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Thread: Venting the bulkhead in different occupancies?

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    Question Venting the bulkhead in different occupancies?

    First off I am from a dept that doesn't regularly respond to fires in multiple dwellings/tax payers; when we do, going to the roof isn't typically a high priority unless the fire is in the top floor or cockloft. With that being said I am interested in how other depts handle venting vertically in different occupancies.

    -First, in a multiple dwelling when do you open the bulkhead door/take the skylight above the stairway?
    -Do you open the bulkhead up on fires when the fire is on a floor below the top floor?
    -Do you wait until a hose line is in place on the fire before opening the bulkhead?
    -If you do vent the stairway on fires below the top floor do you worry about the fire spreading into that stairway?
    -Which stairway would you typically use to vertically vent the Attack stairway?
    -When venting a multiple Dwelling do you make multiple openings bulkhead/scuttle hatches/cut holes? I was under the impression that you only want one hole in the roof to prevent the lateral spread of the fire but I have found some sources that talk about making multiple openings?

    -Do you typically preform vertical ventilation in tax payers or flat roofed row houses when the fire isn't on the top floor, again, do you worry about the fire spreading or is preventing the mushrooming more important then fire spreading vertically?

    Thanks for the help.


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    Not sure what you mean by "bulkhead", that's more of a term used regarding ships not buildings. But if the fire isn't on the top floor, you'd ventilate horizontilly to keep heat and smoke from traveling upward.

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    A bulkhead is a partitioned enclosure at the top of a stairway fitted with a door to provide access from the stairway to the roof.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    Not sure what you mean by "bulkhead", that's more of a term used regarding ships not buildings. But if the fire isn't on the top floor, you'd ventilate horizontilly to keep heat and smoke from traveling upward.
    you guys must have some incredible response times.
    FyredUp, 53fireman and ATFDFF like this.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    the bulkhead is a head that is bought in bulk so the contractor can save on construction costs. It is much cheaper than buying your heads one at a time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    you guys must have some incredible response times.
    Well, once in a while you get there early in the game. Sometimes not so much. You work with what you got when you get there.

    BTW, bulkhead is not a common term around here, must be an east coast thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 53fireman View Post
    I checked this out before writing the original post, that is what led to most of these questions Thanks for the help though. Can anyone else shed some light on these questions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    Not sure what you mean by "bulkhead", that's more of a term used regarding ships not buildings. But if the fire isn't on the top floor, you'd ventilate horizontilly to keep heat and smoke from traveling upward.
    Have you never had a stairwell in an apartment building charged with smoke from a fire inside one of the apartments on a lower floor?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dibbs12 View Post
    First off I am from a dept that doesn't regularly respond to fires in multiple dwellings/tax payers; when we do, going to the roof isn't typically a high priority unless the fire is in the top floor or cockloft. With that being said I am interested in how other depts handle venting vertically in different occupancies.

    -First, in a multiple dwelling when do you open the bulkhead door/take the skylight above the stairway?
    -Do you open the bulkhead up on fires when the fire is on a floor below the top floor?
    -Do you wait until a hose line is in place on the fire before opening the bulkhead?
    -If you do vent the stairway on fires below the top floor do you worry about the fire spreading into that stairway?
    -Which stairway would you typically use to vertically vent the Attack stairway?
    -When venting a multiple Dwelling do you make multiple openings bulkhead/scuttle hatches/cut holes? I was under the impression that you only want one hole in the roof to prevent the lateral spread of the fire but I have found some sources that talk about making multiple openings?

    -Do you typically preform vertical ventilation in tax payers or flat roofed row houses when the fire isn't on the top floor, again, do you worry about the fire spreading or is preventing the mushrooming more important then fire spreading vertically?

