I recently have had a lot of suggestions and requests to post on some volunteer, rural, combination issues that the fire service faces. I started and am still a member of a mostly rural volunteer, now combination, department. My earliest exposure to the fire service was at this mostly rural department.
We had a large majority of our fires outside of our public water area and our staffing was limited, just like it is today. Most of our trucks were single cab trucks that would seat two or three, depending on if the seats were buckets or benches. This was the fire service I was raised in. As time went on this department has become a functioning combination department.
But, it still has the same demographics of a large rural response area with the challenge of staffing after the first arriving unit gets on scene. In some cases those first firefighters will have to wait for over 20 minutes for the nearest mutual aid company. This, of course, causes issues with water supply, interior attack and other critical firefighting functions.
These are issues that the American fire service is facing all over this country. Along with the posts that I will be posting in the coming weeks, there is another great resource for rural to suburban tactics at County Fire Tactics. Be sure to check them out on their web site and on Facebook. This post will highlight some first due engine ops for water supply in the rural setting.
Some of you may not agree with all of these suggestions, but these have worked and have been tested. But, if you have a better way, feel free to share.
One of the biggest challenges for the first due engine, besides staffing, is securing a water supply. There are no hydrants and we don't always know when the first tanker will arrive. (In the Midwest we use the term tanker as a ground apparatus that carries at least 1000 gallons of water.) When operating in a response area that has public water, it is not uncommon for the second arriving unit to lay into the first apparatus from the hydrant. Our additional units are usually quicker to arrive and the fire has not progressed as far because our response times are faster. In the rural setting our response times are longer due to proximity and road miles allowing the fire to grow longer, thus consuming more of the structure.
So, we will need big water sooner than what might be required in a hydranted area. We have to prepare for this situation before the call comes in. How we carry and load our supply lines is critical. So many times our hose and the loads we use are set up for our hydranted areas; because its easy and there is a lot of information out there on how to lay into and from a hydrant. Additionally, we usually don't have to got too far to get to a hydrant. This is not usually the case when we get into the rural setting. I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, your department has specific needs. But, I will offer some examples that have worked. When setting up your hose bed, you need to know what appliances will be used to distribute water to multiple apparatus. Have those appliances readily available and ready for deployment. Don't hide them away in the twilight zone that requires a heavy mover to get to. Make them accessible. This will speed your hose deployment and get you water faster. You need to have a good familiarity with your rural response area. Laying 900 feet of hose and still having 400 feet to the fire can cause a delay in getting water. Ideally, we want to be able to get to the fire building as the first due engine. So, you may have to be deliberate in where you lay your line. In doing that, laying away from an intersection or half way up a road or drive, leave a cone at the coupling for visibility. Have enough hose! As the first due engine dropping line can be a very smart move, if done right. When laying your line the first issue is to not take up the road or drive. Get to one side of the road or drive and lay it out on that side to allow other apparatus access. It might be worth having a firefighter follow the truck to guide the hose to one side of the road. This will pay dividends later. Doing this also gives you a guide to how much hose your laying and can relay that to the next in unit or your water supply tanker. You need to communicate to your next arriving unit what side of the road your laying, how much hose and if you reached the fire building or not. This will determine if the second unit will be your relay or if it needs to finish the lay. Depending on your department's capabilities, you may choose to lay a 3" supply line, dual 3" lines or large diameter hose. We typically will lay dual 3" lines. This takes preparation for you hose loads and can shorten your lay.
Additionally, if using LDH, a good rule of thumb to remember is that every foot of LDH holds one gallon of water. So, you see how this might be a problem in filling the line initially depending on how much water your supply truck carries. Finally, the first arriving engine needs to try to place their apparatus in a position that is conducive for additional units, access to the fire and possibly room for tankers to maneuver in and out of.
This post is very basic and only outlines an option for the first arriving engine or apparatus. We will cover more rural topics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let us know what you want to read about. Also, share if you have tactics that you have found to be beneficial. Thanks and train hard.
I recently have had a lot of suggestions and requests to post on some volunteer, rural, combination issues that the fire service faces. I started and am still a member of a mostly rural volunteer, now combination, department. My earliest exposure to the fire service was at this mostly rural department.
