The "Everyday Routine Complex" Fire

  Firefighters in any city or town that has "mixed-multiple" structures can tell you of their own experiences with fires occurring in them. I'm sure many have had something unusual happen in them. After any fire at which something bad has happened...


  Firefighters in any city or town that has "mixed-multiple" structures can tell you of their own experiences with fires occurring in them. I'm sure many have had something unusual happen in them. After any fire at which something bad has happened to firefighters, it is imperative that...


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The first-due engine company positioned itself and stretched a two-inch attack line with a one-inch solid-bore nozzle down an alley to the rear of the building where the entrance was located. The second floor had heavy smoke down to the floor. Firefighters started flowing water toward the fire area and pulling ceilings. Within minutes, with no reduction in fire volume, it was realized that the fire was in the cockloft. Using the larger handline and pulling ceilings enough to gain control or at least stop the fire's movement were not successful and firefighters were pulled from the building for fear of a roof collapse.

It was estimated afterward that the fire in the cockloft had spread over the building before or when firefighters arrived. In a situation like this, when a department starts offensive operations and switches to defensive, it should go through the steps of personnel accountability and then prepare for a heavy-stream attack. This means setting up heavy streams in certain locations for containment and extinguishment. A concern in older neighborhoods is the water supply. If water is lacking, then extra alarms for engines may be needed to provide relay operations. If tower ladders or other special heavy-stream equipment is called for, then the incident commander may need to "open" the fireground to accommodate them when they arrive for work.

Exterior exposures were a strong concern in this case, as a large wood-frame residential structure was located less than four feet from the fire building. A ladder pipe and a handline were used for protection and were successful.

Lessons learned:

  1. Expect fire to spread in these buildings — even the small ones.
  2. Anticipate long hose stretches.
  3. In heavy smoke conditions, it will take you longer to stretch in and locate the fire. In that case, make sure your attack lines are capable of flowing at least "target flow" capacity. That's your protection if conditions deteriorate.

JEFF SHUPE has been a firefighter for the Cleveland, OH, Fire Department since 1981. He also serves as an acting lieutenant and a fire training instructor. Shupe is an Ohio Fire Academy field training officer and lead instructor for the Cleveland Fire Department's "Back to Basics" program. He has an associate of applied science degree in fire technology from Cuyahoga Community College and holds State of Ohio certifications as a Hazardous Materials Technician, Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter Instructor. Shupe was Cleveland's "Firefighter of the Year" in 2007.