Archives for building-construction
Here are some more pictures from my A Shift buddies, Jim, Bob and Dave at Florissant Valley Fire Protection District. These photos show the challenges of just getting into some of our buildings. It's a lot easier to get a good look at the working mechanisms and traits of these obstacles during daylight and in non-emergent situations.
Take time to know what is behind these doors and grates. What are they protecting and how secure are they? Is just a matter of prying bolts out of the brick and concrete or are they really seated into the building? Now is the time to find out.
One note, the pic with the bars is actually a smoking lounge for an adjacent bar. Access is made from inside the building but it looks like a different occupancy. Don't wait until it's smokey and dark.
Read the doors and try to identify characteristics that can indicate foricible entry challenges. Do the doors swing out or in? Are the hinges exposed or protected? Is the jamb protected?
These are also important for RIT operations, to read the building and soften it up for interior crews if a company has not already done so.
Stay alert and get out and look around. You'll be surprised what you'll find.
Hey, here are some pictures sent to me by a Brother who is going out the DOING the job. The whole job. He and his crew are getting out and checking on things. Bob gets IT and thanks for the pics. These are in his still area and these are buildlings that get inspected and then they go right back to doing this kind of stuff. We have to be prepared for everything and anything. Imagine being the RIT and forcing the back door to make access for a Mayday and dealing with the mattresses? Look at the pictures and just imagine and discuss the challenges that you would face in those situations. Not to mention patrons trying to evacuate a smoke filled building.
Stay sharp and get out of that chair. This is important stuff, don't put it off. I'm a huge proponent of training on line deployment, search, vent, and all the rest. This is just as important. Stay safe and keep training.
Thanks to Bob Tresch for the pics and making a difference by sharing.
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.
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.
This is another video I put together. I have been getting positive feedback on this format, so I will continue to do this.
We are addressing some concerns and challenges with apartment fires. This building is of the garden apartment style but this same type of building can be a stand alone as well.
As always, this is not the only considerations when looking at apartment fires. Follow your guidelines and get out to your response areas to become familiar with similar buildings.
Until next time, stay safe and ring those bells tomorrow and say a prayer for all of the fallen and their families.
Looking at these pictures shows us a building of ordinary construction. These are usually older buildings and the building we see is typical of many downtown areas. This particular building has storefronts on the main level with multi-family units above.
What are the main characteristics of ordinary construction and how do they relate to fire operations?
What are some problems we face with this type of building in many downtown areas that will cause us concern?
What are the challenges with apparatus placment, not just with this buildling, but with many small, downtown buildings?
What are our challenges in regards to exposures and how do we address them?
These are just a few issues we face with this type of building. It is important to be prepared for a fire in this type of occupancy. It will be challenging, especially late at night when that upstairs is occupied and as you can see, access is not necessarily fast.
Share your thoughts and experiences and as always, train hard and thanks for reading.
I spend a lot of time looking at buildings and thinking about "how would I do this or that" and what kinds of challenges would exist should a fire happen. It drives my wife nuts! You know what I mean? You go to an establishment or an event and you are looking around for exits, sprinklers, fire alarms and just the general layout of the building.
It is good for us to identify these different characteristics on a frequent basis. Even if it isn't in your area, I believe it keeps you sharp. It's like practicing all of the things you have learned in your head. Granted, you aren't manipulating a tool or pulling a line, but you can do all of those things in your head. What would you do with this type of door? How about this wierd little addition and the ventilation problems that it poses? These are all considerations you can do any time and any where.
Here a few pictures from a recent trip to Nashivelle, TN. We were walking back from LP Field after the half-marathon and this building was right next to the pedestrian bridge we were on. I stopped and started taking pictures and thinking. Of course I got behind and my wife had to explain to everyone else in the group that I was a just a wierd firefighter who does this all of the time.
Take a look and share what you see and all of the different considerations and challenges that could be recognized during a fire in this buillding.
Take care and train hard.
The next type of construction that we are going to talk about is Type V, or wood frame construction. This is the most commonly used type of construction in most jurisdictions. This type of construction is typically associated with residential occupancies, namely single-family dwellings, but many commercial buildings are now built using wood frame construction.
Years ago, wood frame meant real dimensional lumber. A 2×4 was really a two inch by four inch piece of wood. Roof systems were stick built with rafters of dimensional lumber that were connected with a ridge beam. We forget that this traditional type of construction is wood frame. Balloon frame is also a type of wood frame.
