1. #1
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    Default Buildings That Scare You?

    I am sure everyone in this forum has a particular building in their town that they would abnormally dangerous during a structure fire whether it is because of construction, roof design, etc. Mine, personally would have to be our local Walmart Supercenter. I work full-time at the local Walmart and am also a volunteer firefighter. My reasons for judging Wal-mart store construction abnormally dangerous would have to do with the roof design, which all Walmart stores are constructed of open web bar joists which can fail in less than 10 minutes during a structure fire. Also the chemicals and synthetics in the store could make evacuation of customers a very serious issue (ie. fast moving fire fueled by synthetics and chemicals) Anyways, I thought I would throw this topic out there.

    Robert Lightbown
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    Interesting question considering the St. Petersburg condo fire. We have a few condos in our zone that were built before sprinklers were mandatory. Most of the people living there are elderly (having retired to sunny Florida to make our lives hell on the road, lol). We try to keep an updated list of those who are invalids or who might require special help during an evacuation. The worst thing about them right now is that they are undergoing repairs on the balconies. Instead of solid balcony rails (all of the apartments in those buildings open to a main outside balcony on each floor) they have red mesh "fencing" which is strung up. I keep having these horrible mental images of dropping a patient off of a stretcher over the side on a rescue call. During a fire call, it would be a nightmare.

    We also have two condos which, although sprinkled, also scare the hell out of me. These are pretty up-scale, and each condo takes up an entire floor. They have a strange arrangement where the condos all flip-flop thier floor plan from one floor to the next. There are two stairwells, one North and one South, but each stairwell level opens into someone's apartment, so the door that you come to on each level opens into either thier balcony or thier kitchen. Now, to make it confusing, the doors go every-other level kitchen, then balcony, then kitchen, then balcony, and the opposite stairwell goes the opposite. So, you need to have a pretty good idea in which room of the condo the fire is in, or you might end up on the wrong side of the fire without a good means of egress.

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    How about an auto parts store. Specially with oil holding tanks.
    You can just smell the gaoline coming out of those things. Stay outside and foam the hell out of it.

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    The city that I work in is very diverse in it's construction and occupancy types. We have hi-rises, condos, strip malls and chemical mfgs and streets full of 2.5 and 3 story wood frame dwellings. None of those places bother me as much as the older buildings of the prison complex. The entire prison system for the state is located in my city. The newer style buildings have sprinklers in all of the cells and cell fires are quite common. The older buildings with the large stone walls, the types you see on the History Channel, are the scary ones. They can be very maze like, obviously there are bars on all of the windows that aren't easily removed and there are tunnels that run under the whole complex. It is a whole different world inside there. On medical calls, if they aren't in the infirmary, the cons. will yell obsenities, throw things and just try to intimidate you. The last serious fire was during a riot in the early 90's. I hope it doesn't again any time soon.

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    i hate the houses in the our area that have meth labs inside them. it's hard to tell from the outside that a meth lab is present (hence why the police hasn't busted the place first off). we have a couple of chemical warehouses also but haven't really worried them for awhile (oops, here comes murphy). guess another structure that scares me is the horror house, that can be a nightmare if we ever have to go inside for a call.
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    Default Orchard Hall

    The scarriest building in our district has to be a place called orchard hall, it is a 200 year old mansion that was converted into a restaurant, bar, and banquet facility and then they added a 10 lane bowiling alley. It is a nitemare to even think about having a fire in. There are many false walls, and hidden rooms, plus all the bowling alley oils. our standard pre plan on this building states that if the fire can not be knocked down in under 5minutes, get out and mount a defensive attack, of course that could be tweaked if needed, but there are so many exposure problems it would be a huge mutual aid call when and if it ever goes. don't worry though we already have plans to save all the alcohol from the bar if need be.

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    In my response area we have a mill complex that was built around the turn of the century. The complex consist of 8 - 100x600 attached six and seven story brick and timber construction buildings. In the early 90's we had three of these complexs burn ...the one complex was simliar in size to the one mention above the other two were smaller and we still have 4 others but not has large. Im sure that in the course of the rest of my career one of these will go again as they are in great disrepair and can be acessed by kids and the homeless. Something never change.
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    Any furniture store. Wide open spaces filled with obstructions and heavy fire loads.

    Any large discount store-Target, Kmart, etc-piles of stuff in the aisles, no standard layout, heavy fire load.

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    Exclamation

    Any building, from an office building to a retail occupancy, industrial occupany, biotechnology, high rise, high tech, single family, multifamily, apartment, condo, townhouse, poolhouse, henhouse, doghouse and outhouse is scary!

    Pre planning is important, but it is impossible to preplan every single structure in a community, but at a bare minimum target hazards should be done.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 06-30-2002 at 12:44 PM.
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    I agree with Gonzo. Every building has it's potential to do you in. That's why you've always got to be aware of what's around you. We have a complex in our first due consisting of garden apartments and townhouses that were built in the late '80's. Not only are the roofs made up of trusses held together with the "gang nail" gusset plates, but the floors are wood trusses with gusset plates as well. Lots of hidden voids with structural members with a large exposed surface area that will burn through very quickly. The apartments each have their own HVAC units stacked over each other from floor to floor. We've learned to stay out of that part of the floor plan.

    We had a room and contents fire in the basement family room of one of the townhouses and the first attack crew stepped in the front door and nearly went through the floor into the basement. The trusses were completely gone that quickly.
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    We have a lot of mid to late 19th century buildings in our downtown area. We all recognize the problems associated with the construction methods and materials of that era, so although concerned, it's not overly so. What really scares me though are some of the things Chris mentioned. Engineered wood products that are becoming more and more prevalent really concern me.

