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    Default Venting BASEMENTS?

    I want to ask your views and experiences of venting basement fires. There are basically four types of 'basement' -
    • Single level basement fully below grade (cellar)
    • Multi-level basement fully below grade (cellar)
    • Single level basement partially below grade
    • Single level basement below grade to the front but above grade at the rear

    I am particularly interested in discussing generalized venting tactics for 'under-ventilated' fires in the above two highlighted building types as there are several instances over the past decade of firefighter LODDs at such incidents and it seems venting tactics may have preceded situations where firefighters became caught and trapped during rapid fire development by a few minutes, or sometimes even seconds.

    Basements are a particular concern to firefighters, as they typically have no natural ventilation and may require firefighters to descend through the hot gas layer from above to reach the fire. I appreciate the 'standard' approach means taking an interior line to protect the stairs from the basement to prevent fire spread to upper floors.

    An under-ventilated fire may be defined as that which is demonstrating typical warning signs of backdraft, or perhaps more commonly just where a heavy smoke condition is present.
    • Do we ventilate?
    • When to ventilate?
    • When not to ventilate?
    • Where to ventilate?
    Last edited by PaulGRIMWOOD; 07-01-2007 at 04:02 PM.

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    In my area basements are the rule rather then the exception. EVERY new home has a basement and the vast majority of older homes have basements.
    In new homes codes require an escape window and more if some rooms are used as bedrooms, so a new home venting goes pretty well. While you will always have packrats that store 10 lbs of crap in a 5 lb bucket, newer homes generally have finished basements and a regular fire load. When you open the escape windows you have a 2.5' by 3.5' hole for smoke to vent and it makes the push downstairs more or less OK.
    Now the older homes are a different story, they frequently have only 2 small 1X2' windows and it gets hot down there.
    On a good working fire we open up as soon as possible. We take all the basement windows and open or take the first floor also. A quick agressive attack (depending on construction) with a lot of water is how we handle the situation 95% of the time. I've never used a celler nozzle on an actual call, but I have used High Ex once and it worked OK for the most part.
    I have also cut the floor infront of the living room window and let smoke vent that way. It took some time but the basement was a rat's nest of accumulated junk and we needed the extra ventilation.
    Reguardless of the layout we will usually go down the interior stairs so we can protect the interior exposures and protect the members going above the fire to the second floor. If part or all of the rear is at grade but the front is below we do the same thing, it is just easier to open up then.
    I hope that answered your question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADSNWFLD View Post
    Older homes are a different story, they frequently have only 2 small 1X2' windows and it gets hot down there.
    On a good working fire we open up as soon as possible. We take all the basement windows and open or take the first floor also. A quick agressive attack (depending on construction) with a lot of water is how we handle the situation 95% of the time.

    Reguardless of the layout we will usually go down the interior stairs so we can protect the interior exposures and protect the members going above the fire to the second floor. If part or all of the rear is at grade but the front is below we do the same thing, it is just easier to open up then.
    I hope that answered your question.
    Thanks .... This definitely conforms to the 'standard' approach as far as I can see. What I am asking is this .... As most fires of 'light to medium' fire conditions can be handled this way it sometimes becomes 'routine'.

    I want to question the venting and approach aspects as follows -
    • The first line is positioned (not necessarily advanced) to prevent fire spread into the first floor and protect S&R firefighters
    • The second line is the attack line if there is an exterior entrance
    • Advancing down into a basement from the first floor is like approaching a first floor fire from the second level where an exterior entrance exists - why would this be done?
    • 'Minimum' 'effective' venting must be 2.5% of the floor area so in older homes it appears to serve no purpose, other than feed the fire with air
    • The danger of venting basements creates a pathway for air to enter at low level, possibly increasing the heat output and making any descent more difficult and dangerous?
    • Would the exterior venting of windows, supplemented by an indirect attack, be an option prior to entry into the basement where conditions are moderate to heavy?

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    Thumbs up Well.....................

    We have a written, well thought out S.O.P. for Basement Operations. First Line goes into the First Floor and Covers the interior stairway. Second line goes in thru the Exterior door and begins the Fire Attack. Most of our Basement Fires are handled this way, without problems. There are very few homes in this area without an Exterior-to-Basement Door, (my home is one) BUT, as has been pointed out, there are the "Packrats". We vent quickly and aggressively, but with lines in place. With 4 Engines (Pumps to Paul ) 2 Ladder Trucks, A Heavy Rescue, anywhere from 2 to 6 or 7 Chiefs, and EMS Units, Adequately Staffed, our attendance is very heavy, compared to many other places. We, if all crews are intact at time of dispatch, get a minimum of Thirty people, and at times when Volunteer participation is greatest (nights and weekends) you can get Forty to Fifty.
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    Harve thanks for that information. Your SOP does appear well thought out and at least offers a clear procedural approach.

