed at right angles to the beams and generally run front to rear. Cut through the sheathing at opposite sides of the proposed opening close to the beam to lessen the bounce of the axe and the resultant binding action when the axe goes through a springy portion of the sheathing. Remove the cut sheathing from the opening with a member on each end of the cut section working in unison to remove tar, tin and nails. Push down the ceiling of the top floor with a 6` hook.)

B. The approximate location of the beam may be determined by "sounding" with the back of the axe.

C. When there is a tin covering between the asphalt covering and the roof boards, it will require an accurate cut to separate the tin from the roof boards. This frequently requires two cutting operations. The first cut is the tar and the tin which is removed prior to cutting the roof boards. It is obvious that this will cause a slight delay in obtaining a roof opening.

A. When roof stability is in doubt, members must be removed and the incident commander immediately notified.

B. After cutting the roof the member must also push down the ceiling in order to relieve conditions on the top floor. Using the back of the hook is usually more efficient to push down the ceiling. 

C. Members should always cut with the wind at their back to minimize personal exposure.

D. A hose line may be necessary on the roof to protect members from roofing surface fires. (membrane)

NOTE: Effective roof ventilation at top floor fires that have extended to the cockloft will be adversely affected or nullified by the operations of streams into or immediately above these roof openings. This not only prevents or retards the vertical movement of heat, smoke and gases but frequently reverses this flow thereby contributing to lateral spread in the cockloft area while intensifying heat and smoke conditions on the top floor which will handicap or halt the interior attack.


A. Member cutting roof must ALWAYS be assured of a way of getting off the roof.

B. Members cutting hole should beware not to endanger other members operating on the roof.

The term overhauling shall include any opening up of walls, ceilings, partitions, voids, etc. while checking for extension or to extinguish fire during the pre control as well as during the post control phase of operations. Proper overhauling will expedite final extinguishment and minimize damage to the structure and its contents.

Search for fire and extension which takes place up to the point where the fire is under control. Pre-control overhauling begins as soon as possible after the fire has been knocked down.

The continued operation that takes place after the fire is under control to insure that there is complete fire extinguishment.

The search for fire extension on the fire floor is started as soon as possible. Many fires do not initially ignite the structure. The contents of a building are ignited and burn first, then the flames spread to the structure. Stuffed chairs, mattresses, clothing or food cooking on the stove are items that initially burn. After the building contents are extinguished, the structure is checked for fire extension. The opening up of ceilings, walls, enclosed pipe recesses, boxed out voids in the fire area and above shall be examined for fire extension.

When checking for extension there are six sides to examine in the fire area. The four walls, the ceiling above and the floor.

The search for fire extension is often done by sense of touch alone. All places where fire might have extended and display no immediate signs of burning such as discoloration, blistering, smoke, etc. should be examined by touch.

At a top floor fire that has extended into the cockloft, the roof firefighter will have cut a hole in the roof and pushed down a portion of the ceiling. Enlarge the opening in the ceiling so that the engine company may operate into the cockloft from a high vantage point (table, bureau, chair, etc.). Sweeping the cockloft with the stream if necessary. Continue pulling the ceiling until certain the fire is extinguished and involved areas are exposed.


After the fire has been knocked down it is the responsibility of the first ladder company to arrive to determine if the fire is extending and where it is extending. This information should be transmitted to the Incident Commander and the ladder company on the floor above

The ceiling should be opened first by starting at a point where the fire was most intense and working towards a clean area of ceiling space. The ceiling light fixture area should be pulled and examined. Any horizontal or vertical voids, whether pipe recesses, electrical conduits, channel rails, etc. are found once the ceilings and walls are opened must be examined. If fire has extended, this information should be transmitted to the Incident Commander and to the ladder company on the floor above. 

Fire that is found in ceiling bays or adjacent to steel beams that cross over partitions separating other uninvolved rooms or apartments must be inspected by pulling ceilings.

Boxed out protrusions: These boxed out voids can contain pipe risers, electric conduit, chimney flues, steel columns or sealed dumbwaiter shafts which run from the ceiling to the cockloft.

