Photos by Richard Blatus & Thomas Richardson
At first glance, the second floor of the two-story taxpayer at top right looks routine. Take a closer look at the middle two photos at right. The windows you would normally use for access are painted over and blocked by masonry walls. Is this an operational disaster? It shouldn’t be. Step back and adjust your tactics. Call for a tower ladder to remove the obstructions from a stable platform. Expedite vertical ventilation and let the troops know there may be a delay. Look for an alternate means of entry. As always…COMMUNICATE! Put the information over the air so both the on-scene and incoming units can adapt and overcome the obstacles. Be proactive. Call for additional units before you discover the problem, not after.
How can you determine the difference between a fire division wall and a boxed-out steel I-beam? Notice in the photos at bottom left and right that the fire wall between the two taxpayers is solid masonry with coping on top of it. The boxed-out steel I-beam gives the appearance of a fire wall. It is extended above the roof. But note that it has roofing material on an angle covering it.
How can you tell the difference in a smoke condition? Use a tool and bang on it. The beam will sound hollow and there is usually plywood covered with roofing material. Another method is to use a power saw and cut an inspection hole. These boxed-out beams create a large void that can and will allow fire to travel.
Richard J. Blatus and Thomas J. Richardson will present "Tales from the Fireground," "Critical Response Information – Do Your Troops Have It When They Need It?" and "Live Burn Evolution: Real Training for Real Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo 2004 in Baltimore, July 13-18.
Richard Blatus & Thomas Richardson are FDNY battalion chiefs operating in the boroughs of the Bronx and Brooklyn, respectively.