Back To Basics: Effective Ventilation


1) Open roof as close as possible to seat of fire so that fire will be drawn across top of building to opening

2) Hot spots may develop on roof

3) If roof is flat, opening should be made at hot spot

4) On gabled roof, opening should extend from hot spot to peak

5) Draft can be increased by making an additional opening just above the eave line on side opposite original opening

6) Care should be taken so that opening does not increase fire spread

3. Trench cut

a. Used to stop the spread of fire in a long, narrow structure

b. Performed by cutting a large hole or trench that is at least four feet wide

c. Trench extends from one exterior wall to the other

d. Usually cut well ahead of the advancing fire to set up a defensive line

4. Construction features (roof vents, ridge vents, etc.)

a. May be easily removed to ventilate structure

b. May cause less damage

c. Need to determine what areas are being ventilated in the event shafts extend into occupied areas and do not ventilate spaces between ceiling and roof

d. Vents at the end of a roof may be used to ventilate areas where there is no air space between the ceiling and the roof


NOTE: Remove smoke using closest exit point rather than passing it through an unaffected area.

A. One-Story Dwellings

1. Open or remove windows close to fire

2. First windows to be opened are those through which fire or smoke is pushing out or through which fire can be seen or heard

3. Other windows should be opened to complete ventilation

4. Attic or cockloft should be checked for fire spread, especially area over fire

B. Two-Story Dwellings

1. For fires on first floor, first floor windows closest to fire should be opened immediately

2. Second floor should be vented as soon as possible

3. For fire on second floor, floor must be vented first

4. Start by venting outside and move inside

5. Check attic or cockloft for fire - especially important where units are side by side

C. Attic Fires

1. Attack fire from inside structure rather than through windows

2. Attic can be ventilated using windows or louvers

3. If necessary, open roof near peak over hot spots

D. Basement Fires

1. Fires in small dwellings should be vented through all available basement openings

2. Venting should be coordinated with attack lines

3. Attack lines should be taken through both outside basement entrance and first floor basement entrance

4. If attack is through only one entrance, other available openings can be used for venting

5. Venting first floor can assist in positioning and advancing lines

E. Multiple-Use Residential and Business Buildings

1. Roof operations

a. Should not use interior stairs for access

b. Use interior stairs of building when it abuts fire building

c. Use fire escape of fire building if it has roof access

d. If no other way, use ground ladders or aerial unit

e. Ladder should remain in place until crew leaves roof

f. If visibility is poor, crew should probe roof with tools before stepping onto it

g. Crews should immediately look for another way off roof in case of emergency

2. Venting

a. Roof venting should be done with available natural openings if possible

b. Roof features showing smoke should be opened first

c. Skylights, scuttles, and penthouses should then be quickly opened

d. Tops of vertical shafts should be checked and opened if needed

e. Once roof has been vented, top floor should be opened from exterior or interior

f. Should not attempt to enter top floor from roof if heavily charged with smoke - open windows from aerial ladder or platform

g. Ground ladders can be used to knock out top floor windows on shorter buildings

h. Floor just above fire floor must be thoroughly vented

i. Fire floor must be vented to allow advancing of hoselines and search for victims

3. Ground-floor stores

a. Vent roof, top floor, and floor above fire

b. Vent store thoroughly

c. Open utility shafts to deter fire spread

4. Adjoining buildings

a. Adjoining buildings should be vented and cocklofts checked for extending fire

b. Vent through skylights, scuttles, and penthouse to keep damage to minimum