This is a quick drill for you company officers and acting officers. So much of what we do is coach and mentor our younger firefighters. When we are out and about we need to take the time point out things that might be obvious to us, but maybe not so much to others on our crew.
Use these photos to explain the challenges, dangers, benefits and tactical oppportunities with this roof. Share what you see and pass it on. You might pick up on something that someone else does not. But, maybe we can reach a firefighter with this drill that we don’t have on our crew. Maybe we can reach a volunteer that doesn’t have that daily mentor.
Share and thanks for reading.
The attached vidoe is a very short and simple clip about how teach firefighters to low profile. As we tell firefighters in our classes, removing your SCBA should be a last resort, but a skill that you must be proficient at. Being prepared is as much about mastering the basics as it is about being able to perform in the event that conditions dictate survival skills must be used.
Some quick pointers about low profile SCBA use:
–Know your air supply and that of your partner
–Never lose contact with your SCBA, it is highly suggested that you never lose contact with the SCBA strap that holds your regulator hose.
–Don’t over extend your arm when you push the SCBA ahead of you.
–Sound the floor before you enter the space as best you can
–If you have a hemet light, use it
–Stay in verbal contact with your partner
–If your in a situation that you must low profile or remove your SCBA, your probably in trouble, call the Mayday prior to removing your SCBA and entering a confined area reduced area.
–Conserve air and make sure you can access your radion at all times. Adjust your radio prior to low profiling.
As always, you must train on these techniques. Incorporate them into other SCBA training and become proficient in the capabilities and limitations of your equipment.
Take care and train hard, Jason.
This is a great drill from a great Brother and friend, Lance Peeples of the Webster Groves Fire Department in St. Louis County. Look for more great material from Lance in the future.
Daily Drill 1: Standpipe Operations
“The Daily Drill” is designed to spark discussion about operational issues in YOUR fire department. To do this we use photographs or videos depicting fire operations in other fire departments. We do not know the exact circumstances in which our Brothers in these fire departments are operating. Photos or videos are not intended to embarrass our BROTHERS and SISTERS but rather are intended to provide US with learning opportunities relevant to OUR specific operational framework. DON’TFOCUSONWHAT THEY’RE DOING…FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WOULD DO! Stay safe!
Watch the video below and answer the following questions:
1. Using the National Fire Academy Fire Flow Formula, what gpm would be required to extinguish a completely involved 500 square foot apartment fire?
How large of an undivided floor area is often found in high rise office buildings and what fire flow would be required there?
2. Under previous editions of NFPA 14 what was the minimum psi required to flow 500 gpm at the most remote riser?
3. What is the target gpm you are attempting to flow from your standpipe hose and nozzle combination? What psi must be available at the standpipe operation to supply that hose and nozzle combination in order to flow your desired attack flow?
4. The operation depicted showed using 4” supply line into the fire department connection. What is the working pressure limit of LDH used in your department? What is the elevation head pressure in a 30 story building? Are standpipe operations usually high flow or high pressure operations? Is using large diameter hose in FD standpipe connections a good idea?
5. What is the diameter of hose used in your standpipe pack? Is it an automatic/constant flow fog/smooth bore tip? What nozzle psi is required for its designed flow?
6. Will rust, scale, and other debris commonly found in standpipe systems pass through an automatic fog nozzle? Will rust, scale and other debris usually pass through an 1 1/8” smooth bore tip?
7. Can fire department pumpers ALWAYS be used to increase available pressure on the fire floor? What about damaged or missing FD connections? Pressure reducing and restricting valves? Missing piping or excessive head pressures?
8. At the One Merdian fire in Philladelphia on February 23, 1991 what was the length, diameter, and nozzle type (including psi/flow requirements) of the standpipe kits used by the fire department? Did this setup work? Why or why not?
9. What were the names of the Brothers that died at One Merdian that tragic day?
I always loved sports. I played just about every sport I could and eventually settled in with basketball and baseball. The coaches I had were always preaching the fundamentals and basics explaining that as players, we had to master the basics to the point that things like dribbling and passing were second nature. When those basics were mastered we were able to ascend our skill sets to seeing an open player before he is open and making moves on the fly, avoiding the defender with moves that were more challenging because we had a “feel” for the game.
