On December 3, 1999, a five-alarm fire at the Worcester Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. building claimed the lives of six brave firefighters who responded to the call. These six heros, The Worcester 6, sacrificed their lives to try and rescue two individuals who were believed to be trapped inside the inferno. May the Worcester 6 always be remembered; “Fallen Heroes Never Forgotten.”
Paul A. Brotherton
Timothy P. Jackson
Jeremiah M. Lucey
James F. Lyons
Joseph T. McGuirk
Thomas E. Spencer
Mission Critical Reports, Links and Reading for the Company and Command Officer:
From last year’s posting and links at CommandSafety.com: HERE
Rapid Fire Extension is Evident due to the Unprotected/Exposed Framing
A three-story apartment building that was under construction caught fire late this past week durinfgthe early evening in Carson, California (LA County). The fast moving fire rapidly extended through an apartment building complex under construction and spread to a nearby mobile home park damaging at least 10 homes and forcing evacuations, according to published reports. There were no reports of injuries.
The flames engulfing the building site at 21828 South Avalon Boulevard turned the working construction site into a 3-alarm fire shortly after 17:00 hours.
Over 100 firefighters from 40 companies responded and worked the greater alarm fire, with rapid and effective fire control attained in short order in the early evening hours.
Construction sites, especially those with exposed phased wood framing pose significant operational challenges and demands.
First arriving response companies and command must quickly determine the size and magnitude of any rapidly advancing fire and efficiency determine an aggressive action plan that must be deployed rapidly while immediately considering the need for additional resources.
Normally, offensive strategic and tactical measures are highly ineffective due to the need to place operating companies in advance positions that may have high risk parameters subjecting companies to unacceptable safety risks.
The need for rapid and highly mobile hose line placement that must be sized appropriately with flow and delivery for the fire magnitude precludes hand line placement and results in the need to place portable monitors, deck monitors and elevated master streams into operation.
Safety and accountability are high priorities at multiple alarm incidents involving a construction site.
Aerial View of the Primary Fire Complex and Mobile Home Park Exposures to the right of the image
The blaze was rapidly progressing out of control when the first fire units arrived about three minutes after the incident was reported, officials said. The first-in company requested additional alarms due to the fast movement of the fire and its intensity.
The three-story structure had more than 100 units and was being framed. This open framing phase of construction is highly susceptible to fire exposure and ripid development and extension. The large volume of wood, coupled with the open spaces, allowed wind to blow through the structure and stoke the blaze, officials said. That radiated heat combined with wind gusts sent the fire into a nearby mobile home park. More than 139 mobile homes were evacuated. At least 10 homes in the park were damaged by flames.
The entire 139-unit mobile home park was evacuated after the fire and residents were not be allowed to return overnight. The other two senior living buildings on the property were also evacuated, but residents were being allowed back in late into the evening.
The total damage estimate was $3.1 million, with $2.5 million for the senior living center and $600,000 for the mobile home park.Investigators have ruled out arson in a fire that burned through part of a multi-story residential complex under construction in Carson, according to later reports.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the sheriff’s arson and explosives detail determined that the fire was accidental, although an exact cause will not be available, probably for several weeks, per the sheriff’s headquarters bureau.
Some Highlighted Operational Considerations (not inclusive)
Pre-Fire Plan Large Construction Projects
Understand the various Phases to a Construction Project and site and how they affect fire operations at the various stages; there is a difference
Identify and train for non-conventional Strategic and Tactical operational actions
Ensure predetermined multiple alarm resources are identified and greater alarms are established
Train your Company and Command Officers to identify correct IAPs and Manage Construction site fires
Maintain an appropriate risk profile balance with operational needs; with personnel safety being foremost
Clearly establish multiple Safety Offices and establish geographical resources within the incident management system for reconnaissance, communications, oversight and focused safety monitoring
Know you water supply and system capabilities and limitations
Determine fire flow needs based upon construction phases, as these change over time as the building goes up. Match fire flow demands with resource availability (time of day gaps etc.)
Identify exposures (Physical structures and Civilians) and ensure they are calculated into the incident action plan at the right time, before they become immediate identified needs or concerns
Companies shall maintain a conservative safety posture; this is not the time for overly aggressive firefighting- it is the time for smart firefighting that can be highly efficient with appropriate tactics and company officer supervision
Always consider collapse zones: partial or complete. Stay out of them! Be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness
Respect the wind; it’s not going to help you
Consider current and projected weather conditions in your operational and tactical plans and assignments; plan ahead
Did I already say: Pre-fire Planning?
Be calculated in the placement of your apparatus, especially in larger scale incidents that are defined under greater geographical divisions; Think ahead
The fire usually consumes the available fuel load rapidly; going from a Huge fire, to one that is sometimes much more manageable; watch and control your exposures and degree of fire extension. Don’t help to make the fire even bigger through ineffective and dysfunctional command and control
Anticipate, Project, Plan and Engage
Respect the Fire: it’s not going to play by the regular rules of combat fire suppression and engagment as you would expect to find in finished and enclosed structures and buildings.
How prepared are you to address a rapidly developing fire in a building or construction site; as the first-due Company Officer or as the Commanding Officer?
Is your company, battalion or department capably trained and skilled to address this type of demanding incident operation?
Do you have any training or operational gaps?
Do you have any construction sites working in your first-due or greater alarm or mutual aid areas? If so, then – Maybe you need to do any pre-fire planning…..?
Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction
Another must read for all Company and Command Officers:Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction, by Steve Kerber (2011) UL Report. Take some time to increase your proficiencies and compentencies.
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to FirefighterGrant Program, Underwriters Laboratories examined fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries. There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads. This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics.
This fire research project developed the empirical data that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury.
Two houses were constructed in the large fire facility of Underwriters Laboratories inNorthbrook, IL. The first of two houses constructed was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 total rooms. The second house was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms. The second house featured a modern open floor plan, two story great room and open foyer. Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings. Ventilation scenarios included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only and ventilating a higher opening in the two-story house. One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability.
The results of these experiments provide knowledge for the fire service for them to examine their thought processes, standard operating procedures and training content. Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments to provide specific examples of changes that can be adopted based on a departments current strategies and tactics.
The tactical considerations addressed include:
Stages of fire development: The stages of fire development change when a fire becomes ventilation limited. It is common with today’s fire environment to have a decay period prior to flashover which emphasizes the importance of ventilation.
Forcing the front door is ventilation: Forcing entry has to be thought of as ventilation as well. While forcing entry is necessary to fight the fire it must also trigger the thought that air is being fed to the fire and the clock is ticking before either the fire gets extinguished or it grows until an untenable condition exists jeopardizing the safety of everyone in the structure.
No smoke showing: A common event during the experiments was that once the fire became ventilation limited the smoke being forced out of the gaps of the houses greatly diminished or stopped all together. No some showing during size-up should increase awareness of the potential conditions inside.
Coordination: If you add air to the fire and don’t apply water in the appropriate time frame the fire gets larger and safety decreases. Examining the times to untenability gives the best case scenario of how coordinated the attack needs to be. Taking the average time for every experiment from the time of ventilation to the time of the onset of firefighter untenability conditions yields 100 seconds for the one-story house and 200 seconds for the two-story house. In many of the experiments from the onset of firefighter untenability until flashover was less than 10 seconds. These times should be treated as being very conservative. If a vent location already exists because the homeowner left a window or door open then the fire is going to respond faster to additional ventilation opening because the temperatures in the house are going to be higher. Coordination of fire attack crew is essential for a positive outcome in today’s fire environment.
