Thread: Cellar Fires??

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    Question Cellar Fires??

    I am a Lieutenant with a Volunteer Fire Co. in NJ. I am looking for any information on Cellar fires. I have looked all over for this training information. If anyone could help me find this information I would greatly appreciate.Thank you and BE SAFE!

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    Excellent question - there is not enough information out there about fighting basement/cellar fires. There is some information in Essentials (Essentials of Firefighting) that should prove helpful as an introduction, though situations vary greatly.

    - Scott

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    Default cellar fires

    Where do I go to obtain that information??
    Thanks again for taking the time to read my question.

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    What exactly do you want to know? Dwelling cellar fires? Merchantile business cellar fires? I have fought dwelling cellar/basement fires in single family dwellings and in apartment buildings so maybe I can offer some insight.

    Let me know.

    FyredUp
    Last edited by FyredUp; 11-07-2003 at 07:45 PM.

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    Default cellar fires

    I am looking for any information on dwelling basement fires.

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    When you decide that you are going down the stairs you need to remember a few points.
    1st gather near the stairs but not directly at the door. Why beat yourself up getting ready. Make sure you have enough line and it is charged before you head down.
    Most basements don't have good ventilation so all of the smoke and heat is comming out where you want to go down.
    When you start down the stairs move! it will be hot but it is better at the bottom. Then go get the fire. NO FOG, staight stream or smooth bore.

    If the stairs are endangered go to plan 2. If the stairs are lost your stuck. So it isn't the end of the world if you use a cellar nozzle. Check the attic and other void spaces (plumbing wall).

    Know the construction a TGI floor can collapsse in a few short minutes. In most cases the first floor joists are exposed and at risk.

    SIZE UP if their is an outside entrance your in better shape but you still need to go in and down the interior stairs. (1st rule protect and control the stairs) Have a truck crew vent the outside entrance in coordination with your attack.

    I hope that helps get you started.

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    Originally posted by ADSNWFLD

    if their is an outside entrance your in better shape but you still need to go in and down the interior stairs. (1st rule protect and control the stairs)
    I will respectfully disagree with this statement.

    If there is an exterior entrance, why get your butt kicked going down the stairs?

    I agree with protecting and controlling the stairs to prevent fire spread to the first floor but my strategy would be a second line near the top of the stairs and good coordination with the crew doing the primary attack on the fire in the basement to prevent opposing streams.

    The November issue of Firehouse Magazine has an article on basement fires by Chief Mike Smith of DCFD. This is also their strategy according to his article.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    My thought on the outside entrance not being used for entry is that when you make your way down the interior stairs, you will be pushing the heat and smoke somewhere. I would rather push it out that exterior entrance as opposed to up the interior entrance. That exterior entrance is going to be my vent hole.
    "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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    Thanks Bones, that is it exactly.
    With the smoke pushing up the interior stairs your chance of loosing the entire building increases as well as writing off any victims.

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    This months Firehouse magazine had an article about cellar/basement fires. I only read it once, but the feeling I got from it was let it burn until it comes through the first floor and put it out there. I'm fairly sure that's not the intent of the article, but that is the feeling it left me with.
    "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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    Originally posted by Bones42
    This months Firehouse magazine had an article about cellar/basement fires. I only read it once, but the feeling I got from it was let it burn until it comes through the first floor and put it out there. I'm fairly sure that's not the intent of the article, but that is the feeling it left me with.
    That is his intent if you can't answer yes to all his questions:


    Are there credible reports of a victim in that area?
    Will the fire spread impact rescues being made above? If so, do you have any equipment that would help without going in?

    If you send firefighters in, can you get them out? Do you have more than a 2 person Rapid Intervention Team?

    Does the incident commander know building construction? Do the officers understand fire behavior or do they operate by the now-maligned philosphy of sending people in until they are driven out or worse?

    Are the officers competent? Can they do a credible size-up? Do they ask for help piecemeal or do they request enough additional resources to protect their people?

    Are your communications always reliable?

    If you can't answer yes to all of the above, then consider this: stay out of any building that contains truss construction no matter how small the fire. Only-and I mean this-if there are credible reports of trapped victims should you enter these death traps. Even then, limit the amount of personnel. Trusses are going to fail. If you have outside entrances, use the biggest line and drown it.
    He has a point: There is no doubt that basement fires are probably the most dangerous fires that most departments will face and many of the LODD in recent years (that are fire related) have been firefighters who fell into a basement fire through a truss floor.