The “feel” for the game allowed us to improvise and do things on the court that weren’t necessarily practiced. A defender stepping in front of us quickly, obstructing our passing lane may force us to make a behind-the-back pass. This is improvising with an advanced skill based on our most basic of skills: passing. Does the player get punished for this advanced skill? Probably not, especially if the outcome is a positive one.
When we get to an advanced level of skill sets, it typically comes from past experiences and hours upon hours of training. With that training and experience also comes the ability to recognize situations that are not typical. These non-typical situations will require us, if trained appropriately, to make the best possible decision for the best possible outcome. The mantra of always use two hands to pass and catch the ball with thumbs turned down may not work or be appropriate in a certain situation because the desired outcome is not going to be achieved.
The same can be said in the fire service. In recent weeks a Philadelphia firefighter made a heroic save and was faced with a decision to give the fire victim his air. There has been a great debate over the actions. I was recently asked by Eric Rhoden on his and Ray McCormack’s radio show what I thought about the incident and the reaction that followed. What came to me was a baseball situation.
We teach our kids to get square to the ball, get our glove to the ground, field the ball in the middle of our body/stance and to turn toward our target and so on. You get the point. But that doesn’t always get the out. Sometimes the fielder has to dive for the ball, getting dirty and bruised and maybe tossing the ball behind his back to get the out. Is there less margin for error? Yes. Is it taught that way? Not usually. Is it effective in certain situations? Absolutely!
There is one important variable however. You must be highly skilled and practice daily to make plays like that. You can’t just walk out onto the field and expect to perform at that level. I don’t know the firefighter in Philly that made the save, but my guess is that he is very competent with his SCBA and has mastered the basic skills surrounding his air supply. I would also guess that he is one that takes his craft very seriously and wants to perform at a high level for incidents just like the one he performed so heroically for.
I always teach that in the fire service there are no “always” and no ” nevers” because right when you think you have every situation covered, a call comes along that you never thought about. Ask yourself every day when you walk onto that engine bay floor, “Am I ready for the worst call of my career?” The conclusion I always come to is “No.” But, I train, drill or engage myself into the fire service every chance I get, just in case that call or situation comes along that requires something a little extra of me. Hopefully I will be ready to dive for that ball to make the play.
Finally, thanks to Ray and Erich for having me on and thanks again to Fire Engineering and everyone on the site, you all keep me engaged and excited about the fire service. Take care and stay cool during this hot summer. Be ready to dive for that ball.
Options. On the fireground, the more the better. When talking Firefighter Survival, presenting viable options will lead to success. Over the last few years, many great methods of self-rescuing have been taught to the Fire Service. The most important, is staying out of situations that lead to needing them, which is quality performance of the basics. However, after you still did everything right, it can still go bad. Having several techniques to self-rescue is critical to ensure success.
One such technique is what I call the Drywall Ladder. This method is performed by kicking and punching holes into the drywall to create a ladder. You would perform this to escape out of high window.
The standard residential window is 18”- 44” off the floor, if it meets fire code for escape. Windows higher than 44” are not for egress and are used for lighting and ventilation. To use these windows for self-rescue you have an option or two. The first option if you just need a little “boost”, use your hand-tool to create a step. Halligans work great for this task. Once you are over and out, just make sure to reach back in and grab your tool. If the window is too high, this option may not be feasible.
Another option, create a ladder in the drywall. The first step is to determine where the window goes and if refuge can be made. Next, kick a hole into the drywall about 8 inches off the ground then another about knee high. Make sure you create these holes approximately the same width apart as your legs. After the first two holes are created, punch two more holes several inches above the first two with your gloved hand. Think about the distance between two rungs on a ladder. Please use caution when using your body as a tool, consider where the studs are. Can you see the pattern? This method is a distance relative of rock climbing. Be sure to keep your weight on your feet to decrease effort.
- Call the mayday first and get help coming.
- Where is the window relative to fire conditions?
- Will you and your partner physically fit through the window?
- What type of glass/construction is the window?
- Will taking the window draw fire towards you?
Next time you are performing self-rescue maneuvers in training consider trying this method. The more options you have and can quickly utilize one in a self-rescue the better.
