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    Post Texas, Memphis, Charleston, now Boston.....are we seeing a trend?

    I work here in Memphis, and after the Sofa Superstore fire in Charleston the media made several references to the Family Dollar fire here in Memphis. It all got me thinking, so I talked to people and read some NIOSH reports. What I found is a potential trend that is not just disturbing but down right scary.

    Houston Texas Feb 2000 two firefighters killed in a restaurant fire following a roof collapse. NIOSH requested a NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) study of the fire. What they found was that the fire progressed rapidly above a tile drop ceiling where it attacked the wood truss system, ran out of oxygen and smoldered for 17 minutes before the first 911 call. Temps in the ceiling were above 1000 deg at the time of FD arrival.

    Memphis 2003, two firefighters killed in the Family Dollar fire. The NIOSH report states that the fire rapidly progressed above the tile drop ceiling and attacked the steel truss roof system. When I talked to some of the brothers that were there, they said that the building was clear from front to back when they got there. They said all hell broke loose in seconds. NIOSH reports a possible backdraft out of the ceiling tiles.

    Charleston 2007, nine firefighters killed in the Sofa Superstore. According to published media reports the fire was found on the loading dock, but when the Chief entered the building he reported seeing puffs of smoke coming from out of the tile drop ceiling in the back of the store. At this time there is no NIOSH report, but we do know the building had unprotected steel truss roof system and rapid deterioration of conditions inside the store.

    Boston 2007, two firefighters killed in a restaurant fire. The news conference by the Chief stated that they believe the fire was burning above a tile ceiling for at least an hour before the 911 call, and they believe there was a backdraft into the structure prior to the collapse.

    Doing the math shows that we lost 15 brothers and sisters in 7 years due to strangely similar conditions. Without the NIOSH reports from Charleston and Boston it is hard to reach any conclusions, but I believe we are seeing a trend with fires that are either starting in, or rapidly extending up into drop ceilings, hanging out, then blowing out on our people followed by a roof collapse. The NIST simulation from the Texas fire looked at popping a ceiling tile just inside the door. They concluded that this could allow crews to see the extent of the fire above the drop ceiling.

    We all know the dangers of truss roof systems, so there is no point in rehashing that, but the addition of the drop ceiling, the speed of fire advance up and into this space, and the way it is holding the fire and smoke above our heads is something that needs to be discussed. Iím not going to judge my Brothers or the calls they made. I wasnít there. What I do see though is 15 of us dead in 7 years due to hidden fire above our heads attacking a truss roof system

    For my crew Iíve instituted an aggressive training and discussion program concerning these fires and the types of buildings we see with this ceiling/roof system. Iíve also instructed my people to lift the first ceiling tile in the door on any commercial building we make for either fire or automatic alarm.

    I hope this generates some discussion and some awareness. Please read the NIOSH reports. Study the buildings, and post some comments. Above all STAY SAFE.

    Larry
    Salus Populi Suprima Lex

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    It seems the proliferation of truss construction is taking its toll on us lately. As more and more older buildings with non-truss construction are replaced the odds that we will be operating under or over truss will increase. This has been decades in the making and will only become more dangerous going forward. As Brannigan preached, by now we should know our enemy!

    While this is in no way directed at any of the listed incident in particular, this morning my crew and the incoming crew discussed what they can to identify some of these dangers. IE: Using the TIC immediately, popping ceiling tiles before entering when fire, heat or smoke is present; take the few extra seconds to really do a "personal size-up", etc.

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    Brannigan also points out that Carbon Monoxide will be generated 50 times greater in a confined space such as the void in a drop ceiling. And that although there might be new fire rated drop ceiling assemblies in an older building that the combustible tile is still attached to the ceiling in the space creating a great flame spread hazard. I know for myself in older buildings I am going to be checking for the presence of older tiles above newere dropped ceilings in pre-plans etc.

    Brannigan also said that as much as 25% of a floor's space can be hidden above a drop ceiling. So like was stated in the first post we need to be looking up before we go under any drop ceilings.

