1. #1
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    Question Basement Fire in Vacant House

    I was looking through the images section and came across today's image of a basement fire in a vacant house, in which a interior attack was used. Not to armchair quarterback...but based on the photos alone, I did a size up in my mind. I would have gone defensive right away.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...8&sectionId=45

    Any thoughts? Just to clarify, I am looking at this from a risk vs benefit point of view.
    Last edited by Frosty42; 05-05-2005 at 01:14 AM.

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    It certainly looked like a dangerous fire and I see your point on a risk v gain decision in a vacant property. However, what was the situation when they arrived? Sounded like they could not locate the fire so I presume it wasn't as developed as we see here. Conditions may have deteriorated on entry and what seemed a routine fire may have turned 'nasty' on them. They may also have PPVd it??

    What are those firefighters doing in the foreground?! They seem to be donning SCBA and taking in some heavy smoke in doing so!

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    ...but based on the photos alone, I did a size up in my mind. I would have gone defensive right away.
    That's because you have probably been taught that interior attacks are only for those rare instances where people are hanging out of windows or you can hear a baby screaming. Down here, we don't like to make foundations, and just because a structure is vacant, does not mean it is abandoned or unsafe. Someone may have just moved out and another family ready to move in....you never know. The house wasn't in bad shape. Remember, we are sworn to protect lives and property!

    They may also have PPVd it??
    Doubtful, we only have smoke ejectors. And there was only five people on the initial crew, hardly time to worry about putting a fan up on a fire that was still in a free-burning stage. You don't use PPV before knockdown?

    What are those firefighters doing in the foreground?! They seem to be donning SCBA and taking in some heavy smoke in doing so!
    They are getting ready to fight a fire. Our Basement SOP's dictate that the First-In Engine Company takes a line to the first floor and holds the basement stairs. The Second-Due takes a line to the exterior basement door and enters the structure, extinguishing the fire....it's a little hot at the top of the stairs, but we can take it.

    Not to armchair quarterback...
    Good Idea...nobody likes an Armchair QB. Sorry that we don't fight fires from the outside down here....Dennis Smith said it best in "Report from Engine Co. 82., "The closer you get to the seat of the Fire, the better chance you have a of putting it out."

    Toodles,
    Tillerman25
    Clinton VFD (Screw the QB, I am the armchair Offensive Tackle.)

    P.S. go to our website www.clintonvfd.org and check out the pictures from the fire. They are under the photos section under "Fires"
    You will see that after the fire, aside from the broken windows, you can barely tell there was a fire in the house...GOOD JOB BOYS!
    Last edited by TillerMan25; 05-05-2005 at 06:19 AM.
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    1. This is a first class FD who apparently did a first class job. According to the article (not just the pictures), there were plenty of resources at the scene and they appeared to fight this fire by the book.

    2. This excerpt from the article says it all:

    The fire was quickly extinguished in the basement with little extension to the first floor.
    Good job guys.

    PS: I agree totally with Tiller's assessment.

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    My department would of hit it just like they did. The fire looks in that pic. to be venting from basement. I Dont know the rest but i think they did alright with it. Who said ever VFD PPV's to a fire.

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    Depends on how you define interior attack in this case. Judging by the pictures alone, which as we know is something we shouldn't do, I would never send a crew interior under THOSE conditions.

    Now, Tillerman said that their SOP sends the second line to the EXTERIOR entrance to the basement. It is entirely possible to gain entry from the exterior, and knock the fire down working from the door inward. I am sure a lot of fire can be knocked down from the entrance, which would then allow for an interior operation.

    Maybe Tillerman can give us some insight on that. I think when most people think "interior attack" they think of going in the front door and fighting the fire from within. It may not have worked exactly like that in this case.

    But regardless, they put the fire out, saved a structure, and no one was injured (that I know of). So kudos to them for a great job.

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    Vacant doesn't mean unimportant. S##t my house is going to be vacant for a few weeks after my real estate closing so that I can get in and paint, clean carpets, etc prior to moving all my stuff in. I understand what your saying about risk vs. benefit, but this looks like a decent house. It doesn't look like a run down joint that you know has been uninhabited for 10 years and is unsafe to go in if it wasn't on fire!

    As much as I want a swimming pool at my new house, I wouldn't want it to be in my foundation just because the Chief said, "Guys it's empty lets just surround and drown it!" My house is empty right now.... I'm at work, my wife's at work and my kids are at daycare. I still owe a mortgage (and a lot of it!!!)

