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  1. #1
    Forum Member ltkeith25's Avatar
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    Default Breaking Windows or Not

    A few weeks ago my dept was toned out for a chimney fire, when 1st engine arrived on scene flames were already venting through the roof. So now we had a working structure fire. I was officer on 2nd in crew (ladder co.) Eng. co had 2 crews advance attack lines in & up to 2nd story to get to fire. My crew was ordered by IC to ladder C side for 2nd way out for crews inside. I told my guys to get ladder up to a window and to break out the window before we got ladder set up. After we got everything put out & got back to the station, I got questioned (by my chief) as to why I had the window busted out. I said it was broke so the crews inside would not have to break it. He told me that just the ladder was to be put up and that was it. He stated the inside crews would do that if they had to (they didn't) and he stated that the home owner questioned the broken window also, that it was an additional expense to have to replace the window. (Ins. co is now tearing house down & rebuilding it). I said that I broke it out because if they had to bail out they could do it quicker than busting the window themselves. I also siad if I had to do it again I will always bust out the windows if I think it is neccessary. My question is how would you respond to this situation? I'm positive I did the right thing.


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    Well, I'm a chief and I don't see a problem with this. A broken window is peanuts compared to the amount of damage the fire has already done, or the amount of damage we are trying to prevent. Yes, we should try to minimize the damage to any structure we are fighting fire in, but not at the expense of proper firefighting.

    Quick question....did the chief say you did the wrong thing, or was he just questioning why you made the decision? Particularly if the homowner was questioning the tactic, maybe the chief just wanted you to justify it (I hope he defended your actions to the homeowner and explained why it was necessary). I often question actions performed at incident scenes, especially in my absence, but I have to trust my officers to do what they feel is right under the circumstances. Maybe they had a good reason that I was not aware of, and if they can justify the action then I'll support it. Hopefully this is all your chief is getting at.

    However, I can also see this from another angle. Forget about the cost of replacing the window. I can see some situations where busting out a window without being told might compromise the tactics being dictated by the I.C. One prime example is if PPV is being used....busting out the wrong windows may foul up the ventilation that is being attempted. So yeah, I can see that as well, that there may have been other reasons for leaving the window intact other than minimizing damage, in which case I would have also been a little critical of it. I guess it depends on whether he had an issue with the additional damage to the house, or with the freelancing (i.e., taking actions not directed by the I.C.)
    Last edited by dmleblanc; 03-28-2008 at 10:28 PM.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  3. #3
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    It is not always necessary to break windows. We break windows for immediate horizontal ventilation. A secondary benefit is that they provide for a means of egress for a trapped FF. Without seeing first hand the conditions when the window was broken I wouldnt be justified is commenting one way or another.

    A good rule of thumb that I was told by my original captain when I was fresh from the academy is that if you can see, open, dont break the window. Light smoke conditions can easily be aleviated by opening the window. If conditions change, you can always break it later. If you cant see, take the window. Also you must be cognisant of fire conditions and the effect of ventilation on that condition. Does the engine have a charged line advancing towards the seat of the fire? Has the seat of the fire even been located yet? Are you preparing to VES or just throw a ladder and vent?

    The common joke about being firemans helpers can often lead inexperienced guys into thinking that all we do is break stuff. Which, is a good point. We do break alot of stuff. But there is a reason (hopefully) which requires more than the typical mongo to understand.
    Just another one of the 99%ers looking up.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber Ladder8's Avatar
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    On the bright side...


    at least you had the right house!


    Unlike this guy...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_8zSGb6HzE
    Be safe y'all!
    IACOJ Animal Control
    Ladder 8
    "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladder8 View Post
    On the bright side...


    at least you had the right house!


    Unlike this guy...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_8zSGb6HzE
    CLASSIC

  6. #6
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    This is one of those debates where you have to go with what the situation at hand tells you. There's no set in stone, concrete, one size fits all answer for your question. Too many times I've seen windows broken just because they were there. I've also been on scenes before where the IC pitched a fit because we broke a window to vent a room that was almost unbearably hot.

    That said, it sounds to me that you were providing a secondary means of egress. Without knowing all the specifics I'd have to lean towards you being justified. I know if it was me on the second division when the feces hit the rotating air moving device I'd rather have my way out clear of obstructions than have to take time to clean it out myself. The fact of the matter is depending on the situation I might not have the time to take out the window myself. It's easy for someone standing in the front yard to say if it needs to be taken out the interior folks will do it. The crew with flames licking at their heels will probably disagree.

    My rule of thumb is if it's a question of safety it gets taken out.

  7. #7
    Forum Member Futureemt73193's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladder8 View Post
    On the bright side...


    at least you had the right house!


    Unlike this guy...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_8zSGb6HzE
    Haha. Thats funny. Had to be a little embarrassing.
    ~But with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26~

    ~The very worst fire plan is no plan. The next worse is two plans. ~

    ~Stay Safe! Everyone Goes Home!~

  8. #8
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    how are the guys gonna know where the ladders at if they need to bail? If im looking at a sashless window frame i know theres probably a ladder on the other side.

    So long as the hoselines are moving towards the seat, i think the horizontal vent could have benefited crews too.


    just my take

  9. #9
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    Seems pretty straight forward....

    Working fire, FFs working upstairs, ladder placed for egress....window comes out.

    A rationale homeowner will understand when that is explained to them. They ask because they don't know. You have to admit, to a person who doesn't know, alot of things we do look unnecessary or excessive.