Smoke tunneling and rapid air movement through the front door: Once the front door is opened attention should be given to the flow through the front door. A rapid in rush of air or a tunneling effect could indicate a ventilation limited fire.
Vent Enter Search (VES): During a VES operation, primary importance should be given to closing the door to the room. This eliminates the impact of the open vent and increases tenability for potential occupants and firefighters while the smoke ventilates from the now isolated room.
Flow paths: Every new ventilation opening provides a new flow path to the fire and vice versa. This could create very dangerous conditions when there is a ventilation limited fire.
Can you vent enough?: In the experiments where multiple ventilation locations were made it was not possible to create fuel limited fires. The fire responded to all the additional air provided. That means that even with a ventilation location open the fire is still ventilation limited and will respond just as fast or faster to any additional air. It is more likely that the fire will respond faster because the already open ventilation location is allowing the fire to maintain a higher temperature than if everything was closed. In these cases rapid fire progression if highly probable and coordination of fire attack with ventilation is paramount.
Impact of shut door on occupant tenability and firefighter tenability: Conditions in every experiment for the closed bedroom remained tenable for temperature and oxygen concentration thresholds. This means that the act of closing a door between the occupant and the fire or a firefighter and the fire can increase the chance of survivability. During firefighter operations if a firefighter is searching ahead of a hose line or becomes separated from his crew and conditions deteriorate then a good choice of actions would be to get in a room with a closed door until the fire is knocked down or escape out of the room’s window with more time provided by the closed door.
Potential impact of open vent already on flashover time: All of these experiments were designed to examine the first ventilation actions by an arriving crew when there are no ventilation openings. It is possible that the fire will fail a window prior to fire department arrival or that a door or window was left open by the occupant while exiting. It is important to understand that an already open ventilation location is providing air to the fire, allowing it to sustain or grow.
Pushing fire: There were no temperature spikes in any of the rooms, especially the rooms adjacent to the fire room when water was applied from the outside. It appears that in most cases the fire was slowed down by the water application and that external water application had no negative impacts to occupant survivability. While the fog stream “pushed” steam along the flow path there was no fire “pushed”.
No damage to surrounding rooms: Just as the fire triangle depicts, fire needs oxygen to burn. A condition that existed in every experiment was that the fire (living room or family room) grew until oxygen was reduced below levels to sustain it. This means that it decreased the oxygen in the entire house by lowering the oxygen in surrounding rooms and the more remote bedrooms until combustion was not possible. In most cases surrounding rooms such as the dining room and kitchen had no fire in them even when the fire room was fully involved in flames and was ventilating out of the structure.
UL Report; Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction,
First-due company operations have a wide variation of considerations and demands that must be readily identified, rapidly assessed and effectively acted upon through concise and direct orders.
Arrivals and subsequent deployments during night time periods pose ever increasing challenges to arriving officers in the ability to ascertain and recognize factors that will have a direct or ancillary affect in the developing incident action plan, tactics and task assignments.
Night time operations at structure fires, especially those with heavy fire involvement upon arrival can mask or conceal critical operational or safety considerations, developing or progressing smoke conditions that may be missed due to darkness as well as other occupancy risk profiling considerations or civilians in distress or entrapment.
Rapidly escalating or deteriorating conditions coupled with conflicting or concurrent operational demands (rescue and suppression) with limitations imposed due to staffing levels further exasperates the need for the company or command officer to maintain acute situational awareness, implement effective scene scanning , recon, the 360 and assimilate all available information and presumptions that can be made into orders and assignments.
This edition of Ten Minutes in the Street TM is looking at the considerations for the first-due engine company upon arrival at a well involved single family residential house fire. Take a look at the physical layout and arrangement of the incident scene and the primary house fire and exposures.
Take some time to look at the accompanying video clip. The video clip was compliments of our good friend FF David Stacy an intern with the IAFC and a member of College Park Station 12 (MD).
This scenario makes use of [the] fireground video clip and subsequent pictorials for representive example purposes only and are not intended to recreate or critique the events depicted in this video or in the operations shown.
Here are some considerations to talk and discuss in a group setting. Deliberate and debate the operational issues, roles and responsibilities, safety considerations, as well as tactical deployment demands and incident priorities.Address through your discussions the requirements that are imposed upon your selected or suggested actions based on your company, departments or agency SOP/SOG or expectations.
You can discuss this event using the following criteria in any combination;
Building:Single Family Residential, two stories
Profile:Built: 1986, wood frame with some engineered structural floor components, wood siding, full basement
Size:1,764 square feet, three bedroom, 2.5 baths, large sun room and pool on Division 3
Occupancy:Occupied at the time of fire discovery
District:(You select) Fully hydrant water supply or limited
Arrival with Engine and Truck Company: Staffing four each
Arrival with Engine Company only with staffing of four (or based upon your staffing levels)
Arrival with two Engine companies: Staffing based upon your staffing levels
Street Side from the curb (Google Street View)Division Alpha view
Discussion Points and Questions;
What are the immediate priorities and operational considerations?
What are the primary considerations that the company officer must consider and why?
What factors must be identified and considered in order to implement your IAP?
What can be expected as the incident progresses in the next ten minutes of elapsed time?
What is the Building and Occupancy Profile?
Should a 360 be implemented: if so why and by whom?
What is mission critical upon arrival at a well involved structure fire especially when it involves a residential structure at night?
What impact on tactical operations will time of night have on the IAP?
Based upon your staffing levels what can be realistically assigned? Why?
Identify some of the operational safety concerns evident or assumed that must be recognized and considered?
What affect will the building structure and degree of fire involvement have on incident operations?
What are the expected (sustained) fire flow rates that will be required?
What are the resource needs; now or later?
What should be considered if there are escalating exposure issues or extension?
Modern incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past requiring incident commanders and commanding officers to have increased technical knowledge of building construction with a heightened sensitivity to fire behavior, a focus on operational structural stability and considerations related to occupancy risk versus the occupancy type.
Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk, not occupancy type, and must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and tactical patience orchestrated in a manner that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy profile and accounts for presumptive fire behavior.
Building Knowledge = Fire Fighter Safety….where do you fit into this equation?
Captain Araguz, a 30 year old, 11-year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department made Captain in 2009. He lost his life while battling a multiple alarm fire a the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas on July 3, 2010. The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office issued the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report, SFMO Case Number FY10-01 that provides a detailed examination of the incident, operations and yeilds findings and recommendations. A full version of the report is available at the Texas SFMO web site HERE.
On July 3, 2010, Wharton Volunteer Fire Department Captain Thomas Araguz III was fatally injured during firefighting operations at an egg production and processing facility. At 9:41 PM, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas. Boling Volunteer Fire Department and the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department responded first, arriving approximately 12 minutes after dispatch. Eventually, more than 30 departments with 100 apparatus and more than 150 personnel responded. Some departments came as far as 60 miles to assist in fighting the fire.