    However, I think he's being a little extreme with his "no matter how small the fire" statement. If there's a trash can burning in a basement under a truss floor, are we supposed to just let it burn until we can hit it through the windows? I've only got about 1/3 the experience that he has but I can't agree with Chief Smith's extreme philosophy.

    I will, however, stick by my tactic of attacking from the exterior entrance but only if there is a door at the top of the interior stairs for ventilation. This is the way many of the houses in my area are constructed (split-levels).

    I have a question: How many of your departments still have the old "cellar nozzles"? Has anybody ever used one?
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    Originally posted by WTFD10
    I have a question: How many of your departments still have the old "cellar nozzles"? Has anybody ever used one?
    We used it! Ok, ok, ok but it was only during a drill...

    We were drilling at a burn tower and I noticed a cover for a small hole in the first floor. So we decided to show everyone how to use the cellar nozzle because in over 11 years of being in the department, I have never seen it used at an incident.
    IACOJ Agitator
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    Let's make the following assumptions (which we can never do at a fire scene):

    1. The interior stairs are intact and not threatening collapse.
    2. The floor joists are still solid, and able to hold the house.
    3. Fire has not spread to any other part of the house. Keep in mind, if it is a balloon frame house, we may have an attic fire as well.

    If all of these assumptions are true, then the ventilation team opens the exterior opening, and as soon as that is done, the interior attack team moves quickly down the stairs with a fog stream for protection, high-volume of water (because in a basement, we're generally not as concerned with water damage as we would be in the rest of the house). Do NOT make simultaneous attacks from the interior and exterior entrances. That's Firefighting 101 stuff. This should never even be considered, unless you enjoy OSHA fines and firefighter funerals.

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    How many of your departments still have the old "cellar nozzles"? Has anybody ever used one?

    A variation, we use the Rockwood 2nd Story applicator. Push it through an outside window, it makes like a large sprinkler head.

    And really disappoints the interior guys when the arrive to find no fire and just a bunch of steam. But the faster you stop the fire, the faster you stop it's weakening of the gravity resistance system of the building.

    But in case the old ****s outside don't knock the fire down on you, random (kinda) thoughts:

    --------------------

    One: Which way are we going to attack?

    I hear ADSN & others on controlling the stairs and pushing down. This is classic unburned side to burned side tactics.

    But what if that doorway on top of the cellar stairs is in good shape? Why open it, risking losing control of the door and have a great big opening to allow fire spread. It's a size-up of the individual incident in front of you whether attack via interior stairs or exterior access makes more sense. If you do come from the outside, protect that door with a hose crew inside in case it fails.

    --------------------
    Two: Ok, we're going down. How do you go down stairs?

    You don't walk, and you don't crawl hands-first. Either situation a small failure of the stairs you go tumbling. Basically sit on your rump and start going down feet-first. If you don't have a tool, your feet are helping to feel the way. Hopefully if something collapses under the feet, you turn and use your upper-body strength to crawl out. If you were walking, you've fallen right through, and if you were crawling your it's a lot harder to pull with your legs and feet than your arms and hands!

    ---------------------
    Three: What pattern do we use?

    If you didn't have a smoothbore to chose, you checked the nozzle yourself upstairs, made sure it was on straight stream, and which way (right or left) straight is. At the base of the stairs you double check it's turned appropriately before opening.

    ----------------------
    Four: How good are you on radio discipline?

    Now's the time to open the outside vent (if any) to the cellar. If you had an exterior door opened 1st, those stairs are a big time chimney and you probably didn't make it down.

    Great time to call that you're ready for ventilation so they swing the doors (they've already forced) open as you open your knob.

    Don't always have ventilation available, so use your nozzle judiciously to put wet stuff on red stuff. Steam isn't your friend in an unvented compartment you're inside of.

    If the outside crew standing by to vent doesn't hear the radio call, when they hear a stream working inside that'll be their queue to open the vent.

    -----------------------
    Five: Whose in the attic?

    It's mandatory for balloon frame, and a damn good idea for everything else. Get a line to the attic or pull inspection holes in the ceiling -- the fire that's now better vented and might even be getting pushed by steam from your line has that much more incentive to find ways through the walls and chases to the attic.

