Parking Deck Fires: What You Need to Know

A car fire in a parking ramp can be compared to a room and contents fire in a high-rise building when it comes to bring necessary equipment and access.Fighting a vehicle fire can be challenging, but try to fight one in a ramp garage and it's even more...


In addition, many below grade ramp garages have service entrances which lead into adjacent buildings allowing fire to spread very easily into them. This is a real concern should a vehicle on fire be parked next to one of these entrances. In extreme cases, additional alarms will have to be requested bringing additional firefighters and resources to the incident as the dangers posed by these exposures necessitate.

In most situations the ventilation systems will shut down automatically once a fire alarm has been activated in the below grade garages. During a pre-plan inspection of the ramp garage, information pertaining to the ventilation system should be obtained.

The incident commander should request assistance from a maintenance representative in matters pertaining to ventilating the garage area. Additionally, all buildings and office spaces exposed to the vehicle fire should be examined by personnel to ensure that smoke conditions do not exist in the buildings, both during the fire operations and immediately following.

Above Grade Fires
Ramp garages which are located above grade level have many of the same similarities as those found in below grade garages. However, the location of a vehicle fire will be more evident in an above grade ramp garage than below grade ramp garage. This is primarily due to the fact that smoke can be seen coming from the level where the vehicle fire is located upon approaching the scene.

Operations at above grade ramp garages actually will present the firefighters with options that are not available for below grade operations. One option or method is the use of aerial devices allowing for quicker access to the levels.

In addition to moving firefighters with their tools and equipment up to the fire floor, the aerial can be used as a waterway or portable standpipe. This can be created either by using a pre-piped waterway found on some of the aerial apparatus, or by advancing a supply line up the ladder bed with a gate on the end. In essence creating a standpipe system. Using this method, firefighters are assured of a secure water source.

Another commonly used method for getting a water supply in place is using a rope to haul a supply line up the outside of the garage to the desired level. Once in place, the attack hose (brought up with the other tools and equipment) can be attached to it. Another option is to just drop a supply line from the fire floor over the side of the outside of the garage to the engine.

Strong winds will hamper operations at above grade level ramp garages. Exposures become of a greater concern to firefighters as these winds allow spreading of fire to happen more ardently. In general, the exposures are the same as were found in the below grade ramp garages mainly other vehicles parked next to the one on fire as well as structures that are attached to the ramp garage.

Attached structure exposures generally have access stations on each level of the garage. They are used to allow patrons and employees accessibility to the businesses or office space within them. Under windy environments, it becomes imperative that fire personnel deploy quickly to stop any further spread. of the vehicle fire to these exposures.

Cargo And Hazmat Concerns
From time to time, firefighters might be confronted with a cargo or utility van or similar style vehicle owned by a contractor carrying commercial supplies. Should this be the case, identifying the contents is critical. Check for any placards on the vehicle or labels on packages.

In today's environment a terrorist event occurring in a ramp garage cannot be ruled out as was the case in the 1993 car bomb attack at the World Trade Center in New York City.

Safety should be everyone's responsibility. Remember to follow your fire department's SOGs for vehicle fires and always wear your full personal protective equipment.

Vehicle fires pose many hazards for firefighters. The most serious of which are the toxic smoke and gases being released from the burning components. Therefore, it is a must that all firefighters wear their SCBA until complete ventilation of the area has been performed.

Another safety concern, are the hazards associated with the shock absorbers on the front and rear bumpers, pressurized struts, and the fuel systems. All these items can explode, as can the vehicles tires and the batteries. Additionally, firefighters need to monitor and be careful around all cars equipped with air bags and high voltage electrical systems.