The fire involved the egg processing building, including the storage areas holding stacked pallets of foam, plastic, and cardboard egg cartons and boxes. It was a large windowless, limited access structure with large open areas totaling over 58,000 square feet. A mixed construction, it included a two-story business office, the egg processing plant, storage areas, coolers, and shipping docks. It was primarily metal frame construction with metal siding and roofing on a concrete slab foundation with some areas using wood framing for the roof structure.
Captain Araguz responded to the scene from the Wharton Fire Station, approximately 20 miles from the fire scene, arriving to the front, south side main entrance 20 minutes after dispatch. Captain Araguz, Captain Juan Cano, and Firefighter Paul Maldonado advanced a line through the main entrance and along the south, interior wall to doors leading to a storage area at the Southeast corner.
Maldonado fed hose at the entry door as Captains Araguz and Cano advanced through the processing room. Araguz and Cano became separated from the hose line and then each other. Captain Cano found an exterior wall and began kicking and hitting the wall as his air supply ran out. Firefighters cut through the exterior metal wall at the location of the knocking and pulled him out. Several attempts were made to locate Captain Araguz including entering the building through the hole and cutting an additional hole in the exterior wall where Cano believed Araguz was located. Fire conditions eventually drove the rescuers back and defensive firefighting operations were initiated.
Captain Cano was transported to the Gulf Coast Medical Center where he was treated and released. Captain Araguz was recovered at 7:40 AM, the following morning. Initially transported by ambulance to the Wharton Funeral Home then taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office in Austin, Texas for a post-mortem examination.
Site Plan of Building Complex
Building Structure and Systems
The fire incident building was located on the property of Maxim Egg Farm, located within an unincorporated area of Wharton County. The 911 address is 580 Maxim Drive, Boling, Texas 77420.
Wharton County has no adopted fire codes, or model construction codes, and no designated Fire Marshal on staff that conducts fire safety inspections within their jurisdiction.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition, is adopted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and is the applicable standard for fire and life safety inspections in the absence of an adopted fire code within unincorporated areas of a county by an applicable authority. All references regarding evaluation of the incident building in relation to minimum life safety requirements are based on NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition.
Maxim Farm property includes 23 chicken coops known as layer barns that average 300 feet long and 50 feet wide holding between 15,000 to 25,000 chickens each. These layer barns inter-connect to a central processing building by a series of enclosed conveyor belts transporting over one million eggs daily.
The property includes integrated feed silos, water tanks, and waste management facilities. Additional areas on the property include equipment barns, shipping offices, loading docks, coolers, storage areas, and business offices.
Overall Building Description
The main processing structure was an irregularly shaped mixed construction of metal, concrete block, and wood framing on a concrete slab foundation with approximately 58,000 square feet of space. Three dry-storage rooms connected by a wide hallway lined the east side of the plant. A concrete block (CMU) wall separated the egg processing area from the East Hallway and storage rooms. Coolers were located north of the processing room with the loading docks along the west side of the structure. The loading docks were accessible from the processing room, Cooler 3, and Cooler 2. Cooler 1 was located at the north end of Dry Storage 2. A two-story building housing the business office was attached to the main processing plant at the southwest corner.
The building construction was classified as an NFPA 220, Type II-000 construction with an occupancy classification by the Life Safety Code as Industrial with sub-classification as special-purpose use. The Life Safety Code imposes no minimum construction requirements for this type of occupancy.
The predominant use of the building was to process and package fresh eggs for shipment after arriving by automated conveyor directly from a laying house adjacent to the building. The general floor plan of the building consisted of a large egg processing room, with surrounding areas used for storage of packing materials and two large drive-in coolers for holding packaged eggs prior to shipping.
Building construction consisted of a combination of steel and wood framing with a sheet metal exterior siding and roofing over a low-pitch roof on a concrete slab foundation. Structural elements within the interior of the building were exposed and unprotected with no fire-resistance rated materials applied. The load bearing structural elements consisted of steel beams, and steel pipe columns, with steel open web trusses supporting the roof structure.
Wood components were also used as part of the load bearing elements and wall framing.
Perimeter walls of the cooler compartments were constructed of concrete masonry units (CMU).
The building was not separated between other areas of use by fire-resistance rated assemblies.
Ancillary facilities located within the building used for administrative offices and other incidental spaces were constructed of wood framing with a gypsum wallboard finish.
Detailed Construction Features
The front of the structure faced to the south where the main entrance to the processing room and business offices was located approximately 4 feet above the parking lot grade level and accessed by a series of steps. The business office was a two-story wood frame construction with a vinyl exterior siding under a metal roof on a concrete slab foundation. Additional separate, single-story, wood frame structures with offices located to the west of the main business office connected by covered walkways.
The egg processing room was 141 feet along the east and west walls and approximately 100 feet along the north and south walls. The processing room received the eggs transported from the layer barns on the conveyer belt system. The room contained the processing equipment and conveyor systems where eggs were cleaned, graded, packaged and moved to large coolers to await shipment. The construction of the processing room was sheet metal panels embedded into the concrete slab foundation supported by 8-inch wide metal studs. Sheet metal panels lined the exterior and interior sides of the south and west walls with fiberglass insulation sandwiched between.
Main Processing Area
The north wall separated the processing room from Cooler 3 and consisted mainly of interlocking insulated metal panels embedded into the slab locked at the top in metal channels. Their interior surface was polyurethane laminate.
The east wall was mainly of concrete block (CMU) construction. A USDA office and a mechanics room were accessed through doors in the east wall of the processing room. The northeast corner of the processing room extended into the north end of the east hallway, forming an 18 feet by 18 feet area with wood frame construction on a concrete stem wall with fiber cement board (Hardy board) and metal panel siding. A 6-feet wide opening between the processing and dry-storage areas with a vinyl strip door allowed unrestricted access.
Along the south wall of the processing room, a walkway between the processing equipment and exterior wall led to swinging double doors at the southeast corner to enter into Dry Storage 3. Conveyors carried the eggs from the north and south layer barns through openings in the walls of the extension of the processing room. The conveyors from the north and south layer barns entered the building suspended overhead. As the conveyors approached the entrance to the main processing room, they gradually descended to 3.5 feet above floor level and were supported by metal brackets attached to the floor. Electric drive motors attached to the conveyors at several points along their lengths to power their movement.
The roof consisted of steel columns and girders with metal panel roofing attached to metal purlins supported by steel rafters. Wire mesh supported fiberglass insulation under the roof deck. The roof gable was oriented north to south.
The plant included three dry-storage rooms along the eastern side of the building connected by an east hallway. Dry Storage 1 and Dry Storage 2 were located in the northeast corner of the plant under a common sloping metal roof. The dry-storage rooms held pallets of containers including polystyrene egg crates, foam egg cartons, pulp egg cartons, and cardboard boxes.
Dry Storage 1 was approximately 123 feet long and 50 feet wide and was 4 feet below the grade of the rest of the plant. It was added to the east side of Dry Storage 2 in 2008. Dry Storage 1 was a concrete slab and 4-feet high concrete half wall topped with wood framing and metal siding. The metal roof sloped from 11 feet high above the west side to 10 feet high above the east wall. The roof attached to 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists supported by two rows of steel support columns and steel girders. The two rows of seven columns were oriented in a north-south direction.
