Overhaul & Salvage: Part 2

The goal of overhauling is to ensure that all fire has been completely extinguished while minimizing further damage to the structure.


The best way to minimize water damage is strict control of all hoselines. This is easily accomplished on a minor fire but difficult when multiple streams are operating at different locations within a building. The basic rule when operating a hoseline is to open the nozzle when fire is...


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The best way to minimize water damage is strict control of all hoselines. This is easily accomplished on a minor fire but difficult when multiple streams are operating at different locations within a building.

The basic rule when operating a hoseline is to open the nozzle when fire is encountered and close it after the fire has been knocked down. The exception is a fog stream used to ventilate an area through a window or door opening. This ventilation can cause a smoldering fire to ignite. Firefighters can extinguish the fire with the back up hoseline or they can redirect the nozzle being used for ventilation to quickly extinguish the fire.

Basements should be checked for any accumulation of water. If such an accumulation is found, pumps should be used to remove it. Stock on the floor can be elevated to minimize damage.

Water accumulated on floors or roofs can create a dangerous situation. Prompt action should be taken to relieve water buildup. An immediate size-up can determine the best method of removal. Are there floor drains or scuppers to remove the accumulated water? An inspection may reveal that these systems may only need the drains to be cleared of debris to facilitate water removal.

We don’t want a problem of water accumulation on a floor of a building to be solved by filling a basement with water. When removing water from a multi-storied building, start on the first floor and work upward to prevent a buildup of water on the lower floors.

Overhaul Tools

A variety of tools can be utilized during overhauling. A pike pole or ceiling hook can be used for pulling of lath and plaster ceilings. Plaster board or drywall ceilings have tools that can effectively open large areas to check behind or above the concealed spaces.

A prying tool con be used to open baseboards and moldings around doors and windows. The proven tools are the halligan, claw tool and axe but many new lightweight tools can facilitate these operations.

A particular concern of firefighters performing overhaul is dust. Dust can commonly be found in woodworking shops, grain elevators, bakeries and many other industrial occupancies. Combustible dust lying on a heated surface is subject to ignition due to carbonization of the dust. A cloud of combustible dust can be explosive. This occurs when the dust particles in the cloud are raised to their ignition temperature and come into contact with a source of ignition.

Once ignited, dust can smolder for long periods. Overhauling areas where there is a smoldering dust fire demands a close examination to ensure extinguishment. This must include examination of exposed beams, rafters, ledges and other flat surfaces in industrial occupancies commonly associated with dust. (A fire I had at the U.S. Mint involved smoldering metal dust that had accumulated over many years on flat surfaces high above the machinery. The fire was not spectacular and received little press coverage yet it took a prolonged overhauling and hard work to ensure complete extinguishment).

Water will extinguish most dust fires and moisture will raise the ignition temperature of the dust. When operating hose streams around dust, avoid creating dust clouds. Fog nozzles should be used.

The most dangerous hazard associated with dust is explosion. Dust explosions usually occur in pairs. The initial explosion may not cause substantial damage but it displaces dust that has rested on flat surfaces, creating a large dust cloud. If there is sufficient heat, a secondary explosion can occur. This secondary explosion is usually devastating.

We normally associate dust explosions with grain elevators in rural areas. They can and have occurred in urban areas. A grain elevator exploded with the force of 1,100 pounds of dynamite in Philadelphia, killing three people and injuring 86 others.

Safety Measures

Many firefighters are injured in the overhauling stages due to fatigue and dangerous conditions. Common injuries include:

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