Coordinated Ventilation

Take a look at these two videos for a great example of coordinated ventilation.  The outside vent (OV) firefighter on the fire escape waits until the line is putting water on the fire to take the windows.  Doing so helps the engine make the advance into the fire area a little easier.  Waiting until the line is ready will ensure that you do not prematurely feed the fire additional oxygen and possibly trap firefighters searching ahead of the line. 




  • NDeMarse says:

    This is a great example of discipline, teamwork and coordination. It takes a well-trained and disciplined firefighter to stand on a fire escape or at a portable ladder, observing a glow in the window and yet DOING NOTHING because they know it will do greater harm that good!

    However, by doing nothing, the Outside Ventilation (OV) firefighter is gathering information before entering. The OV is taking the extra time to observe smoke conditions, fire conditions and perhaps able to determine an apartment layout. While we try to do this EVERY TIME, sometimes we don't have the time to conduct this size-up this thoroughly.

    When should the OV wait to vent?
    In my opinion and experience, we should wait in instances where there is no (or none reported) life hazard. We should also wait if the line is delayed in getting into position, charged and READY TO MAKE THE PUSH on the fire. There is a vast difference in a line being there, a line being charged, and all of the members masked up and ready to push in. In some cases, there could be a minute or more that lapses depending on your engine crew's competency and experience. They have to be ready to extinguish the fire, not just present before the windows are taken.

    Prematurely venting the windows will allow the fire to spread, increasing damage and the potential for burn injuries to the engine company. Consequently, premature ventilation decreases the fire department's professionalism (both public and to area departments or companies). The OV firefighter may have to abstain altogether from taking windows if a heavy wind condition is blowing directly into the windows that are about to be vented. A 15-20mph wind can have a SEVERE IMPACT on fire conditions, again causing fire spread and burn injuries to the nozzle team.

    When should the OV NOT DELAY ventilation?
    In short: IF YOUR INTENTION IS TO ENTER TO SAVE A LIFE (or expected life hazard)! Notice that I specified "intention to enter". If you have no intention to enter the window whether dictated by department policy or personal experience, do not vent until the line is in place!

    If our intention is to enter the room, we first have to understand that the fire and/or smoke condition that is being observed will continue to grow unchecked since there is no hose line in place. This puts the OV firefighter (and all firefighters operating inside) in a very dangerous position. In the case of the video, if the window is vented those members will be entering the fire room to conduct a search. The fire may continue to rapidly grow and drive members from the room.

    If the fire is in a room not serviced by the window that you have targeted, you may be the only opportunity for survival for anyone trapped in that room. If there is a known or suspected life hazard, firefighters should definitely make a move and give anyone trapped in that room a chance for survival. In doing that, firefighters should also understand that they will cause the fire to race towards the new ventilation opening that is created. Firefighters must know and understand how to limit or stop that fire spread.

    Care must be taken to quickly remove the entire window, any gates or child guards and very rapidly make your way to the doorway to close the door, and limit the fire spread (think operating a damper in a fireplace). As we say in our Beyond the Academy: Ladder Company Operations courses or anytime that we teach Vent, Enter & Search techniques "if you enter the window and find a body, you MUST GET TO THE DOOR, even if it means leaving the victim for a couple of seconds!" It IS that important to get the door closed! You do not want to find yourself half-way through a victim removal when the fire races to your ventilation/entry point, and a rescue has to be abandoned. If you get to a doorway and there is no door present, you will at least know what you are dealing with.

    The video and the comments above drive home the point that the OV firefighter should be experienced, disciplined and well-versed in their job. You may note that I DID NOT state a magic "time-on-the-job" numerical reference.

    Example: "Firefighters here don't get the OV until you get ten years on the job".

    In the fire service, time means a lot for seniority, vacation picks, shift change relief, doing dishes, folding sheets, etc…HOWEVER if those same members choose not to learn something from every fire that they have responded to, they are essentially responding to their first fire EVERY TIME! This defaults to those members potentially not being the best job for the Outside Ventilation firefighter and making critical life-and-death decisions for civilians and firefighters operating inside. Essentially, the actions or inactions of the OV can decide if a civilian will be rescued or be a fatality, whether or not the engine will be burned or not and in many cases whether the fire will be extinguished rapidly or grow into a defensive operation. To me, that isn't really a job that I want to give a guy that is collecting a paycheck!

    Feel free to add any comments, questions or dialogue. This has great potential for good discussion!

    • kyle dillon says:

      Good stuff Nate. Any thoughts on what the brother on the landing below is trying to force? It sounds like a door, which would be easily controlled once forced. But I was wondering if you had any input on when to force a security gate that allows access to the fire escape, be it from a public hallway or other area in the apartment. You would have to break glass, and thus vent, in order to begin to force the gate but in doing so you would ensure additional means of egress/areas of refuge should interior conditions deteriorate quickly. As an OVM man what do you do when you encounter these? Leave them in place until the engine gets water on the fire? or try to get a head start? Is it better to notify interior crews of their presence so they can begin to force them from the interior? Im sure it depends on the location of the opening you are forcing in relation to the engine, and the conditions present. Just trying to get a few ideas.

      Kyle Dillon
      Naperville FD.

      • NDeMarse says:

        Kyle, I am not sure if it is the second due OV or the first due Chauffeur, but they are forcing a door off of the fire escape. That is not a very common feature as most fire escapes service windows and not doors.

        As you have stated regarding security gates, it definitely depends on the fire location, the engine's location and where you are in relativity to all of those variables. If I note the presence of a security gate, I usually leave them in place until I am ready to vent the windows. Typically a child gate is easily taken in a few seconds by racking the halligan back and forth across the bars. This will pull the wood/metal screws out on both sides rather quickly.

        The scissor gates are a bit more formidable, but can still be taken quickly after taking the glass. Instead of forcing the locking mechanism, attack the non-lock side where only wood or sheet metal screws hold it in the frame. A few quick pries, and you can collapse the gate back onto the lock side and get it out of the way.

        As for the communication aspect, you are certainly not wrong for communicating the presence of child gates or a scissor gate, but they are more common than not in my area. We expect to find them in place and locked.

        Hope that answers your questions. Stay safe bro!


  • Tmckenney says:

    DeMarse thanks for all the good info

    Great videos as well

    This topic is overlooked in the fire service all the time. More specifically in a lot of training flashover line-of-duty deaths. Wether it’s vertical, horizontal, or Positive pressure ventilation it has to be coordinated with the interior crew. Nobody on the fire ground has more knowledge of interior conditions then the interior crews. All ventilation operations should not proceed until they have been coordinated with interior crews and there is knowledge of interior fire conditions.

    Unfortunately the importance of this idea was not stressed until later in my career. Which reaffirms the idea that the OV should be a senior man. My hope is that this idea is focused on more in any basic ventilation class. Also as we see trends in training. I hope coordinated outside ventilation is the next hot topic.


  • fireball says:


    interesting videos and question is this one:what you call coordinated ventilation is for me:team work:that means,the men inside tell the man outside,ready to vent??? and the man outside gave his observations to the team inside:smoke,wind conditions……..

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