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  1. #1
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    Question VES and Lightweight Construction

    Hello all. Perhaps this is a stupid question, however I'd like to see what public opinion or common experience might be. My VFD has a district that has several new housing developments. What was once a predominately rural area is rapidly becoming many different bedroom communities. Many of these houses are of lightweight construction. We cover 87 square miles out of three stations. We are all volunteer, and have no hydrants. Staffing is sporadic, with good response (obviously) during the evenings and weekends, with very low turnout during the weekdays. We have good mutual aid, however they have the same staffing problems. Recently, I attended a Hands On Training where we practiced the VES tactic. This is a rather common tactic (I understand) back East, however it is very foreign here. I understand that danger involved, but I'm wondering this--is it a viable tactic in new construction homes, mostly ranch style? If we are trying to save lives without a great deal of risk to our firefighters, do we attempt this tactic at our lightweight construction houses, get the people out (or see if they are there), then get out and let it burn to the ground? I obviously understand the time factor and variables, but with avg 15 minute response times with three personnel on the first arriving rig, would this be a viable tactic to teach? Any thoughts or opinions are welcome.


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    VES can be a very good tactic. Remember that with VES you are going to be doing a primary search. You want to get in that room and search it quickly. But like you said you have to remeber all the other variables that come into play. Such as how long has the fire been burning, and your response time. Plus you want to look at the conditions of the room before entry. For example if you clear the window and then you have flame flickering out the top of the window it might be a bit too late to make a search. But that all comes down to experience and your own confidence.

    This is just the tip of the ice berg-- anyone else???

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    phyrngn,

    I aplaud you for at least taking the classes and approaching the subject with an open mind. I know many that don't

    I was a midwest FF for a number of years before moving out East and took some of the same classes where I was exposed to VES. I also worked in a suburb where we had some new construction that used light weight trusses, private and multiple dwellings.

    YES teach it. Outline the appropriate safety measures as in placement of the ladder, make the window a door, once inside close the hallway door(take a peak in hallway if possible, always carry a tool(halligan or hook),etc....

    There once was a neighboring career dept to where I worked that had a fire in a splitlevel house at 0330 hrs. They knew their were people inside...the dispatchers were on the phone with an older lady who awoke to a fire and she couldn't find her husband...she passed out while on the phone. They took 22 Minutes!! To find her in the bedroom and remove her. She died at the hospital. They didn't even vent the windows as they were using PPV! They didn't even VES any of the bedrooms where people are typcally found at night. Instead the bumbled around inside using only a traditional search approach.

    The lesson is that VES should be performed at most fires (proper staffing allowing) Considering where people are more likely to be found and it is a safe tactic in that if conditions deteriorate the window is already removed and a ladder in place for the quick escape. As opposed to escaping via the main means of egress that you took in.

    For you guys, if you have a suspected trapped victim and minimal staffing and a fire rapidly taking hold of the majority of the house...it might be better just to do a quick search of the rooms before fire takes them as well.

    You must take all factors into account. I would teach them the skills and how to perform it for if they show up and are presented with a situation that requires it...it would be better to have the skills and knowledge rather than fly by the seat of their pants.

    Stay safe and best of luck
    FTM-PTB

  4. #4
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    The key is not the building construction, but the inconsitency of staffing. That goes certainly to the number of people showing up, and in volunteer departments that also usually applies to the quality and consistency -- who learned what when and how enthusiatic they are. Career departments too can fall into the syndrome of another shift, another fire department but it's less pronounced overall.

    The departments that use VES very effectively are doing so with staffing & company levels that allow a consistency that leads to automatic actions -- I do this because I'm expecting they'll do that.

    People get hurt when we start mixing tactics -- if you're trying VES, while another member of your department is setting up the PPV fan, bad things are going to happen.

    Many on-call departments, were staffing is inconsistent at least during daytime if not during the evening, tend to have an Officer-in-Charge making much more specific decisions as to hose & vent work to coordinate their efforts. This lets the OIC coordinate hose & vent work, and also make sure each gets done without lacking the other, and it makes sure everyone's on the same game plan -- not some old fart coming in the front door with a fog, some 10 year yahoo setting up a PPV into the rear door, and an enthusiastic 5 year veteran who just made a VES into a window that's now between a PPV and Fog line...


    Hose teams in areas that practice VES tend to expect that ventilation will simply happen because that's the way it should be -- if they're that aggressive in an area and no one shows up to vent, we have issues.