    -----------------------
    Six: Is PPV appropriate?
    Got a nice exterior doorway to the basement? Use PPV to pressurize the first floor, down the stairs, and out the exterior door. Don't with balloon frames -- you gotta really know what your doing with PPV & Balloon in general to avoid big time problems, and you're gonna have an attic fire if you PPV a balloon frame's basement.

    -----------------------
    Seven: And lastly, manpower. Manpower. Manpower.
    You have two scenarios: Holy mackeral, that was one hell of a good stop, or oh sweet jesus we have fire popping up all over the place.

    You're probably not going to have the luxury on the initial attack to have lines to the basement, first floor, and attic plus an outside vent team.

    But I wouldn't want to committ a crew to the basement without a line at the top of the stairs as their "first due" backup. That top-of-the-stairs crew also can poke a hole in the attic to check for extension. If you can vent outside, that's another FF'er or perhaps an working OIC. Through in a pump operator, you have a minimum of six just to think about a safe initial interior attack.

    Not to difficult if you had a two story dwelling with walk-in basement, making attack from interior stairs to have:
    3 guys on attack line
    3 guys on first floor line (top-of-stairs)
    3 guys second floor/attic line
    1 guys outside ground level vent
    2 guys to roof (at least in a standby capacity in case fire found -- it's gonna take a few minutes to just get the ladders in position)
    3 guys on backup line outside

    That's a realistic, not to skinny but definitely not overkill, 15 Indians before you add in command & truck operators. And if you end up having to chase fire around the building in the walls, double it.

    Not everyone/everywhere/everytime has the luxury to get that much staffing, but if you can in your area you might as well call and get it started towards you.

    Matt

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    Who is the guy that wants to use a fog pattern as they advance on a basement fire from any where? What is that all about? Any way, anyone think about cutting a vent hole in the first floor under a window over the fire in conjunction with the attack with a crew with a line minding the hole? Just an idea. Also use the exterior entrance if for nothing else much easier means of egress to a much safer place. One other thing, some where talking about fire spread to the upper floor if you go in through the exterior entrance, if you use a solid bore like everone here has been talking about, and you have good disipline with putting the wet stuff on the red stuff, there should almost never be any fire spread. Just some thoughts.


    Stay Safe
    Leather 4 Ever

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    Lightbulb basement

    The two line attack is how we work it, but we use a 2 1/2" line for the main attack. We have a 1 3/4" to cover the stairs. Of course this is dependent on size of fire on arrival, and crews available. Never want to be short on water for this type of fire either.
    You must also be careful using interior stairs to vent from an exterior stair attack. It's too easy to spread the fire throughout the building.
    We believe in hitting it from the interior stairs when possible, and venting via exterior windows, and doors. You must be very aggresive with these types of fires, and hit it hard from the start.

    Stay safe.

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    OK the decision is there to go in. Water application is the answer.
    If a vent hole is made (as I see the scenerio) I haven't heard anyone mention hydraulic ventilation. Or.......... a dual line attack one for the purposes of hydraulic vent. Just my two cents

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    What about a piercing nozzle? Don't have to many basements around here but could using the piercing rod at least buy some time...
    Dude, I told you I'm not yo daddy...
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    All you need is 4 guys. Do a yard lay (2-1/2 from the engine to the basement door) and wye off 2 1-1/2 lines. One line fogs out for protection and the other uses a straight stream for penetration.

    Piercing nozzle might buy time, but we don't have one so we just use what experience and equipment leaves us.

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    All of you Brothers suggesting using a fog stream for "protection" must enjoy steam burns.

    The major problem with basement fires is they're so difficult to ventilate. They are almost the perfect definition of a closed compartment.

    The absolutely worst stream you could use in a closed compartment is a fog stream. All those little drops of water will convert very quickly to steam and cook you and your crew.

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    I couldn't agree more with the guys that are saying don't use a fog pattern. I have only been in one basement fire and it was ripping. If I would have used a fog pattern I would not be able to sit here and type this message to you. Never and I mean never use a Fog pattern in any basement fire. You will burn yourself and your brothers!!! Keep it safe and have fun.

