"Taxpayer" Fires - 20 Tips for Safety and Survival: Part 2

Curtis S.D. Massey continues this series discussing the way fires are fought in one-story commercial buildings.


Refining the Way Fires Are Fought In One-Story Commercial Buildings -- Part 2 If thermal imaging capability is available, use it early for interior operations. A camera should go in with the first entry team, being careful that the member using the unit is disciplined enough to stay close to...


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In addition to invaluable input from others, I write a great deal of my thoughts, ideas and scenarios here based on a fire I was involved in 12 years ago, where two colleagues were killed in a truss roof collapse in a burning auto parts store. The owners had moved two heavy air conditioning units to the center of the roof from ground level. The fire erupted in the ceiling void space above two drop ceilings and was fed by a brisk wind blowing in the rear entrance door, which was left open. The two-man attack crew stretched a 1¾-inch line into what appeared to be an overhead water heater fire as reported to them by the manager, when in fact there was a rapidly advancing cockloft fire above originating from another source, which was not evident to the crew. The truss roof quickly failed just as other units arrived on scene, taking both their lives. They were able to make on-air pleas for help after becoming trapped and prior to succumbing to thermal burn injuries. No civilians were lost.

Concentrate on the fire, its progression, your surroundings, the building under attack and most of all your safety at all times. Recon the building before venturing inside. Use those thermal imagers. Read everything you can find on building construction. What you learn may save your life and the lives of your comrades. Never, ever stop "tweaking" your standard operating procedures (SOPs)/standard operating guidelines (SOGs).

Very special thanks to the following people for their input and expertise: FDNY Deputy Chiefs Roger Sakowich, Mike O'Keefe and John Bley; Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Elbert Wilson; Houston Fire Department District Chief (ret.) Matt Stuckey; LAFD Battalion Chief John Miller; Chesapeake, VA, Fire Department Captain Scott Hill; and Virginia Beach, VA, Fire Department Captain (ret.) Keith White.

CURTIS S.D. MASSEY is president of Massey Enterprises Inc., the world's leading disaster-planning firm. Massey Disaster/Pre-Fire Plans protect the vast majority of the tallest and highest-profile buildings in North America. He also teaches an advanced course on High-Rise Fire Department Emergency Operations to major city fire departments throughout the world. Massey also regularly writes articles regarding "new-age" technology that impacts firefighter safety.