A concrete ramp at the south end facilitated access to the East Hallway and Dry Storage 2 and the main level of the processing room. A concrete ramp at the northeast corner of Dry Storage 1 provided access to the rear loading dock. The rear dock was secured on the interior at the top of the ramp by a wood frame and metal double door with a wooden cross member and a chain and padlock. An additional wood frame and screened double door secured on the interior.
The conveyor belt from the north layer barns ran the length of the west side of Dry Storage 1 where it turned to the west, crossing Dry Storage 2 and the East Hallway into the main processing room.
Dry Storage 1 contained 29 rows of pallets, seven to eight pallets deep, of mainly Styrofoam egg crates stacked between 7 and 10 feet high, depending on their location. Corridors between the rows were maintained to provide access to the pallets with an electric forklift. Fluorescent light fixtures attached to the wood rafters in rows north to south with their conductors in PVC conduit. Skylights spaced evenly above the west side allowed for natural light. Pallets of stock material were single stacked below the locations of the light fixtures to keep clearance and prevent damage.
Dry Storage 2, located west of and 4 feet above Dry Storage 1, stored pallets of flattened cardboard box stock. The room was approximately 81 feet long and 40 feet wide. The south wall was the processing room extension and was approximately 25 feet long. The east side of the room was open to Dry Storage 1 with 4 inch x 4 inch unprotected wood studs spaced unevenly from 4 feet to 9 feet, supporting the metal roof. The west wall was CMU construction and was the exterior wall of Cooler 3. The metal roof sloped from the top of the west wall approximately 12 feet high to approximately 11 feet above the east side.
The room was accessed from the south end at the top of the ramp leading down into Dry Storage 1. Pallets of folded cardboard boxes were stacked along the entire length of the west wall extending 16 to 20 feet to the east. The rows of pallets were without spacing for corridors. One row of six fluorescent light fixtures attached to wood rafters near the north-south centerline.
The East Hallway was approximately 118 feet long and 37 feet wide running along the length of the east side of the processing room. The East Hallway connected Dry Storages 1 and 2 with Dry Storage 3 by a corridor at the south end. The East Hallway allowed access between the storage room areas and into utility rooms including the Boiler Room at the north end and a mechanics room and small utility closet. Pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the east wall in rows of three pallets each. Seven pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the conveyors.
The west wall was concrete block construction (CMU) until it connected to the extension of the processing area constructed of wood frame covered by Hardy board and sheet metal. The east wall was sheet metal embedded in the concrete slab supported by 2 inch x 4 inch wood studs with Hardy board interior. The metal roof sloped from a height at 12 feet at the west wall to 10 feet high at the east wall, supported by 4 inch x 6 inch wood columns and 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists.
Two conveyors entered the south end of the east hallway from Dry Storage 3. The conveyors ran parallel for approximately 80 feet along the west wall and entered the processing room through openings in the extension at the north end of the east hallway. They were 6 feet from the west wall and gradually descended from a height of 9 feet at the south end to 3.5 feet at the north. Each conveyor was 31 inches wide and combined was approximately 7 feet wide. Two compressor machines and a pressure washer were located along the west wall near the south end.
The Boiler Room, located at the northeast corner of the East Hall, housed two propane fired boilers, a water treatment system and two vacuum pumps. It was wood frame construction with metal siding under a metal roof on a combination concrete slab and concrete pier and wood beam foundation. A small utility room with service panels was constructed of concrete block on a concrete slab under a metal roof and was also located along the west wall of the East Hallway. An approximately 10 feet wide corridor connected the East Hallway to Dry Storage 3.
Dry Storage 3 extended south from the main processing room and East Hallway to the south dock area where tractor-trailers parked to unload the pallets of supplies. Two parallel conveyors suspended 9 feet overhead from the roof extended along the length of the east wall where it passed through the south wall toward the south layer houses.
The plant’s main power conductors entered the west wall of Dry Storage 3 from load centers and transformers mounted to the slab outside approximately 15 feet south of the main processing room exterior wall. Stacks of wood pallets were stored in Dry Storage 3. Corridors wide enough for forklifts provided access to the south cargo dock area.
Fire Ground Operations and Tactics
Note: The following sequence of events was developed from radio transmissions and firefighter witness statements. Those events with known times are identified. Events without known times are approximated in the sequence of the events based on firefighter statements regarding their actions and/or observations. A detailed timeline of radio transmissions is included in the appendix.
On July 3, 2010, at 21:41:10, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located on County Road 442, south of the city of Boling, Texas. The caller, immediately transferred to the Wharton Police Department Dispatch, advised there was a “big fire” in the warehouse where egg cartons were stored. Boling Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched and immediately requested aid from the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department. Wharton VFD became Command as is the usual practice for this county.
Wharton Assistant Chief Stewart (1102) was returning to the station having been out on a response to a vehicle accident assisting the Boling Volunteer Fire Department when the call came in for the fire. He responded immediately and at 21:50 reported seeing “heavy fire” coming from the roof at the northeast corner of the building as he approached the plant from the east on County Road 442. When he arrived he was eventually directed to the east side of the building (D side) to the rear loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
An employee directed him on the narrow caliche drive behind the layer barns and between the waste ponds to the loading dock. Wharton Engine 1134 followed 1102 to the east side and backed into the drive leading to the loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart’s immediate actions included assessing the extent of the fire on the interior of the building by looking through the doors at the loading dock to Dry Storage 1. Unable to see the fire through the smoke at the doors of the loading dock, an attack was eventually accomplished by removing a metal panel from the east exterior wall of Dry Storage 1 and using one 1¾”-inch cross lay. After a few minutes, the deck gun on Engine 1134 was utilized, directing water to the roof above the seat of the fire near the south end of Dry Storage 1.
Water supply became an immediate concern and 1102 made efforts to get resources for resupply. Requests for mutual aid to provide water tankers were made to area communities. During the incident, re-supplying tankers included a gravity re-fill from the on-site water supply storage tanks and from fire hydrants in the City of Boling, 3 miles from the scene and the City of Wharton, nearly 11 miles. The City of Boling water tower was nearly emptied during the incident.
The radio recording indicates there were difficulties accessing the location of the fire as apparatus were led around the complex by multiple employees. Heavy rains during the previous week left many roadways muddy and partially covered with water, which added to problems with apparatus access. In addition, fire crews were not familiar with the layout of the facility and there are no records of pre-fire plans. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
Wharton Fire Chief Bobby Barnett (1101) arrived on scene at 21:56:14, and ordered incoming apparatus to stage until he could establish an area of operations at the front, south side of the plant (A side). Chief Barnett directed Engine 1130 to position approximately 50 feet from the front main entrance of the plant. At 22:09:16, Chief Barnett (1101) established a command post on A side and became the Incident Commander; 1101 directed radio communications for the fireground to be TAC 2 and called for mutual aid from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. Chief Barnett described the conditions on side A as smoky with no fire showing. Light winds were from the east, side D, pushing the smoke toward the area of the processing room, and the front, side A, of the building.
