Open Joist 2000 is the product name for a type of floor-truss system being used in today's building construction. According to the manufacturer, Open Joist Inc. of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Open Joist 2000 "is a trimmable all-wood open-webbed finger-jointed floor truss without metal plate...
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Residential fires that occur today are producing much different conditions and non-controlled time periods than can be duplicated within a controlled environment in a testing laboratory. Look at response time alone:
- How long the fire has been burning before and after arrival?
- How long before a hoseline is stretched and water is flowing
- What types of materials or substances are involved?
- What stage is the fire in?
- How and where is the fire extending?
- What is the wind velocity and ambient temperature outside?
Testing laboratories do the best they can to duplicate a base line, but fuel loads within households can vary significantly. Tactics to consider:
- Identifying the type of floor system is of paramount importance. This can be accomplished by making a fire pre-plan as the building is being constructed and having this information prior to an incident.
- If there is heavy fire on one floor, suspect that fire has extended into the ceiling truss loft.
- If fire is showing from two floors, expect collapse.
- A small inspection hole in the ceiling prior to entering the fire apartment in conjunction with the thermal imaging camera is a cautious first step. A charged hose must be in place. If visible fire is present within the truss loft, there's no reason to go any farther. Water must be directed into the truss loft and ceilings must be pulled before committing advancement into the fire apartment.
- Firefighters must be aware of the possibility of a violent flashover. If pent-up heated gases are pressurizing in the truss loft, that opening in the ceiling can pull the fire down with a vengeance, seriously injuring firefighters.
- Simultaneous operations on the fire floor and the floor above will have to wait until the fire has been knocked down and the floor system is determined to be safe. This, of course, is based on the fire conditions on arrival. The prudent tactic of checking for fire extension and conducting the primary search on the floor above will be delayed until the fire has been defined and the structural integrity of the floor truss is checked.
- It is vital to get water as quickly as possible; speed in getting water on the fire is the key to a successful operation. Time is not on our side anymore. Based on the fire and smoke conditions upon arrival, the company officer will have to decide whether there is an imminent visible life hazard and whether a quick knockdown is possible.
- Has the fire extended into the truss loft, compromising the structural integrity of the floor?
- If firefighters are engaged in an interior attack, a second line must be stretched as a safety line to back up the first line. The primary purpose for the second line is to be ready to protect the first line if a collapse occurs.
Conditions on arrival can be compared to a poker hand; sometimes you're dealt a good hand, other times you're not. But that is the hand you have to work with until sufficient resources become available.
Knowledge of type of construction is vital for firefighter's survival. Determining the type of construction class and valuable information from past fires can and will determine the outcome. What we are dealing today is a different fire scenario from years ago, so tactics must be altered to protect the lives of firefighters. If we can't protect ourselves, how can we protect the people we serve?
The sharing of information is vital. I would like to hear from anyone who has responded to a fire in lightweight construction. Please e-mail me at email@example.com. Thank you.
JOSEPH T. BERRY served for 31 years with the FDNY, where he worked as a firefighter in Ladder Company 24 in midtown Manhattan before he was promoted to lieutenant and worked in the South Bronx in Engine Company 73 and Ladder Company 42. He worked on the Ladders 3 Bulletin: Firefighting Tactics Procedures in Tenements and Ladders 5 Bulletin: Private Dwellings and Brownstone Buildings. Berry served as a member of the Division 6 Safety Committee and on five line-of-duty death investigation committees. He also worked on the department's lightweight residential construction and probationary firefighters manuals.