Thread: Basement fires

  1. #1
    E21 Guest

    Post Basement fires

    was wondering what depts SOP's are on attacking basement fires. Do most depts attack from inside stairwell or the outside stairwell. Of course sizing up and lookin at windows and doors are going to tell you alot but I was just wondering what most depts would do if both options were availble.

  2. #2
    mfgentili Guest


    Of course as we all know, no two fires are the same and the appropriate tactics will have to be decided upon arrival. Generally speaking though, if both options are available I'll go for the exterior stairwell. My reasons are:
    1. You know the location of the exterior door and stairs and don't have to search around in the structure to find it.
    2. Exterior doorways are usually wider, allowing for easier movement of equipment as well as a better escape route. This is especially true of bulkheads.
    3. By entering through the exterior door, you are able to keep the interior basement door closed and therefore lessen the chance of fire spreading up the stairwell and into the first floor living spaces through that route. In my area we have many older balloon framed structures so basement fires often spread to the attic through the unprotected stud walls (especially where no fire stops have been installed). It is most important to check the walls in the floors above the fire. The advent of Thermal Imaging Cameras has made this task much easier.
    4. Hoselines do not have to snake around rooms and furnishings to reach exterior stairwells as they would if using the interior stairs. This allows fire attack to be initiated much quicker. In the case of small fires, hoselines do not have to be dragged through the living areas. This can eliminate some water damage as well as damage caused by the hoselines knocking over personal belongings. This small detail can be very valuable PR for your department.

    Mike Gentili
    New Bedford Fire Dept.

  3. #3
    Dalmatian90 Guest


    Personally, if both were available...1st line goes to the 1st floor door to the basement to stop any possible/potential extension but keep the door closed.

    2nd hoseteam then enters from the outside entry to knock down the fire.

    If we have visible fire near a basement window, we'll also take a 2nd story applicator and insert it like a giant 35gpm sprinkler head and knock down the fire before the crew has to make entry (Note the *before* part -- so they can let the steam vent when they open the door)

    I prefer the 2nd team comes from the outside since opening the interior door will expose the house to additional smoke & heat. This is assuming the basement door has been closed the whole time!

    If the interior door was open, well Hose Teams 1 & 2 move in on the fire, then down the interior stairs and vent it from the outside door!

    Random Thought: The interior stairs to an unfinished basement are usually *very* exposed wood that will burn quickly so be careful...the exterior stairs are usually concrete like the foundation.

  4. #4
    benson911 Guest


    As usual, I agree with Matt.

    You MUST protect the interior stair first. Not only are you protecting the rest of the house, you're protecting a potential point of egress for any crews operating in the basement. Get that first hoseline in position at the top of the interior stair and attack from whichever opening is best.

    You have to rely on the size-up! Predetermining your attack is unreliable, unsafe and unprofessional. Attack each fire in the safest most effective manner and you'll be succesful. Write a SOP that requires you to attack each basement fire the same way is setting yourself up to fail 1/2 the time.

    Tactics in fire attack are different from avoiding known hazardous conditions. You can ALWAYS require FF's not to go under or on any lightweight truss roof if it is involved in fire. It should be in your SOP, and it MUST be followed. Attacking a fire from the unburnt side is a good idea, but it may not be the best option on every fire.

    Smoke and fire traveling up the interior stair from a basement is a known hazard to the rest of the structure and any victims still in the house. But, attacking the fire through the outside stair may keep the fire gases in the structure. Attacking the fire from the interior stair maintains the stair's integrity and pushes the fire, smoke and gases out of the house via the exterior stair. BUT, this may not be the safest and most effective method depending on the fire.

    Size up the fire, make a strategic plan and attack the fire aggressively. That's a formula for success.

  5. #5
    jerseyfire Guest


    Different situations would dictate different operations, but as I see it my mind, I would attack from the inside first. Outside access to besements is actually kinda rare around here so we are usually faced with having to attack down the chimney (stairway) anyway. The luxury of having that big vent hole leading right outside would be a big advantage.

    I think itís much riskier to attack from outside and chance pushing fire and smoke into the building.

    But thatís how Iím picturing the scenario. Other options like basement distributors may also be used is needed, and safety is always a priority.

    Rob Donnan
    Captain, Metuchen FD
    President, Jersey Fire & Rescue

  6. #6
    CollegeBuff Guest


    What about only one entrance/exit? If I'm reading you all right you haven't mentioned that yet. My basement is like that. Coincidently the stairs lead directly to one of the main entrances to the house on the first floor. The door is on the left side of the house (side A?) and as soon as you're through the door the basement are on your right. Other than that, there's a few very small windows. Not much chance for a two-line attack.

  7. #7
    Dalmatian90 Guest


    Then ya gotta go down the interior stairs...not the most fun thing to do. High flow straight stream or smoothbores. Most apartment buildings in Worcester are balloon frames...better get a second line behind the first crew in the basement to protect them and the 3rd line goes to the attic the truckies have hopefully vented already.

    Somebody correct me, but three deckahs are balloon frame, right? A lot of the other housing stock up there are balloons too!

  8. #8
    AntiqueFireLt Guest


    Good question!!
    Of course every fire is different so no rules of attack should be cast in stone.

    My choice given the options would be to attack down the interior stairs and vent out the bulkhead. Why? First off, coming in from outside gives the fire and gases only two options, out over your head or up through the house. (given most basements have inadequate windows for ventilation) The interior also gives you control of the means of egress on the first floor. If you have to hold of your attack for rescue you already inside.MFGENTILI has a good point on balloon frames, get to the attic early on.
    Peircing nozzles and distributors are also great tools to have in your tool box.
    If the interior stairs are unsafe or you can't make the basement, then go outside and attck from there, but, provide a place for the fire to go. Seems like alot of work but opening the first floor in front of a window then providing an interior stream to assist the fire out the window may be a viable option. Check out Norman on this whole topic.

    Whatever you do, do it safe!

    this post is soley mine and in no way reflects the opinions of my department or local.

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