Burning down the house!!

It seems that there has been a rash of fires that start off very manageable, but end up as parking lots. The fires range from 1 story house fires to garden style apartment fires. There are 3 that stick out in my mind. All the fires were in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Two were house fires and one was a garden apartment fire. I will briefly run through the incidents, and then give my reasons why the got out of hand. 1. A 2 story house in an up-scale neighbor hood that is hydrated. Units arrived on the scene with heavy fire showing from the 2nd floor and fire through the roof. When all was said and done the evacuation tone was sounded which resulted in the roof gone and the 2nd floor gutted. the fire was bought under control with the tower ladder. No firefighter injuries 2. A small 1 story house in an upper middle class neighborhood. units arrived on the scene with heavy fire on the exterior front porch, and a room off in the house in the front. When all was said and done the porch the front bedroom half of the living room and part of the attic and roof was destroyed. No firefighter injuries. 3. A 4 story garden apartment. Units arrived on the scene with smoke showing from the bottom floor apt. The officer called the fire knocked approx. 10min later. About 15min after that report command called for a task force. About 5 min. after that request, a 2nd alarm was called then a 3rd then a 4th. When all was said and done 6 hours later 8 units were gutted by fire and collapse and another 8 units were destroyed by smoke and water. What caused the fire to win in all 3 situations? I know you have your ideas already, but it is very simple. Poor tactics. On all 3 fires only one 3″supply line was laid. At best you can hope to get 350 to 400 gpm out of one 3″ supply line. Most times only one engine will be on side 1 (front) if you pull 2 attack lines flowing 200 gpm you are done it is important to know that the 2nd line is for the 2 out. When you arrive on the scene and you have a large amount of fire or heavy smoke showing you should be thinking 180 to 200 gpm right off the bat. This means that if you are using 3″ supply line you need to put 2 lines down!! This has to be drilled into every officers head. Playing catch up is a loosing battle on the fire ground. So you will have to repack more hose when your done. DON’T BE LAZY!! On 2 of the fires no truck work was done until the fire had a head start in the structure. All you truckies out there must pull ceilings while the attack is in progress. If you wait until the smoke clears to pull walls and ceilings, you will be playing catch up if there is fire in the voids, attack or cockloft. Most trucks carry different lengths of hooks. This means there is no reason why you cant pull ceilings from your knees. Is this hard work? Yes, but we are firefighters, better yet we are TRUCKIES!! this is our job. The truck companies need to pull ceilings right from the start, the extension of a fire will be stopped at the area of origin. Lets look at the garden apartment fire. How did a small room and contents fire on the bottom floor burn down an entire apartment building. Some of you already have the answer. It is called Garden Apartment Fires 101. All the units are stacked on top of each other, this means that the kitchen in apt. 101 is the same as 201, 301, 401. The same is true for the bathrooms. This means that they share void spaces for water and vent pipes. When fire penetrates this common void the truck companies MUST!!! open all the voids in the fire apt. and the floors above. Dry wall is cheap pull it down. This did not happen and the result was lots of fire damage Here is the kicker. At the critique the officer of the first due engine said she saw smoke at the roof line, but never reported this to the IC. Remember the fire was in the bottom floor apt. People this is a classic sign on fire in the voids. On all the fires, the first attack line was a 1 3/4″ attack line. Yes this is a good start for an attack. But the 2 house fires I talked about, there was heavy fire showing. One of the houses was a large (3000 sq ft plus) with heavy fire showing. We as officers should be thinking more water like a 2″ or even a 2 1/2. You may be thinking this is over kill, but I would rather error on the side of too much water than not enough. Right now in my county there is a law suit because we burned down a house due to poor tactics and poor command. I have seen a fire in a large 5000 sq ft house start in the laundry room on the 1st floor and end with the entire house in the basement. The IC should write the family a check for their house right on the spot. Lets get back to the basics, good engine work and great truck work. Take the time to do a good size up. Put hose on the street, look at the rear. Pull a line that will give you the water you need if the fire gets bigger while you are pushing down the hall. Above all “go home the way you came to the fire house” What size attack line would you use? What size attack line would you pull here? How about truck work? Would you pull your 1 3/4″ attack line? How about truck work? Does the roof need to be vented?

Leave a Comment