We have just gotten so ingrained that wood frame mean light weight, or now commonly known as “low mass” construction. This “low mass” construction uses engineered products that makes construction faster and cheaper to build. Although these components like engineered I-joists and roof truss systems are very strong for the engineered loads, they fail miserable during fire conditions.
We just need to remember the hazards and myths of this type of construction. One is that if one truss fails they all fail. I like to ask the classes that I teach if any of them has seen a house constructed with wood truss systems with a part of the roof burnt off and the rest of it still intact? The answer is always yes.
I am not saying that these truss systems are safe, quite the contrary. All I am saying is that we need to keep our firefighters educated about these systems. I know there are some chiefs and instructors upset with some of this, but we can operate on and under these roofs with some careful size-up and thoughtful tactics. One thing I have learned in the fire service; never use the words never or always. There is always a circumstance or situation that will challenge both.
Now, characteristics about this type of construction. There are void spaces everywhere and these components use a lot of glue to help keep them together. These buildings are getting bigger on the residential side and this construction type is very popular for many commercial buildings like fast food joints, restaurants and strip malls.
Something we need to keep in mind also is that some of these wood frame buildings look like masonry or brick, or type 3 buildings. These are just veneers and we need to understand the challenges dangers associated with that. Masonry and brick veneers can easily collapse of the foundation and still kill or seriously injure firefighters.
Pay attention to your area and be familiar with the buildings you may have to operate in. Know the different characteristics of the construction types and the challenges each one poses for us operationally.
Train hard and stay safe.
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
Lately we have been discussing different types of construction. So far we have covered the characterisitics of Type I and Type II construction. This is some really basic rookie school stuff, but it is so important to be able to identify these different building charaecteristics. We know that fire behavior is directly linked to the type of construction and the fuels invovled. It also plays a major role in determining our tactics as company officers and firefighters on the fireground.
So, a quick review of what we have covered so far:
Type I or Fire Resistive is protected, non-combustible construction. Typcially steel and concrete with it’s structural components protected with fire resistant materials to meet or exceed two hour fire ratings.
Type II or Non Combustible is just that, non combustible construction. It’s structural components are not protected by fire resistive materials, but can be sprinklered. These too are usually built with steel and concrete, similar to Type I construction but without the fire resistant protection.
On to Type III construction. Type III construction is also referred to as Ordinary construction and is very common in a great deal of our older downtown areas. It is not limited to those areas but this was the primary method of building during the early and middle part of the 20th century.
This type of construction is identified by masonry or brick exterior walls with wood joists and interior structural components. Type III construction is very rarely protected with sprinklers and they have concealed spaces. These buildings in many communities have been remodeled and altered due to the age and use of the building, so concealed spaces are a real concern.
During a fire the interior structural components are attacked and failure of these components can cause an exterior wall to fail at the same time. The joists, for example, will rest in the masonry or brick wall and may be used to support the exterior walls. When these joists fail or burn out, they can compromise the support of the exterior wall it is connected to.
Here are some pictures that show some Type III construction.
Take a look at your area and determine where your different types of construction are. Discuss and plan for fires at those buldings and how you would operate at each one. What are some different challenges each pose for you as a firefighter or company officer operationally?
Train hard and remember, master the basics.
We recently took a look at Type I construction and the characteristics associated with it. Basically, Type I construction is also referenced as fire resistive construction. The question always becomes, what is fire resistive?
We have to remember that a Type I building has structural components that are non-combustible and then is rated, usually at two hours or higher. In addition, the components are commonly protected. This protection comes from fire resistive products applied to the structural components.
So, what is Type II construction. The easiest way to define a Type II building is that is has the same structural characteristics as a Type I in that it is non-combustible construction. The major difference is that it is not protected.
For example, in a Type I building we will see columns and beams covered with fire resistive spray on material as seen in the first picture. In a Type II building these columns and beams are not protected and will be exposed during a fire.
A Type II building can be sprinklered but is still considered Type II based on the rating of the structural components. A rule of thumb is typically a Type II building will have rating requirements of one hour or less. A Type I building will require a rating of components of two hours or more. Again, this is a rule of thumb and not always the case in all examples and codes.