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    Wouldn't your basic TIC tell you exactly what you have. A TIC without a doubt will let you know the extent of the extension behind the tiles. And now that they are less than $10K and I believe under $5k, they should be standard equipment on every truck. Next thing that is needed is the training.

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    You left out FDNY.

    Certain individuals here like to spout off about how perfect fidney is with their "140 years of tradition and damn anything we didn't think of here first" attitude but let's not forget that they still manage to kill firefighters (in vacant buildings) just like everybody else now and then.

    Yes, that's harsh. However, there are some FDNY members who need a reality check now and again.

    [Flame in PMs preferred. Why waste everyone else's time?]
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    Default Extreme Fire Behavior and Collapse

    The traumatic LODD occurring during structural firefighting in 2007 definitely show a definite pattern. Twenty firefighters and fire officers have died as a result of extreme fire behavior (e.g., flashover, backdraft) since 1 January 2007. 14 involved flashover, two involved backdraft, and the remaining four resulted from unspecified extreme fire behavior phenomena. In a substantial number of these cases, structural collapse occurred either subsequent to (most common) or prior to (less common) the extreme fire behavior phenomena.

    It is difficult to point to a trend based on the events of the year to this point. However, looking at LODD related to offensive structural firefighting operations over the last 30 years (1977-2007) there is a significant trend. Firefighters are more likely to die from traumatic cause (e.g., extreme fire behavior, collapse) today than they were in the 1970s (see the current issue of NFPA Fire Journal). In a previous retrospective look at traumatic fatalities Rita Fahy of the NFPA speculated that limited experience (resulting from fewer structural fires) may be a contributing factor in many traumatic LODD. Note that experience in this case is not simply based on years of service, but the number of fires attended and lessons learned from that work.

    Thirteen of those who died were Firefighters and the other seven were company officers. They ranged in age from 19 to 57 with a median age of 40.5. Two who died were volunteers and the remaining 18 were career personnel. Nine of the fatalities occurred in residential structures and 11 occurred in commercial occupancies. Eleven of the fatalities occurred during fire attack operations, eight during primary search, and one involved live fire training.

    It is difficult to evaluate the specific factors that contributed to these tragic events as investigations in most cases are ongoing and detailed reports have not been released. However, prior fatalities have a number of common elements (based on an analysis of NIOSH reports on incidents involving extreme fire behavior) that in some combination will likely be found in the fatalities in the current year.
    • Not recognizing potential for extreme fire behavior (this may be on the part of the individuals who died, on the part of command, or both).
    • Not recognizing the potential influence of changes in the ventilation profile (either due to tactical or unplanned ventilation)
    • Failure to coordinate fire control and ventilation operations.
    • Working above the fire without a hoseline (or supported by a hoseline).
    • Not recognizing that smoke is fuel and controlling the fire environment through effective fire control and ventilation tactics.
    • Not recognizing the hazards presented by combustion in void spaces and/or accumulation of pyrolysis products and flammable products of combustion within structural voids.

    The frequency of extreme fire behavior related LODD should not distract us from the issue of lightweight construction and collapse hazards as there have also been a significant number of firefighter fatalities related to collapse and floor system failure.

    I encourage each firefighter and fire officer to improve their knowledge of fire behavior and building construction. This needs to not only focus on theory (although understanding the underlying theory is essential) but practical application. Consider taking the following steps:
    • Seek out and participate in professional development in the area of fire behavior and building construction.
    • Conduct post incident analysis on your own fires (even those that are not particularly complex),
    • Use case studies and identify the lessons that can be learned from others experiences (e.g., NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty Reports, Firefighter Near Miss Reports)
    • Complete near miss reports at www.firefighternearmiss.com if you have a near miss involving extreme fire behavior or collapse (or for that matter any type of near miss).