This is a video of a drill we do. It starts as a VES drill with the firefighter ascending the ladder and then clearing a window. The space is smoked up and the fierfighter enters, starting his search for the door. While he’s searching we throw a rug or piece of plywood ontop of them to demonstrate conditions deteriorating and making them exit fast to the window.
The intent is to force quick recognition to exit and to perform the ladder bail fast. We do this drill after evolutions of just ladder bail practice. This let’s them put their practice into real life type situations and to do it at full speed.
We have a new YouTube channel and we hope to start posting new videos.
Take a look at the pictures and think about getting water on the fire to the upper floor and/or making rescues. This building is one that is old and not sprinklered. It sits off of the road and aerial access is extremely limited, almost ineffective.
When looking at this type of building we need to consider the construction type, occupancy, access and egress points and any special hazards. What are our initial resources and what should we have coming on the way? This building is four stories and is a dormartory at a college. The corridor length is 225 from stairwell to stairwell. As you look at the building in the picture, the stairwell on the right is more remote from a parking surface than the one on the left. The elevation that you see in the picture from this side is the same on the opposite side.
There is a basement under this building with tunnels that lead to other campus buildings with limited access and egress where kids sneak away to do what kids sneak away to do. There is a great deal of combustible storage in these basements and tunnels.
Type 3 construction is the type of building we are dealing with and the interior has been altered over the years. There is an automatic alarm system but no standpipes. Water supply is limited; the closest hydrant is approximately 300 feet from where you would likely place first in companies and that hydrant, if laid from, would severely hinder access by other units because of only one access to the campus.
So, here we go……..what are your tactics and why? Watch the video and let everyone know what you would do and why. Use this for discussion purposes and relate it to buildings that you might have in your jurisdiction. Share your thoughts and ideas.
Train hard and we hope to see most of you at FDIC 2012 next week.
We have taught a lot of classes and trained extensively on numerous firefighter operations. One thing that always interests me is the choice of hand tools by firefighters. Each has their own preference and favorite, but in many cases when challenged as to why that specific tool is their tool of choice, the answer is not clear to them. Some are bound by the fact that they work on a truck, engine or squad.
Some are bound by their riding assignment based on what order they arrive on the scene. In many cases, however, they just pick what they want and what is convenient or easy to carry. This is dangerous and we encourage each firefighter to choose their tool with a purpose in mind.
When choosing your tool some things to consider are what your using it for, will it accomplish your tasks, is it durable and reliable and does it complement the tools of other members. I’m not here to tell you what tool to use, but I have some suggestions for you to consider when picking your too
l –Can you use it for forcible entry or forcible egress?
–Will it get the job your are assigned to do accomplished?
–Will it allow you to perform multiple functions with that tool? Is is versatile?
–Are you familiar and proficient with that tool? Do you train frequently with it?
–Will it complement what your team members are using?
This could be especially important for forcible entry and for being a more efficient team.
Take a look at the pictures and discuss the pros and cons of each tool. For example, I don’t like seeing guys coming off with a close hook. It is good for overhaul, but for forcible entry or breaching walls and getting out of a bad place, it’s not very useful. This is just my opinion. But, I have had firefighters pick that tool because it’s light and easy to carry. Make the tools that are preferred easy to access and train with them. Clean and inspect them on a regular basis. Take care of those tools. Get know their capabilities and their limitations. You have to get your hands on them. Discuss these options as a crew and/or company and share your thoughts. Take care and expect fire. Train hard!
Here is a quick look at a building that offers more than one considering in regards to construction characteristics. The building in the photos is currently a resale shop. This building has been a tack shop, lawn equipment, sold boats and trailers. If you look hard at the front, it has been added onto.
The right side of the building was the original and the left was an addition. The front and side walls are wood frame with a brick veneer. As you can see, there is a parapet wall on three sides of the building. Both sides have been rearranged multiple times on the interior to accommodate the occupant of the moment. The original roof was flat.
This side view shows some exterior doors and the brick veneer. We can also see the electric service and a boarded up window. This two doors lead to different areas of the building and are not adjoining. You can also see that the parapet wall appears to be very tall and of combustible material.
This is the rear view and the most telling about this building. We can see that the back wall is different from the other three walls. The back wall is of block. We can also see that the roof is a lean to type of construction and knowing the history of this building, it is a “rain roof” or “roof over” that covered an old flat roof.
