1. #1
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    Default Ventilating cathedral ceilings....why?

    Over the weekend, a department a few towns over had a living room fire, one story home, cathedral ceilings in the living room. They sent a crew up to cut a vent hole in the roof over the living room. My question is why? There was no attic/cockloft to vent, no enclosed or conceled space above the living room for the fire to spread horizontally. The fire wasn't going anywhere because it was confined by the cathedral ceilings. So why bother cutting the vent hole.

    I saw this same mistake a few years back. Detached garage fire behind a house and the roof was cut. Again, why?

    Any thoughts?

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    3 possible reasons ( just guessing )

    1. Maybe they didn't realize it was a cathedral ceiling.

    2. Maybe the interior conditions warranted a vertical vent. Vertical ventilation isn't only done to confine the fire. It has many purposes. Maybe the first in crew was taking a beating and a horizontal vent wasn't getting it done.

    3. Many FD's vent vertically at EVERY fire they have if the fire is on the upper floor just simply because it's thier SOP. Not saying i agree or disagree but many FD's believe it is the right thing to do.

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    Depending on the height of the ceiling and the contents that are burning, vertical vent could be indicated. Remember that you can have a lot of "black fire" trapped overhead. Vertical ventilation is not just for cocklofts and attics, but for any fire that is in the space under the roof, such as the top floor or the first floor of a 1 story home. While I feel that vertical vent is often overused, I would not say that it isn't necessary in 1 story buildings either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RESQBOSS244 View Post
    2. Maybe the interior conditions warranted a vertical vent. Vertical ventilation isn't only done to confine the fire. It has many purposes. Maybe the first in crew was taking a beating and a horizontal vent wasn't getting it done.
    FLFR vented a cathedral style ceiling for just that very reason, and that was by accident. A one-story SFD with extremely heavy smoke showing on arrival. Every window (In excess of 15, including several sliding doors) on the structure was taken out by the first due truck, but crews could still not advance into the structure past the first few feet because of extremely high heat levels. When the 2x4 skylight failed though, and flames vented 20 feet above the roof, crews were able to advance, extinguish the fire. I'm sure they would have loved it to be a much larger hole than that to have been cut, but at the time resources were busy conducting VES operations in the rear bedrooms (SFD on the weekend with cars present in the driveway).

    Every fire is different, and calls for a unique selection of the available tactics that departments can deploy in order to get in, put the fire out, and do the job. Very few (if any) tactics should ever excluded from any specific occupany or generalized fire scenario. A good size up, understanding of conditions, and tactical objectives let you pick the right way to get the job done.

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    The first three replies cover this question very well. Remember, you are talking about a considerable amount of height from the top of the doorways to the ceiling (just like a commercial occupancy). There could be a lot more fire than one would realize. Just because the conditions near the floor level seem only minor to moderate doesn't mean you don't have a serious fire going on. Places like this need to treated like a commercial fire not one in a private dwelling. A 2.5" attack line would be appropriate in a situation like this. Without some prior knowledge or preplanning, the incoming companies would have treated this like any other PD fire. Which means they most likely stretched either 1.5" or 1.75" attack line(s). Neither of these hoselines are capable of applying enough water to absorb the BTU's being generated by a fire of that magnitude. Venting the roof would have released enough of the heated smoke and gases to allow them to bring it under control with the smaller handline. However, not actually being at this job my thoughts are nothing more than a theory.

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    Cathedral ceiling: large vertical space for smoke and products of combustion to gather, including flammable fire gasses, including carbon monoxide, with a flammable range of 12 to 75%.

    The smoke gathered in the cathedral ceiling is like a huge fuel storage tank.. one spark...

    ka-boom!

    Vent it vertically, products of combustion leave the structure... one less thing to worry about.

    Drywall, plywood and roofing are cheap.

    LODD and injuries are not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Cathedral ceiling: large vertical space for smoke and products of combustion to gather, including flammable fire gasses, including carbon monoxide, with a flammable range of 12 to 75%.

    The smoke gathered in the cathedral ceiling is like a huge fuel storage tank.. one spark...

    ka-boom!

    Vent it vertically, products of combustion leave the structure... one less thing to worry about.

    Drywall, plywood and roofing are cheap.

    LODD and injuries are not.
    Nail on the head Gonzo. I was thinking it was a great idea to vertical vent. Without a window at the peak of the cathedral ceiling, it is the ONLY way to vent the gases at the top. Even with a window, tough to get the black crap out of there. Vent, enter, extinguish, go home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FTLAUD View Post
    FLFR vented a cathedral style ceiling for just that very reason, and that was by accident. A one-story SFD with extremely heavy smoke showing on arrival. Every window (In excess of 15, including several sliding doors) on the structure was taken out by the first due truck, but crews could still not advance into the structure past the first few feet because of extremely high heat levels. When the 2x4 skylight failed though, and flames vented 20 feet above the roof, crews were able to advance, extinguish the fire. I'm sure they would have loved it to be a much larger hole than that to have been cut, but at the time resources were busy conducting VES operations in the rear bedrooms (SFD on the weekend with cars present in the driveway).

    Every fire is different, and calls for a unique selection of the available tactics that departments can deploy in order to get in, put the fire out, and do the job. Very few (if any) tactics should ever excluded from any specific occupany or generalized fire scenario. A good size up, understanding of conditions, and tactical objectives let you pick the right way to get the job done.
    would you really want to knock every window out of this structure? or just goto the roof? Seems like your opening alot of air currents for the fire to grow on interior crews with heavy smoke conditions.

    just asking for discussion purposes.

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    Again, why?
    Maybe a better question would be Why Not?

    Hot gases, smoke, heat, etc all rise. Why not ventilate them out through the roof?
    "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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    Well put Gonz, as if we should be surprises. But I too, am not a big fan of having a large volume of trapped fuel above me...
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeatherHed4Life View Post
    would you really want to knock every window out of this structure? or just goto the roof? Seems like your opening alot of air currents for the fire to grow on interior crews with heavy smoke conditions.

    just asking for discussion purposes.
    x2.......When you open up all windows, you are just feeding it. When you open the RIGHT windows, you make it easier to make an attack.

    Unless it was fully involved, in which case there wouldnt be a need for an aggressive interior attack. But, I wansnt there.
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    What good can it do vs what harm could come if you don't...That should be the question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisdurkin44 View Post
    Over the weekend, a department a few towns over had a living room fire, one story home, cathedral ceilings in the living room. They sent a crew up to cut a vent hole in the roof over the living room. My question is why? There was no attic/cockloft to vent, no enclosed or conceled space above the living room for the fire to spread horizontally. The fire wasn't going anywhere because it was confined by the cathedral ceilings. So why bother cutting the vent hole.

    I saw this same mistake a few years back. Detached garage fire behind a house and the roof was cut. Again, why?

    Any thoughts?
    it would be a hugh mistake not to vent!!!

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    The first due ladder (crew of 3) split up. The FF and Officer entered and searched, driver secured utilities, then took the windows out with a hook performing outside vent functions starting towards the fire location and working his way out. Heavy smoke conditions were completely banked down to the floor, with the front door being the only initial opening in the building upon arrival. So with crews unable to advance and find the exact location of the fire (other than being told it was initially in the right rear by the kitchen), they opened up to improve the smoke conditions. The basic point is that at this fire the effect of that single vertical vent hole probably did more to improve conditions than horizontal ventilation alone.

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