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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• Beware of raised surfaces. Skylights or elevator shafts may be covered with roofing paper over the opening, setting up a dangerous situation for a firefighter stepping onto the surface.
• Do not walk across the center of the roof. Stay near the exterior walls or other bearing walls.
• Do not let too many firefighters on the roof. Keep only those necessary to safely perform the needed functions.
• Be aware of air or light shafts in the roof. They can be death traps for firefighters. Many firefighters who fall into these shafts knew of their presence, but during the firefighting effort, they were distracted and fell into these openings when they were hidden by heavy smoke.
• Skylights should be removed intact since falling glass can injure firefighters operating below. Being struck by glass from a skylight that has fallen a few stories while operating on or climbing stairs can cause serious injury. If unable to completely remove the skylight, it should be broken and pulled back onto the roof. Its presence will act as a warning to other firefighters of openings in the roof.
• Openings in roofs should be marked to prevent firefighters from falling into them. Another method that can be used is to place a portable ladder over the opening.
Teamwork at an incident scene is crucial. The firefighter making rescues can be hailed a hero. The firefighter on the nozzle gets the credit for extinguishing the fire. Yet without everyone completing their assignments correctly, the end result would be totally different.
Failure of any assignment can threaten the overall operation. The firefighter driving the engine must ensure that the apparatus and firefighters arrive safely and then assures an early and continuous water supply. Those performing forcible entry and laddering of a fire building facilitate entry and egress from the structure. Ventilation lets firefighters advance within the fire building as the smoke and heat is vented to the exterior.
The firefighters who are assigned to the roof have a large responsibility. In addition to vertical ventilation, the roof can be used as an observation post to get the big picture of the entire incident. The firefighters operating there must be the eyes and ears of the incident commander. The actions and information of the firefighters on the roof can mean the difference between success or failure at an incident scene.