    The floor joists of engineered wood components such the "I joists" and floor trusses are going to result in a whole lot of injuries and deaths unless we are all very aware of the possibility of their presence, and the potential firespread afforded by this technology. Early failure of the roof supports isn't the only failure we have to be concerned about any more. The floors are just as susceptible with these materials.

    They are very strong under ordinary circumstances, but fail very early on when attacked by fire. Used in the past, dimensional lumber had a whole lot more "meat" for the fire to consume before it would fail. The newer technology has allowed pretty good savings for the consumer. I just hope that savings isn't financed with our blood.
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    Fast food restaurants. After the LODD in Texas I read an article about how cheap these things really are. After that, anything in a basement isn't my favorite either.

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    Gun shops and sporting good stores. Ammo cooking off freaks me out.
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    Default Alcohol

    Two of the biggest concerns in my municipality are the manufacturing headquarters for Estee Lauder's Aramis products and Shiseido Perfume's Mfg. Headquarters. Thousands of gallons of alcohol are stored there. Potential for rather large BOOMS!
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    Lightbulb FEAR FACTOR......

    i hate the houses in the our area that have meth labs inside them. it's hard to tell from the outside that a meth lab is present


    I'd have to say this sends me into defecation mode too!!!
    There's also a thirteen story building nicknamed "the glass coffin". This building is other wise known as city hall and houses numerous city council members. If this one went awry.......the doody would hit the fan.

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    Most of the downtown section of our city is made up of attached woodframe 2 and 3 story buildings over 100 years old most of which have a common lofts. THAT scares me

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    My downtown is similar to Smoke286...lots of old buildings all attached with common attic sections. They have been remodeled lots over the years and we have found anywhere from 3 to 7 interior ceilings ranging from sheetrock to tin. Yea fun! Other area of concern is what we refer to as "Bungalow Row". Lots of 1 and 2 story seasonal homes that have about 2 feet between them along the ocean front. 1 good fire and a strong NorthEast breeze and we can be looking at 1/2 mile of houses on fire. Can we say PrePlan! Knock on wood, we have been able to control any fires in that area.

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    This was our last fire, to illustrate the point
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Question Small town ignorance

    OK, I read about "meth" labs being dangerous. I am going to open myself up for some real cheap shots but... Being from a smaller town in PA, I've never heard of dealing with a meth lab. I assume it is some bad ju-ju, but what are the dangers envolved? (Showing my small town, sheltered from the world ignorance.) I am not saying that there probably is not one in my town, but just have not uncovered it yet. Please, I am ready to absorb your vast knowledge. Thanks. Drew.
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    Its kinda strange I guess but the its simple calls that scare me. You know the calls that are relatively safe. They dont get your heart pumping and we become complacent. Our brother LE guys have an expression "there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop" I think we should have a similar slogan to remind us all calls have the potential to turn deadly very quickly.

    Anyway if you had to narrow it down to one building I would say our local Lowes HW store. Huge fire load, lots of chemicals, overhangs that shield sprinkler access and a generally heavy human population.

    Stay Safe

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    Drewbo, I am by no means an expert, but this is what I have been able to pick up along the way.

    One concern is booby traps, etc meant to keep those who don't belong away.

    The 2nd concern is the actually chemicals used in the meth process. Combine these chemicals and a fire condition and things will get bad.

    My understanding is that most of the chemiclas used are ordinary stuff that you could by in most stores, so the danger becomes apparent when they are all in the same place at the same time.

    Hopefully someone will be able to add to this info.

    Dave

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    Unhappy meth labs

    I also know from expierience to look out for things that are out of place. For example, there was a case where a anyhydrous ammonia tank for farm use (IE: a wagon) had been stolen from the Co-Op and been re- placarded as PROPANE. It was then placed in a garage for use by a lab. It was discovered when a neighbor reported a strong smell in the area. The crooks had utilized makeshift fittings and hose to remove the product from the wagon and it was leaking. After the haz-mat team determined the location of the tank and its erronious markings the police made a raid on the residence and discovered the lab.
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    How's this for scary? Bow string truss construction in an old converted retail store. Now occupied as a flea market. Many open booths selling anything under the sun. the last time the owners patched the roof they used seaweed and tar!

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    Lightbulb HFD12316

    Sir,
    I think I've heard of that "type" of construction! Isn't that MacGyver construction with a 5 min rating?

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    Default Drug labs

    There are essentially 2 different methods to making meth used in the US. Both utilize extracted ephedrine from over the counter cold medicines. Some of the other chemicals utilized, depending upon the "recipe" used include lithium, sodium, propane, anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorous, coleman lantern fuel (white gas), hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, paint thinner, benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane, and toluene.

    hfd66truck hit on something that should also be a grave concern to any emergency responder, and that is booby traps. These people are often paranoid as a result of the chemicals. Many of these booby traps are amateurish in construction, but very effective nonetheless. They utilize everything from black powder and smokeless powder to poisonous snakes and everything in between. Also remember that if you seize the property, you may be responsible for the clean-up costs. It's a real gray area, and that's why the clean-up and crime scene processing is often left to the DEA because of their deep pockets.

    With the number of known and unknown chemicals involved in one of these buildings, you may be better off allowing the property to burn should a fire progress beyond the incipient stage. All of the runoff of suppression water should be contained for possible disposal at an approved chemical site. Many, if not most of the chemnicals will be destroyed in the high temperatures achieved in a free burn condition. Clean-up of this type of incident could climb to $100,000 to $150,000. Talk with your local officials and preplan your operations at one of these incidents before you end up with a huge amount of clean-up fees, or even worse lose somebody to either a booby trap or to chemical toxicity.

    These things are potentially very, very nasty, and are becoming more and more prevalent in the rural areas.
    Steve Gallagher
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