Just remember, that the structural components will be attacked quickly in Type II buildings because they are not protected with any fire resistive materials.
I know this is pretty basic stuff but I find it to be a good reminder of what we are looking at when we get around to these buildings. Chiefs and company officers must know the differences and be able to expect the building to react certain ways based on the type of construction. We all know that the building type and materials can affect how we attack the fire and deploy our people.
Stay safe and be careful.
Thoughts and prayers with the CFD and all families and friends affected.
We hear it all of the time in the fire service and many of us agree; we don’t spend enough time training and learning building construction and fire behavior. So, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here is a short lesson on Type I construction, or otherwise referred to Fire Resistive construction.
This first picture shows all non-combustible structural components of an addition to our local hospital. This is the basement, but the floor above is of similar design with interior wall studs of metal.
The floor above is concrete on metal decking, which you can see in this first picture.
You have a steel column, a steel beam with metal bar joists as the primary structural components with the exterior walls all of concrete.
As I mentioned before, the floor above is the same with the exception of the exterior walls being non-combustible metal stud walls.
Here is the same area from a different angle with a fire resistive coating sprayed on the structural members.
The data cable that you see is plenum rated and is for the computer and communications networking inside the facility.
In addition to the spray coating, the entire facility is fully sprinklered and has a monitored alarm.
The spray coating is designed to be applied to a specific thickness depending on the rating that is being achieved. Normally, and in this instance, a third party inspector is present to randomly inspect the thickness and provides a report to the building commissioner and the fire marshal.
What characteristics of this type of construction are important when sizing up a building like this?
What are some tactical importances in regards to operating at this building or one of Type I construction?
If you have any experiences or suggestions to add, please post them.
Stay safe and train hard,
We recently had a fire in an apartment complex. The apartments all have exterior entrances independent of each other. They are two stories in height and the landings from the upper floor units are unprotected treated lumber.
These were built prior to my current position and I don’t remember what year they were built, but I am guessing that they are about 12 years old. The fire started in a plastic planter that was next to the door and had what the tenant called “very old” potting soil in it. The tenant used the planter as a receptacle for her cigarettes.
As the fire grew, it spread to the vinyl siding and got into the soffit and on into the attic. Luckily the tenant happened to wake up and noticed a glow on the porch; no smoke detectors were activated and the unit next door was vacant.
All occupants escaped with no injuries and fire crews quickly arrived and made a good find and stop.
When they started doing overhaul they noticed something a little different about the fire barrier between the two units.
As you look at the picture below, you will notice in the upper right hand side of the photo the charred truss chase that did not extend to the left due to the draft stopping.
However, this could have been worse because this should have been a continuous fire barrier between the two units. In addition the draft stopping should be protecting both sides of the truss shown.
The problem that the builder ran into was that the truss did not line up with the separation wall and the code official at the time either missed it or let it slide.
It was a good example of how these measures work. It was also a good opportunity to show the building manager how it worked and why it is important to do these things right.
If you get a chance to look at some of these buildings as they are going up, do so and look for these types of building components and fire stopping. Oh, the ceiling did have the proper rating with two sheets of drywall.
Also, that wire is a breach or penetration in the fire barrier/draft stop and should be fire stopped with rated, UL listed caulk.
Stay safe out there and be careful.
I recently received an email with some pictures attached to it. The pictures were taken by Victor Dane, a firefighter in St. Louis County. He took these pictures not far from where he works and has been kind enough to share.
As you can see, these are shipping/storage containers that are being stacked and pushed together to create a building. Here is what Victor says about the containers and what they are being used for:
There was a Night Club called City Slickers. It burned down and the owner wanted a building that would be fire proof and bullet proof. These are whole cargo shipping containers. There will be some rooms in these containers I was told. The builder told me building with these containers is very common in the South. I need to get updated photos now. The building now has siding all over it. You can not tell it is a metal building. I hope the local FD remembers this if it burns again. The walls will be very difficult to breech.
As soon as I get updated photos I will pass them along. We need to remember that with the economy and other factors, contractors and builders will cut corners however necessary to save a buck. We need to also remember why it is so important to get out and know our area.
I post the importance of this frequently, but I just don’t think you can emphasize it enough. You must know what is going on in your jurisdiction.
Make it interesting and stop at a building and put up your ladder just for practice. Sit and consider the obstacles or water supply issues with a certain area or complex. Just get out and do it.