We can also see the parapet wall is brick on the two side walls with support ties. We know that those connections are very likely going to fail during a fire. There is a lot of void space that could be difficult to get to due to the “rain roof” and early collapse of the parapet wall should be expected.
In addition, the importance of the block wall in the back is important for orientation as well. If we get inside and get to a wall that is block, we have a pretty good idea of where we are. We only would know this by pre-planning and/or doing our 360.
These are just a few of the considerations you must think of when presented with this building or one like it. Discuss this with your crews and identify buildings that are similar in your response areas.
Train hard, stay safe, and remember those who have fallen for the lives of others. Please especially remember the families of Chief Kyle Ienn, Firefighter Doug Haase, Chief David Flint, Fire Lt. Kevin West who all left us this week.
Here is a short video that you can use for a drill or training night. Feel free to use however you like. This is from a recent basement fire and what was looked for and what was done. There are some considerations to think about. This is not everything for all basement fires. Just a simple tutorial. Feel free to add your experience and ideas to this video.
I’ve done it and you’ve done it. It is going to happen again and it’s going to happen soon. With every line of duty death the Monday morning quarterbacks come out and tell us all what they should have or should not have done. We preach and teach to learn from these tragedies by understanding the circumstances surrounding the incident. But, what are we doing to make sure that this doesn’t happen?
Our job is dangerous. Worcester Fire Department is a highly trained department and according to some reports I have gotten, fight these types of fires every year. There are some additional factors like high winds and possibly illegal renovations that compromised the structural integrity of the building. Neither of these two factors can be anticipated or controlled. We have a job to do and when we are told that someone is in a building, we do what we can to get to them. As I write this I have not heard confirmation that there was or was not a victim found.
I have no doubt that we could dissect and scrutinize what happened and we would have done this or that differently. We will hear how simplistic it should have been and others pounding the table that we don’t enter buildings that are compromised. Guess what? As soon as that building catches fire it is compromised!
What frustrates me more is that in the fire service many are real good at solving problems after the fact and few try to identify and solve them before they are actualized. It’s not just judging the YouTube video or a line of duty death, no, it’s many things. “That guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.” “That guideline is outdated and inefficient.” “That small time volunteer fire department doesn’t know what they’re doing.” Of course, most of these “kitchen table experts” have no desire to be proactive or to put themselves out there to take the lead on a project to make a positive change.
Sometimes, and I’m not saying this is the case yet, things are not preventable. Sometimes we are going to lose. We hope not, but we are running into burning, compromised buildings to save lives and property. When someone comes to us and is telling us someone is in the building, if we can make a push, we will and we should. This is what we do and why we are here. There is no time to run down a check list to determine if a certain profile is met. We don’t have time to switch our size up decision making. We have to consider the situation presented to us at the time and use our training and experience to do our best to attempt a rescue.
But, if we do want to be Monday morning quarterbacks I suggest a different approach. Take your expertise and knowledge to some less fortunate departments in regards to resources for training and teach. Share your experience and knowledge with these departments and individuals to keep bad decisions being made on the fire ground. I believe that this is the best way to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for others. Whether there were mistakes or not, we can help to prevent those who don’t have resources to perform appropriately on the fire ground.
We recently did a class in a remote part of our state and had two firefighters arrive with some hand-me down gear and SCBA. Neither had worn the gear before and neither had ever had on an SCBA. They stated they had been fighting fire with self purchased boots, gloves and helmets. That’s it. Nothing more. This is still happening. We had to pull these two firefighters aside and walk them through some basics about gear and SCBA operations. We took extra time with them just to teach them basic firefighter skills. They were more than willing to learn and were eager.
The point is this: let’s put our efforts into training and teaching firefighters to operate safely instead of beating up departments, officers and firefighters after the fact. Can we learn from these tragic events? Absolutely! We should learn lessons in a constructive manner from not just tragic events, but from every call we run. There is always something to learn whether things went well or not so well.
Train, be tolerant and make a difference in a positive way. Stay safe and thanks for reading.
This short clip show balloon frame construction from the inside. With Engine House Training, LLC this summer, we had the opportunity to hold a class in this building. It was going to be torn down and the interior wall coverings in most of the house had been removed. That exposed the balloon frame construction characteristics that we so often speak of but seldom have the chance to see.
