Pressurized Vessels On Vehicles: Part 2 Pressurized Strut Challenges

Subject: Pressurized Vessels on Vehicles - Part 2 Topic: Catastrophic Failure of Pressurized Cylinders During Vehicle Fires Objective: Review real-world incidents of firefighter injuries due to failure of energy-absorbing bumper...


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Departments must understand that there is no 100%-safe position for firefighters at a burning vehicle incident but that the front of the vehicle presents an undue safety risk. Each incident must be evaluated in the context of other related hazards and the intensity of the fire. Every firefighter struck in these incidents had no time to react and was caught completely offguard by what occurred to them.

The departments across the U.S. who have experienced these strut-failure incidents with injury are taking measures to change their practices and procedures. For many, a more cautious and less aggressive approach to fighting vehicle fires is being adopted.

Have your fire attack personnel trained to stand out of the forward "line of fire". Train your personnel on how to knock down the body of fire within an engine compartment with the hood still latched. Train firefighters how to sweep the undercarriage and bounce water up in the engine compartment or through the plastic wheel-well area. Do not wait for the hood to be opened before you apply water to an engine compartment fire.

Any vehicle with open flames visible upon arrival of the fire department is a total loss vehicle anyway. We are the most valuable items at the scene of a burning vehicle. We must protect ourselves first. Beware of the exploding strut!

TASK: Establish procedural guidelines for operating at vehicle fires, including engine compartment fires, to ensure maximum safety for suppression personnel from the hazard of compressed gas strut failures.


Ron Moore, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.