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  1. #1
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    Default Fire In The Basement: What are your attack options?

    Upon arrival, if you observe fire in the basement of a residential structure fire, what are some attack strategies and tactics you might use?

    I know opinions might vary between a modern stick build, a balloon frame, or concrete structure, but give me a sense of your concerns and approaches to address those concerns in your first due area.
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    A good number of the basements around here have walk-outs. Attacking through the walk-out with a line protecting the interior starwell is the preferred approach. If no walk out, we try to make the stairs down and attack that way. If not possible, cellar nozzles are sometimes available or cutting a hole in the floor/ceiling.

    Venting is done either through windows to the basement or cutting a hole in the floor near a window.

    We also have a lot of split foyers. The lower leve is fought just like any other residence since at least half is usually above grade and has openings (window or a doorway). They also usually have a garage attached to the lower level that provides an entrance.

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    Cool Basement Fires

    Just like Eng34FF told ya, but also a nozzle can be put into a window if the fire is relatively close and accessible.

    Another idea is use a penetrating nozzle through the floor.

    If your able to make access to the door that leads to the basement, control it just as you would a main entry door. Prepare and know that when you open the door it's gonna act like a chimney and blow the heat on ya.

    I've heard and read that High Expansion Foam is also an option but I've never actually used this option. Seems to make sense how it would work in theory.

    My 1st entry option/thought is the walk-in/drive-in door with an additional line above as long as the floor joists are secure and safe to operate on.
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    FIT-5. No doubt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    I responded as 2nd due truck(officer+3FFs) last week to a basement fire. As soon as the first engine said "2-story frame, fire in the basement" I thought it could run the walls. We went to the roof and only flipped the scuttle, not wanting to do more damage than needed at this time. After the initial burst of smoke it cleared somewhat. 2-3 minutes the engine in the basement said fire pretty much knocked down. Another 2-3 minutes the smoke started getting thicker and pushing from the scuttle. Ladder co inside said "fire's running the walls." We now broke out the skylight and I told my saw guy to cut the roof and pointed to a spot away from our ladder. The cut was done and half pulled by the time fire's blowing out of the scuttle. As fire vented out the hole we cut, we made our way off the roof.

    As you said, it depends on the construction. The basement was gutted pretty good. There was little fire damage on the 1st and 2nd floor apartments. The kockloft was completely roasted front to back, side to side.

    Basement fires can travel big time. There's a need to anticipate fire spread. If there are open bays for water, sewer, electric lines, etc the fire can run up any and all 4 sides. Open up above the fire and get lines in place.

    You should anticipate fire in the loft, possibly the top floor apartment also.Top ventilation is important. Scuttle/skylight will vent the public hall and/or living area only, not the actual building itself. The scuttle here went down into a closet in the top floor apartment, not the public hall. That's why it was nailed down. In balloon construction you need to anticipate cutting the roof. There are mostly 2 and 3 story frames in my area that are 80+ years old. Many basement fires have ended up with the roofs cut because the fire was running the walls before we even got there. Don't think you never cut the roof if the fires not on the top floor.
    Last edited by len1582; 08-24-2010 at 11:18 PM. Reason: after thought

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    stay outside and wait until the fire shows itself to our exterior lines. At least we'll go home at the end of our shift...

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    stay outside and wait until the fire shows itself to our exterior lines. At least we'll go home at the end of our shift...
    Do you have attached buildings in your area?

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    yes we do, but we hide behind the guise of safety to explain why our cowardice led to unnecessary loss of property and/or lives.

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    Okay...

    All kidding aside if my FD had a DPSA FIT and the basement fire was fairly advanced I just might give it a shot. If it knocks it down fantastic. If not we still have water.

    I saw it work and believe that there are circumstances where its use has potential.

    With out that, this would be my plan. Have the attack crew ready at the basement entrance door. Have a vent crew ready to take out basement windows opposite the entry side. Have a PPV fan at the basement entry door. When every one is set, take out the windows, open the door, let the fan push the heat and smoke to the vent openings, then QUICKLY descend the stairs and knockdown the fire.

    Of course after that checking for extension on the upper floors is a must.

    I have used this tactic and it worked fine with no extension.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    FIT-5. No doubt.

    You jest, but I would attempt it. Even if it just knocks the fire back enough to open the door and peer down/get down the stairs with a nozzle. Based on what I saw when the guy demo'd it for us, I'd give it a shot. A chief from a department in WI deployed one on a basement fire and it worked.

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    Like was said before on any good basement fire in a balloon frame you will likely be opening the roof. Sometimes you can hit the fire from the landing in the basement stairs if it is open or knock some drywall out and hit it alittle bit before going down. Also use a TIC to watch the ceiling so you dont have fire go over you and cut off your exit.

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    i have a mix of old and new construction in my areas.

    first off "newer homes": don't like them. mostly mcmansions with glu-lam ibeams. DANGEROUS! if there is a walkout access we will use it. find the location of the fire and the best access point too. if needing interior access, we proceed until we think it is weakened, which happens anytime of those beams that they are heated (yikes). they are a minimum of a 3 line fire (primary basement attack, basement attack back-up, 1st floor extension line) we will vent the baement windows when the 1st line gets inplace. this may not be able to be hit from outside (until it gets bigger) due to layout and shear size of the mcmansions.

    old construction mostly platform: find location and access. line to the fire, line to the 1st floor. vent windows when the first line is ready. get to it and put it out, attic is a concern but not as much as if it is balloon.
    Originally Posted by madden01
    "and everyone is encouraged to use Plain, Spelled Out English. I thought this was covered in NIMS training."

