1. #1
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    Default Prepping a structure for live burn

    Let's get back to discussing fire, shall we? So my FD was just donated a multistory singel family dwelling. How do you guys and gals prep it for live burns. I have be religiously studying Nfpa 1403, but I want some insight from this crowd as to how they have ran them in the past.
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    We do a couple of these a year, and there's a lot of prep work involved, and potentially a lot of money too, depending on what your state & local ordinances might be.

    1. Get an asbestos study done. In our case, if the asbestos is found (ususually in roof shingles or siding), we're required to have it removed.

    2. Remove the water pressure tank from in (or under) the house.

    3. Patch ALL of the holes in the ceiling, walls, and floors. Ensure that you have working doors to compartmentalize the fire so you can control it's growth. You don't want to burn the house down, or your members up, when you drop the first torch.

    4. The only acceptable fuels are pallets and straw. Diesel fuel and gasoline have NO business at your training site.

    5. Have a supply of lumber to patch holes as needed. Once again, it's about ensuring that members don't get burned or trapped by hidden fire in the walls/floors/ceiling.

    6. Have twice the amount of water that you think you'll need. Have at least two independant water sources. We usually use a high-capacity tanker as our back-up water supply, in addition to filling dual drop-tanks with a pumper drafting.

    7. Have the minimum number of instructors that NFPA 1403 calls for. We never use less than seven to fill the various roles. Sometimes this can get crowded in some of the smaller occupancies, but I'd rather the students be a little crowded than get hurt. Futhermore, in the case of extreme cold or extreme heat, have extra instructors at the ready so you can rotate them.

    8. Decide who your instructors are. Make sure that they're qualified for the position.

    9. Have rehab ready, no matter the time of year.

    10. Have an accountability system established before you even arrive at the training site. Along with that, figure out ahead of time how your group rotations will work. We generally run multiple groups that will rotate something like: Fire Attack --> Rehab --> S&R --> Rehab --> Ladders --> RIT --> Rehab.

    11. Check with your local government's planning and zoning office, and ensure that they don't have any rules that needed to be followed. Do the same with your state fire training and/or state fire marshal's office too.

    These are a few of the things I can think of off the top of my head at 2AM EST. Let me know if you have any other questions....
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    Yep - what Box Alarm said - PLUS!!!!!

    12 - Make sure you have either CLEAR TITLE to the property - or explicit instructions written as to how the structure will be used- I would check with the Dept attny too.....

    13 - Make sure the owner does NOT have the property still insured - you don't need them coming after you once it is burned - OR have them try to file an insurance claim!

    14 - only ONE burn at a time.....do not burn multiple rooms/floors

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    To expand on the government comment, you may want to contact your state's EPA or whatever other similar agency they have. In PA, you need approval to burn structures because of clean air act regulations.
    Thomas Anthony, PE
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    To continue on the legal thread: Go to the town or county government and make sure there are no liens filed on the property deed. Make sure that the property is free and clear of mortgages from lending institutions. Get a notorized statement from the property owner that releases the department and states that they have clear title and are able to make the decision to burn down the property.
    We get several request to remove structures every year. Many are new owners that want to save the demolition costs of removing the old structures so they can build a new starter castle. You are saving them a large amount of money by using their buildings as training burns.

    Follow all the above comments about boarding up voids and we put plywood shutters on all windows on hinges so we can control ventilation. We require them to have the roofing shingles removed as required by the state EPA. Make sure that there are no hidden surprises in the basement , attic and closets, such as paint cans , propane cylinders , half filled oil tank or any other hazardous materials left behind. Our agreement make the property owner responsible to remove all these at their cost prior to turning the property over to us.

    Also make use of the building in the weeks prior to the burn for search and rescue, RIT, thermal imager training. We also will set up a day for ladder and roof ops training.

    Then plan all contingencies in advance and make sure that you conduct all live fire ops safely.
    If you are using tanker shuttles to supply water have a couple of porta tanks set up and all trucks on scene full before starting any fires.

    Above all make sure there are several safety officers, both inside & out with eyes on the scene at all times.
    Good luck and enjoy the time to train safely!

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    I was going to add my $2 worth (deputy chiefs have to pay more ) but the matter has been pretty well covered by BoxAlarm187, Pasofire, PATF1engineer and IslandFire03.

    The $2 will go into the coffee kitty....
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    We sometimes put up double or even triple layers of sheetrock in the burn rooms, to allow more burns before it gets into the overhead or walls.
    Sheetrock is cheap, throw some up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post

    6. Have twice the amount of water that you think you'll need. Have at least two independant water sources. We usually use a high-capacity tanker as our back-up water supply, in addition to filling dual drop-tanks with a pumper drafting.
    While I have not run a live burn, I watched one several years ago that didn't go well. Rural area. 2-1/2 story frame. Closest hydrant 4-500 or so feet away. ONE 5 inch line off the hydrant running to ONE pumper with 4 lines off. First burn went well. A room or two. Even second was fine. BUT. Third was lit and the rig crapped out. It turned to dung pretty fast.