    If you have any questions related to fire behavior or would like to share your experiences or lessons learned, please drop me an e-mail at ed.hartin@cfbt-us.com.
    Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE

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    Quote Originally Posted by HotTrotter View Post
    Wouldn't your basic TIC tell you exactly what you have. A TIC without a doubt will let you know the extent of the extension behind the tiles. And now that they are less than $10K and I believe under $5k, they should be standard equipment on every truck. Next thing that is needed is the training.
    The camera may not see exactly what is behind or above the ceiling and in smaoke you'll be hard pressed to know if what you're seeing is below the ceiling or above. The camera is only as good as the users, who must understand what they're seeing, the limitations o fthe camera, and what they're looking for in the first place. I know of may older drop ceilings that he tiles are very thick and wll act as significant barriers to the camera. Plus if the heat is throughout the area above the ceiling the whole thing will be lighter vs. seeing a "hot spot". Camera's are just one of many tools that must be used in conjunction with proper techniques and tactics, such as popping ceiling tiles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    You left out FDNY.

    Certain individuals here like to spout off about how perfect fidney is with their "140 years of tradition and damn anything we didn't think of here first" attitude but let's not forget that they still manage to kill firefighters (in vacant buildings) just like everybody else now and then.

    Yes, that's harsh. However, there are some FDNY members who need a reality check now and again.

    [Flame in PMs preferred. Why waste everyone else's time?]
    I'm glad you said that.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    You left out FDNY.

    Certain individuals here like to spout off about how perfect fidney is with their "140 years of tradition and damn anything we didn't think of here first" attitude but let's not forget that they still manage to kill firefighters (in vacant buildings) just like everybody else now and then.

    Yes, that's harsh. However, there are some FDNY members who need a reality check now and again.

    [Flame in PMs preferred. Why waste everyone else's time?]
    Care to share exactly which vacant buildings we have lost anyone in recently? And how it has anything at all to do with this thread (and the implied connection the original poster meant?)

    The thread starter was commenting on specific conditions that have lead to the deaths of ffs. Your post doesnt cite any examples, just a broad brushed comment to see who would bite.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HotTrotter View Post
    I'm glad you said that.....
    Coming from the person who didnt understand one of the most basic premises for fighting a fire in a taxpayer, Im glad it wasnt you who said it.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    Coming from the person who didnt understand one of the most basic premises for fighting a fire in a taxpayer, Im glad it wasnt you who said it.
    I'm thinking that probably didn't come out the right way. But that is what I meant, I'm glad i didn't say that.

    Anyway, wasn't the Deutche Bank building vacant?

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    Quote Originally Posted by HotTrotter View Post
    I'm thinking that probably didn't come out the right way. But that is what I meant, I'm glad i didn't say that.

    Anyway, wasn't the Deutche Bank building vacant?
    Yeah. the ghosts were smoking cigarettes.


    Either way, has NOTHING to do with the thread, considering the original poster (and subsequent posts) were discussions about fires in drop down ceilings, truss roofs, and collapse.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    If there are workmen and laborers working in a building everyday, is it a vacant building?

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    The reports from the NYC incident don't really say what happened other than the two got disoriented. And perhaps this has nothing to do with the original question, but wouldn't a TIC have helped in this instance as well?

    Jasper, a vacant building is one that is not occupied or inhabited. Given your definition anything under construction would not be vacant, therefore it would be occupied, and hence would have an occupancy permit. So yes, it is considered vacant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    You left out FDNY.

    Certain individuals here like to spout off about how perfect fidney is with their "140 years of tradition and damn anything we didn't think of here first" attitude but let's not forget that they still manage to kill firefighters (in vacant buildings) just like everybody else now and then.

    Yes, that's harsh. However, there are some FDNY members who need a reality check now and again.

    [Flame in PMs preferred. Why waste everyone else's time?]
    Okay, I have gone round and round with some of the FDNY guys myself but I have never felt the need to post this kind of completely unnecessary inflamatory crap about LODD's. My opinion is this post went over the line and serves no purpose other than attempt to enflame passions from the FDNY guys.

    I wonder how you would react if I made reference to your FD after an LODD about how perfect YOU thought you were...

    FyredUp

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    i was kinda thinking the same thing DON
    JOHN 15:13

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    1st Asst. Chief Ray Johns

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    Guess everyone is right.