  10. #10
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    I would have to agree that you did the right thing.

    If you are ordered to place a portable ladder at a window for a "second way out for the crews inside", then I think you would be incorrect if you DIDN'T clear the window.

    If an order is given, such as "place a ladder for a means of egress", then it is up to the officer (or firefighter) to carry out that order to the best of their ability in accordance with department policy and sound firefighting practices. Clearing the window certainly falls under sound firefighting practices, and I am assuming it probably is part of your department policy regarding ladders as well.

    A ladder placed at a window for egress serves absolutely no purpose if the window is still in place. That being said, the ladder needs to be placed at a window that actually serves this purpose (accessible to interior members, serving an area that is, or will likely become, an IDLH). Otherwise, taking the window would probably NOT be warranted.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebFire View Post

    A rationale homeowner will understand when that is explained to them.
    The key here is explaining to the homeowner/tenant what we do and why.

    I try to explain to the responsible party why we did certain things, especially when it comes to overhaul. To the lay person it could seem unnecessary to remove a section of sheetrock when there was a small fire, but we all know we have to check for extension. I've never had a negative comment after I explained why we did something. The vast majority of the time the people have said "Take out more if you need to."

  12. #12
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    Should you have broken the window? I don't know. I wasn't there. I have two thoughts about it.

    1. If the chief says don't break the window-don't break the window.
    2. If the fire was through the roof, I find it highly unlikely that the homeowner was questioning the window being broken.

    But...

    Allow me to address one of the biggest urban myths about fire fighting there. That is, the insurance co. is not going to pay for excess damage by the FD or, a variation, the insurance co. is going to charge the FD for excess damage.

    Both of these are pure utter BS.

    First off, the insurance co. has a business contract with the insured to put the building back together the way it was after a loss. In some cases, it includes making all code upgrades necessary to obtain a CO. Basically, if its broke, they fix it.

    The insurance co., in 99.999999% of the cases is not going to question the FD tactics. Which windows you break, how much water you use, how many holes you put in the roof are of absolutely no concern.

    in the 0.0000001% of the cases where they do question the actions of the FD, it is based on blatant incompetence or gross negligence. For example, when you responded to a kitchen fire and you ended up burning the building to the ground, there might be a question about your tactics because, generally speaking, the fire department is supposed to put the fire out.

    In the recent past, I have recommended further looks at the FD actions on two occassions. In case no. 1, a (career) FD responded to a water flow alarm in a severe thunderstorm. The WMG was not going off but there was an interior alarm sounding. The FD never investigated the source of the alarm. In fact, they drove through the parking lot to turn around. They reported it as a false alarm. Four hours later, they were back when the employees made access to the building and found a fire that had been controlled by the sprinklers. But since this was a manufacturing facility that made delicate electronic components, their (in my opinion) gross negligence caused a loss in excess of $1 million.

    In the second case, the case is so recognizable that I am not even going to post it.

    But in both instances, the public agencies are going to be protected by the state laws preventing a municipal government from being sued. Not all states have strict laws, but all would require the finding of gross negligence.

    In short, unless you are grossly negligent, you are OK. There is no excuse for causing excess damage. But the objective is to put the fire out and make sure all your guys go home. Never lose sight of that.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    The Chief shouldnt be making the decision what windows to break, thats a company officer/firefighter level skill. In my opinion. If the Chief is worried about the breaking of specific windows, he either a) didnt train you well and doesnt trust youor b) is a micromanager/control freak.

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    This video shows when your chief SHOULD question you...


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPWpS9aSx8M

    The best part, at 2:03, is when he takes out the first window, you can see FFs on the inside not even in packs. Boy, good thing they took out that window!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebFire View Post
    This video shows when your chief SHOULD question you...


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPWpS9aSx8M

    The best part, at 2:03, is when he takes out the first window, you can see FFs on the inside not even in packs. Boy, good thing they took out that window!
    Wrong. The house is a total loss. The house would have been a total loss if the windows were broken out or not.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  16. #16
    Forum Member nyckftbl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebFire View Post
    This video shows when your chief SHOULD question you...


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPWpS9aSx8M

    The best part, at 2:03, is when he takes out the first window, you can see FFs on the inside not even in packs. Boy, good thing they took out that window!

    Why do you think those windows shouldnt have been taken?
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebFire View Post
    This video shows when your chief SHOULD question you...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPWpS9aSx8M

    The best part, at 2:03, is when he takes out the first window, you can see FFs on the inside not even in packs. Boy, good thing they took out that window!
    The house was a loss anyways, and at 2:03 you can make out packs (if hard to see) on the FFs inside.

  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber ffbam24's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebFire View Post
    This video shows when your chief SHOULD question you...


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPWpS9aSx8M

    The best part, at 2:03, is when he takes out the first window, you can see FFs on the inside not even in packs. Boy, good thing they took out that window!
    Wow! WTF?!
    It's like someone decided that this was a demo job.
    IMO I saw absolutely no reason to take those windows out.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ffbam24 View Post
    Wow! WTF?!
    It's like someone decided that this was a demo job.
    IMO I saw absolutely no reason to take those windows out.
    How about the fact that the entire roof was gone off the house, for starters?
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  20. #20
    Forum Member nyckftbl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ffbam24 View Post
    Wow! WTF?!
    It's like someone decided that this was a demo job.
    IMO I saw absolutely no reason to take those windows out.
    Why do you think it was unnecessary? Because you think they broke too much sh*t? Or because tactics wise, it was the wrong call?
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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