Use this however you like and share it. Hopefully, this will help someone to better understand the meaning of balloon frame buildings and to ensure proper tactics are used with these structures.
Keep training and pass on your knowledge to others. Share the gift.
I understand that all buildings, for various reasons, will not get a 360 performed on it during a fire. But, for those that we do get to job around, we need to understand what we are looking for.
I recently spoke with an acting officer and asked him what he was looking for when performing a 360. His answer was "fire." I asked what else? The answer came, "ways in." We need to make sure we are taking advantage of the information being made available to us while we are circling the building.
This post is going to focus on some basement indicators. The pictures shown below are just examples of things you might see when making the round. Keep in mind that at night you need to take a hand light. For example, the wood behind the basement windows below may not be noticeable with shining a light in the windows on the way around.
We must pay attention to what we are looking for when conduction the 360. As you can see, we may be faced with some very challenging situations. Not only do we need to be aware during the initial arrival, but the RIT will need this information as well.
As always, follow you own operational guidelines and train hard.
Check the upcoming radio show tomorrow night on "Taking it to the Streets" with Chris Naum. It is sure to be a great show and a good time. Here is some more information:
Please call in with your questions and get involved in the online discussions that always are part of the shows.
Stay safe and keep training hard.
This post is just a simple challenge of tactical considerations. The photos that are posted show a single-family house that had fire venting from the C/D corner when first units arrived. The first in crews could not make the entire hallway on the first push do to intense heat and smoke.
The smoke was banked almost to the floor even with the fire venting from that corner bedroom.
What are some considerations that must be looked at with this fire? What would be your next plan of action? Why ist there so much heat and smoke with the fire venting the exterior? What is your size up?
Share your thoughts and answers with everyone and use this as discussion with your crew.
As always, train hard and stay safe,
We know the importance of inspections and identifying hazards in the buildings that we serve and respond to. This is just a simple reminder of one hazard that depending on it's location in the building, can be missed.
Combustible storage under stairs or in the stairwell can cause some serious problems. Even in sprinklered buildings this is a hazard.
The pictures you seeshows a pile of combustible storage in the stairwell and under the stairs in a hotel. You can also see that this is in the means of egress area next to the exit door.
Smoke from a fire from these combustible materials can make the use of the stairwell almost impossible and access for firefighters difficult. Occupants are expected to use the stairs during a fire and a large mass of people filling a smoke filled stairwell is disastrous.
This building also is equipped with standpipes in the stairwells, so making that connection would be difficult for fire crews trying to make the connection.
Keep an eye on your buildings and explain this situations to your crews to impress the importance of inspections and mitigating these hazards before they become problems.
Train hard and stay safe.
We have discussed standpipes in the past, but I think it is worth mentioning again. Standpipes in large and high rise buildings are our water source. It is important to know the location of these devices and to ensure that they are not obstructed.
In addition we need to know and understand if they have pressure reducing devices and how that affects our operations. Study up on these systems and know how to adapt and trouble shoot the stand pipes in your area.
The picture shown is a stand pipe in a hotel. I went to ice in the hotel I was staying in and this was right next to the ice machine. I didn't measure it, but this standpipe would be very difficult to connect to. Additionally, if we did get connected with hose only, there would certainly be a kink at the coupling, further reducing our pressure.
This might be a time when we would try to put an elbow on the connection prior to connecting our hose. However, I think that with this particular standpipe connection, it would be a stretch just to get the elbow connected as well.
Know your buildings and their systems. Prepare for these types of problems and come up with solutions before you have a fire. Thanks for reading and train hard.
We all know that it is easy to fall into a rut when it comes to training and even operating at what is labeled the "routine" call. Especially for those that are in suburban, mostly bedroom communities.
If your like most of the country, you pull past the house to get three sides, stretch a pre-connected hand line and make entry into the front door. Does this sound familiar to anyone? And, more times than not, this works just fine.
However, sometimes the bigger issue becomes where to take the second line? What apparatus does it come from and what size should it be? What about the length?
For most single-family, single story homes, line placement becomes mundane and we get a bit complacent. The second line many times gets pulled from the same rig as the attack line and goes in the same door as the attack line.