    As with any incident, use your experience and judgement. A picture can't really tell you that. If your first in guys back out saying they can't get in, the floors are collapsing whatever... then all bets are off, safety first; but if your talking a self-venting basement fire contained in the basement of a structurally sound home... make entry and knock it down. Looks like Tillerman and the boys did just that and did a fine job!

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    I'll have to come to the defence of my friend Paul here... Paul was a Fireman in the Brigade where 'the Art of Firefighting' was invented...London...

    Always has, still is and God Willing always will be one of the Biggest, Busiest, Proudest and Most Professional Firefighting Forces on the face of this earth...I like Paul and other on here who are doing or did their time in the LFB, no matter what, or where we end up will always be 'A London Fireman'

    Like other big City Fire Departments we are doing our thing...Firefighting...no medical runs...24/7/365. Even in the darkest hour before dawn there are always a number of Incidents on the computerised display at our Control (despatch centre) the LFB never, ever sleeps fully.

    With this in mind, I think we can state that Paul...being a 70's London Fireman...the busiest period since the Blitz and everything he has done to forward this job since, knows what he is doing, his word is good for me...and often after a serious fire I will get in his hear to check my own performance.

    I agree that this job is still an interior attack where I come from, and I'll also agree with what Paul said about maybe things got a little warmer after the first crews got in. However; I see no reason for the SCBA crews to 'start up' in smoke...take a few steps back into the clear air. Also, there is no shame...in fact quite the opposite...there is nothing to prove by saying...that Property is almost lost...even if structurally sound, anything above that fire will pretty much be written off by the insurers surely?

    I see no good reason to risk the most valuable assett in the Fire Department...the Firefighter, for a property that is almost beyond economic salvation. I have always worked in the Ghettos', I still do, tomorrow I will be back there...I Have no shame to say to the Lt or Capt..."OK, that's enough, get them out...the balance of risk as now tipped against us"


    I'll Quote our Greatest ever leader....Sire Eyre Massey Shaw;

    A Fireman to be successful, must enter buildings; He must get in below, above, on every side, from opposite houses, over brick walls, over side walls, through panels of doors, through windows, through loopholes cut by himself in the gates, the walls, the roof; he must know how to reach the attic from the basement by ladders placed on half burned stairs, and the basement from the attic by rope made fast on a chimney; His whole success depends on his getting in and remaining there, and he must always carry his appliances with him, as without them he is of no use.


    They still teach this to the new Recruits today, well over a Hundred years since those words were written. I see nothing in there that say to be sucessful, a Fireman must get himself burnt to a crisp!!
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    What are those firefighters doing in the foreground?! They seem to be donning SCBA and taking in some heavy smoke in doing so!
    They are getting ready to fight a fire. Our Basement SOP's dictate that the First-In Engine Company takes a line to the first floor and holds the basement stairs. The Second-Due takes a line to the exterior basement door and enters the structure, extinguishing the fire....it's a little hot at the top of the stairs, but we can take it.
    The point I am making is that firefighters should NEVER breath in smoke and then think about donning their SCBA and going interior! Why are they doing this downwind of the fire?!

    You don't use PPV before knockdown?
    Many fire departments do .... yes!

    It appears a well fought fire and a good stop .... no problems there. But I do accept the risk versus gain proposal and you cannot condemn any fire department, especially volunteer, who would go choose to go 'defensive' in this situation, particularly as two of the initial crew of five were probationers. By 'defensive' I mean an exterior knock-down prior to entry.

    What if .... two firefighters died at this incident. Would it have been such a good job? Would the risk versus gain concept been well applied? They didn't (thank god) and it was a good stop. But in some situations firefighters have died under exactly these conditions.
    Last edited by PaulGRIMWOOD; 05-05-2005 at 11:47 AM.

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    Talking

    Thanks Steve! I agree, In London we would go interior with what is on view here. But with a crew of five including two probationers on the unit, as tiller is implying .... maybe some might hold back a in a 'vacant'. No shame in that whatsoever.

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    Lightbulb

    How do they know it is vacant? Was this determined before they entered(immpossible) or after the primary and secondary searches were made? There was nothing in the story to indicate why it was determined to be vacant. It cerainly didn't "appear" like a vacant.

    Thus if a company was going to search the 1st floor it would be foolish not to send an engine in to attack the fire.

    Regardless if they are probies or not...they have to learn the job somehow. I presume they all went to the same accademy and they will have to go into a fire at some point...the only way to gain experience is actually "experience" a fire. Right? I don't think their status one way or the other has much to do with it.