What will happen to the heat in this make shift building?
How will ventilation happen with the over roof?
There are a number of issues that must be identified and put into tactical considerations. List your concerns and tactics for this building.
I recently was in downtown St. Louis with my family for a day with the kids before school started. We were across the street from the building in the picture.
What you see in this picture is just a row of windows, right? Well, they are labeled, which is nice because if they weren’t there could be big problems.
You can see in the second picture that the labels identify this as an elevator shaft. This is a heads up move for the building department and/or fire department for requiring this labeling.
Just imagine trying to make entry or counting dwelling/unit windows for RIT or emergency escape and finding out about this later.
This is just another example of knowing your area and the unique construction methods that are used.
Get in your buildings and be familiar. Had these not been labeled and a significant fire broke out here, this could have caused some serious problems.
Just for fun, what kinds of problems can we identify as a result of these windows not being labeled? I look forward to hearing some great ideas.
Stay safe and be careful.
I am a big fan of companies getting out and scoping out their response area. Just when you think you have seen it all, something catches your eye that you missed the other 100 times you passed it by. We all know what I am talking about.
Look at the picture above. As a fire service leader, what do you see? What have you learned from your years of experience and training about these types of buildings?
What is of significance that you see right away but the new guy might not have a clue about?
As an officer that will be making the initial decisions on this building you have a great responsibility to know as much about this structure as you can. It will certainly help you to make the best possible decision about your tactics.
Take the time to sit with your crews and look at the features of this building. What type of construction is it? What type of occupancy is it? Why are both so important? It just might mean the difference of saving the occupants and yourself.
Stay safe and be careful.
These pictures show how buildings are altered over the years and with change of ownership and/or occupancy type.
You can see that what used to be windows are now bricked in.
This is very common on older buildings that had numerous windows and in some cases they are not very efficient. Owners will frame or brick them in just to eliminate the problem all together.
The problem is we don’t know what the inside sill and frame-out of the inside of the window is like.
This is important to note when your doing your 360 or pre-planning.
When firefighters become lost or disoriented we are taught to find a window or door on an outside wall. The inside of this building may feel like windows to the gloved hand, but in reality it has been blocked up.
A firefighter may spend a great deal of time and energy trying to get out the “window” and not move on to an actual egress point.
Keep these things in mind and get to know your area. We probably all have these buildings with these feature changes in our area and we have an obligation to point these out to our newer firefighters. Stay prudent and be involved in your jurisdiction’s building construction and occupancy types.
Stay safe and keep cool.
This is a good video on operating a typical elevator. I understand that there are many different types of elevators and different operating methods, but most are very similar to this. You can have different types of keys but the systems should be pretty standard.
Now some of the older elevators can have less options and safety features, so get familiar with the elevators in your jurisdiction. This is something I have seen firefighters struggle with, believe it or not, because they have never had any hands on experience with them.
Get out and use some of these and no how to use them before you have to.
Stay safe and be careful.
When I first saw this picture one particular characteristic caught my attention.
In my area, and I am sure it is the same in many other jurisdictions, people are trying to do more with what they have.
We are finding more families living together and they must make some accomodations for those added individuals. What I am referring to is the garage being converted into living space.
I understand that this is not unusual and the practice can make a really nice family room or large master bedroom. The difference we have been seeing is that they still look like garages from the outside. When’s the last time you searched the garage as part of your primary search?
Just be aware and consider this on your next fire. This also is a reason you need to stay familiar with your area. And, the next time your on a “routine” residential fire, you might just want to check the garage.
Stay safe and be careful.
With the fire service and others taking this day and weekend to remember the Charleston 9, along with other high profile LODD, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look at how we can specifically apply the recommendations that were listed in the report on the Charleston Super Sofa Fire.
I am going to do this just one at a time and I will likely take several weeks to cover them all. It is very likely that some will intermingle with others, and will be covered together.
Today I want to look at pre-incident planning. For me, this starts with when the building is being built. In reality, it is a combination of both, during construction and visits and regular intervals.
conduct pre-incident planning inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate development of safe fireground strategies and tactics
Today, we stopped in on a new restaurant. As you can see from the photo it is all light weight, engineered construction.
The comment was made that we need not enter this building if it burns. Well, in an ideal world that is correct.
