As we noted last month in Part 1 of this column, for most firefighters, odds are your most common structural fires involve single-family dwellings. In addition to construction concerns, "what's inside" is a major factor that can lead to close calls, or worse, for firefighters. In this case, for...
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As the lieutenant and I exited our apparatus and donned our SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus), we could see crew members of Engine 451 initiating the defensive attack through the D-side window, which was the victim's bedroom. The 2½-inch hoseline was charged and being used at the front door to knock fire down in the entryway and living room. This was done by Engine 453 and a member of Ambulance 463. Our crew (Engine 452) was assigned to open the garage door, which we found locked. I returned to Engine 453 and retrieved a saw with which I would cut the door open. I made a large triangular cut in the center of the door, removing the locking mechanism. Crews now had a means of egress, if they needed it.
We could see that smoke conditions inside the residence were changing dramatically. The crew members at the front door were pinned to the ground with highly pressurized, dense smoke pushing out the door. This type of smoke color and aggressive movement would remind you of smoke you would see seconds before a flashover. The two members at the front door attempted to continue knocking fire down; however, at that point, the 2½-inch line at the front door had run out of water and one of the crew member's low-air alarm was sounding.
The members on the D side continued to flow water through the window and knocked down most of the fire. Mutual aid departments were requested for manpower and to establish a rapid intervention team (which was accomplished by a unit from Erlanger). At that point, the captain of Engine 451 decided that an interior attack could be used to "mop up" the small amount of fire that was left. Our crew was ordered into the structure and an additional 1¾-inch line was brought to the front door off Engine 451. I returned to Engine 453 briefly to secure a tool for the lieutenant and me, then we entered the structure.
Entry seemed like any other normal structure fire that you have entered. I had the nozzle and the lieutenant was close behind with the thermal imaging camera. However, steps into the residence, we encountered our first oxygen bottle. The bottle was attached to a pull cart and was right inside the front door. The lieutenant promptly grabbed the bottle and took it out the front door. Returning to the line, I decided that we would make our way to the main fire room, which still had fire seated deep into a laundry room/bathroom area.
We passed a stairway and made our way to a hallway on our right side. We encountered medium heat and zero visibility in the hallway. Exterior crews that had been flowing water through the side-D window ceased their operation as we made our way to the bedroom. Upon entry to the bedroom, the lieutenant and I could see a significant amount of fire to our left. We had pushed four to five feet inside the room and were fighting the fire from the foot of the victim's bed. This fire was seated at the B/C side. Using the thermal imaging camera and instruction from the lieutenant, we extinguished the fire in the rear of the home.
Radio traffic from command advised us that our smoke conditions behind us had changed significantly (pressurization and color) and that it appeared fire in the attic area might cut us off in the hallway. The lieutenant and I made our way back down the hallway and to the living room, where we encountered a significant amount of fire in the ceiling. Again, we encountered significant heat and zero visibility. The smoke was so thick that we could not identify a window that was only three or four feet away. Zero visibility, combined with the amount of debris and personal belongings blocking the window, probably contributed. There was stuff everywhere. Insulation soaked from the amount of water used seemed to be nearly a foot thick where we were crawling around. The floors of the residence still appeared to be sound.
Using the thermal imager, we identified and found the fire in the roof and I extinguished the fire above us. It appeared that all fire in the dwelling had been extinguished. We had managed to find the window at the C side of the residence and I attempted to execute hydraulic ventilation, but zero visibility and the items blocking my route kept me from doing so. The lieutenant called for positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) to be set up. The PPV fan was placed at the front door and visibility quickly changed to where we could see to some degree. Visibility had increased so much that we could stand and move around with minimal limitations.
With visibility increasing, the lieutenant made his way back down the hallway to ensure the fire was not rekindling after getting the air. He communicated to me that a small amount of fire could be seen right inside the doorway of the bedroom. I walked down the hallway with the attack line.