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Thread: Lightweight construction tactics

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    Default Lightweight construction tactics

    I have pondered this a long time and this is how I look at lightweight residential construction fires. IF the fire has not escaped the compartment into the walls, or attic space, we can operate like we always have and go aggressive with an interior attack. If upon arrival we have smoke pushing, or fire showing from the eaves or gable ends, make a quick search, and a quick hit and if we don't get it right away go defensive until we knock down the main body of fire.

    Now, I am fully aware that some may call me a Safety Sally, but if you do I don't think you are hearing what I am saying. I am NOT saying don't go in to do a search, or to attempt a quick hit. What I am saying is we go in and make a rapid search, make a quick hit, if we can get it, great, if not pull out until we can gain control. Believe me when I say to you I am a very aggressive firefighter, but I just don't see the value of losing firefighters in essentially disposable buildings once we have searched, and cleared, the building and made an attempt at the fire.

    Okay, let me hear what you think.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 12-15-2011 at 11:39 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    I have pondered this a long time and this is how I look at lightweight residential construction fires. IF the fire has not escaped the compartment into the walls, or attic space, we can operate like we always have and go aggressive with an interior attack. If upon arrival we have smoke pushing, or fire showing from the eaves or gable ends, make a quick search, and a quick hit and if we don't get it right away go defensive until we knock down the main body of fire.

    Now, I am fully aware that some may call me a Safety Sally, but if you do I don't think you are hearing what I am saying. I am NOT saying don't go in to do a search, or to attempt a quick hit. What I am saying is we go in and make a rapid search, make a quick hit, if we can get it, great, if not pull out until we can gain control. Believe me when I say to you I am a very aggressive firefighter, but I just don't see the value of losing firefighters in essentially disposable buildings once we have searched, and cleared, the building and made an attempt at the fire.

    Okay, let me hear what you think.
    I agree.. These new homes are garbage. We try to get a line to the fire fast, the problem is some of these home are huge and finding the fire difficult to say the least.

    One thing that has helped us make the choice is that we have been studing the art of smoke reading, If there is turbulent or charged smoke or "black fire" as some would call it then we most likely let the fire break out then go from there.

    Now for fire attack, pull two lines the first makes entry and proceeds to the fire area the second stays at the point of entry. Once the 1st line finds the fire the second line then proceeds in to assist in knockdown or to cover egress if things get crazy. At that point a 3rd line is pulled to the point of entry as back up.
    Bring enough hose.

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    WOW! I thought this might be a hot topic. Guess I was wrong.
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    Just saw it myself, but I would tend to agree with your line of thinking.

    My city is mostly old construction (residential wise), but we do have some lightweight. Earlier this year we had what I believe was our first fire in a lightweight residence. Started as an ATV fire in the driveway, extended to the vinyl siding above the garage door and into the eaves and attic space. We got there pretty quick, but it was already spreading pretty fast.

    We started to make a push towards the fire on the one end, but didn't get more than a foot or two past the top of the entry steps (split level design) before it was clear that it wasn't safe to advance down the hallway and a minute or two later the IC pulled the plug. Wasn't long after that the roof started failing.

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    I Agree with you Fyred. As a building inspector, I am all too aware of how cheaply these "mcmansions' are being put together these days. I see it everyday; which is part of the reason why I was so ****ed when the idiots in Harrisburg torpedoed the residential sprinkler requirement in Pa earlier this year.

    One thing we all have in our favor is knowledge. You need to have knowledge of residential construction techniques and methods.....EVERYONE from the newest guy on the nozzle down to the incident commander in the front yard should have a fair idea of how that house is built, what it can withstand as far as a fire, where the fire may travel based on point of origin, and where to place resources (additional lines and truck companies with lots of hooks) to stop any advancing fire. Additionally, knowing which ones are stick-framed with dimensional lumber and which ones are trusses also goes a long way in the prediction factor. Are your residential communities with truss roofs marked or identified in some fashion??

    If you have mcmansions going up in your communities, ask the builder to do a walk-through with all personnel when one unit is fully framed, with all trades complete (electric/plumbing/hvac) so that you can see how badly the trades hack up studs and plates- and also where firestopping/fireblocking and smoke draft stopping is installed. Note fire corewalls in townhome units.....note the use of firestopping materials such as expanding fire foams or thermofiber in penetrations of plates and studs or against firewalls. Builders are more than happy (usually) to let fire depts do walk throughs. Note any structural steel in the basements, where and how they bear loads, and also where the point loads are coming down from above.

    Building construction isnt always the funnest and most exciting thing to learn, but knowing is half the battle.
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    Good tips....not a common construction type in my area at all. Guys around here are still using real wood and not using trusses.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Good tips....not a common construction type in my area at all. Guys around here are still using real wood and not using trusses.
    Over the years the materials in trusses have gotten smaller and smaller. Initially gang nail plates were used, but now some of the trusses have no fasteners at all and are glued together. Initially the OSB I-beams had 2x4's or 2x3's as the top or bottom members, now they are laminated pieces of OSB.