Again, I prefer a seconday apparatus for the back up line, but in most house fires the front door is appropriate for the back up line too. Of course, it all depends on what is taking place and many other variables as well.
One of the biggest problems I see quite often is on two story house fires. The first line goes to the fire up stairs and the back up line is at the door. One of the primary concerns is the integrity of those stairs. That second line needs to go to the stairs to protect the egress for the crew operating on the second floor.
The same has to be done if you have an attack team on the first floor and a search team on the second; a line needs to be deployed to the stairs. We must protect that egress point. In addition, note changing conditions to the search team and the attack team. Maybe the fire has spread or can't be found by the attack team and your observations are important.
What are your operational guidelines for the back up line? Share you experiences and thoughts.
As always, stay safe and train hard.
With the recent posts about the anniversary of the Colerain-Township LODD from 2008, I thought I would provide some thoughts about basements and some of the things we can do to better prepare.
It recent years it seems we hear a lot about firefighters being killed and injured in residential fires where the basement was involved. There are a few reasons for this including changing building construction as in the use of engineered i-joists and the heavy fire loads that we have in basements. In addition, most houses with basements don't just use them for storage anymore. Basements are used as active living spaces increasing activity, heating and electrical demands that were not always present in the past.
One thing that we can do to help prevent some of these issues is to know what we are dealing with. Probably one of the most important tasks a fire officer can do when arriving on the scene of a residential fire is to complete a 360 walk around of that building. This gives us information we cannot obtain by darting for the front door.
By seeing all four sides of the fire building we can see if the seat of the fire is in the basement and may allow us a more direct attack from the same level as the fire reducing the chances of floor failure. We are also able to see hazards that impede our egress if a quick escape is necessary. It gives us an idea of our options for ventilation and fire control.
The pictures show some of the hazards that we can find and keep mind of during our 360. Exterior stair wells are altered and secured causing us difficulty making an egress. This is a perfect time for the first due officer to relay these findings to the next due or the RIT crew. These other units should cut locks, open bulk heads and make sure the egress points of the basement are accessible.
Additionally, we need to know the characteristics of the buildings in our still area. This is a picture of a house that is approximately 50 years old and the stairs to the basement are in the garage. Not knowing this could put our initial attack team at risk by searching the main level while fire is burning under them increasing the chances of a failure. Some of these homes have no outside exit and we must protect the stairs for the basement crew just like we would for a crew that ascend to a floor above us.
Take some time to look around your area and discuss these issues with your crew. Prepare your newer members for that thermal layer as you descend the stairs into a basement. We all know what that first experience is like. Train hard and don't forget to do that 360, it may just save your life.
Train hard and stay safe,
Some devastating fires have occurred in commercial cooking establishments. We all know the history of fast food restaurant fires and the toll they can have on a fire department if the fire is not found early.
Kitchen suppression systems are designed to activate to limit the effects of a grease fire in these establishments. It is important to note that when these fires occur and the system is activated, the return air should shut off and the hood vent should activate if it is not already on.
When these systems are designed they are equipment specific. Meaning that the flow points are determined by the type of cooking appliance and its location under the hood and suppression system. Moving or replacing any appliance requires reevaluation of the system and could mean an alteration to keep the system adequate.
As you can see in the picture, the appliance shown has wheels. This could create a problem in the future when the ownership wants to move things around a bit and could be detrimental to the effectiveness of the system. One suggestion is to adopt a local ordinance that requires these wheels to be removed or locked. I have seen it both ways and it is up to your jurisdiction on how to do that.
Secondly, you want to ensure that the suppression system is hooked into a monitored fire alarm system or on a direct dial alarm system. We, the fire department, want to know if this system activates. Even if the system puts the fire out, there is a possibility of fire being pulled into the vent duct. If there are any penetrations or gaps in that duct, fire could smolder above for a long time or it could be burning the uncleaned grease. We also want to make sure that if that system activates it gets put back in service appropriately and prior to cooking commencing again.
In the video it shows a "dump" test where we make sure that the correct amount of product is being flowed and that all utilities are shut off with the activation.
I know this is not a tactical post, but it gives you a little insight of why these systems are important. I may not have touched on all of the aspects of these systems, so if you have additional comments or suggestions, please feel free to comment.
Thanks, stay safe and be careful.
