Roof Truck Work – Part 2


  There are differing opinions on opening the roof of a dwelling. The vast majority of dwelling fires involve only the contents, even though the fire can be accompanied by copious amounts of smoke that demands ventilation. My experience has found that fires in private dwellings of ordinary...

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Entry and Egress

• If ladders will be used for firefighters to access the roof, ensure that they are of sufficient length and that they extend at least three rungs above the roofline. This allows for ease of mounting and dismounting the roof and assists in locating the ladder while on the roof.

• Keep alert for overhead electrical service wires attached to the building. Ensure that ladders do not contact them when the ladders are placed and that firefighters climbing the ladders will not come into contact with these wires.

• Is there a high parapet wall that must be navigated to get onto the roof? Will it interfere with a firefighter when exiting the roof, especially under emergency conditions?

• Should a small ladder be brought to the roof to overcome this problem?

• Ensure that there are two ways off of the roof. If portable ladders or fire escapes are being used as a means of egress from a roof, periodically check that heat and fire conditions have not made them untenable. (The interior built-in ladder contained in a roof scuttle is not a means of egress from the roof.)

• Under heavy smoke conditions, it may be necessary to attach a guideline to the head of the ladder to allow a quick return to its location to evacuate the roof.

• Is there is a lower roof level? Can a firefighter climb down or access it by using a hand tool and hanging from the higher roof to the lower roof for an emergency exit?

• Do not paint yourself into a corner while operating on a roof. Always keep an open corridor to at least one of your means of egress.

• Aerial ladders placed to a roof being used as a means of egress cannot be moved without notifying those on the roof depending on that ladder. Many fire departments have a standing order that once an aerial device is in operation, the engineer/operator must stay at the turntable or controls at all times. This seems like a minor point, but that engineer/operator knows why the aerial ladder is at that specific location and who is depending on it. Ideally, the aerial device should not be moved, but life-safety situations can arise where civilians or firefighters are trapped and they can be quickly removed with the aerial ladder.

Rooftop Operations

• Determine your objectives on the roof and carry them out in a safe manner.

• Use a tool to sound out the roof when initially mounting it. It lets the firefighter find the roof surface and help determine that it is sound. Finding the roof surface is usually routine, but in the case of a high parapet wall or an elevated cornice, the surface of the roof can be up to eight feet below the top of the cornice. A smoky nighttime fire with reduced visibility could injure an unsuspecting firefighter stepping from the cornice only to find no roof immediately underfoot.

• If the smoke conditions are severe, use a tool as a cane or a prod to ensure the soundness of the roof as you walk and to locate any openings. By sounding out or probing the roof with a tool, a firefighter can locate the roof surface and ensure stability. If unsure, get down on your knees and crawl, but continue to extend the tool outward, sounding out the roof as you advance.

• Constantly be aware of the conditions and your location on the roof.

• Do not take chances. Do not try and be a hero. If conditions do not allow an operation to be accomplished, inform the incident commander. Becoming injured on the roof will directly impact the overall operation. Your partner will be forced to tend to you. The incident commander will need to extricate you and your job assignment will not be accomplished. This alone can endanger those operating on the interior and affect the entire fireground effort.

• By spreading a portable ladder on the roof over a weakened area, a firefighter can spread his or her weight over the length of the ladder. If the roof stability is questionable, see whether it can be opened while operating from an adjoining roof.

• Operating from a platform or attached to a platform with a safety rope or belt is another method of ensuring firefighter safety.