Maxim Egg Farm Manager David Copeland, a former Wharton VFD Chief, advised Command and firefighters that the fire was in the area of the Boiler Room and should be accessed by breaching an exterior wall in the employee break area. Chief Barnett ordered Wharton crews to the breach attempt. Captain Thomas Araguz III, Captain John Cano and Firefighter Paul Maldonado were involved with this operation. The crews working in this area were in full structural personnel protective clothing and SCBA.
At 22:10, Command ordered Engine 1130 and Tanker 1160 to set up at the front entrance using Tanker 1160 for portable dump tank operations for water re-supply.
On D side, difficulty accessing the fire from the exterior of the building was reported by Asst. Chief Stewart and the crews. Heavy doors, locked loading dock doors and steel exterior paneling, required the crews to spend extra time forcing entry.
At 22:17:23, Wharton County Chief Deputy Bill Copeland (3122), once a Wharton FD volunteer firefighter, notified Command that the fire was now through the roof over Dry Storage 1.
Chief Barnett noticed smoke conditions improving at the main plant doorway and ordered crews to advance lines into the processor room. Chief Barnett stated he assigned Captain Araguz, Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado because they were the most experienced and senior crews available.
Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) was in place at the main entry door when Captain Cano, Captain Araguz and Firefighter Maldonado entered the structure into the processing room. There are no radio transmissions to verify exact entry times.
Captain Cano stated that an employee had to assist fire crews with entry into the main plant through a door with keypad access. Captain Cano reported the door to processing was held open by a three-ring binder that he jammed under the door after entry. Cano stated there was low visibility and moderate heat overhead. Captain Cano and Captain Araguz made entry on a right-hand wall working their way around numerous obstacles. The line was not yet charged and they returned to the doorway and waited for water. Wharton Engine 1130’s driver reported in his interview that he had difficulty establishing a draft from the portable tank later determined to be a linkage failure on the priming pump. 1160 connected directly to 1130 and drafted from the folding tank.
As the crew entered into the structure through the main entry door, several plant employees began entering into the administration offices through the area of the main entry door to remove files and records. This was reported to Command at 22:23 and after several minutes Chief Barnett ordered employees to stay out of the building and requested assistance from the Sheriff’s Office to maintain scene security.
At 22:31, once the line was charged, the two captains continued into the processor on the right wall leaving Maldonado at the doorway to feed hose. Captain Cano was first with the nozzle and described making it 20 feet into the building.
Cano states in his interview that he advised Command over the radio that there was high heat and low visibility, although the transmission is not recorded. Cano also reported in his interview, he could not walk through the area and had to use a modified duck walk. Cano projected short streams of water towards the ceiling in a “penciling” motion and noted no change in heat or smoke conditions. They advanced until the heat became too great and they retreated towards the center of the processor. Cano stated that they discussed their next tactic and decided to try a left-handed advance.
At 22:33, Chief Barnett advised, “advancing hose streams in main building to try to block it.”
Captain Araguz took the nozzle and Captain Cano advanced with him holding onto Araguz’ bunker gear. The crew advanced along the south wall of the processing room toward the double doors to Dry Storage 3 and lost contact with the hose line.
The investigation found the couplings between the first and second sections of the hose lodged against a threaded floor anchor (see photo) preventing further advancement of the line. How the team lost the hose line remains uncertain.
Captain Cano stated in his interview that Captain Araguz told him to call a Mayday. Captain Cano stated that he was at first confused by the request, but after some time it became apparent they lost the hose line. Captain Cano reported calling Mayday on the radio but never received a reply. Captain Cano now believes he may have inadvertently switched channels at his previous transmission reporting interior conditions. Captain Araguz had a radio but it was too damaged to determine operability. There are no recorded transmissions from Captain Araguz.
At 22:37, Deputy Chief Copeland advised Command that the fire had breached a brick wall and was entering the main packing plant. Command responded that there was a hose team inside.
At 22:42:50, Command radioed “Command to hose team 1, Cano.” This was the first of several attempts to contact Captain Cano and Captain Araguz. At 22:47:17, Command ordered Engine 1130 to sound the evacuation horn. At 22:50:44, Command announced Mayday over the radio, stating “unlocated fireman in the building.”
Captain Cano stated in his interview that they made several large circles in an attempt to locate the fire hose.
Cano became entangled in wiring, requiring him to doff his SCBA.
After re-donning his SCBA, Captain Cano noted he lost his radio, but found a flash light. He remembered that his low air warning was sounding as he and Araguz searched for the hose. Cano stated that they made it to an exterior wall and decided to attempt to breach the wall. Working in near zero visibility,
Captain Cano reported losing contact with Captain Araguz while working on breaching the wall.
Shortly after he lost contact, Captain Cano ran out of air and removed his mask. Captain Cano continued working to breach the exterior wall until he was exhausted.
At 22:54, crews working on the exterior of the building near the employee break area reported hearing tapping on the wall in the area of the employee break room.
Crews mustered tools and began to cut additional holes through the building exterior.
After making two openings, Captain Cano was located and removed from the building.
Captain Cano reported that Captain Araguz was approximately 15 feet inside of the building ahead of him.
Firefighters made entry through the exterior hole but were unsuccessful in locating Captain Araguz. Cano was escorted to the folding water tank and got into the tank to cool down.
Rapid Intervention Crews (RIC) were established using mutual aid members from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. The first entry made was at the main entry door where Firefighter Maldonado was located. Maldonado was relieved and escorted to the ambulance for rehab. An evacuation horn sounded and the first RIC abandoned the interior search and exited the building.
A rescue entry by a second RIC was through the breached wall of Dry Storage 3. After several minutes inside, the evacuation signal sounded due to the rapidly spreading fire and deteriorating conditions. Two additional RICs entered the structure through the loading dock doors of Dry Storage 3. Chief Barnett states that there were a total of four RICs that made entry after the Mayday. After approximately 45 minutes, all rescue attempts ceased.
As the fire extended south toward Dry Storage 3, smoke conditions became so debilitating that Chief Barnett ordered all crews staged near the front of the building on side A to move back and apparatus to relocate. Command assigned Chief Hafer of the Richmond Fire Department to “A” side operations and defensive operations were established. Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado were transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire ground operations continued through the night. Captain Araguz was recovered at approximately
07:40 AM. Command transferred to the Richmond Fire Department Chief Hafer at approximately
07:56 AM as 1101 and the Wharton units escorted Captain Araguz from the scene. All Wharton units cleared the scene at 08:02 AM.
Captain Araguz was transported to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office performed post mortem examinations on July 4, 2010. Captain Araguz died from thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.
Findings and Recommendations
Recommendations are based upon nationally recognized consensus standards and safety practices for the fire service.
All fire department personnel should know and understand nationally recognized consensus standards, and all fire departments should create and maintain SOGs and SOPs to ensure effective, efficient, and safe firefighting operations.
There were several factors that, when combined, may have contributed to the death of Captain Araguz. It is important that we honor him by learning from the incident.
Water supply became an immediate concern.
Although there are two water storage tanks on the facility with the combined capacity of nearly 44,000 gallons, refilling operations to tankers were slow, accomplished by gravity fill through a 5-inch connection.
A fire department connection attached to the plant’s main water supply pump and plant personnel familiar with the system could have sped up the refilling process at the plant.
Most tankers were sent to hydrants in the City of Boling 3 miles away, which in turn quickly depleted the city water supply.
