Near-Miss, Weekly Report: Unstable Building

"We reached top of stairs to 2nd floor (remodeled attic) and found that we did not have enough hose line. Our visibility was poor, and we had visible fire on the roof overhead, walls on either side, and behind us. We had to ask other department to discontinue operating exterior streams onto our personnel inside at least 4 times. While we were extinguishing the fire..., I noted partial ceiling collapse directly under where we had been standing. The building at this time was already a total loss with no rescue profile present."

Operating at mutual aid fires is often more difficult than operating at fires within your own department. This is due to a variety of reasons including: incompatible radio frequencies, incompatible hose couplings, varying staffing complements and differing operational practices. However, the basic tenets of fireground best practices still need to be followed.

This week's ROTW makes us realize how important it is to communicate effectively and maintain a disciplined, organized fireground. The report illustrates the detrimental effects of poor communication. It reminds us to keep the information stream flowing to the Incident Commander so the IC can make informed decisions, manage the incident effectively and ensure personnel safety.

When the span of control exceeds 5-7 units, consider calling for extra command officers to keep the span of control manageable. Five units may be the threshold when mutual aid companies are involved. After reviewing 06-466, consider the following questions:

  1. TWhat is your department’s SOP/SOG regarding interior operations when exterior lines are in service?
  2. Does the SOP/SOG mirror neighboring departments' procedures?
  3. Is a partial collapse inside the building a priority message to the Incident Commander? Should all firefighters operating on the scene know the location of the collapse to ensure safety?
  4. Should units continue to operate or relieve companies on the interior after a partial collapse has occurred?
  5. Should units continue to operate or relieve companies on the interior after a partial collapse has occurred?

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.


Report Number: 06-0000466

Report Date: 09/13/2006 11:37

Event Description

We were called for mutual aid to rural departments for a working fire. 1st units on scene requested additional manpower. On arrival, we were tasked with taking a line in to suppress hot spots, fire in the roof.

The building was a hair salon, built in a remodeled 3 car garage. Entry was made on south side of building with a 4 man engine crew w/ 1 3/4 inch line. We reached the top of stairs to the 2nd floor (remodeled attic) and found we did not have enough hose line. Our visibility was poor, and we had visible fire in roof overhead, walls on either side, and behind us.

We had to ask another department to discontinue operating exterior streams onto our personnel inside at least 4 times. While we were extinguishing fire, I realized the roof was partially burned off, I suggested bringing a hose up the ladder placed at the roofline.

I stepped into hole in the floor. When I shined my light onto the floor, I found we were standing on burnt out flooring w/ joists showing deep char from a lengthy burning. I communicated to rest of crew not to walk on the west side of room, and to exit.

Upon exiting, I noted partial ceiling collapse directly under where we had been standing. The building at this time was already a total loss with no rescue profile present. I was unsure of the decision making process that led anyone to believe we needed to be operating inside, I surmise that lack of an available aerial device factored into sending personnel inside.

A second crew was sent in to suppress stubborn fire inside the south wall. A ceiling collapse inside pinned 2 members momentarily. This was directly in the area that our crew had been standing. Upon collapse, the BC requested a status report. It was reported no members were injured and they were exiting.

Less than five minutes later, a firefighter operating a hose line on a ladder to roof line fell 20 feet due to nozzle reaction that made the ladder unstable. The ladder was not being sufficiently "footed" at the time. The firefighter was transported to hospital w/ non-serious injuries.

Lessons Learned

Do not go into unstable buildings. Conduct thorough evaluation of structure before following orders from another jurisdiction. Aggressively foot all ladders when personnel (Reviewer added) Immediately report any signs of collapse or instability to the Incident Commander and others operating on the fire ground.

Demographics

Department type: Combination, Mostly paid

Job or rank: Fire Fighter

Department shift: 12 hour days, 12 hour nights

Age: 34 - 42

Years of fire service experience: 7 - 10

Region: FEMA Region V

Event Information

Event type: Fire emergency event: structure fire, vehicle fire, wildland fire, etc.

Event date and time: 09/13/2006 03:30

Hours into the shift: 5 - 8

Event participation: Involved in the event

Do you think this will happen again? Yes

What do you believe caused the event?

  • Command
  • Decision Making
  • Accountability
  • Decision Making

What do you believe is the loss potential?

  • Life threatening injury
  • Lost time injury

Firehouse.com is working with the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System to get the word out about previous fire fighter near-miss incidents. Each week, Firehouse.com will publish the Fire Fighter Near-Miss Report of the Week (ROTW). If you would like to receive the ROTW, please e-mail: nearmiss@iafc.org with "subscribe-FHC" in the subject line. If you have had a similar experience and would like to report it and to learn more about the program, please visit: www.firefighternearmiss.com.

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