    I guess my main points here are - (a) the primary line into the first floor is simply a 'holding' line where an exterior entrance exists; and (b) the 'indirect attack' option in moderate to heavy fire situations, or in under-ventilated conditions. I don't see this written in any current procedural approaches or tactics books? A fog nozzle through a basement quarter-light window prior to entry from above (especially) can be 'pulsed' in short controlled bursts in an effort to control any fire development.

    If we are going to create openings here let's use them to advantage?
    Last edited by PaulGRIMWOOD; 07-03-2007 at 02:44 AM.

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    Exclamation Well..............

    Yes, Our line to the top of the interior stairway, on the first floor, is, by reference in the S.O.P.s, a "Covering" line only. The IC can, if needed, alter this approach, but I haven't done it myself, and I've only seen it done rarely. One VERY Important item here is the absolute necessity for the crews to be as observant as possible of conditions that affect the stability of the Floor itself. If the floor shows signs of weakness, then we need to adjust the game plan.......
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    Harve-

    Are you referring to a GVFD SOP for basement fires? I seem to recall that the county was working on one after the Cherry Hill incident in DC, but I dont remember one actually being put out.

    In my experience as of late, it seems that the first line will try to make the stairs but if the second line can make access they will let the IC know and adjust fire from there.

    Stay Safe

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGRIMWOOD View Post
    Harve thanks for that information. Your SOP does appear well thought out and at least offers a clear procedural approach.

    I guess my main points here are - (a) the primary line into the first floor is simply a 'holding' line where an exterior entrance exists; and (b) the 'indirect attack' option in moderate to heavy fire situations, or in under-ventilated conditions. I don't see this written in any current procedural approaches or tactics books? A fog nozzle through a basement quarter-light window prior to entry from above (especially) can be 'pulsed' in short controlled bursts in an effort to control any fire development.

    If we are going to create openings here let's use them to advantage?
    Problem is, at least in my area, the basements are very separated areas. A pulse through a window would have little effect as it would only be in that one room or closet. Majority of residential basements, in my area, do not have exterior doors, few small casement windows, lots of partition walls. And yes, even though it's against building codes, bedrooms and family rooms with the only access being the interior stairs. Our first line will go to the interior stairs and quite often will go down them. The second line will then take the top of the interior stairs protection.

    I hate basement fires.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    I hate basement fires.
    I'm with you on that Bones. I have a question regarding when or if to use interior floor venting. As Paul stated a casement window doesn't offer a lot of venting potential depending on the location of the fire and the layout of the basement. Most basements around our area are the SFD with casement windows and no exterior door. New construction now has the escape windows though. If the only option for extinguishment is to descend the stairs, 2 lines in place at the stairs for attack and coverage. Anyone have any suggestions, guidelines, techniques, procedures, experience on opening the floor to vent if entry to the basement is going to be too difficult unless it is vented?

    Thanks.
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    So far we have -
    • Primary hose-line to the first floor (interior stairs to basement)
    • Secondary hose-line to an exterior entrance if one exists
    • If no exterior entrance, secondary line to back-up primary interior line
    • If exterior entrance exists, attack is from this point and first line is holding
    • If no exterior entrance, attack must be down the interior stairs
    • Venting of casement windows is considered necessary
    • Venting of casement windows may worsen conditions rather than improve them in some situations

    Here is something you can do on primary size-up in your 360! Feel every basement window as you pass it for signs of heat! At this fire, firefighters were first drawn to smoke issuing from upper levels and deployed hose-lines as such.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Problem is, at least in my area, the basements are very separated areas. A pulse through a window would have little effect as it would only be in that one room or closet.
    I take that point Bones .... It won't work in every situation .... but in some situations the pulsing of fog droplets into the 'casements' may serve to dampen fire development and assist any subsequent descent into the basement?

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    Default Venting basement/cellar fires

    Heer's another method, using power venting..

    1st attack line goes to the room over or closest to the fire
    2nd attack line waits at the cellar stairs to make entry.

    Truck company takes out the window, then cuts a hole in the floor directly under the window.