Other tanker refilling was accomplished at hydrants on the City of Wharton water system, as far as 15 miles away.
Fire protection systems are not required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition for this classification of facility. Fire sprinkler and smoke control systems may have contained the fire to one area, preventing the spread of fire throughout the plant.
Findings and recommendations from this investigation include:
There were no lives to save in the building. An inadequate water supply, lack of fire protection systems in the structure to assist in controlling the spread of the smoke and fire, and the heavy fire near the windward side facilitated smoke and fire spread further into the interior and toward “A” side operations. Along with the size of the building, the large fuel load, and the time period from fire discovery, interior firefighters were at increased risk.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines and conduct training involving risk management and risk benefit analysis during an incident according to Incident Management principles required by NFPA 1500 and 1561.
The concept of risk management shall be utilized on the basis of the following principles:
(a) Activities that present a significant risk to the safety of personnel shall be limited to situations where there is a potential to save endangered lives
(b) Activities that are routinely employed to protect property shall be recognized as inherent risks to the safety of personnel, and actions shall be taken to reduce or avoid these risks.
(c) No risk to the safety of personnel shall be acceptable where there is no possibility to save lives or property.
(d) In situations where the risk to fire department members is excessive, activities shall be limited to defensive operations. NFPA 1500 Chapter 8, 8.3.2
NFPA 1500 ‘Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program’, 2007 ed., and NFPA 1561’Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System’, 2008 ed. Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards Manual, Chapter 435, Section 435.15
(b) The Standard operating procedure shall:
(1) Specify an adequate number of personnel to safely conduct emergency scene operations;
(2) limit operations to those that can be safely performed by personnel at the scene;
Initial crews failed to perform a 360-degree scene size-up and did not secure the utilities before operations began.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines that require crews to perform a complete scene size-up before beginning operations. A thorough size up will provide a good base for deciding tactics and operations. It provides the IC and on-scene personnel with a general understanding of fire conditions, building construction, and other special considerations such as weather, utilities, and exposures. Without a complete and accurate scene size-up, departments will have difficulty coordinating firefighting efforts.
Fireground Support Operations 1st Edition, IFSTA, Chapter 10 Fundamentals of Firefighting Skills,
NFPA/IAFC, 2004, Chapter 2
The Incident Commander failed to maintain an adequate span of control for the type of incident. Safety, personnel accountability, staging of resources, and firefighting operations require additional supervision for the scope of incident. Radio recordings and interview statements indicate the IC performing several functions including: Command, Safety, Staging, Division A Operations, Interior Operations and Scene Security.
Recommendation: Incident Commanders should maintain an appropriate span of control and assign additional personnel to the command structure as needed. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision. In ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from three to seven subordinates, with five being optimal. The type of incident, nature of the tasks, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources all influence span-of-control considerations.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency Incident Command Systems http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/ICSpopup.htm#item5 NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior fire team advanced into the building prior to the establishment of a rapid intervention crew (RIC).
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written procedures that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Final Rule, 29 CFR Section 1910.134 (g) (4) requiring at least two fire protection personnel to remain located outside the IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life or Health) atmosphere to perform rescue of the fire protection personnel inside the IDLH atmosphere. One of the outside fire protection personnel must actively monitor the status of the inside fire protection personnel and not be assigned other duties. NFPA 1500 8.8.7 At least one dedicated RIC shall be standing by with equipment to provide for the rescue of members that are performing special operations or for members that are in positions that present an immediate danger of injury in the event of equipment failure or collapse.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134 (g) (4); Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards §435.17 – Procedures for Interior Structure Fire Fighting (2-in/2-out rule) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed. NFPA 1720 Standard on Organization and Deployment Fire Suppression Operations by Volunteer Fire Departments, 2004 ed.
The interior team and Incident Commander did not verify the correct operation of communications equipment before entering the IDLH atmosphere and subsequently did not maintain communications between the interior crew and Command. Although Chief Barnett stated he communicated with Captain Cano, there was no contact with Captain Araguz.
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written policies requiring the verification of the correct operations of communications equipment of each firefighter before crews enter an IDLH atmosphere. Fire Departments should also include training for their members on the operation of communications equipment in zero visibility conditions.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134(g)(3)(ii) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior operating crew did not practice effective air management techniques for the size and complexity of the structure. Interviews indicate the crew expended breathing air while attempting to breach an exterior wall for approximately 10 minutes, then advanced a hose line into a 15,000 square feet room without monitoring their air supply. During interviews Captain Cano estimated his consumption limit at 15 – 20 minutes on a 45 minute SCBA.
Recommendation: Crews operating in IDLH atmospheres must monitor their air consumption rates and allot for sufficient evacuation time. Known as the point of no return, it is that time at which the remaining operation time of the SCBA is equal to the time necessary to return safely to a non-hazardous atmosphere. The three basic elements to effective air management are:
Know your point of no return (beyond 50 percent of the air supply of the team member with the lowest gauge reading).
Know how much air you have at all times.
Make a conscious decision to stay or leave when your air is down to 50 percent.
IFSTA . Essentials of Fire Fighting and Fire Department Operations, 5th ed., Chapter 5, Air Management, page 189 Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Captains Araguz and Cano became separated from their hoseline. While it is unclear as to the reason they became separated from the hose line, interviews with Captain Cano indicate that while he was finding an exterior wall and took actions to alert the exterior by banging and kicking the wall, he lost contact with Captain Araguz.
**Captain Cano credits his survival to the actions he learned from recent Mayday, Firefighter Safety training.
Recommendation: Maintaining contact with the hose line is critical. Losing contact with the hose line meant leaving the only lifeline and pathway to safety. Team integrity provides an increased chance for survival. All firefighters should become familiar with and receive training on techniques for survival and self-rescue.
United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy training course “Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday” Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Additional References Related to Surviving the Mayday and RIT operations from 2011 Safety Week at CommandSafety.com;
This year’s Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week focused on Surviving the Fire Ground: Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness. One of the major objectives of this year’s theme was addressing a variety of functional areas for the Mayday event. For many of you, the conditions, outcome and lessons learned from the Southwest Supermarket Fire, maydays and the Line of Duty Death of Phoenix (AZ) firefighter Bret Tarver in 2001 are as fresh today as they were ten years ago and certainly as relevant as when many of us first read the Final Report issued by the Phoenix FD.
However, to many others in the Fire Service the Bret Tarver LODD and the Southwest Supermarket fire along with the lessons learned that were identified and the research that was instituted may not have made it onto your radar screen. In this the final days of the 2011 Fire/EMS Safety week, it is very appropriate to provide some insights on this mayday event and more importantly provide you with the opportunty to learn from the past, to understand operational parameters, capabilites, fallacies, misconceptions and limitations when we talk about Mayday, RIT and FAST activities and operational deployments.
Here’s an overview of the event;
On March 14, 2001 the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department lost firefighter Brett Tarver at the Southwest Supermarket fire.
In that event, it was 5:00 in the afternoon, the grocery store was full of people and fire was extending through the building. Phoenix E14 was assigned to the interior of the structure to complete the search, get any people out, and attempt to confine the rapidly spreading fire to the rear of the structure. Shortly after completing their primary search of the building the Captain decided it was time to get out. Tarver and the other members of Engine 14 were exiting the building when Tarver and his partner got lost.