We are continuing to look at the different types of construction and the characteristics of each. This post will outline considerations of Type IV or Heavy Timber construction.
Heavy timber construction is a type of construction we don’t see popping up in new buildings very often. However, there are still a great many buildings that are or were Type IV construction in our jurisdictions. We need to identify these buildings in both circumstances.
True heavy timber construction does not have void spaces. It is built with masonry or brick exterior walls with large diameter, six inches and more, interior structural components. There have been debates about how these large beams and structural elements hold up to fire and some have found the large diameter wood components to hold up longer than steel. The reason for this is that the steel will elongate and deform at around 1000 degrees and is prone to failure at that point. The large diameter components may burn, but they hold their integrity longer than the time it takes for steel to deform. Obviously, there are variables, but an interesting bit of information.
These fires burn hot and for a long time. These are typically large buildings and have an additionally large fire load, making extinguishment difficult. Many times we find these buildings in more urban areas and in highly dense locals. However, churches and resort lodges are common places for this type of construction. Exposure protection is of the utmost importance and establishing an effective collapse zone is important.
When these building get remodeled and are altered, they can then be considered Type III construction. The reason for the Heavy Timber classification is the benefit of the extended time of burning and the lack of void spaces. We lose some of that as false ceilings and new framed walls and floors are added to create lofts or office space. Just something to consider because you will need to plan accordingly for the interior changes that are being made to these types of buildings.
Train hard, master the basics and have plan before you go to battle. Stay safe.
Lodge picture from Vermont Timber Works, visit them at vermonttimberworks.com
This is a little off the beaten path for me and my blogs, but it is something that I have been paying more attention to lately. I have been laid up from a hernia repair and have been reading and doing a little research for other projects and it occurred to me that I utilize the same three books on a regular basis.
No matter what level you are at in the fire service, you should be building a decent sized library of fire/emergency related books. This is one more method to staying sharp and on top of your game. Having quality information to turn to for those forgotten tricks of the trade or to remember a characteristic of a certain type of construction is paramount and makes you a better firefighter.
Here are the three books that I use on a regular basis and why.
1. “Building Construction for the Fire Service,” 3rd Edition, by Francis L. Brannigan.
This book was one I got during the mid 90′s for a college course and I have it highlighted, marked and it is never too far from my grasp. The great thing about this book is that it has never gotten outdated. The information is still relevant and insightful. This is definitely one book that should be on your shelf.
Make sure you look at the “Tactical Considerations” in the chapters that give some ideas on how to apply the lessons to firefighting tactics.
2. ”Collapse of Burning Buildings: A Guide to Fireground Safety,” by Vincent Dunn
This book has a great deal of content that is covered in Brannigan’s book but more directly applied to the collapse of these buildings. Chief Dunn goes into great detail how these buildings collapse and the problems that different types of collapses cause.
The illustrations are great examples for those that need some visual help and you can apply this information immediately as a firefighter and fire officer. This book is a great tool to have company discussions with. Sit down with your crew and pick a chapter or topic and start playing out scenarios in your jurisdiction where these dangers exist.
3. “Safety and Survival on the Fireground,” by Vincent Dunn.
This book is everything firefighting. Just about anything that you want to know about firefighting is in here. The great thing is that the information is short, to the point and easy to apply to situations.
Keeping these books and others within reach is a good way to stay engaged. These resources gives you valuable information at your fingertips when you need it. It is also a good way to pass on information to others and to have meaningful conversation about “fire stuff.”
Stay safe and keep your mind on the task at hand, becoming a better firefighter.
Other places to get books for the fire service:
These are just a few, if you know of others, please let us know.
This marks the 6th anniversary of the Black Sunday fire in New York City. Two brothers, Lt. Curtis Meyran and Lt. John Bellew. Four other firefighters were severely injured after jumping out of the fourth floor of an apartment building, Firefighters Jeff Cool, Lt. Joe DiBernardo, Firefighter Eugene Stolowski and Firefighter Brendan Cawley to escape severe fire conditions.
These men’s families and own lives have been forever changed and we need to honor their sacrifices and learn from the events that happen at that fire. This fire could happen to any of us. Train hard, honor the fallen and remember the lives and families left behind.
Stay safe and train hard.