1. #1
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    Default Now that was weird...

    Yes, I'm setting a trap Be warned. Other district in town, we were on the 1st alarm assignment. It was one of the biggest head scratchers at our station in 20 years -- certainly generated a lot of discussion. I think we eventually came up with a decent critique of what happened and how we might have handled some stuff differently...and certainly some things to tuck in the back of your mind for future reference.

    Early February, 1645. Chilly, steady breeze from west ("D" side), although that will get gusty for a few minutes as the sun finally sets. Call comes in as smoke detectors sounding, call by the property owner arriving home from work. Fire Chief arrives to find light smoke showing, all windows covered in oily soot. Neighbor reports he heard the smoke alarms going off at 1100, but didn't see anything when he looked in the windows then so he disregarded.

    Lines to the basement via the bulkhead on "D" & first floor via front door (a small area of the floor had burned through at the area of origin which was near wiring running in the floor joists).

    This photo (taken by the OIC of the FAST) is around 10 minutes into operations on the fireground when they were arriving. Before I post the next sequence, we'll start with this -- if you're just arriving at this point, what would your impression of the situation be?


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    OK, I'll bite, did you have a bug bomb or other simmilar device?

    First impression. The smoke looks a bit light. Without being there I'd say you had something that is now knocked.

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    Im waiting for a good twist, it looks interesting!!

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    Yep, real light smoke ADSNWFLD...lots of steam, and both from the pictures and the guys inside a decent amount of heat to be making that much steam.

    But your impression was the same as mine -- stick a fork in it, fires knocked time to start heavy overhauling.

    But the crews have one problem overhauling...no visibility. More heat then they'd expect for the fire they saw, and despite a good amount of horizontal ventilation on the leeward side, the smoke/steam just isn't lifting.

    How would you improve ventilation?


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    If you have an idea of where you want it then go with some vertical ventilation or maybe to really show you where the fire is put a ppv in the front door. This looks like it could get interesting. Also maybe stretch an extra line like a 2.5 just in case.

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    From what I can see in the picture, I don't see a need to cut a hole in this man's roof. A PPV fan at the door would be a good start. I would also keep everyone on their toes (just in case you have an alien space ship in the basement.) If the heat is not dissipating after the initial knockdown, then I would suspect that this would not be the fire origin.

    The suspense is killing me (well at least hurting me a little).
    Last edited by THEFIRENUT; 02-20-2007 at 04:43 AM.
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    Just a far-fetched guess...Were they operating some sort of hot-house for growing pot in the basement?

    (EDIT) ...Or in the attic?
    Last edited by fireman4949; 02-20-2007 at 06:42 AM.
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    Can't tell for sure with just still photos but it looks like the steam is escaping with pressure behind it. Heat/fire in the attic space would prevent the steam from escaping from the living areas.

    I'd go for vertical ventilation if there is no snow on the roof of the living area.

    My gut says the fire started in the basement and has breach the wall(s) and is moving to the attic space.
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    This is just a wild a@s guess. The home owner install a sauna in the basement without adequate ventilation.

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    I agree on the vertical ventilation. Then I'd give the white hats a nudge and politely suggest "GET THAT FREAKIN TRUCK OUT OF THE DRIVEWAY!!!!" Mysterious amounts of smoke, shiny pumper within 35' of house...... hmmmmm
    I like the second shiny pumper blocking the escape of pumper 1 ! LOL
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    natural gas furnace with water heater combined. heater failed and started fire, gas line feeding fire, water line to heater broke and is putting some, but not enough, water on fire causing "some" knockdown.

    PPV van at the front? Increasing heat and no known reason and you would start pushing fresh air in? Interesting.
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    Does it have a basement? Has anyone pulled ceiling and used a TIC to make sure there's no attic fire? With the facts given, I would be thinking vertical ventilation or at the least maybe opening up the gable end vents on the a, b, and d sides but no PPV until I'm satisfied there's no attic fire. I agree it looks beat but there's no way I would PPV the joint if I've still got unexplained heat and/or smoke. I can burn a roof off without any extra help!

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    I remember an article some time ago in one of the trades. I don't recall alot of it because we don't have this type of furnace in our area, that I know of anyway.
    Some kind of oil burner.

    The "oily soot" is what brought this to mind.


