Basement Fires: Difficult, Challenging and Dangerous

 Basement fires, or cellar fires, are some of the most difficult, challenging and dangerous operations you will ever encounter. Lots of basement fires result in loss of buildings and loss of life. Let's take a look at the challenges we face and how we...


  Basement fires, or cellar fires, are some of the most difficult, challenging and dangerous operations you will ever encounter. Lots of basement fires result in loss of buildings and loss of life. Let's take a look at the challenges we face and how we may be able to handle them. Basement fires...


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Collapse is another dangerous condition. Many unfinished basements have exposed ceilings that are actually are the floor joists and floor boards of the first floor. A medium or heavy fire can quickly compromise the integrity of these components and the floor above can partially or completely fail and collapse into the basement, trapping the firefighters below. This is even more pronounced when the structural elements are lightweight components such as trusses, C-joists, or one of the many other unsafe and substandard building components and the collapse can be as tragic to firefighters operating above the fire as it is to those in the basement.

Basement fires are dangerous and difficult and need to be handled with care. Review these difficulties and potential solutions before you arrive at your next one.

JOHN J. SALKA Jr., a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 28-year veteran battalion chief with FDNY, the commander of the 18th battalion in the Bronx. Salka has instructed at several FDNY training programs, including the department's Probationary Firefighters School, Captains Management Program and Battalion Chiefs Command Course. He conducts training programs at national and local conferences and has been recognized for his firefighter survival course "Get Out Alive." Salka co-authored the FDNY Engine Company Operations manual and wrote the book First In, Last Out — Leadership Lessons From the New York Fire Department. He also operates Fire Command Training (www.firecommandtraining.com), a New York-based fire service training and consulting firm.