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    That how I was taught to do it and we don't use it all the time when we're down there, just to push it back from the stairs. Breaking basement windows or opening the basement doors (if any) provides adequate ventilation. Personally I haven't seen a basement in my area without small windows.

    Using the tactic I described I haven't ever been burned, and to date, neither has anyone else on my department, so it works for us. Depending on how the structures in your areas are, it may or may not work.

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    Originally posted by engine1321
    That how I was taught to do it and we don't use it all the time when we're down there, just to push it back from the stairs. Breaking basement windows or opening the basement doors (if any) provides adequate ventilation. Personally I haven't seen a basement in my area without small windows.
    You're assuming that even if the windows are present, there is a clear path from the interior stairwell to those windows. If the basement is finished, there are probably bedroom and utility room doors between you and the windows. You will get very poor ventilation and the fire will roll back on top of you, fog stream or not.

    PPV at the door may help to keep the rollover down, but the fire and gases must go somewhere, so if you can't be certain of your ventilation route, it WILL come up the stairs. That second line should stay just outside the door for back-up and protection of your egress.

    In order to perform a safe aggressive interior attack on this one, you must be able to get your entire team to the bottom of the stairwell before discharging any water. Once there, knock it down as you find it, and expect it to initially roll back over your head and back up the stairs until you can open a path for ventilation. If you get immediate ventilation, great, you're halfway there, but if not the back-up line will have to keep the stairwell wet and safe until you acheive a vent or back out.

    If you can't find your vent right off the bat, or if you can't get down the stairs safely, get out and flood the basement until it vents itself through the floor so you can attack directly.

    The hole in the floor adjacent a main floor door or window could certainly work in conjunction with PPV, but it will be a challenge to keep the fire from rolling back into the rest of the main floor. I would use this only when you cannot make that basement attack and you are facing losing the house anyway.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Typically we don't like to use the hole in the floor unless we have no alternative.

    I was reading up on this subject tonight, coincidently I might add. As I had stated, below level or ground level basement windows will allow for excellent horizontal ventilation. More than likely you will get the same poor vent effects from going through the floor of the level above the basement if the partitions seperating the sections go to the ceiling. If they don't, you can expect good horizontal effects as much as vertical effects. So either way, attack and ventilation method would depend on how the high the partition goes in this theoretical finished basement.

    Mcaldwell, yes you are correct about the heat and flame coming up at you from the stairwell if it was no where to go. The flooding as well, if you can't get anywhere with venting to keep the heat off I would follow those guidelines and drown it.
    Last edited by engine1321; 12-01-2003 at 04:05 AM.

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    There were two illustrations of how dangerous basement fires can be in Lancaster, MA & Prince Frederick Co., MD this past weekend.

    God bless the family & friends of FF Martin McNamara. Rest in peace Brother.

    Wishing a speedy recovery to the 2 FF from Prince Frederick MD.

    Stay safe!
    ---------------
    2-UPDATE: (CLOSE CALL) Prince Frederick, Calvert County, MD, Station #2.
    Basic, initial details are that the fire was reported in the basement in a single family dwelling, light smoke reported on arrival (all occupants out) with 2 engines and a truck on the scene with more companies enroute (30+ firefighters total) as a part of their standard 1st alarm assignment for a dwelling fire. At an early point on-2 firefighters came out w/burns and another firefighter trapped, who made it to a basement window, and was seen by exterior truck crews who rescued him from that basement window. The 2 firefighters who were burned were flown to Medstar (Washington DC) and are reported to be in stable conditions. More details to follow.

    3-UPDATE: Lancaster, Mass.
    These details are still sketchy but are from reliable fire officers whom I trust w/the info. The sources I spoke with advised that, on arrival, there was smoke showing, but nothing appearing unusually serious. The building is long and narrow, the firefighters were facing the narrow "A" side, with no obvious picture of the depth. As many as 15 civilians living there apparently all self evacuated. The firefighters stretched the line in, and went for the basement. There was a narrow 24" +/- stairway, they made a "U" turn at the bottom heading towards rear of the house... then there was heavy fire... fire officials are still unsure what caused that. Either just after or just before, an evacuation is called for... 3 firefighters come out. Firefighter Martin McNamara did not. Roll call is taken they discover him missing, go back, cannot rescue him immediately due to heavy fire, his size and narrow stairway. That's all that is available at this time.

    from Firefighter Close Calls

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