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    Most of our basements have exterior doors. Vent by opening those while sending hose team with a CAFS line down the interior stairs. Knock it down quick with a 2 1/2. If ballooon start opening and looking for fire going up.

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    What's a basement?
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
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    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmleblanc View Post
    What's a basement?
    I thnk that is where the bilge pump and sea chest are located.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acklan View Post
    I thnk that is where the bilge pump and sea chest are located.

    If you put in a basement around here you'd need a bilge pump
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
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    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmleblanc View Post
    If you put in a basement around here you'd need a bilge pump
    Yep. By the way, were you involved in "Swamp People"? They filmed part of it down near you, right? You are near Pigeon?
    Last edited by Acklan; 09-03-2010 at 07:52 PM. Reason: Spelling.. or the lack there of.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acklan View Post
    Yep. By the way, were you involved in "Swamp People"? They filmed part of it down near you, right? You are near Pigeon?

    Me personally, no, I don't know anything about hunting gators There are three main "characters", if you will, in the show. One is from Bayou Pigeon, one is from around St. Tammany I think, and one is from Pierre Part. Pierre Part is pretty close to us and is one of our mutual aid departments. The guy from there, Troy Landry, is related to my wife's family some kind of way, and we know some of the other people we've seen in the show. His younger brother and I graduated from high school together.

    So yeah, sometimes I'm involved with swamp people, but not with "Swamp People"
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    Something I posted a long time ago in another thread:

    Basement fires need to be fought from the inside out, not because our books say so, because it makes sense. Entering thru an outside cellar or basement entrance with a line will drive the fire, heat and smoke up the interior stairs, every time, endangering us and any occupants, as well as extending the fire. Bringing the line down the stairs and using that outside access point as a vent along with the basement/cellar windows being taken will create a better outcome. This venting can be done by one firefighter, how many firefighters are you going to need up above after you push the fire up and into the house?

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    Thank you for the responses.
    J, I understand completely your thinking, however, I have some questions that go along with that thinking.

    It seems in the last couple of years, there is a re-occuring theme of "FF fell through the floor." Usually, it ends up being a case of not identifying the seat of the fire in the basement.

    My question to all of you is, do you know the construction?

    What is the likelihood that the floor may collapse while you are trying to get to a stair?

    I guess this may depend on the progression of the fire and perhaps just as importantly on the CONSTRUCTION of the flooring members.

    Can you SAFELY (within reason) reach the seat of the fire or are you going to be forced into switching to an indirect approach?

    If your hand is forced, what other tactics might you employ?

    Most importantly, are these additional dangers being plugged into the risk/reward equation before we leap?

    Wea Township in central/northern Indiana lost a soul just a foot or two inside a door. There was the fire in Colleran Twp in Ohio that claimed Boxterman and her fellow FF (I appologize, his name escapes me). There have been a slew of these with injuries and deaths this year. Are we sizing up, looking for fire below grade, and are we adjusting our strategic goals and developing new tactics to address this apparent growing problem?

    We are not going to fix this problem by using the same thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.
    Last edited by Fireeaterbob; 11-17-2010 at 07:56 PM. Reason: spelling/grammer
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    fyi: I am just now (through the archieves) listening to the fh.com podcast on basement fires. good info there and it would be a good thing for all to listen to if you haven't yet.
    Originally Posted by madden01
    "and everyone is encouraged to use Plain, Spelled Out English. I thought this was covered in NIMS training."

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    Just make sure the tip guy has enough line to go all the way. Stay low, stay fast. Don't get hung up on the stairs, AKA chimney. (I'd say that's almost all of our basement jobs...)

    Know basement vs. cellar. If you can't make the basement interior stairs, enter from exterior. (The rest of our jobs...) Or use cellar pipe/Bresnan distributor. (Rarely used...)

    Venting - if no/unventable windows, and no exterior entry, then cut floor above and hydraulically vent. Glass block in basement windows is common here, good luck venting.
    Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrpita View Post

    Venting - ....Glass block in basement windows is common here, good luck venting.
    just grab the 12 lbs sledge.... job done!
    Originally Posted by madden01
    "and everyone is encouraged to use Plain, Spelled Out English. I thought this was covered in NIMS training."

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    Talking

    You know, fightin fire in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin in a basement!

    Well, you don't got to be Vincent Dunn to know you don't want to fight fire in a basement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LFPDLT View Post
    You know, fightin fire in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin in a basement!

    Well, you don't got to be Vincent Dunn to know you don't want to fight fire in a basement.
    GREAT REPLY!!!! Love it. Thanks...I needed that!

    On a serious note, they are all different yet the same. Building construction, fire load, time of day, size up considerations, smoke / fire showing, reports of people trapped etc…all of these are different at every incident and no two incidents are alike. I prefer the exterior door approach the best because if I am certain the fire is in the basement upon arrival I believe the best path is the quickest most unobstructed path to the seat of the fire and entering the fire from an outside basement door more times than not provides that path. That said, I have found that the best plan is the most flexible one that allows for deviation when conditions warrant. We can’t be so mule headed to not acknowledge when doing what we prefer to do is not the best call and be willing to employ another, equally effective tactic.

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