    Thanks for the help.
    As with everything, the first question should always be, what are we trying to accomplish exactly. With vertical ventilation in a multiple dwelling, the main objective of venting the bulkhead is to protect and attempt to relieve conditions on the upper floors and stairwell...the primary means of escape for occupants & primary means of access for firefighters searching the floors above. Venting of the actual fire area is primarily done via horizontal ventilation of the fire apartment from the outside (not to say that vertical vent wont effect the fire apartment)

    -So venting of the skylight and bulkhead door is a priority over anything else done on the roof in the initial stages. Simply venting the bulkhead may draw heat and smoke away from trapped occupants on the upper floors, make it easier for the engine to stretch a line, particularly to the floor above and make access to the stairway and upper floors more bearable for firefighters ascending to search apartments and the stairwell for occupants who may have tried to escape unsuccessfully.....many times, our roofmen have found occupants on the inside of the bulkhead door...after they had tried to escape upward but were unable to get the bulkhead door open.

    Holes are generally NOT cut in roofs of multiple dwellings, unless we have reason to believe the FIRE has extended into the cockloft. If it is suspected, then the roofman will usually make a small inspection hole to determine if fire has entered the cockloft. We do not routinely cut roofs, especially just for smoke....bulkhead/skylight ventilation, combined with horizontal ventilation of the fire area will usually be sufficient. When we cut; it is generally to keep fire from spreading horizontally.

    We do not wait for the line when venting vertically. Our truck companies are at the apartment door by the time the roofman is in position. They have control of the apartment door (one reason the canman carries a can & hook)....so if fire spreading into the stairwell is a concern, it will be controlled on the fire floor.

    For taxpayers and rowframes....again, the priority of venting is scuttle covers & skylights, even for top floor fires....much quicker vent than cutting a hole. If a taxpayer has no skylights or scuttles, or a rowframe has a tarred over skylight and no scuttle....then this would be a rare circumstance when we would cut a hole to vent smoke. The vast majority of the time, taking the scuttles & skylights will suffice, unless we have reason to believe fire has extended into the cockloft. Again....if fire is under the roof boards...we will then cut a hole to control actual fire spread.

    Incidentally, at peaked roof private dwelling fires, it is extremely rare that we cut the roof. Ventilation of horizontal openings (windows), is almost always sufficient. Manpower (which we have alot of) is better used gaining access to the private dwellings upper floors (bedrooms) to vent and search. Again, unless there is fire under the roof boards....it is rarely necessary to cut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    the bulkhead is a head that is bought in bulk so the contractor can save on construction costs. It is much cheaper than buying your heads one at a time.
    That made me laugh....
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    Matty said it perfectly, I'll just add about access. We take a few routes to the roof, the Adjoining building is first choice, then the ariel then the rear fire escape. These are the base options. As Matty said, we dont go to peaked roofs more then a 30 degree slope....I dont have many of these in my part of The City, so my experiance with peaks is not as fluid as a guy from a private dwelling area. What I can say definitively is that all three choices can be combined! Also, we dont send the roofman up the interior stairs of the fire building, it is however in our books and has been done in extreme, last resort efforts. A line must be in place first, however, taking the interior stairs to a floor below the fire then through an apt to the fire escape is acceptable. Ive done that a bunch, a bonus is that it gives me a general idea of the layout of the fire apt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by VinnieB View Post
    Matty said it perfectly, I'll just add about access....
    I wish you and Matty would both post more. Good info with no snark. We could use a lot more of that around here. Both of you had valuable information and added it to the discussion without pot shots or off topic vile.

    I hope it becomes a regular thing.

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    Almost forgot, with fire-proof type buildings, we do not open the bulkhead right away. The roofman hoes to the apartment above the fire, the truck chauffer will make his way to the roof if the fire is beyond the reach of ladders and coordinate venting the bulkhead with the IC. There is an exception, for low rise fire proofs, 75' and lower, we treat as a non fire proof building. The other exception is high rise office and hospitals, basically HR commericials, all truck members stick together, but then again, there are a few variations to that too!
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    Matty and Vinnie, thank you for the awesome responses, I really appreciate it.

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    No problem, happy it helps, stay safe
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    Quote Originally Posted by THEENGINEGOES View Post
    Have you never had a stairwell in an apartment building charged with smoke from a fire inside one of the apartments on a lower floor?
    Yes I have. But what kind of layout and contruction are you talking about? There are many ways to construct apartment buildings, and the tactics used to fight fire in them are going to be different depending on the the construction.

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