    A ranch house, in particular, is not a very dangerous example of modern "lightweight" construction -- it's small and you can usually move in quickly and put the fire out. Now.

    There really isn't a big issue with taking a small handline (1.5-1.75) inside, confining and extinguishing the fire, and if you have the manpower starting a search from the nozzle back. This is gonna be a quick stretch, and if you're good on venting, nozzle work, and planning your attack path it's pretty quick work.

    Help get the first line flowing water, then get up to the knob and start working backwards for your searching.

    As you master basic size-up, coordination, and nozzle work there's nothing that says you can't master searching either. The old way I was taught, "Always hold on to your partner's boots" is for the birds -- get in their with a TIC, and start working back. Leave a guy in the hall for orientation, let the TIC guy sweep the room.

    The 22 minute search wasn't a problem with not using VES, it was a problem with not knowing how to conduct an effective search (whether or not you have an imager).

    If you have the basics mastered, firefighter to firefighter so you know everyone's on the same page, intergrating lessons from VES can be valuable -- the situation where you have heavy fire in an area, a hose team is working on it but you still haven't pushed past them. Here's how we ladder, get in the room, get control of the door to stop the room from getting worse, search it, and get out to repeat this in the next room.

    And more so than with a ranch house, I see the importance of a quick but thorough primary search in these McMansions that'll challenge many departments ability to knock down the fire and find any running in voids before it takes over. They have much bigger areas, often held up even flimsier than a ranch. They're tougher fires to fight. Ranches you can be playing your "B" game and still come out fine...McMansions like Balloon Frames you better have your "A" game or their size and construction will bite you.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Talking

    All Great points so far. Part of my reason for raising this question is whether or not we should even introduce the concept of VES into our training "repertoire." Although many of our lightweight houses are ranch, a great deal of them are large two story "modern-Victorians." I know and understand that the best thing to do is get the hoseline in and put the fire out, however we just don't have the staffing. Is VES a more viable option to protect your members, i. e. you have a known life hazard, full involvement of the primary means of egress (front door), you have three people on the first arriving unit with little or no backup, and the house is lightweight (or even not lightweight construction)? Do we VES where we think the bedrooms are, get the victims (if we can), and if they aren't there, let the place burn (since the contstruction features put us at risk with extended interior operations). Obviously I know that this is dependent upon the situation, but the last fire we had was in a large two-story house with most of the first floor involved. We had three people on the attack line, one of them decided it was too scary (can't blame him), and the other two went through three bottles each before any help arrived. In this instance, as in most, we didn't have the staffing to do anything right. The guys did a great job, but I still get chills up my spine when I think about what could have happened. No backup line, no RIT team, no one to do search, etc., etc. I just don't want to kill civilians OR FIREFIGHTERS.

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    MembersZone Subscriber CFD Hazards's Avatar
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    Doesn't Vincent Dunn caution everyone that trusses being exposed to fire anymore than 10 minutes cannot be trusted. I would assume that the new homes are being made with both floor and roof trusses. With a 15 minute response time you guys are already beyond the 10 minutes and that is not taking into condsideration the acutal amount of time the fire was burning before it was discovered. You must seriously take into consideration the amount of fire you have showing on arrival. A get in and get out quick search may be the only way to go.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I think you're right or close on the number CFD.

    I also put a slight "caveat" on the smaller truss roof residential buildings -- the small ranch homes and stuff. If we ruled out operating under them, that rules out most of our fires. Then if you felt houses with voids were too dangerous, well it would leave you with a small subset of homes constructed between 1945 and 1965 as "firefighter safe" buildings.

    As you start to get larger -- your commercial buildings with trusses, the dangers go up quickly. A McDonalds doesn't have a series of 12x12 rooms and their walls to help support a roof that's starting to fail, and they through bigger loads up on it.

    The McMansions we have to look at and size-up in between those two, more dangerous from more open floor plans/larger rooms and use of trusses not only in the roof but to span floors. To some extent, it has to be a judgement call, do I think this raging fire is contents with the trusses safe for the moment behind sheetrock, or does it look like I'm already getting the structure itself going.

    I'm open to other opinions on this (I think we're in a scenario similiar to "do you go for the rescue or the line" recently) -- but I'm thinking if you feel the fire is going to overwhelm you, concentrate training tools & tactics to control the fire better than you currently can. If you don't think you can control the fire and you get someone in trouble doing VES, there's no Plan B to fall back on, the fire's gonna take the strucutre & the lost firefighter.