    All of these constuction members are light and strong and work just fine as long as they aren't attacked by fire. This stuff is not going to go away, it is too easy to use, to inexpensive compared to traditional framing, and meets code. It is up to us to adapt and innovate in order to do our job as safe as possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    This stuff is not going to go away, it is too easy to use, to inexpensive compared to traditional framing, and meets code. It is up to us to adapt and innovate in order to do our job as safe as possible.
    And to keep gnawing at the azzes of our politicians to pass sprinkler legislation or to pass legislation enforcing more protection (I.E. more compartmentalizing using heavier drywalls on basement and attic ceilings or floors, and wrapping critical parallams, psl's or other engineered beam components.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Over the years the materials in trusses have gotten smaller and smaller. Initially gang nail plates were used, but now some of the trusses have no fasteners at all and are glued together. Initially the OSB I-beams had 2x4's or 2x3's as the top or bottom members, now they are laminated pieces of OSB.

    All of these constuction members are light and strong and work just fine as long as they aren't attacked by fire. This stuff is not going to go away, it is too easy to use, to inexpensive compared to traditional framing, and meets code. It is up to us to adapt and innovate in order to do our job as safe as possible.
    No arguement from me on what you are saying. My area is small enough that when someone is building, it is noticed. I also sit on the Planning Board of my town so I know ahead of time on the bigger projects. And as I ride by looking at the work...I see true dimensional lumber being used. There are no developments, no projects, no mass house building. Anything here is a single house being built. There are enough of us and a small enough town that someone always notices work getting done.

    And yes, we do respond out of our area. And yes, different construction methods in those areas. That is why I started this with "good tips".
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    I have pondered this a long time and this is how I look at lightweight residential construction fires. IF the fire has not escaped the compartment into the walls, or attic space, we can operate like we always have and go aggressive with an interior attack. If upon arrival we have smoke pushing, or fire showing from the eaves or gable ends, make a quick search, and a quick hit and if we don't get it right away go defensive until we knock down the main body of fire.
    I think for "normal" sized SFD's you're right. If from the outside it looks like it's contained to the room then you go get it. If it looks like the attic area is involved then you're more cautious and the IC should dedicate a guy to keep an eye on that area and keep the EVAC tones on a hair trigger.

    The bigger concern are these absolutely HUGE SFD's. There might be nothing, or only light smoke showing from the outside but you go in and find out the central attic area is engulfed and it just hadn't showed itself yet.

    Gotta operate based on what you see and what you know.. but with these big homes you know that you see is much less accurate then with a typical building.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    I Agree with you Fyred. As a building inspector, I am all too aware of how cheaply these "mcmansions' are being put together these days. I see it everyday; which is part of the reason why I was so ****ed when the idiots in Harrisburg torpedoed the residential sprinkler requirement in Pa earlier this year.
    I agree with residential sprinklers and I agree they should be mandated for certain buildings (MFD, or SFD over certain size..etc). Still, its a tough sell even with the citizens.. We had a call just last weekend to one of the few areas that has residential sprinklers. Because of a sprinkler head malfunction the caller's unit as well as the surrounding units all had significant water damage. You think they're fans of sprinklers right now? Yes, it could have just as easily been the water line to their sink, or washing machine, or whatever.. yes Homeowners will probably cover most of the damage.. but you know there are now 6+ voters who would now vote 'no' on any local referendum..
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    Because of a sprinkler head malfunction the caller's unit as well as the surrounding units all had significant water damage.
    And what was the cause of the "malfunction?" - Someone using the head as a convienent place to hand some clothes to dry? Lack of maintenance? Kids kicking balls in the house? Freezing/thawing due to poor installation? Sprinkler heads don't just "malfunction" and I would hope that your organization tried to educate the property owners on the benefits of having sprinklers and that their situation was an anomoly amoung millions of properly functioning systems.
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    We have been lucky here as most new construction is still nailed, dimensional lumber and site built.

    We are seeing very little in the way of trusses in residental structures.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    And what was the cause of the "malfunction?" - Someone using the head as a convienent place to hand some clothes to dry? Lack of maintenance? Kids kicking balls in the house? Freezing/thawing due to poor installation? Sprinkler heads don't just "malfunction" and I would hope that your organization tried to educate the property owners on the benefits of having sprinklers and that their situation was an anomoly amoung millions of properly functioning systems.
    Not sure what caused the malfunction. I wasn't on the call but listening to the radio while standing by at the station. I understand what you mean about heads "malfunctioning" usually means homeowner induced. I'm not sure in this case. I know they were asked specifically whether it was a malfunction or accidental activation.

    Knowing the crew I'm sure they explained the benefits of said systems in the most compassionate way possible. At the same time while most would agree with the logic it also tends to ring hollow when you're ringing water out of your belongings.
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    Everything you said sounds good to me!