    Maybe the NYC Fire Department needs to start abandoning the construction workers, and homeless people of the city from now on. I mean, if the building is empty we all KNOW that no one is inside and spontaneous combustion occurred to ignite the fire. And of course we all KNOW that the homeless, down trodden, kids playing are not worth our time or effort Maybe I was lucky I worked in Staten Island.

    After all, it doesn't fit into the style of the Utopia of Ct, England, "the great state of California", Phoneix or anywhere else.


    Something that our DI's made us memorize:
    "I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that, "Nothing can be destroyed except by fire." We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are defenders from fires of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind. (But, above all; our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men-the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.Ē
    Last edited by DocVBFDE14; 09-01-2007 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Add the quote
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    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.

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    It's no question that the roof construction is affecting the way that we fight fires. Is the fact that we've lost so many brothers in a short amount of time in this fashion the "wake up call" that we need?

    Don't get me wrong, I am all about making an aggressive interior attack as much as the next firefighter. However, as a company officer, I also feel a need to ensure that all of my personnel return home safe to their families at the end of the shift. And therein lies the go/don't go decisions that we face every day.

    There are a lot of commercial fires that could be knocked with a tower ladder placed at ground level. Go big early and go home safe later.

    We shouldn't think that this only a recent phenomenon, though. Read the NIOSH report from the double LODD in Chesapeake, VA 11 years ago, and see how many of the same patterns you recognize: Chesapeake, Virginia Line-of-Duty-Death Investigation.

    EGH!

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    Quote Originally Posted by HotTrotter View Post
    Jasper, a vacant building is one that is not occupied or inhabited. Given your definition anything under construction would not be vacant, therefore it would be occupied, and hence would have an occupancy permit. So yes, it is considered vacant.
    Please picture the Geico Caveman commercials as you read this: "UH What...?"
    If a vacant building is one that is not occupied or inhabited, then how if you claim that underconstruction means its occupied would it be considered vacant? It's so F'ed up I can't even get my question straight. Dude, seriously have your meds checked. And in our neck of the woods buildings under construction do not have certificates of occupancy, but work under a building permit. In the end you can call it what you for many depts. rolling up and calling it vacant and going defensive doesn't protect all the citizens, especially the homeless, crack heads and the occaisonal kids that poke around inside cause their kids. No matter what, like any job, the conditions are considered before committing to or abandoning interior ops.

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    Originally Posted by HotTrotter
    Jasper, a vacant building is one that is not occupied or inhabited. Given your definition anything under construction would not be vacant, therefore it would be occupied, and hence would have an occupancy permit. So yes, it is considered vacant.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Please picture the Geico Caveman commercials as you read this: "UH What...?"
    If a vacant building is one that is not occupied or inhabited, then how if you claim that underconstruction means its occupied would it be considered vacant? It's so F'ed up I can't even get my question straight. Dude, seriously have your meds checked. And in our neck of the woods buildings under construction do not have certificates of occupancy, but work under a building permit. In the end you can call it what you for many depts. rolling up and calling it vacant and going defensive doesn't protect all the citizens, especially the homeless, crack heads and the occaisonal kids that poke around inside cause their kids. No matter what, like any job, the conditions are considered before committing to or abandoning interior ops.
    I suggest you go back and read carefully. I building under construction is considered a vacant building. That is no one lives there. It doesn't mean no one is inside, just that it is considered vacant.

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    I would like to point everyone to the USFA Fire Fighter Fatalities in the United States 2006 dated July 2007. It is an interesting read for sure. However on page 29 there is a discussion about enclosed structure fatalities. They look at the 444 fatalities that occurred between 1990 and 2006. 84% of these fatalities occurred in enclosed structures. Enclosed structures are what most big box retail stores use.

    The analysis concluded that over a 16-year time span, firefighters using an aggressive interior attack in enclosed structures died far more often, in greater numbers, and with greater multiple line-of-duty deaths than those using the same tactical approach in opened structure fires. In response to these significant findings, it is important that departments act to prevent additional firefighter deaths by adopting and implementing more appropriate enclosed structure tactics and standard operating guidelines (SOGs) for use during extremely dangerous enclosed structure fires.