    That look at fire suppression can range anywhere from CAFS to bigger boosters to going to 2" lines or just making sure you have nozzles that can maximize your flow and FFs who know how to use them. 1-1/2" lines are great, and can be advanced pretty aggressively; when you get into 1-3/4" & 2" for heavy flows, I think sometimes we lose a bit of that aggressiveness 'cause people are setting up to handle the pressure, and forgetting to shutdown and advance. I'm not convinced the solution to that, entirely, is going to low-pressure & smoothbores since you're still dealing with the weight of hose to lug forward...hit it hard and keep that nozzle moving, shutdown, move-up, hit it hard and keep that nozzle moving, shutdown, move-up. This isn't a game of minutes -- if you're there for a minute or two, you're waiting for the fireload to burn down to meet the waterflow, or you're not hitting the seat of the fire 'cause a wall or something is blocking the stream from hitting it. This is a game of 10, 15 seconds to darken down and advance again.

    Once you decide the building is safe right now to enter, you've got to get that stream up into position and put down the fire. I'll have to say six hail mary's as pennance, but I can't remember the name of the guy at the back of Fire Engineering who does the random thoughts columns. But one of his war stories is of a fire rolling out a doorway in a high-ceiling apartment they just couldn't push back -- until he rolled on his back, and slid through the door to hit the heavy fire right above the top of the door. Usually it's not that extreme, but rather a fire coming around from another room and you're not going to check it until you push that line up and around the corner to hit it head on.

    Once you start the "how can we do this better" game, somethings can be done next month (if you want new hose, nozzles, maybe a blitzfire). Somethings may take a few years if you want a bigger booster tank & a CAFs system. Somethings you might compromise -- we want more water, hey what about automatic mutual aid?
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Dal-

    Excellent points.
    -The guys name is Tom Brennan

    Part of the "22-min" search problem was as you described due to poor search tactics overall. They are a very very well funded dept with plenty of TICs. They are a little short on actual skills though. But that is why the 2 pronged approach is supperior to just the interior method.

    However my point was if you think you might have a problem conducting a traditional search due to the fact of limited staffing, limmited skill profeciency, or lack of enough man power to get enough handlines in position...perhaps a quick VES would be more likely to produce a sucessful rescue. (Along with a handline in place)

    And to at least train them in the do's and dont's of such actions as you mentioned...NO VES AND PPV. Shut the door upon entering.

    I'll offer a little more anecdotal evidence:
    My former dept a number of years ago (late 1980s) had a situation that resulted in the deaths of 3 little girls. The house was located in a less than wealthy area. It was a balloon frame, two story house. The fire started in the basement or 1st floor I can't remember.

    They were told the girls were trapped on the upper floor. The companies made entry and had a hard time knocking down most of the fire as it was in the voids. They were searching in low visiblity and couldn't find the stairs. They searched time and time again, without any luck...they couldn't figure out where the stairs were...they asked the parents again and they told them where they were. They tried again and after another few times around the kitchen they found the stairs. It was too late.

    In order to either keep the kids up stairs or a pet out the parents had placed a half sheet of plywood over the doorway to the stairs. When the brothers were searching low in the room while crawling they felt the plywood thinking it was a wall as it was 4ft high. They kept moving on. Even reaching up it was likely they would have missed it.

    No one ever thought to VES the rooms where the girls would be bypassing the difficulty of making ones way to and up the stairs.

    This is why a two pronged attempt one from the inside and one from the outside is preferable to placing all ones eggs in the same basket.

    Now there is a staffing issue. However I think it would be good to at least provide the training so if a situation where they are attacking the fire and can't make the stairs...The few other FFs could safely VES the rooms where the suspected victims are. They would know the rules for such a tactic and it would be safer than trying to make a traditional search with limited backup...as in VES the portable ladder is almost gauranteed means of egress whereas in this dept it doesn't sound like they would have enough guys to stretch and advance the hose line, and perform a search with proper laddering even under ideal conditions.

    Provide the training so that if someone does find the need to VES they won't forget to close the door or not use PPV.

    That being said...I think your civilains have to realize you probably have very little chance of succesfully removing them from a fire due to the staffing. Don't let your desire to perform your duty cloud reality.

    Good ideas all around.

    Stay safe,

    FTM-PTB

    PS: phyrngn- you guys got any snow out there?

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    Thumbs up Do we have snow...ahem...

    Great, great posts...Oh, and yes...we do have snow. Although it's probably not the same as back east, we've had over a foot in the last ten days, and it's still falling. Wish I'd bought that snowblower....