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    Last edited by F52Westside; 02-20-2007 at 10:54 AM.
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    I think the answer is quite obvious. Clearly a volcanic fissure opened up in the basement and is super-heating the water from the attack lines. Duh.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Depending on the type of heater, I'm thinking a leak in the heating oil line somewhere. Our first response would probably be to start PPV, that would show us where any fire is, but I'd like to get the TIC in there and start opening up walls/ceilings first.

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    House has a full basement, partially finished. 1st / 2nd due teamed up to get a line in operation through the bulkhead door.

    Oil heat, 275gallon tank in the basement although the Fire Marshal confirmed it did not fail.

    Oily, sooty windows are from smoke condensating on the windows -- fire was definitely in the "decay" stage after having been burning for 5+ hours before the 911 call (typical 1/4 acre lot suburban area...right on a main road, so no reason for people to have not seen smoke earlier...just a fairly slow burning fire in a tight house).

    Like some of the guys above indicated, still kind of hairy to use PPV since there was a lot of heat, and we didn't have a good handle on where the fire, if any, was remaining. Knew there had been some flames on two levels (basement & first) which had been knocked down. Remember the house had been stewing for hours, so it was pretty warm everywhere.

    Crews wanted to start aggressively opening up the walls and ceiling, but couldn't see. And the floor was spongy in one spot (the area of origin) so they were moving carefully on the first floor.

    So like some of the posters above, crew went to the roof. Notice the smoke from the ridge vent doesn't look that menancing at all...


    Edited to add credit for this photo to Josh Maloney...I'll post his website later but I don't want any cheaters for now
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 02-20-2007 at 01:51 PM.

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    i like this method of presenting the scenario dal, ill just keep quiet since i already know the story.
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    Oh heck, the oil tank reminded me. I remember it now so I'll quit playing too.

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    Is this what I read about a few years ago, that someone referred to as the "white ghost". An oil burner problem, gives off a ton of heat but looks very unassuming. The oil is atomizing in the fire box but not igniting. When it finds an ignition, it can cause a large explosion and fire. Maybe the reason for the hole in the floor.

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    Nope, wasn't a White Ghost. I do wonder if any fuel oil may have evaporated and added to the fuel load just from stewing in a basement which was likely above the flash point of home heating oil for a few hours, but it doesn't seem that it was a primary part of the problem.

    Irregardless, you certainly had other petroleum-based furnishings producing flammable gases as they decomposed, as well as plain old fashion CO from petroleum and wood based fuels.

    I'll post the pic where it gets interesting tonite

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    [QUOTE=Dalmatian190;774972]
    So like some of the posters above, crew went to the roof. Notice the smoke from the ridge vent doesn't look that menancing at all...
    QUOTE]

    Based on this, I'm going to guess that there was fire, or at least a lot of smoldering in the attic. You probably got a surprise when you opened it up and let in all of the oxygen.

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    I'm not going to try and figure out why it is smoking, but I would use a thermal imaging camera to search for the fire or heat source. If it is below freezing the smoke will be white, I dont know alot from just a couple pics. But I would use a camera or at least feel the walls with my hand for heat then open up. You can find fire in walls without being able to see. If there is no fire in the walls go into the basement with the camera and find the heat source. Go from there.

    If you have opened the windows and it isnt ventilating it is probably producing more smoke, so find the heat source and fix the problem and that will stop the smoke.

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    Now remember, all we've seen is white smoke, maybe a bit of brown -- typical wood stuff. Lots of steam. And that's holding true what's coming out the windows, eaves, gable vent, and ridge vents. Nothing ominous...

    Below is just after they opened the vent hole, they rolled the cut open and out came the smoke -- the guy running the saw said he had a real hard time finding the ladder to get back off the roof.

    This photo (also by Josh Maloney) was taken from the "D" side -- Any impressions of what you can see -- not only of the smoke, but the house on this side, too.

    Oh...the guys inside knew right away -- they just watched the smoke just lift right up and out of the first floor and gave them good visibility for the first time. The attic stair scuttle had been opened, and I wouldn't be surprised if there had been some additional pulled ceiling areas.

    More to come

    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 02-20-2007 at 07:42 PM.

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    ruh roh!...
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    Guess ya didn't need the Positive Pressure Ventilation to start finding the source! Seems regular ole vertical ventilation did it.

    Obviously, a rat ate through the wiring in one of the can lights in the ceiling causing a short that slowly ate through the blown in cellulose insulation. Or maybe not.

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