Steel Columns: Boxed out areas around a steel column create a natural void. If a boxed out protrusion on a wall contains a steel column and was involved in fire, then the entire length of this void will have to be examined. Particularly its highest point, the cockloft, will have to be inspected. Also, burning embers can easily drop down this void and start a fire on the lower floors.

Closets: Their construction on top of one another provide a vertical artery. Workmanship can be shoddy, creating openings for fire travel. They should be checked for voids.

Walls: Wall switches, receptacles and fuse boxes (circuit breakers) are locations for fire to enter and travel. Especially when burning furniture is against the wall.

The flooring in the fire area must be checked. If the flooring is charred, the ceiling below should be examined for fire extension.

Pipe recesses on the floor above must be examined for extension and if necessary controlled in order to determine the area where the fire might have extended vertically. The officer assigned to the task of overhauling the floors above the fire should make an examination of the room or floor where the fire originated. This knowledge will allow him to be more accurate in the search for hidden fire when working on the floor above.

If fire is found extending to the floor above, probing holes are made in the same bay or bays until the outer edge of the fire is defined. THE CEILING OR WALLS SHOULD NOT BE FULLY OPENED UNTIL A CHARGED LINE IS IN POSITION, BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF INTENSIFYING THE FIRE.

If extension of fire is found passing the floor above via vertical avenues (pipe recesses, etc.) the Incident Commander must be notified.



Pulling ceilings
Beams generally run parallel to front and rear walls. Lath is attached at right angles to the beams and runs front to rear. Each piece of lath usually covers two or more bays. The ceiling is penetrated with one firm stroke with the hook end parallel to the lath. This breaks only one lath on the upstroke instead of two or three. The hook is then turned to form a right angle to the lath and the ceiling is pulled with short, sharp strokes close to the beam. This method is fast and conserves energy. The firefighter should not stand directly below the ceiling being pulled. They should keep the work in front of them. In close quarters firefighters shall keep their heads down to prevent injury. Eye shields shall be used.


To make a hole high in a sidewall or partition of lath and plaster. This requires a sharp blow with the hook. After penetration with the hook, the tool is used to pull down or pry out if leverage is possible.

To make a hole low in a side wall or partition.  The hook is held like a javelin before penetrating the wall. After an opening has been made, the hook is then pushed down behind the lath and the lath is removed by pulling the handle. This should open the wall to the floor or baseboard. When prying with the hook, excessive strain which may break the wooden handle must be avoided.

Use the handle of the hook, or the point to make small probing holes to check for extension or to allow water to flow out as opposed to pulling.

Flooring is seldom cut at tenement fires as it is easier and faster to pull the ceiling below for examination. If a hole must be made, the cuts that are parallel to the joist should be made close to the opposite joists of the bays adjoining the one we wish to expose. This will insure that the entire bay and joists are exposed as well as the two adjoining bays. If the floor is cut in this manner it will also eliminate any unsupported section of flooring.

Primary Method:
A. Cutting with saw
because it is the most efficient. Area must be vented to prevent buildup of carbon monoxide.

B. Cutting with axe
Cut floor at a 60 degree angle and on a bias. This is easier than cutting across the grain.


The complete removal of a window frame is seldom required. They are generally set into the brickwork and extension from them cannot occur except to a space between the plaster and the side wall of the building. Similarly, extension around a door frame is usually limited to the space between the door frame and the studs forming the rough opening.

The trim around windows and doors is put on last during the construction stage and should be the first pieces removed if examination is required at these points. Removal of the trim is generally sufficient to allow an adequate examination and application of water.

Depending on the tool being used, the most efficient and safest way to remove the trim is to start at the top or bottom corner or joint and work along prying the molding out from the wall.

This section will cover safety suggestions generally applicable during the post control phase of overhauling operations. 

Dispatch a member if other tools are needed. The right tool for the job will save time and energy.

It is dangerous for more than one or two members to use tools at the same time in a small area.

Members must be relieved frequently to conserve their energy and prevent accidents.

Adequate lighting is required at all times.

Holes in the floor are generally small and must be protected, generally by placing a door over them. Holes in the roof will be much larger and all members must be warned to be constantly alert. A roof door or short ladder may be used to cover danger spots.

