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A sprinkler system can extinguish a fire quicker and more effectively then firefighters. The sprinkler head is already in position directly over the fire, and water supplied to the sprinkler is not impeded or slowed by locked doors, blinding smoke or failure to locate the fire. However, when a building has both a sprinkler system and a standpipe system and firefighters enter the building to fight the fire, the first supply line to the siamese should go to the standpipe system. This is to protect the firefighters. The second supply line should be connected to and supply the sprinkler system.
Stairway or shaft fires. When a radio report from firefighters inside a multi-story building states fire is spreading up a stairway or shaft, the fireground commander must order a hoseline stretched to the top floor. This line can be stretched up a ladder or fire escape to cut off the flames spreading up the stair or shaft.
A stair or shaft fire means heat, flame and smoke will accumulate on the top floor and spread to the cockloft, attic space and mushroom out to adjoining spaces on the top floor. The first hose may have already been stretched to the fire origin on a lower floor but once fire is discovered spreading up a stair or shaft, the life hazard and fire spread danger on the top floor must be considered. Stretch a hose to the top floor. In addition to the hose placement, the fireground commander must insure all skylights, scuttle covers and roof bulkhead stair doors are vented to release flame and smoke and prevent mushrooming.
The FDNY conducted scientific full-scale tests with New York Polytechnic Institute on shaft fires in multiple dwellings. Tests revealed fire spreading up an open shaft will spread into the top floor through a window first at the top floor before it will spread into any of the lower floors. As the flames and combustible gases rise up the shaft they increase in temperature. The hottest temperatures were recorded at the shaft opening at roof level. So when fire spreads up a stair or shaft, get a hoseline to the top floor, vent the top floor and search this area for trapped victims and fire spread.
One of the first lessons a fireground commander learns is that the hose stretch from the pumper to the fire is the most important action carried out at a successful firefighting operation.
Vincent Dunn, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy chief with the FDNY and a member of the New York City Fire Chiefs Association. He is the author of the books and videos Safety And Survival On The Fireground and Collapse Of Burning Buildings. For information call 800-231-3388.