The fact is is that we just don’t know what we will be tasked with doing if this building catches fire. We can’t predict what time of day or who will or will not be in it. What we can do, however, is know what this building is made of and the hazards associated with those materials and products of construction.
We also must be prudent in our tactics when arriving, like lifting ceiling tiles before we get too far in the building, looking for fire running above us.
This visit provided some great information aside from the type of construction and those hazards associated with them. First, the building is completely sprinklered. That is a plus. We located the FDC and the nearest hydrant. Both good things.
We found that this concealed space had sprinklers dropped down to the ceiling level, but none were in the space or immediately above it. An easy place for fire to spread quickly.
As we discussed earlier in the post, most would say we don’t need to enter this building. In theory I agree, but we never know what we are facing when we arrive.
Something that we learned was that there is an area on the east side of this building, Side D, that is built with dimensional lumber and is sprinklered as well. The roof construction is not truss and the walls are all dimensional studs. What can we take away from this?
We discussed that if there needed to be an attempt to make entry, it would be best to try to take a stand from this area. It is not part of the rest of the roof system and will likely hold up a little longer with the dimensional lumber.
Another idea was that RIT would be staged near this entrance if there would happen to be interior crews making a rescue or knocking down what was perceived as a small fire. They know that there is a straight shot to the middle of the building through a more secure type of construction.
With all that being said, accessibility to the building needs to be looked at; where will multiple units be staged? Where will you place ladders and are there overhead dangers?
It is important to look at all of these factors to make a good decision based on prior knowledge. We also understand that Plan A doesn’t always work so have a Plan B ready based on the planning you did on the building.
There are many other components about pre-incident planning that I didn’t mention, but hopefully you get the point. Get out and visit these sites. Be involved and have discussions about how you would perform at a fire here.
Above all, don’t let the lives lost at any LODD be lives lost in vain. Learn from their mistakes, but don’t be critical, we have all screwed up and been lucky enough to get away with it. Be constructive and train on the recommendations so that you don’t repeat history.
Stay safe and please, never forget those lost in the line of duty. We owe them our promise to train hard and to learn from them.
I was out of town most of this past week for class and noticed this building on the first morning I drove in.
The first morning they had only installed the wall to the “r” in Performing. The second day I realized that I needed to snap a picture of this to share.
This false wall is about four stories tall and covers the entire length of the building.
As you can see, this wall definately would challenge any rescue efforts were there victims in the windows.
Not only will it hamper rescue efforts, performing ventilation or suppression from this side of the building would be challenging at best.
The frame of the false wall is set off of the building wall at a distance of approximately two feet. That is just a guess, but operating ground ladders here is almost impossible.
Interior crews would need to know that this side is limited access and egress because of the wall. It will certainly challenge our strategies and tactics should an incident happen here.
This is one good example of why you need to get out and see your area. Know what’s going on and get involved. As a crew you can preplan this building by just parking out front, take a picture or two and go back and have a discussion about how you would operate at this building.
Stay safe and be careful.
This is a picture of some light weight trusses being set on a commercial building.
As you look at this building you can see that it seems to be a series of stores or spaces in a commercial building. Most likely a strip mall type building.
In the old days, these were block buildings with steel roof components, structurally speaking. They were fairly sturdy buildings, still not great, but heavier construction.
Now, it is all light weight wood. No doubt they will put a facade on this building that looks like rock or brick, but it is a house of commercial occupancies. It is also easy to see how fast a fire in the concealed space will consume those truss members, causing very early failure.
In addition, remember what goes on top of these buildings; HVAC units.
Just be aware of what is in your area. Stop by and look at these buildings. Make sure they are properly building fire barriers and walls with penetrations fire stopped.
Use your training and common sense when these buildings burn, they are dangerous in today’s fire service.
Take care and stay safe.
Look for this in commercial and residential structures. The way that this beam is pocketed will allow it to fail much faster than normal.
As we all know, these beams support much of the center of the building with floor joists resting on them.
Steel will deform and twist and this beam will meet little, if any, resistance during a fire. I understand that a pocket of concrete will not keep this beam from dislodging, but it there is a reason for properly pocketing these beams.
Not to mention a small tremor or bump from equipment or remodeling can compromise the stability of the beam.
Just one more thing to keep an eye on when doing inspections, especially during construction.
Stay safe and be careful.