The roof of the fire building is a critical area at a structure fire. It is important that the firefighters assigned to the roof are competent, resourceful and constantly aware of changing conditions. They should initiate a thought process at the receipt of an alarm, while enroute to the...
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The roof of the fire building is a critical area at a structure fire. It is important that the firefighters assigned to the roof are competent, resourceful and constantly aware of changing conditions. They should initiate a thought process at the receipt of an alarm, while enroute to the scene and throughout the incident.
If the rear of the fire building is visible to firefighters as they approach the scene, they should memorize the various facets at that location, then the sides and continue as the front of the building is viewed. Window locations, doors, building height, fire escapes, adjoining buildings, construction (especially the roof) and smoke conditions should be noted. They should concentrate on factors that can affect life safety or fire department operations. Where is the fire located? Where is it going?
Predictions should include the best location for venting the fire building. Since the firefighters assigned to the roof will be concerned with the ventilation of the upper parts of the fire building, it must be decided how to get onto the roof. Should an aerial device, portable ladders, fire escapes or adjoining building roofs be used? Which will offer the fastest and safest means?
Observation continues as the firefighters ascend to the roof. Can they further pinpoint the location of the fire? Is anyone on fire escapes or at windows awaiting rescue? Once firefighters are on the roof, it must be ascertained whether the roof is sound and what material does it consist of: concrete, lightweight wood, heavy timber, steel bar-joist?
Air and light shafts may be completely enclosed and not visible from ground level. Adjoining buildings may share the same airshaft. Can the windows within the shaft be used for ventilation? Is fire visible from them? If so, then notifying the interior units of fire at this location can assist them in their fire attack. The view from the roof may indicate that heavy fire coming from these windows has spread to the adjacent buildings.
Size-Up on the Roof
Since the roof can be an excellent platform for size-up, the information gathered there can assist the incident commander in his or her decision making. Firefighters on the roof can typically observe:
• That the overall size of the structure may be easier to determine from the roof
• A complete view of the surrounding buildings and exposures
• The presence of firewalls that separate the attic or cockloft below the roof and which parapets above the roof line act as fire stops by preventing a surface fire from involving the entire roof
• A breakdown in the firewall that could indicate deficiencies below the roof line that could allow a fire to spread through the firewall to adjacent areas or other buildings
• Occupants trapped on fire escapes at the rear or side of a building out of the view of the incident commander
• Fully enclosed light or airshafts contained within a building and if people are observed trapped at these locations
• If anyone has jumped and is lying on the ground on the rear or sides of the fire building, within an air or light shaft, or on a lower roof in need of rescue
• Smoke conditions from any openings that exist in the roof; these include skylights or stairways that access the roof from the interior
• The cockloft and attic spaces can also be closely observed for the presence of fire and smoke.
• The amount of smoke and/or fire emitting from roof ventilators, either on the rooftop or side of the building
• The presence of a courtyard and access points that are not readily visible from ground level; in some instances, the courtyard may have access only through the building’s interior
• The presence of a penthouse on the roof indicating the existence of an elevator in the building