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    This topic actually came up at the firehouse tonight and someone brought up something new. Anyone here know more about new Lightweight Balloon construction?

    Sounds like the worst of two evils to me..
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    Are your residential communities with truss roofs marked or identified in some fashion??

    Building construction isnt always the funnest and most exciting thing to learn, but knowing is half the battle.
    Having seen many of your posts and often agreeing with you, I was going to ask you to elaborate on your question above before I comment. I am curious how you have the question and the statement tied together.
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    Seems to me it might be time to dust off some of the old cellar nozzles and Bresnan distributors and do some training with them. Bringing in a bigger line (1 3/4-2" may be a tactic to look at. More GPM's at the onset may help. Definetly a good topic to think about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    Seems to me it might be time to dust off some of the old cellar nozzles and Bresnan distributors and do some training with them. Bringing in a bigger line (1 3/4-2" may be a tactic to look at. More GPM's at the onset may help. Definetly a good topic to think about.
    to use a distributor you'd need to be above the fire.... worstplace to be. or are looking at bent tip applicator such as for high rises?

    a bigger line is a 1.75"? what do you use now?
    also the size of the hose is hardly anything, it comes down to the flow at the nozzle, hose ONLY dictates friction loss and "dragging" weight. shoot for a target flow and place the appropriate nozzles witht he appropriate flow and test them in realistic ways.
    i say this because i know of a department running one inch tips both on their 1.75" and 2.5" hoses.... ridiculous to stretch the bigger line if it flows the same.
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    And.......rate of flow extinguishes fire, not total volume of water applied.
    Last edited by MemphisE34a; 12-21-2011 at 08:31 PM.
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    i feel that one of the often overlooked aspects of lightweight construction and fire in SFDS is the exterior fire spread. With the vinyl siding and sofit covers compounded with ridge vented attics the fire will spread on the exterior 10 times as fast as it will on the inside.

    For example: fire starts on the outside of the structure runs up the vinyl siding to the attic, or fire vents out of the window and races up the side of the house. The fire is going to spread faster on the outside than it is on the inside.

    IMO- it is imparative to knock this exterior fire down before you advance inside to attack the fire that has entered into the structure.

    Another thing that I bring up that is not related to lightweight but is often used in new and renovated structures is the use of triple panel windows and other energy efficent building techniques. Houses today are air tight compared to houses build 10 years ago. The amount of heat and smoke that modern houses will hold before the windows fail is amazing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    i feel that one of the often overlooked aspects of lightweight construction and fire in SFDS is the exterior fire spread. With the vinyl siding and sofit covers compounded with ridge vented attics the fire will spread on the exterior 10 times as fast as it will on the inside.
    Great point. For years we stressed that we had to get in to fight the fire, any else was a defeat. Now, as you've noted, the use of vinyl siding and soffits means stopping the exterior fire before it beats us to the attic. It seems that easily 75% or more of the new homes in my area will have vinyl soffit and redige vents allowing any exterior fire rapid access to the whatever is at the lower edge of the roof, attic space, kneewalls, or voids. This is only worsened by the "farmers porch" that traps heat and funnels fire into the upper areas of new, especially modular, homes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    i feel that one of the often overlooked aspects of lightweight construction and fire in SFDS is the exterior fire spread. With the vinyl siding and sofit covers compounded with ridge vented attics the fire will spread on the exterior 10 times as fast as it will on the inside.

    For example: fire starts on the outside of the structure runs up the vinyl siding to the attic, .............. The fire is going to spread faster on the outside than it is on the inside.
    That's pretty much what happened at the fire I mentioned on page one. Started on the outside and raced up the siding and into the attic space in no time at all. We hit the outside fire first before making entry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Having seen many of your posts and often agreeing with you, I was going to ask you to elaborate on your question above before I comment. I am curious how you have the question and the statement tied together.
    It was more of a general statement to those concerned about having to operate in/on residential structures with truss roofs. And now that I think about it, how about truss roofs or open-web truss floor members?

    A neighboring community places markers at all entrances to developments with any of the above- "T" for truss roofs, "T/F" for truss roofs and floors. Markers are aluminum triangles, with white scotchlite with red print.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    It was more of a general statement to those concerned about having to operate in/on residential structures with truss roofs. And now that I think about it, how about truss roofs or open-web truss floor members?

    A neighboring community places markers at all entrances to developments with any of the above- "T" for truss roofs, "T/F" for truss roofs and floors. Markers are aluminum triangles, with white scotchlite with red print.

    Wow, a community helping their fire department. We have a community in our area that likes to paint hydrants green and surround them with shrubbery because hydrants are unsightly.

    Back to what you have said, I think this is a great idea. While I would like to see a push for residential sprinklers in homes, especially large ones, this seems to be a push in the right direction.

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