Bulging or hanging plaster should be removed from walls or ceilings.

Hanging wood lath, metal lath, or tin from a ceiling should be trimmed off and removed.

Tin should be folded to a size making it safe to carry and placed outside away from the line of travel. A minimum amount of handling of tin is advisable to reduce the injury hazard.

Hanging ends of cable such as electric (BX), telephone and coaxial television shall be secured near the ceiling. Loops of cable hanging down shall be pushed up out of the way. 

Where it is obvious there will be considerable overhauling, Incident Commanders should consider retention of a work force adequate to complete the job in a reasonable period of time.

Smoldering goods such as clothing, upholstery, carpet, etc. can produce an abundance of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. For this reason such material should be completely extinguished and or removed from the premise.

Officers must not permit any material to be thrown out of windows unnecessarily. A member should always be posted in the yard or street below to prevent injuries to anyone from falling material. Examination of the yard must be made before discarding any material into the yard to assure that no occupants have jumped into the yard prior to the arrival of Fire Department units. No material shall be thrown onto roof of buildings or into narrow shafts or setbacks.

Before exiting building you must "STOP" until you are assured it is safe to exit the building. Whenever a member operates on a ladder of any kind, they must have enough hand control to ensure their safety. This is an absolute necessity when on vertical ladders, such as fire escape drop ladders and goose neck ladders to the roof. Greater physical effort is needed when using a completely vertical ladder, because a missed step or a slip of a hand will result in a vertical drop and a serious injury. A similar mishap on a ladder which is angled into an objective could result in a member falling toward the ladder rather than straight down.

Care should be exercised when overhauling in bathrooms. A sudden collapse of the flooring due to fire weakening, rotting of the floor beams, the weight of the fixtures (cast iron tubs) and tile floors can occur. Consider using the reach of the hook and standing outside the bathroom to open up the ceiling.

At greater alarms, Incident Commanders should give consideration to the relief of entire units that might be physically spent from their efforts to contain and extinguish the fire. When using saws and generators while overhauling within a building adequate ventilation must be provided.


All members should have a working knowledge of construction features so that they will be aware of the avenues of fire travel, exposures and the simplest manner of opening up for examination, i.e. the trim around windows and doors is put on last during the construction stage and should be the first pieces removed if examination is required at these points. Trim, baseboards, etc. shall be removed in a professional manner so that those structural members not deeply charred may be preserved for future use.

The removal of major structural elements is a very serious matter. Floor joists or roof joists should not be removed if complete extinguishment can be accomplished in any other manner. LINTELS in brick walls over exterior doorways and windows should not be removed, regardless of charring, as they support a considerable amount of brickwork.  To remove them from their anchorage could result in injury and considerable property damage through partial collapse.

Usually the ceilings and walls are constructed of lath and plaster and will have been opened and examined for fire extension in the precontrol phase. These openings may prove adequate for examination purposes. In some instances charring may extend into sections that have not been pulled. This lath and plaster must be pulled until the bay shows clear and there is no evidence that fire has extended beyond this point.

When ordered to pull lath and plaster in the post control phase:
A. The floor is examined first to make sure that burned material or flooring requiring examination is not covered.
B The beds are taken apart and removed or placed out of the way.
C Articles from the tops of dressers, bureaus, tables, etc. should be removed to a place of safety such as a drawer.
D. Furniture that is in the way should be covered or removed to prevent further damage. 

Small fires may be cut out with a knife and submerged in water in a suitable receptacle. Where the stuffing is involved with smoldering fire, these articles should be removed to the street to prevent rekindle. If a supply of fresh air comes in contact with incompletely extinguished foam rubber, there is a danger of the foam rubber bursting into flame and producing vigorous s flaming combustion over its entire surface area. This situation could cause serious injury to any one in close proximity to the foam rubber. Prior to removing these items to the street, they must be completely examined to ensure complete extinguishment.

Wooden Furniture
It is rarely necessary to remove these articles. Tables and hardwood chairs can be placed in a safe location and protected from further damage. Dressers and bureaus must be searched for smoldering fires in, behind or around the drawers. The smoldering articles should be immersed in water and salvageable items returned to the drawers with the entire object remaining in the apartment.