    As the smoke and heat rise from the hole, the 1st attack line power vents it out the window, enabling the second attack line to make it down the stairs and to attack the fire.

    Of course, if the floor joists are plywood I beams, floor may be gone by the time the first due rigs arrive....
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGRIMWOOD View Post
    I take that point Bones .... It won't work in every situation .... but in some situations the pulsing of fog droplets into the 'casements' may serve to dampen fire development and assist any subsequent descent into the basement?
    Paul, absolutely, it's a possibility. And it has been done. The only 2 absolutes I ever learned in the fire service....never say never and never say always.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Heer's another method, using power venting..

    1st attack line goes to the room over or closest to the fire
    2nd attack line waits at the cellar stairs to make entry.

    Truck company takes out the window, then cuts a hole in the floor directly under the window.

    As the smoke and heat rise from the hole, the 1st attack line power vents it out the window, enabling the second attack line to make it down the stairs and to attack the fire.

    Of course, if the floor joists are plywood I beams, floor may be gone by the time the first due rigs arrive....
    Then actually the first line isn't an attack line but positioned as a vent line. The second line into the building is the attack line. Problen I see here is no backup for the actual attack line until you manage to get a third line into play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Heer's another method, using power venting..

    1st attack line goes to the room over or closest to the fire
    2nd attack line waits at the cellar stairs to make entry.

    Truck company takes out the window, then cuts a hole in the floor directly under the window.

    As the smoke and heat rise from the hole, the 1st attack line power vents it out the window, enabling the second attack line to make it down the stairs and to attack the fire.

    Of course, if the floor joists are plywood I beams, floor may be gone by the time the first due rigs arrive....
    CaptainGonzo, that's pretty much what I've been taught or read in a nutshell but is it ever really feasible to do that? Risk vs. Benefit of course plays into the decision process of performing that procedure. Unfortunately, where I'm at it probably would not be possible initially due to manpower limitations until mutual aid arrived and then it would probably be too late. Minimum staffing to do this would be 4 personnel for hose lines (6 or more for 2 1/2), 4-6 outside for back-up, 2 man vent team, driver/operators, etc. By the time we pulled that many people to the scene, I don't think we'd be worrying about going into the basement anyway.

    Paul, in terms of pulsing into the casement windows, would you do this to all of them systematically or on an as needed basis? Would you target one primary location depending on heat conditions and concentrate pulses there? How about controlling openings to the basement if utilizing an indirect attack? Would you make a point, for example, to shut a stairway door to maximize the steam effect?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kprsn1 View Post
    Paul, in terms of pulsing into the casement windows, would you do this to all of them systematically or on an as needed basis? Would you target one primary location depending on heat conditions and concentrate pulses there? How about controlling openings to the basement if utilizing an indirect attack? Would you make a point, for example, to shut a stairway door to maximize the steam effect?
    Good Question ....

    No exterior entrance ....

    If the basement is compartmented, as Bones rightly points out, there may even be internal doors closed. The fire may be easy to locate right down to the A-D side corner. Feel the casements .... get some idea of which are hottest. Coordinate with the primary hose-line team. Definitely on an 'as needed' basis.

    I would always encourage closing a stairwell door at the first floor if this existed but when I state 'indirect' attack, the intention is to cool the gases and not steam everybody in there! Hence the use of short controlled bursts. A full-on indirect application of constant flow fog remains an option in the most stubborn of situations or where backdraft conditions prevail.

    If the objective is to advance the attack line down then the opening of all the casements might be beneficial. I would need to read conditions as they present. I would most likely still consider the injection of some water droplets prior to any advancement of this line.

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    Great discussion thus far, however, lets throw out another option: PPV. (For the record, I am not supportive or non-supportive of PPV for this discussion). I personally don't have a lot of experience with PPV used at basement fires. There are advocates that strongly recommend using this tactic in conjunction with fire attack (positive pressure attack). Certain things must be done. For one, the ventilation openings must be large enough to exhaust the heat, which obviously could be a problem. Number two, firefighters must ensure that they are NOT between fire and a potential exhaust opening. This is most easily done by not being in the basement or even the house until the windows have been vented and the fan is running. There was a LODD a few years ago and this played a big part of it. I would like to hear your opinions and most of all your experiences using PPV with fire attack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by erics99 View Post
    I would like to hear your opinions and most of all your experiences using PPV with fire attack.
    Hey - we could have the PPV v balloon-frame debate all over again http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...loon+frame+ppv

    No seriously, PPV .... is it an option? is it viable for pre-attack entry to basement fires? What are you experiences?

