Danger Overhead: Attic Fires

As you roll in to a report of a structural fire, you note smoke off in the distance. As you turn into the block where the address is located, you note smoke and flames coming from a window just under the roofline of the house in question. You are...

We want to state for the record that the best way to extinguish an attic fire is to move in and apply water to the base of the fire. You may need to take some extra punishment, but it is possible for this attack to be accomplished in a safe manner by well-trained personnel. You may tale a bit of punishment from the heat, but that can be overcome by the power of your attack hose stream. If necessary, have the back up attack line in place to complete the attack.

A common error that we have observed comes when the fire has burned through the roof. It is at this point that someone gets the bright idea to shot water in, because they can. This drives the heat and smoke downward. It makes entry to the attic impossible, and may spread the fire downward.

If the roof burns through, this is good. It allows the smoke and heat to exit the structure through the natural method of ventilation, where heat is allowed to rise up and move away. Directing hose stream through the hole in the roof is less than useful. It may in fact be dangerous.

Once the roof is opened, you can move into the attic space quite easily and knock down the remaining fire. It is important to remember that you should use as little water as possible. The water that does not vaporize will travel downward and cause water damage.

For that reason, you should devote part of the response to salvage efforts. Place the necessary covers in order to limit the damage to personal property in the areas below the fire. A little care taken early in the fire can make all of the difference as time goes on.

Attic fires can be a difficult battle, but they can be one. The key of course is to keep the safety of your troops uppermost in your mind.