Here's the scenario: You are dispatched to a reported structure fire. You are the officer on the fourth-due engine. The first-on engine reports a two-story, wood-frame, residential structure with fire showing from a second floor window. They pull a 1 3/4-inch line. The first-on truck arrives and forces entry for the engine and starts a primary search. The second-on engine is ordered to come in and give their tank water to the first engine. The third-on engine is assigned to come in and assist with checking for extension. Your engine company arrives on scene and is assigned as Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). The second-due truck is staged and eventually assigned to perform salvage operations.
The fire is placed under control and was confined to the one bedroom upstairs. There is moderate smoke damage throughout the second floor. The first floor is relatively free of smoke. Due to the extinguishment and overhaul efforts in the room of origin, there is a constant flow of water through the ceiling fixtures onto a hardwood floor in the downstairs living area. The fire has been placed under control and your company that has been standing by as RIT (with all of the proper tools, of course) is reassigned to assist with salvage by command.
Knowing that salvage is typically assigned to truck companies, are you and your crew going to be able to perform this task proficiently? When is the last time that you were assigned to perform salvage? Is salvage a subject that you cover at all with any of your in-house training?
The above scenario happened to me about seven years ago. I was the rank of Engineer and was acting up in the role of the officer of the engine company that I was assigned to. The last training I had with salvage was during rookie school. We were given the assignment to assist with the protecting of downstairs furnishings from water damage. We were fortunate to have performed this task with some level of competency. Training on this subject may seem either mundane or simple, and it is; but it is none the less important.
Including this subject into a training regiment would require most of us to do a little homework. As with any help that is given to you, you should always check the other person's work to make sure it suits your company's specific needs.
For this article we are not going to go through all of the different tarp throws and the different ways to fold a tarp. The Company Level Training articles are only concerned about the hands-on application of the different skills that you could be required to use on the fireground. We are going to talk about the different uses of a tarp to prevent damage from smoke and water.
The easiest method for preventing damage is by grouping furniture in a room and covering that grouping with a tarp. If possible, place the tallest pieces of furniture in the center of the grouping. This will help the water to flow down and away from the grouping when covered by a tarp. Be careful not to cause any further damage, if possible, to the furniture in the process of moving it.
Some books show pouring some type of absorbent material around the grouped furniture to prevent water from damaging the bottom of the furniture. I have never personally seen this done. I would think that if you were going to use absorbent that it would be better to lay the bottom part your tarp out flat from the furniture and then spread the absorbent on the top side of this flat edge of the tarp. This would prevent water from seeping underneath your tarp and keep the absorbent off of the floor itself.
Forming a dike is another task that is often performed with tarps. This can be done by rolling the tarp up and placing it in front of a doorway or opening to prevent water from going into another room. The tarp can be weighted down with hand tools, absorbent or anything else with some weight to it from the residence.