The FDNY for example, allows all vertical ventilation to take place without the permission of any officer, this allows a firefighter to ventilated the stairs and hopefully clear the public hallway of the products of combustion, giving residents above a better chance of survival and allowing the engine company to move closer to the fire. The truck officer operating inside the building on the fire floor will control all horizontal ventilation of that floor and officers on floors above will control that floor.
This allows for the officer nearest the point of ventilation to determine the possible impact before granting permission. The officer must take into account the wind, the heat encountered and the position of the advancing hose line before granting permission to ventilate the fire area.
By controlling and coordinating the ventilation of a fire building, the building is now being controlled by the Incident Commander through the use of their firefighters. If a firefighter operating on the floor above opens a window to ventilate the fire floor and encounters a heavy wind in their face they must notify the officer on the fire floor of this fact. This might change or alter the officers' decision about possible ventilation from the exterior. Ventilation is one of the few ways that firefighters can impact the fire and the building and influence the outcome of the fire operations.
At a peaked roof private dwelling fire, one of our basic operations, ventilation will help determine the chances of victim survival. Some departments send their whole truck company to the roof for initial vent of the roof. This might not be the most efficient use of our truck company.
Fire Ground Priorities: "Who's going where?"
Photo By Michael Dugan
Members drilling on the safe use of a power saw on the roof of a vacant building. If you have a vacant building in your area contact the owner and ask if you can use it for a drill. This building was being completely gutted and a new roof and supports installed.
When sending the entire truck crew to the roof, we leave the functions of entry and search to the Engine Company. This will hamper the engine's hose stretch and also take them away from initial line placement. If a victim is encounter, this will result in more time lost from hose line placement to the victims' removal. The roof at most private homes will allow for ventilation of only the attic space and not the immediate fire area. To do this we have to push down the top floor ceiling from the roof and this might be difficult to impossible depending on the attic height, storage and possible wooden walkway within the attic.
A truck crew of three men venting the roof while two firefighters force entry to the building and then begin to advance a line might not be the most effective use of manpower. If your family was trapped inside a burning building is this how you would want the operation to be conducted? If not, and your department does it this way then maybe a review of your SOP's is in order.
In most new construction, skylights are provided for light and sometimes for ventilation. These skylights are a great way to relieve the top floor of smoke and heat and this task can be accomplished by a single firefighter. Skylights are considered a natural chimney. If the roof has to be vented then one firefighter might be able to accomplish this and leave the other truck company members to do the entry and search.
Photo By Michael Dugan
A firefighter drilling on the proper way to pull a roof cut with a halligan tool.
Entry is the second main duty of a truck company. They are responsible for providing a safe way for the engine company to advance a hose line into the building to extinguish the fire. Remember the quick extinguishment of the fire is the overall goal.
The truck company will force a way into the building and allow the engine to get water to the fire. In recent years this has become harder because people are worried about crime and have secured their homes with more substantial barriers to keep out intruders. These security devices will hamper the rapid deployment of the hoseline to the seat of the fire by the engine company. The Engine Company will be further hampered if they must perform this duty themselves.