    Back to the topic...you guys are awesome!!! You all have very valid points. I'm a pretty staunch Brennan and Goldfeder follower. I like Brennan's practicality, and I like Goldfeder's never give up attitude. That being said, a large problem that both guys would lament would be the staffing issue. If I'm not mistaken, FDNY has a crew VES (they enter the window, get in the room, shut the door, search it, leave the room through the same window, and move to the next) and another crew search from the inside-out, and they basically try to meet. Every night I pray that we get ten more firefighters that actually know what they're doing so that it isn't an issue. I think that FFFRED hit it on the head for us...VES to get the victim and at least have a fairly safe way out as opposed to getting lost without a hoseline. We still have a few guys that think the search team should have a hoseline...my feeling is that it is too cumbersome. Anyhoo...keep your thoughts coming. I've got lots of other questions, too.

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    phyrngn,

    Yes you are correct as far as the FDNY is concerned. Most older and larger depts have a similar set up for thier Truck Co's. From Ohio, Missiouri, Indiana, Massachusets, New York, Florida and others. They usually have 3 members and an officer vs. FDNY 5 & officer. I know some Florida FDs team a 2 man truck(inside) up with a 2 man ambulance(outside)

    As for FDNY, our Trucks have an inside team,
    -IRONS
    -CAN
    -Officer
    and an Outside team which consists of:
    -OVM(Outside Vent Man)(Tiller man if on Tiller apparatus)
    -Roof Man
    -Chauffeur (Drives the apparatus)

    As far as a private dwellings are concerned the inside team forces entry, searches for the fire and then life on the fire floor(lets just say 1st floor) and the Roof and OVM team up and VES upper bedroom windows in the rear. The Chauffeur (according to the book) teams up with 2nd due Chauffeur and VESs the front or side.
    The OVM also performs horizontal ventilation opposite the fire.

    It is much more complicated than what I have written. And it might be slightly off as I not that familiar with PDs.
    I don't know how much it would apply to you, other than it is good to understand the concepts and recognize reasoning behind it.

    The can man carries a 2 1/2 gal water extinguisher and a 6' hook which can help in searching, the Irons man carries the Irons (Usually leaves the axe as a chock in the entry door to the house or apt.

    The can is good for searching without a handline. It provides alot more protection than you think.

    Here is a link to a resource that has some of our slightly dated procedures...FDNY PROCEDURES

    Also a good training resource is Fire Nuggets or FD Training

    Both require a little investment but it is well worth it. The first is very affordable and the latter actually has lesson plans for Dept memeberships.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 02-06-2004 at 12:35 PM.

  11. #11
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    FFFred, it's interesting reading your comments on VES. Over the last few years, we have had some FDNY guys down teaching us these tactics, and so far they have been working well. We are blessed that our first 2 engines will have between 5-7 guys each and they are there within 5 minutes. As someone pointed out earlier, there was a WWYD thread previously about whether to use a ladder for rear window rescue vs taking a line inside and doing interior rescue. I am a fan of rescuing that one person that I physically see, but a lot went towards the line instead. That thread only had a 3 man engine so manpower was low. I still think VES over the interior on that one, but that's was that thread. VES works well as long as everyone is on the same page and knows what it is, why it is, how it is. Thanks for your input here.
    "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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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    It is much more complicated than what I have written.
    I don't know how much it would apply to you, other than it is good to understand the concepts and recognize reasoning behind it.


    And that's what I like the FDNY for

    There are times, actually probably most of our structure fires, we have really good staffing.

    The reason I hesistate adopting all/some of their tactics is the inconsistency we face. Most of the time we have staffing that could rival them on a SFD. Then we have yesterday -- automatic aid into the other district in town. I went direct POV and their Captain told me to pack up then a third department arrived with 2 more FFs -- and the hoseline ended up being advanced by four guys from 3 departments.

    When you find yourself in situations like that, you have to use caution (not discount them, just really understand what your doing) when using tactics that assume consistent staffing and actions are taken expecting someone else will be there to do their job, too.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    BTW, thanks for the link FFFred -- I actually have to get back to, gulp, work now but I think I have my weekend reading material

    Looking through it briefly, saw several techniques, even we use slightly different tactics, that old Chiefs here have taught me over the years that are more effective than what you usually see taught.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Yea THANKS FFFRED that is a great website. I put it under as one of my favorites for quick acces to any of my questions...

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