    More information on this work, contact Captain William Mora at capmora@aol.com
    Check www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities/ in coming weeks for a USFA Technical Report Series study on this topic.
    The report also has a special section addressing Engineered Wood Products.

    I recommend that each and every fire fighter in the fire service read this document. If you only read one thing, please read this.

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    It has been pointed out before, and I will do it again because it needs to be said. WE HAVE TO START LOOKING OVER OUR HEADS WHEN WE GO THROUGH THE DOOR!! Take the butt end of your hook and pop a couple of ceiling tiles. It will shine a light on a lot of things that need to be seen and made mention of that a TIC isn't going to pick up.

    1. You will see if there is any fire or smoke in the cockloft.
    2. You will see that if there is fire, has it progressed all the way to the front door and now over you yet.
    3. You will see what type of roof construction or more importantly what type of truss construction we are dealing with. This will also be a clue to wheather or not you will be able to or need to vert vent the building.
    4. You will see if there is more than one drop ceiling.

    Like many have said in this post and others before. We as the fire service have gotten so caught up in all the new technology and new toys out there that we have gotten away from the basics. We NEED to get back to the basics. The basics is what is going to bring you home at the end of the shift.


    This is not Monday morning quarterbacking of the Boston or Charleston tradegies, just general thought on the fire service as a whole.

    **Stepping off soap box**

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    We as the fire service have gotten so caught up in all the new technology and new toys out there that we have gotten away from the basics. We NEED to get back to the basics. The basics is what is going to bring you home at the end of the shift.
    Lt, this is a great point, and one that has been talked about in my house.

    My opinion is that the thermal cameras need to be taken off the rigs for this very reason. A TIC is a great tool, no doubt, but everyone gets complacent and forgets how to search without it.
    People also get too reliant on the camera in checking for hot spots. Now, rather than opening up a ceiling or wall, guys just look at it with the camera to check for heat. We need to open up and look.
    I'm sure that my job isn't the only one seeing this.

    I know that our searches, as a department have declined greatly since the cameras have been placed on all the truck companies. This is happening to seasoned guys, as well. If it happens to them, it's sure as hell going to happen to a newer, less experienced guy.

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    I think it's worth pointing out to those unfamiliar with building construction that many drop ceiling assemblies are "fire rated"; that is, thay are designed to keep a fire in the occupied space from extending to the structure above.

    Although they are not designed to do so, they will also hold a fire in the void space and out of sight of the occupants below.

    Now add to the equation that the void space above the ceiling is often filled with data cables coated with plastic insulation, you have a pretty good fire load. Add to that the potential for a combustible metal roof deck fire hidden from below and your problems multiply again.

    Around here it is not uncommon to run into insulated drop ceilings, either for temperature control or sound attenuation or both. Your TIC may not be telling you the full story.

    With a few exceptions, most drop ceilings can be cleared with a straight stream - but you have to be willing to accept the collateral damage to the occupied space if the fire hasn't progressed very far.

    Is it time to start popping out the first tile inside the door with a pike pole every time we enter a structure with a suspended ceiling?
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper45 View Post
    My opinion is that the thermal cameras need to be taken off the rigs for this very reason. A TIC is a great tool, no doubt, but everyone gets complacent and forgets how to search without it.
    People also get too reliant on the camera in checking for hot spots. Now, rather than opening up a ceiling or wall, guys just look at it with the camera to check for heat. We need to open up and look.
    I'm sure that my job isn't the only one seeing this.
    I agree we need to focus on basics, but don't damn the technology for lack of training. The TIC is an tool, that can be misused. Have you seen more "rekindles" from failure to open up, after using the camera? We have not, though I'm sure you've had more total opportunities. But its a training issue. If you can't maintain the basics and incorporate new technology with such huge benefits, you've got to re-evaluate the training program. No doubt that TIC's are overused and allow FFer's to rely on them, but again it ain't the camera's fault. The benefits are too great to remove them from the truck IMO.

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