Wooden structural members that are deeply charred may be removed from the building. Those that have merely been scorched or on which the paint has been blistered shall be left in the apartment for possible reuse.

The removal of involved materials to enclosed shafts or roofs of setbacks is not to be permitted.

When material must be removed from the fire building, the area where this material will be deposited must, itself, be checked before proceeding. This eliminates the possibility of covering hose lines, tools, cellar doors, drains or victims who may have jumped prior to our arrival.

To reduce water damage:

  • Scorched hangings, bedding or clothing shall be used to absorb excess water on floors.
  • Excess water may be channeled into wastelines, dumbwaiter shafts, etc.. Every efforts should be made to prevent water flowing down through the building. 
  • Buckets, basins or other receptacles may be used for dipping scorched material, but avoid stopping the drains of sinks and tubs.

When water has seeped down through several floors, the possibility of wet wires and short circuits require that fuses be removed or circuit breakers opened for the affected areas and apartments.

If meter, stove or gas supply lines are damaged , gas must be shut off.

Electric or gas supplies shall not be returned to use once shut off. Restoration shall be by authorized crews of the affected utility companies.

Before the department leaves a premises:

  • All broken glass must be trimmed from window frames so that glass shards will not fall causing injury or damage.
  • Replace or position all drop ladders.
  • Check for all assigned tools and equipment.

Overhauling has been dealt with broadly but the following objectives should be kept constantly in mind. Make a critical analysis of your attitude and evaluate your overhauling practices in light of these objectives.

Time and energy will be saved by systematically planned overhauling and the proper use of manpower, tools and equipment. This facilitates the return of companies to "in-service" status and eases the work load for those companies who remain at the scene.

Protection of property regardless of ownership is a primary consideration. Officers must approach overhauling as though the overhauling were being performed in their own homes and they were in the unfortunate position of being uninsured for the loss.

All Officers shall make every attempt to prevent a rekindle. This requires knowledge, skill and practical application. Never hesitate to open and expose hidden areas when reason dictates that it is required. Select the least destructive method of making this examination whenever possible. Never open indiscriminately without knowing why the opening is necessary.

Minimize exposure of personnel both in time and danger. The major portion of fire duty is spent in overhauling and a considerable number of injuries are incurred during this period. The proper use of tools, recognition of the hazards, good practices and close supervision are all required to reduce the injury and illness rate.

Professionalization is the aim of the entire department. It includes all of the good practices already mentioned as well as public relations. You should be able to justify your actions by simple explanations to the uninitiated where the extent of damage may not be completely understood. Sound practices have sound reasons.

Conditions at the scene of a fire often indicate whether or not the overhauling was handled in an orderly, systematic manner. Broken glass hanging from window frames, debris covered hose lines, unburned furniture and clothing lying on the street and/or personal garments left hanging from fire escapes or window sills are definite indications that competent practices were not adhered to. This does not mean that burned clothing, structural members, furniture, etc. with a potential for re-ignition cannot be removed to the street. Discrimination and professional judgment must be used.

The key to successful operations is training.
Preplanning, group discussions, drills and post fire critiques all aid immeasurably in the development of an efficient fire fighting unit. They, in turn, provide the climate for the teamwork and coordination that is so vital at tenement fires where lives so frequently depend on the proper execution of numerous and diverse assignments. Assignments should be carried out and objectives achieved.

Timing and exacting teamwork are essential to an efficient operation. A singleness of purpose is necessary to avoid distraction, duplication of efforts and a resultant delay in the attainment of individual objectives. If firefighters have to improvise to accomplish their objectives, then that too becomes part of their tasks. Decisions on the fire ground must be made instantaneously and under great stress. The professional firefighter continuously studies their responsibilities so that they are fully prepared to make the best decision possible when confronted with difficult or unusual situations.

This  is a guideline  supersedes the guideline entitled Tower Ladder Operations, # 500-06-01 issued  March 6, 2006.

Special thank you for the FDNY for sharing of this information

| About us |Personnel | Officers |Apparatus | Facilities |By-laws | Operating Guidelines |Job descriptions |
Training |Proby Training | Riding Assignments |Archieved materials | Contact us |