    What are those firefighters doing in the foreground?! They seem to be donning SCBA and taking in some heavy smoke in doing so!
    I don't think I would call that taking a heavy feed. JMO.

    FTM-PTB

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    We used to go right down the basement steps with the line, but after a few guys got burned and some other minor problems, it was decided that the first in crew would hold the fire in check at the top of the stairs and the second in would enter through the outside (if there is an exterior basement door) and get the main knockdown.

    We don't use PPV before knockdown is accomplished. It has created some serious rekindles in the past. One thing this county is not known for, is vertical ventilation and roofwork.

    I know everyone has different methods of firefighting, and personally, I hated when we went right down the basement steps in the past....it sucked! Especially when we had a good basement job. It was like walking into a blast furnace. The newer SOP's make it safer for the crews and still maintains and aggressive offensive operation to protect the property.

    Also, alot of people said "you don't know that the structure is vacant." This is so true, especially with the amount of vagrants and juvenile trouble makers in this area, especially that neighborhood in particular.

    The initial engine crew had two probationers, but two of our Chiefs arrived on scene in command vehicles at the same time the engine did and made the fourth and fifth guys....so minus the driver, you had four firefighters on the initial interior attack, plus the two probies who were probably doing hydrant work.
    Last edited by TillerMan25; 05-05-2005 at 12:18 PM.
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    Guy's,
    I take all of the points here.... don't forget I am coming from the angle of the 'Professional Firefighter' here. Nothing depresses me more than people standing outside of a property pouring water on it.... That doesn't take any skill, we could hook a line right to the hydrant, give it to the Bystanders and leave the scene.

    The real skill, and courageous decision by the commanders is the one that calls then crews out at just the right time.... any wet behind the ears, hand wrining worrier with a white hat can pull people out the minute they see the smoke get darker...by the same token as a maniac can leave people inside to fry while things are going horribly wrong. ITs having the skill to read the job and know where the line is between an agressive attack and a suicide mission...and having the guts to pull the plug at that moment.

    Tiller, I like the way this job was handled... the Department have clearly learned lessons from previous fires and now have a well assessed SOP in place. Slightly different but not unlike our love of the High Pressure Hosereel (Booster) in the UK...a 2 man crew make a very quick attack with the reel straight off the side to hold the fire in check, while a larger line is laid out and charged and a proper attack mounted.

    FFFred,
    I agree with your comments totally...Our cities are very similar and one man's derelict is another man's palace... but wherever you are there is no way anyone can reasonably ascertain, no matter how bad the building looks whether it is clear or not...However, 6 foot flames spewing from every window in my experience are a good indicator that any life that is within that area is long past saving. By all means (and hats off to you Guys in the US as the champions of searching above/below/beside a fire) make that search where a life may reasonably be able to survive around the fire, but once that search is made and there is doubt...then its time for me to make sure my Boys and Girls get home at the end of their shift.
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    I appreciate all the comments and input. This was exactly the type of discussion I was looking for. I 100% agree that the brothers on this particuliar fire did a outstanding job, I just wanted to look at this from a risk/benefit angle and see what everyone else thought. All the replys have given me some things to think about.

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    Originally posted by TillerMan25
    We used to go right down the basement steps with the line, but after a few guys got burned and some other minor problems, it was decided that the first in crew would hold the fire in check at the top of the stairs and the second in would enter through the outside (if there is an exterior basement door) and get the main knockdown.
    Tiller, can you explain this? I have only gone through the inside door, with the intent of pushing it outwards, even out of the external basement door. if you are coming in from the outside door, then your pushing all the heat and smoke into the main part of the house. can you explain what you guys do, and how that prevents smoke from filling the entire house?

    also, you don't vertically ventilate structures? so you don't vent a fire at the highest point? if not, what do u guys do?

    also, if your two chiefs and two FFs were doing interior work, probies were on hydrant duty, and the driver was operating the pump, who was the incident commander during the fire? Last I checked, you couldn't have the command post inside an IDLH.

    btw, if I was on that first crew, I would have came off the engine with my mask on, hood up, and ready to go. I would have attached my regulator to my mask as we were begining to make entry, but I wouldn't have been inhaling any smoke if I could have avoided it.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

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    who was the incident commander during the fire?
    The Chief was. We have Three Chiefs, Chief 25, Chief 25A and Chief 25B. Chief 25 was the incident commander, Chief 25A and B were inside assisting with ops, I wasnt there, so one of them may have been handling interior sector.

