Know Your Enemy #37

I have had several inquiries about information presented on the Internet that stems from a wood industry apologist.

I first got the authority to act when I was a brand new Naval officer. I was assigned as Fire Marshal of the Naval Operating Base Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, in December 1942.

A Naval supply depot warehouse was a dreadful situation fire-wise. Letters to the command had had no effect. I was in the building preplanning with the six enlisted men of my fire company. I raised the decibel level to get the attention of a nearby officer. The next day I was ordered to report to the commanding officer of the supply depot.

He was livid at my badmouthing his building to some enlisted men. I replied that I recognized his authority to run his building but as I understood the matter, the Navy required that, as their officer, I had a duty not get those six men killed in his building. He became completely cooperative. In Navy parlance, I had put my finger on his promotion number.

At the age of 85, I still crusade on all fronts to save firefighters. Do not let the hazard of wood trusses distract you from other hazards. The biggest truss disaster to firefighters was a steel truss failure in a theater, where 13 firefighters died. Twenty firefighters got out 60 second before the collapse of a steel bar joist combustible metal deck roof (pages 302-8, BCFS#3)

There are many hazards to firefighters in buildings. Concrete buildings under construction, particularly those of post tensioned concrete that while curing, are not attached to anything, will totally collapse from a fire in the false-work, now usually wooden I beams. For a narrow escape from a wooden I beam collapse, provided to me by FDNY Chief of Department, Francis Cruthers, see p. 552, BCFS3.

Many firefighters have died in buildings with sawed joist floors. Good solid brick walls have killed hundreds. There are plenty of hazards. Use your thermal detector to learn if there is fire in the trusses. If there is, do not be on or under them.

A combustible building is expected to burn down. Trusses may make the result happen a lot or a little sooner than otherwise expected.


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