Firefighting Tactics for Houses of Worship

Fires that are in churches and houses of worship tend to make headlines, no matter where they occur. These fires destroy more than just buildings; they can break apart a town that relies on the church for unity, they can erase memories and religious...

Time of Day & Year – Religious observances, national holidays and special events (communions, baptisms, weddings, etc…) will increase the life hazard present at the structure. Sadly, we as responders must also consider dates of significance for national events. Anniversaries of incidents of national significance can trigger violent events towards the infrastructure of a community, and houses of worship are not exempt from violence. Take a moment to think about any significance that the response may have prior to committing forces.

Additionally, the amount of time that has progressed since the onset of the incident can be a significant factor in selecting an operational mode. Should signs indicate that the fire has had an ample head start on the responders; it may be unwise to commit crews to an aggressive offensive attack.

Hazmat Presence – Renovations and upkeep to the decorative condition of the church may result in a wide variety of chemicals, paints, solvents and other hazardous materials inside the church. Moreover, the groundskeeper who is charged with maintaining the landscape of the church may also have chemicals and fuels around the area to perform the tasks required to maintain the grounds. Do not be surprised to find these materials sporadically around the premises.


Fires involving houses of worship will burden the responding companies early into the incident. An aggressive pre-plan, identifying the hazards within and surrounding the building will greatly assist the initial incident commander with incident action plan development, strategic mode identification and resource deployment. Without this information early into the incident, even the best strategist will find themselves playing catch-up throughout the alarm.

Until next month, stay focused and stay safe.


MICHAEL P. DALEY is a lieutenant and training officer with the Monroe Township, NJ, Fire District No. 3, and is an instructor with the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where he is responsible for rescue training curriculum development. Mike has an extensive background in fire service operations and holds degrees in business management and public safety administration. Mike serves as a rescue officer with the New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and is a managing member for Fire Service Performance Concepts, a consultant group that provides assistance and support to fire departments with their training programs and course development. Mike has been guest on several podcasts including:Successful Rescue Operations in Today's Fire ServicePreparing for Tomorrow's RIT Deployment Today and Basement Fire Tactics Roundtable podcasts. View all of Michael's articles and podcasts here. You can reach Michael by e-mail at: