Commercials - Got Fire; Anticipate Collapse

A recent video clip making its way around the cyber fireground clearly depicted a very close-call and resulting near miss event to four firefighters at a four alarm fire involving a commercial building that housed an established insulation manufacturer and installation contractor.

The video shows within a very compressed time frame, the progression of rapidly deteriorating interior conditions, the adverse effects on the building’s structural systems and the results from the loss of load transfers that lead to a catastrophic wall collapse narrowly missing the crew of firefighters who were operating a hand line in the vicinity of an exterior overhead door. Fortunately the injuries sustained to the firefighters were minor in nature; however the consequences and results from this collapse could have been far different and significantly more severe.

Following a series of repeated viewings of the video clip and with each successive viewing, it became readily apparent that there was a lot more to these images of the collapse and the cursory focus on the resulting near miss event. Closer examination of the video clip and the still frames brought to light some obvious conditions and indicators that easily become lost in the rapidity of the sequence of the collapse; which really has the true story to be told.

It’s the mechanism and sequence of the collapse, the dynamics of the building’s performance and the building indicators that provide a training opportunity in further examining key factors, presenting insights that could be a focus for operational and command personnel at future incidents with common parameters and gaining some mental models in recognition-primed decision making that contribute to the naturalistic decision-making process.

If you know what to be looking for, then when you see it, you may be able to anticipate, project and implement in rapid succession appropriate measures dictated by the incident.

In an effort to promote additional insights and bring forward these fundamental observations and experienced-based presumptions extended from these and other news video images, still photographs, additional reporting research and examination, and a review of other published media resources; the following observations presented in this overview brief are being conveyed to increase firefighter, company and command level awareness of key collapse indicators such as those present at this commercial fire and to further the concept of adaptive fireground management principles and increase awareness of fundamental building performance indicators and principles to help you increase your intuitive observations skills and translate them into proactive operational actions on the fireground-before an adverse condition occurs.[ i.e., being five steps ahead of the fire conditions].

Although this briefing makes use of the images and conditions depicted in the video clip and encountered by the fire department evident in the images; the subsequent commentary and insights provided are not meant to provide direct or indirect opinions, renderings, criticism or censure towards the conduct of operations or the management of the incident by the respective department and it’s firefighting, command and support personnel who operated at the actual fire and experienced this near miss event first-hand.

We are grateful that the events of this alarm precluded anything worst occurring given the potential seriousness of the prevailing incident conditions and commend the fire department and it’s firefighters that provide these exceptional services each and every day to the citizens they serve and to the community they protect, in mitigating this serious fire; safely and successfully.

This incident and the resulting near-miss captured by the videographer provides the Fire Service with an exceptional opportunity given today’s far reaching capabilities of eMedia, this web site and direct and indirect readers, links, tweets, likes, reposting’s, uploads, downloads and sharing an opportunity to share the consequences of an extreme close-call and learn from it in a positive and constructive manner, so that firefighters, company officers, commanders and support personnel can better predict with knowledge, insight and at times intuition a better understanding of buildings and the structures and occupancies we operate within on the fireground.

There are numerous inherent indicators present at every incident scene we operate at that. As is in this near miss event and building collapse; it’s sometimes the subtle things that need to gain the attention of operating companies and personnel and the ability to rapidly process, recognize and react.

Remember this: Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.

As a generality; it’s important to note that given heavy fire involvement in a structure (got fire), adaptive fireground management considerations would promote conservative considerations to anticipate and expect collapse (degraded or compromise; limited or catastrophic).

In the case of fires in commercial occupancies and buildings with:

  • Large Square footage/Floor areas
  • Significant fire loads
  • Large open structural system spans lacking compartmentation,
  • Unprotected steel components and assemblies
  • No Sprinkler Systems
  • Omitted, compromised or degraded passive or active protective or suppression systems
  • Significant openings along the exterior building envelope
  • Significant opening on the roof enclosure
  • Deep seated fires or rapidly escalating and extending fires

It is mission critical to comprehend and understand your department’s operational capabilities and the necessary deployment demands for fire suppression, fire flow and phased operations.

Respect these buildings for the occupancy risk they present and not the typical occupancy type that we develop our strategies, incident action plans and tactical deployments. It’s a lot more than that, with far greater consequences that may be very unforgiving.

For the complete Briefing Article, diagrams, graphics and photos on :