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    In our neck of the woods, I would not even entertain the thought of PPV for basement fires. Most basements have exposed wood framing, now made more dangerous by the use of TGI's and other lightweight structural members. Without knowing the compartmentalization of the basement you cannot control the exhaust. Most basements as noted previously, have very limited exterior openings, so the open framing, pipe chases, improperly enclosed chimneys, and balloon framing voids could be the path of least resistance, making them the "exhaust" for the PPV air stream. So I guess I'd say no to PPV in older housing stock, and no again to PPV in newer housing stock and then say no I don't trust we can tell where the median housing stock lies. The exposed framing is a deal killer to me!

    Our dept. tried PPV for years with little, to no success, mainly due to failure to control the exhaust openings. Due to the cooler climate we are in, most houses do not have AC, so in July and August everyone leaves all the windows open. Basically this kills any control over the exhaust opening. Secondly, as this was only a small percentage of the time, most of our residential units are in older balloon framed structures, which we felt were not candidates for immediate PPV until we could ensure the fire had not breached the framing (structure fire vs. building fire). Lastly, our personnel have the latitude to take widows as the need to when it will benefit the search. This may not have presented itself as a necessity if the PPV had worked well. Lastly, and possibly not really last, is that most of our little burg has large older houses converted into multiple dwellings creating many smaller compartments that screwed up air movement. It is rare that you can put the fan in the front door and have the exhaust come out the rear window on the second floor as planned due to multiple doors and hallways, etc.

    I have personally witnessed a FD use PPV on a fire that was in the basement which they thought to be on the first floor. Result: the fire was drawn up into the first floor and forced them out ending in a total loss.

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    [QUOTE=PaulGRIMWOOD;831162]So far we have -
    • Primary hose-line to the first floor (interior stairs to basement)
    • Secondary hose-line to an exterior entrance if one exists
    • If no exterior entrance, secondary line to back-up primary interior line
    • If exterior entrance exists, attack is from this point and first line is holding
    • If no exterior entrance, attack must be down the interior stairs
    • Venting of casement windows is considered necessary
    • Venting of casement windows may worsen conditions rather than improve them in some situations

    I have a question. If there is an exterior entrance and the attack crew makes the push from this exterior entrance, should the crew at the interior stairwell keep this door shut? If the attack crew is having difficulty advancing due to extreme heat/fire conditions would it be acceptable for the interior stairwell crew to open the door to lift the heat and then apply water to the door and hallway area to prevent its ignition?

    Also two points....

    I would never decend down an interior stairwell into a working basement fire without a backup line covering the stairwell (escape route).

    Instead of using the fog stream to vent gases out the window of the ventilation hole made in the 1st floor, how about having the vent crew stick an old box fan in the window?
    Anything less than excellent is unacceptable!

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    [QUOTE=traumawave;831589]
    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGRIMWOOD View Post
    So far we have -
    • Primary hose-line to the first floor (interior stairs to basement)
    • Secondary hose-line to an exterior entrance if one exists
    • If no exterior entrance, secondary line to back-up primary interior line
    • If exterior entrance exists, attack is from this point and first line is holding
    • If no exterior entrance, attack must be down the interior stairs
    • Venting of casement windows is considered necessary
    • Venting of casement windows may worsen conditions rather than improve them in some situations

    I have a question. If there is an exterior entrance and the attack crew makes the push from this exterior entrance, should the crew at the interior stairwell keep this door shut? If the attack crew is having difficulty advancing due to extreme heat/fire conditions would it be acceptable for the interior stairwell crew to open the door to lift the heat and then apply water to the door and hallway area to prevent its ignition?
    I wouldn't consider that under any circumstances I can think of until the fire was under control. However, have you found a need for this? The potential risks seem to outweigh any benefit.

    Quote Originally Posted by traumawave View Post
    Also two points....

    I would never decend down an interior stairwell into a working basement fire without a backup line covering the stairwell (escape route).
    Yes that's in the list .... what if your back-up line is ten minutes away? Would you divert & deploy S&R on the back-up if this was the case?

    Quote Originally Posted by traumawave View Post
    Instead of using the fog stream to vent gases out the window of the ventilation hole made in the 1st floor, how about having the vent crew stick an old box fan in the window?
    I know of this strategy of creating an opening above the fire, adjacent to a window - it's in John Norman's book. However, I have no experience of it and am not sure about using such an approach. Vinnie? FFRED? Others?

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