The engineer (driver) was leading the group following the attack line they had brought into the supermarket fire, followed by Tarver and his partner, with the company officer being the last person to begin the long crawl out of the smoke filled structure. At some point Tarver and his partner got off the hose line and moved deeper in the supermarket fire away from their only exit. Early on during the exit attempt through maze like conditions Tarver and his partner basically turned left instead of right. Not knowing this the company officer continued to crawl out of the building thinking his whole crew was ahead of him on the attack line. Tarver and his partner crawled deeper into the fire occupancy eventually ending up in the butcher shop area where they eventually became separated.
Based on radio reports of deteriorating conditions inside the building from E14 and other companies the Incident Commander (IC) considered a switch to a defensive strategy and started the process of pulling all crews out of the structure. During this process Tarver radioed the IC telling him that he was lost in the back of the building. The IC deployed two companies as Rapid Intervention Crews (RICs) through the front access point to no avail.
Other companies coming to their rescue through the back room area of the supermarket later rescued Tarver’s partner. After several unsuccessful rescue attempts, Tarver succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from the acrid smoke and was eventually removed from the building as a full code. Trying to remove the 260-pound firefighter was nearly impossible for rescue team members. Outside, the resuscitation efforts failed.
During the rescue efforts there were more than twelve (12) mayday’s issued by firefighters trying to make the rescue. On this tragic day, one other firefighter (attempting to rescue Tarver) was removed in respiratory arrest and was later resuscitated by fire department paramedics on the scene.
Over the next year (The Recovery), the department systematically reviewed its standard operating procedures and fireground operational activities at the strategic (command), tactical (sector) and task (company) levels of the entire organization in an attempt to prevent such a tragic event from ever happening again to the Phoenix Fire Department. One of the many significant questions that was asked was why didn’t the rapid intervention concept work? Immediately after the fire the Phoenix Fire Department reviewed its Rapid Intervention and Mayday standard operating procedures (SOPs). Based on drills, training and the data acquired through those drills, in the year following the incident the standard concept of a rapid intervention is now being challenged.
In the wake of the 2001 Southwest Supermarket Fire and LODD of FF Brett Tarver, the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department issued a comprehensive report of the incident and the lessons learned and research conducted by the FD.
Beyond 2011 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week; Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Training and Preparedness
If you have never heard about the Southwest Supermarket Fire and the Bret Tarver LODD and incident and never read the report;
take the time to do so and understand that the concepts of RIT and FAST are made up of far more elements, considerations and more importantly realities of what you think you can do versus what you may actually be able to do.
if you’ve read it in the [past], take a few minutes to review and refresh;
see where your organization, department and RIT/FAST training and capabilities are today-
what are the capabilities of your fire fighters, officers and commanders?
Take a look at the NIOSH report and the recommendations contained; how does your deparment stack up today?
After reading the reports, take a close look at your organization, your personnel and your training and your capabilities and
ask yourself if you are truly able to perform the necessary RIT/FAST operations or
do you have a ways to go to better prepare, train and ensure you’re able to undertake the job and address the fireground survival needs when a mayday is called.
did you take the time during this safety week to make some progress, identify some new insights, gaps or renewed interests and desire to enhance on your capabilities and strengths?
Are your Mayday, RIT and FAST capabilites, skills and knowledge better today in 2011 than they were in 2001?
Rapid Intervention Team: Are You Ready? Mar 1, 2007 FireEngineering.com By Robert L. Gray; HERE If you were assigned to be a member of a rapid intervention team (RIT) during your next structure fire-or had to command a fireground rescue as a chief officer-are you confident that you would be up to the task of successfully responding to a firefighter Mayday?
The following is an article piece posted by my good friend Mike Ward and posted a number of years ago from www.thewatchdesk.com written by: Mike Ward
Rapid Intervention Reality – from Phoenix
Subject: Rapid Intervention Reality Check By Michael Ward
The Phoenix Fire Department’s Deployment Committee has a sobering message to their firefighters operating in large buildings, like a 7,500 square foot warehouse: “If you extend an attack line 150′, get 40 feet off the line and then run out of air, it will take us 22 minutes to get you out of the structure.” The lesson to remember is not to get off the fire attack line. The statement is based on 200 rapid intervention drills conducted by PFD as part of their recovery process after Firefighter/paramedic Brett Tarver died in the March 14, 2001 Southwest Supermarket fire.
PFD obtained three vacant commercial buildings: a warehouse, a movie theatre and a country-western bar. The RIT drill was for the first alarm companies to respond to a report of two firefighters in trouble. One is disoriented and the other one is unconscious. The buildings were sealed from outside light and the facemasks were obscured to simulate heavy smoke conditions. The RIT teams were equipped and deployed as if this is was a working fire. The department ran through about 200 RIT drills with 1144 PFD firefighters participating. Their activities were monitored and timed. An Arizona State University statistician analyzed the data.
The results show that rapid intervention is not rapid:
Rescue crew ready state 2.50 minutes
Mayday to RIC entry 3.03 minutes
RIC contact with downed firefighter 5.82 minutes
Total time inside building for each RIC team 12.33 minutes
Total time for rescue 21 minutes
The evolutions also revealed three consistent ratios:
It takes 12 firefighters to rescue one
One in five RIC members will get into some type of trouble themselves.
A 3000-psi SCBA bottle has 18.7 minutes of air (plus or minus 30%)
The results of the RIC drills reflects the experience Phoenix had during the efforts to rescue Firefighter/paramedic Brett Tarver. There were a dozen maydays sounded during the rescue effort, and one PFD firefighter was removed from the supermarket in respiratory arrest.
The Phoenix experience is not unique. Houston Fire Chief Chris Connealy participated in a discussion about the Phoenix RIC drills during the 2003 Change in the Fire Service Symposium. On October 13, 2001, Houston Engine 2 Captain Jay Jahnke died on the fifth floor of Four Leaf Towers, a 41 story residential high-rise. During the Houston RIC operation, two heavy rescue company firefighters became disoriented, low on air and had to rescue themselves. An engine company captain and firefighter run out of air and collapsed on the fire floor. Chief Connealy said that the Houston experience is similar to Phoenix.
Phoenix is changing its approach to rapid intervention crews in three procedural ways: increase suppression units assigned to RIC, increased in command officers, and considering a two-part RIC process.
There is a scalar approach to RIC dispatch assignments in Phoenix. For a “3-1 Assignment” (three engines and one ladder), a fourth engine and an ems transport (rescue) is added to the assignment to function as the rapid intervention team. For a 1st alarm assignment, two engines, one ladder, one rescue and a battalion chief are the RIC team. A second alarm includes an additional two engines and ladder for RIC. Beyond a second alarm, the incident commander can call additional companies as needed.
The recovery process also looked at the utilization of company and command officers on the fireground. A company officer core competency is to command a fire company. A core chief officer competency is to command fire companies. It is a function of the fire department hierarchical structure, not of personality. For example, a captain filling-in as a battalion chief does a better job as a West Sector officer than she would have if she was commanding Engine 2 AND in charge of West Sector. At the sector level of the incident management system, company officers are required to wear two hats. There are too many levels of tasks. Phoenix suggests that it would be more effective to send more command officers to a fire event to function as sector and division commanders and allow the company officers to command their companies. It is a waste of talent and experience to allow command officers to stay in their fire stations while a low-frequency, high risk event like a structure fire is occurring
in the city.