    I am getting ready to get off work, so I will go into the rest later.
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    How could you justify NOT going in? It's in the basement, go get it! And as far as SCBA, I don't remember many times I've been able to mask up in clean air. You lead out to the door, mask up then go in. How do you do overhaul if you can't take any smoke? Just wondering.

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    Now that I really get a good look at the pics it looks like the subdivision is going good ! and maybe extending up. When I first looked my thought was the same as the poster, it looked pretty well involved. If you have enough people, water, and ventilation should get a pretty good knock on it. Good pics, whats everyone think about makin the first line a 2 and a half ?
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    This was an example of what happens when there is an sop/sog in place, a good crew and a heads up IC! A tip o' the Leather is in order... good job!
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    How could you justify NOT going in? It's in the basement, go get it! And as far as SCBA, I don't remember many times I've been able to mask up in clean air. You lead out to the door, mask up then go in. How do you do overhaul if you can't take any smoke? Just wondering.
    ChicagoFF - Justification for NOT going in could be down to a combination of factors including; knowing this is a 'vacant' (yes - maybe a neighbour greeted the first crew and told them it was definitely vacant); therefore no reports of trapped occupants; limited crewing arriving on scene; we are assessing the fire from the pictures so .... yes possibly due to the severity of the fire (more than one room); level of experience of the first firefighters on scene; structural stability as sized up etc. As Tiller has cleared up several issues yes you can appreciate their approach to this incident in going interior but I would not condemn a crew of five initially deciding to go defensive on this fire (in a confirmed vacant) depending on other factors as mentioned.

    The firefighters masking up had a clear choice to mask-up in clean air. However, they chose the only place that was in smoke - downwind of the fire

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    btw, if I was on that first crew, I would have came off the engine with my mask on, hood up, and ready to go. I would have attached my regulator to my mask as we were begining to make entry, but I wouldn't have been inhaling any smoke if I could have avoided it.

    They hand jacked 800 ft of 3 inch carrying a high rise pack

    Who comes off the Engine masked up ????????????

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    Originally posted by BrianHFDLT
    btw, if I was on that first crew, I would have came off the engine with my mask on, hood up, and ready to go. I would have attached my regulator to my mask as we were begining to make entry, but I wouldn't have been inhaling any smoke if I could have avoided it.
    This is a whole different issue, and there are threads for it. I vote we don't hijack this thread and stick the to the original issue.


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    Looks like they did an excellent job. As far as stepping off the engine masked up, I think its foolish. Should your mask start to fog up, you know have to look through the regulator hole. The result is tunnel vision. You can't get a good look at the big picture, were the fire is, what the smokes doing, means of egress, etc.. Even if your lucky and the mask does not fog up, having your mask and your nomex on will still reduce your overall vision and result in tunnel vision. I find it's better to mask up at the front door, and click in your regulator when you start to encounter smoke on the inside. Just my opinion.
    Again, great job.

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    Paul...

    Photos, whether on film or in pixels are merely fractions of a second paused in time.

    In a few of the pics, you can see the firefighters clearly. It appears the wind shifted.

    ChicagoFF..

    The biggest danger of overhaul isn't residual smoke. It's the carbon monoxide level. Keep the mask on until the building is well ventialted and the CO readings are down.

    Brian HFDLT...
    A lot of firefighters will have the pack on, but don the facepiece just prior to entry. Depending on the weather conditions, the inside of a facepice can fog up due to the relative humidity of the air and one's exhaled breath. I have never put on the facepice before getting out of the rig, as it impairs my vision. I want to see where I am stepping... I am no good to my crew if I trip over a hoseline and get hurt.
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    The biggest danger of overhaul isn't residual smoke. It's the carbon monoxide level. Keep the mask on until the building is well ventialted and the CO readings are down.
    Not sure about that, Cap. CO levels are a definite concern, but there are still a myriad of products of combustion based on the incomplete combustion. For example, even if the overhaul were outdoors, I would muzzle up when overhauling pressure treated wood due to the hazard of exposure to arsenic.

    There is a study done by NIOSH and the BATFE which try to correlate the post-fire environment to the health and safety of fire investigators. There was an abnormally high incidence of bladder cancer in NRT CFI members. The main contaminant was determined to be formaldehyde.

    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports...-0171-2692.pdf
    Last edited by GeorgeWendtCFI; 05-06-2005 at 09:00 AM.

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