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    We used to get a lot of houses, damn tax changes. We always made the homeowner take care of the asbestos issue. Normally, we were getting the houses so that someone could clear the property for a bigger house. We also made them provide refreshments for the guys. Don't forget, you are most likely saving them some money instead of them having the house demolished.
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    To add to what some of the others have included:

    Here, we have to strip out carpet, padding, and any shingles/tar paper, along with the asbestos stuff.

    Like someone said, check with EPA or your version of DNR to make sure they don't have any requirements or paperwork.

    Get an agreement with the property owner stating that they are donating the structure, etc. Sometimes they can use it as a tax deduction, along with saving money on how much they have to haul off.

    I don't think you would, but one cannot reiterate enough to use fuels that you know how they're going to react. Straw, pallets, etc. Sometimes we'll add some small pieces of OSB or plywood to give just a touch more heat and smoke, especially if we're burning in a larger room/area.

    We usually pick out a couple of closets as our burn spots. We use double or triple layers of drywall to maintain it, and put a cut-down barrel to contain the coals a bit better. If you can get a piece of cement board underneath the barrel, it helps dissipate some of that heat, too.

    Like someone else said, use it for all it's worth. Get some cheap hinges, screws, and some plywood/OSB/drywall to hang over windows so that you can open them in a hurry as an egress or vent.

    If you want to play with PPV or anything, fill it with smoke and use the windows with the hinged covers to demonstrate what happens when you don't have enough vent openings vs. appropriate vent openings.

    If you want to drop me a PM, I have several documents that we use when we do a live burn on a donated structure. They've been passed down several times before they got to me, so I'm more than happy to share them.

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    Any time in the past that we've burned a structure, we've gotten the property owner to light it (safely). It put the onus on them.

    We haven't done in-building burning/drillin in ages. I'd rather send them to the burn building at the training center where things are a little better controlled.

    We also generally have them knock the building down first.

    If I'm going to drill inside an acquired structure, I'd prefer to smoke it up with a machine (although we did use a barrel filled with damp hay and stove pipe to get the smoke inside some years ago).

    Nowadays, when we hand the property owner the packet that they have to complete before we do anything like burning a building, they start looking for other ways to dispose of the place.
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    Very good suggestions already mentioned. I have a few things to add that very well could just be my personal preference.

    1. CLEAR all window openings. I prefer to take the sash and all. If you want to cover these openings with tin or some other material to hold in smoke that's fine, but no glass should be present in windows. Tin with small nails works great for covering the opening while letting you open the hole up easily from the inside.

    2. Mark you exits. I have a picture somewhere of windows marked with spray paint in a checkered pattern from the bottom of the sill all the way down to 3 feet or so across the floor. This makes them easy to find even if you're crawling.

    3. Remove all light fixtures and furnishings. This may seem like common sense but I have been to live burns before where ceiling fans and the like have been left hanging in rooms where fire will be. Get them out of there.

    4. Make sure to do a walk through of the structure with every student and instructor who will be participating. Also don't forget a safety briefing. The idea of filming the safety briefing to show all members present is also a good idea. If you don't participate in the briefing, you don't burn. Period.

    5. Dedicate a hose line for your interior safety instructor. This makes so much more sense that having 4 students standing outside in full PPE the entire duration of the burn before them. In hot weather they will be tired from just standing there before they even make it inside. Having an extra ISI wouldn't be bad so one can man the line and one can take control of a student if need be.

    Other than that, follow 1403 to a T and you should be good to go. The thing to remember when prepping a building and formulating the plan for the burn is to remove anything from either that could possibly leave you liable if someone were to get hurt. Accidents do happen, but make sure that no one can blame you if they do. Being the AHJ on this burn means that what you say goes, and if someone doesn't like that, they can leave.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    3. Remove all light fixtures and furnishings. This may seem like common sense but I have been to live burns before where ceiling fans and the like have been left hanging in rooms where fire will be. Get them out of there.
    This is something I've seen that actually gets overlooked quite a bit, particularly the fans. In one case, I noticed one off-gassing while we were watching the fire's behavior just inside the room.

    At the same time we had one live burn where a bulb was exposed during the burn and deformed like they show for investigations classes. It actually worked out nice in that case, but I've never seen anybody be able to replicate it deliberately. It was one of those situations it was in the right place to get just enough heat to cause it to deform and made for a good learning opportunity for everyone who had never seen it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    This is something I've seen that actually gets overlooked quite a bit, particularly the fans. In one case, I noticed one off-gassing while we were watching the fire's behavior just inside the room.

    At the same time we had one live burn where a bulb was exposed during the burn and deformed like they show for investigations classes. It actually worked out nice in that case, but I've never seen anybody be able to replicate it deliberately. It was one of those situations it was in the right place to get just enough heat to cause it to deform and made for a good learning opportunity for everyone who had never seen it.
    Off gassing hasn't been much of a problem but they leave a OUCH if they melt off and fall. T.C.

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    i wouldn't go inside of it, its vacant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    Off gassing hasn't been much of a problem but they leave a OUCH if they melt off and fall. T.C.
    That is very true.

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    It may not be a bad idea to talk to the neighbors surrounding the property and let them know that you will burning the house. That gives you a chance to see if they have any concerns that can be addressed before the burn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tree_house View Post
    It may not be a bad idea to talk to the neighbors surrounding the property and let them know that you will burning the house. That gives you a chance to see if they have any concerns that can be addressed before the burn.
    This is another thing I had forgotten about. If it's in town, make sure and let the City Council know as well.

    The last one we did was off of the highway that runs through town. Not only did neighbors appreciat the heads-up, but the City helped with traffic control and shutting down the street we were on, and we had a pretty large audience that included the media.

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    I usually have a meeting a week or two before with departments that will be assisting to go over what we would be doing. I make a sheet of the house layout, RIT, Lighters, Water Supply, Tankers, Attack engine,back up engine, Rehab, and a staging area. I also have staging for trucks to respond to calls with assigned crews. I have every thing layed out on paper and go over it with every one so we all are on the same page. Then it also wouldn't hurt to do a dry run of setting up how you would set up everything I mentioned on the day of the drill.

    I also make people going in to provide a copy of their fire card and I have a "safety officer" who inspects every one going in to make sure all their ppe is on the proper way and to make sure there is no problem with their gear. (we had a house for about 4 months and burned it 2 weeks ago a bone head attempted to go inside with out his hood on) therefore the safety guy caught it and corrected the situation. I uaually have the accountability person working with the safety person as it helps out a lot.

    Like others say make sure you have epa permits if required and follow 1403.

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    I got to go take a Look at the building over this weekend, There is still a Ton of Furniture and other crap inside the building, but out side of that, it looks promising. The Entire Place has been Sheet-rocked, But some places have been covered with Fiber board and some goofy wall coverings. We counted 3 possible exit doors, 2 where being used one has been very poorly covered up, the same with 2-3 windows. The one thing that does have me worried is that the "contractor" and i use that term loosely let some pretty major gaps in the Sheet-rock. I will post some pictures up in the very near future and let you guys throw your comments in.
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    You have gotten some very good advice so far, I won't go into that. One Thing that we have done in the past is make a 3.5 X 7.5 (Foot) Hole in the roof, then Lay a 4 X 8 Sheet of Plywood over the hole and attach a pair or two of Hinges to the Lower side and a piece of Wire to the upper edge, hanging down to the Ground. During your operations, IF NEEDED, you can have a big Vent Hole by pulling on the wire......... At least it worked OK for us....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhacker View Post
    I got to go take a Look at the building over this weekend, There is still a Ton of Furniture and other crap inside the building, but out side of that, it looks promising. The Entire Place has been Sheet-rocked, But some places have been covered with Fiber board and some goofy wall coverings. We counted 3 possible exit doors, 2 where being used one has been very poorly covered up, the same with 2-3 windows. The one thing that does have me worried is that the "contractor" and i use that term loosely let some pretty major gaps in the Sheet-rock. I will post some pictures up in the very near future and let you guys throw your comments in.
    If you're worried about insufficient exits, that's one that's easy to take care of. Simply use whatever saw you use for demo/vent (K12, Cutter's Edge, Ventmaster, whatever) and cut the bottom of a window sill down to the sill plate on both sides. Pull that section of what out and you have a door. A sheet of plywood on a couple of hinges gives you some control over it.

    Sounds like you're doing your homework and prep work, so you're definitely on the right track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    If you're worried about insufficient exits, that's one that's easy to take care of. Simply use whatever saw you use for demo/vent (K12, Cutter's Edge, Ventmaster, whatever) and cut the bottom of a window sill down to the sill plate on both sides. Pull that section of what out and you have a door. A sheet of plywood on a couple of hinges gives you some control over it.

    Sounds like you're doing your homework and prep work, so you're definitely on the right track.
    This is good advice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tree_house View Post
    It may not be a bad idea to talk to the neighbors surrounding the property and let them know that you will burning the house. That gives you a chance to see if they have any concerns that can be addressed before the burn.
    The last one we burned the people across the street were so happy to get rid of it they threw a huge neighborhood cookout during the whole thing. We spent about half the day eating.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasobuff View Post
    Yep - what Box Alarm said - PLUS!!!!!

    12 - Make sure you have either CLEAR TITLE to the property - or explicit instructions written as to how the structure will be used- I would check with the Dept attny too.....

    13 - Make sure the owner does NOT have the property still insured - you don't need them coming after you once it is burned - OR have them try to file an insurance claim!

    14 - only ONE burn at a time.....do not burn multiple rooms/floors
    oh yeah since fire only burns in one room at a time.
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