A third change in rapid intervention crews is using a two-phase approach. Many of the RIC team members ran out of air during the training evolutions. The drills showed that a 3000-psi SCBA bottle was good for 13.09 to 24.31 minutes of air. The average SCBA time was 18.7 minutes. The average time from mayday to removal was 21 minutes. RIC teams were running out of air during the firefighter removal phase. In addition, it was taking a crew of 12 firefighters to remove one firefighter. Phase one of a RIC response is to send a team in to locate the firefighters in trouble. Once located, a second RIC team enters to remove the firefighter.
You are welcome to share this with everyone. Please include the following: taken from www.thewatchdesk.com written by:
Michael Ward, Fire Science Program Head, Northern Virginia Community College.
We’ve got a whole lot of resources, links and daily commentary and articles that were posted on each day of SAfety Week over atCommandSafety.com
If you didn’t have a look and read, take some time to do so. If you didn’t do anything during Safety Week, there’s always next week or the week after… find the time and commit to some training, insights, dialog, discussion…Get Prepared.
Tactical Patience and the New Considerations of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction
UL Ventilation and Fire Behavior Full Scale Testing
Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction
For many of you that have been following my writings and perspectives on building construction, firefighting, command risk management and operational excellence for firefighter safety have long recognized that I have been promoting and advocating the fact the fireground is changining, our stratgies and tactics demand change adn does the demand for increased knowledge within the areas of building construction, fire dynamics, while integrating the art and science of firefighting. The most recent release of the testing report from Underwriters Laboratories; Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction and the accompaning emphirical data further validates assumptions and presmises that many of us shared based upon field obervations and first hand incident operations related to the dramatic changes being witnessed as a result of operational challenges in a wide varity of occupanies and building types.
This material is a must read for all emerging and practicing company and command officers ( for starters) to being grasping the magnitude and extent of quantifiable data that supports the premise that combat fire engagement and suppression operations and the rules of engagement are going to change and that change is fast approaching.
Considerations for Tactical Patience and Adaptive Fireground Management are continued themes I will expand upon in future postings….
Here’s the executive summary of the report and findings from UL. For an download of the entire UL Report, go HERE.
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program, Underwriters Laboratories examined fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries. There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads. This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics. This fire research project developed the empirical data that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury.
Two houses were constructed in the large fire facility of Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, IL. The first of two houses constructed was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 total rooms. The second house was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms. The second house featured a modern open floor plan, two-story great room and open foyer. Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings. Ventilation scenarios included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only and ventilating a higher opening in the two-story house. One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability.
The results of these experiments provide knowledge for the fire service for them to examine their thought processes, standard operating procedures and training content. Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments to provide specific examples of changes that can be adopted based on a departments current strategies and tactics.
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program, Underwriters Laboratories examined fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries.
There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads. This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics.
This fire research project developed the empirical data that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury.
Two houses were constructed in the large fire facility of Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, IL.
The first of two houses constructed was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 total rooms.
The second house was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, and 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms.
The second house featured a modern open floor plan, two story great room and open foyer.
Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings. Ventilation scenarios included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only and ventilating a higher opening in the two-story house.
One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability. The results of these experiments provide knowledge for the fire service for them to examine their thought processes, standard operating procedures and training content. Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments to provide specific examples of changes that can be adopted based on a departments current strategies and tactics.
The tactical considerations addressed include:
Stages of fire development: The stages of fire development change when a fire becomes ventilation limited.
It is common with today’s fire environment to have a decay period prior to flashover which emphasizes the importance of ventilatio
Forcing the front door is ventilation: Forcing entry has to be thought of as ventilation as well.
While forcing entry is necessary to fight the fire it must also trigger the thought that air is being fed to the fire and the clock is ticking before either the fire gets extinguished or it grows until an untenable condition exists jeopardizing the safety of everyone in the structure.
No smoke showing: A common event during the experiments was that once the fire became ventilation limited the smoke being forced out of the gaps of the houses greatly diminished or stopped all together.
No some showing during size-up should increase awareness of the potential conditions inside.
Coordination: If you add air to the fire and don’t apply water in the appropriate time frame the fire gets larger and safety decreases.
Examining the times to untenability gives the best case scenario of how coordinated the attack needs to be.
Taking the average time for every experiment from the time of ventilation to the time of the onset of firefighter untenability conditions yields 100 seconds for the one-story house and 200 seconds for the two-story house
In many of the experiments from the onset of firefighter untenability until flashover was less than 10 seconds.
These times should be treated as being very conservative. If a vent location already exists because the homeowner left a window or door open then the fire is going to respond faster to additional ventilation opening because the temperatures in the house are going to be higher.
Coordination of fire attack crew is essential for a positive outcome in today’s fire environment.
Smoke tunneling and rapid air movement through the front door: Once the front door is opened attention should be given to the flow through the front door.
A rapid in rush of air or a tunneling effect could indicate a ventilation limited fire.
Vent Enter Search (VES): During a VES operation, primary importance should be given to closing the door to the room.
This eliminates the impact of the open vent and increases tenability for potential occupants and firefighters while the smoke ventilates from the now isolated room.
Flow paths: Every new ventilation opening provides a new flow path to the fire and vice versa.
This could create very dangerous conditions when there is a ventilation limited fire.
Can you vent enough?: In the experiments where multiple ventilation locations were made it was not possible to create fuel limited fires.
The fire responded to all the additional air provided.
That means that even with a ventilation location open the fire is still ventilation limited and will respond just as fast or faster to any additional air.
It is more likely that the fire will respond faster because the already open ventilation location is allowing the fire to maintain a higher temperature than if everything was closed. In these cases rapid fire progression if highly probable and coordination of fire attack with ventilation is paramount.
Impact of shut door on occupant tenability and firefighter tenability: Conditions in every experiment for the closed bedroom remained tenable for temperature and oxygen concentration thresholds.
This means that the act of closing a door between the occupant and the fire or a firefighter and the fire can increase the chance of survivability.
During firefighter operations if a firefighter is searching ahead of a hoseline or becomes separated from his crew and conditions deteriorate then a good choice of actions would be to get in a room with a closed door until the fire is knocked down or escape out of the room’s window with more time provided by the closed door
Potential impact of open vent already on flashover time: All of these experiments were designed to examine the first ventilation actions by an arriving crew when there are no ventilation openings.
It is possible that the fire will fail a window prior to fire department arrival or that a door or window was left open by the occupant while exiting.
It is important to understand that an already open ventilation location is providing air to the fire, allowing it to sustain or grow.
Pushing fire: There were no temperature spikes in any of the rooms, especially the rooms adjacent to the fire room when water was applied from the outside. It appears that in most cases the fire was slowed down by the water application and that external water application had no negative impacts to occupant survivability.
While the fog stream “pushed” steam along the flow path there was no fire “pushed”.
No damage to surrounding rooms: Just as the fire triangle depicts, fire needs oxygen to burn.
A condition that existed in every experiment was that the fire (living room or family room) grew until oxygen was reduced below levels to sustain it.
This means that it decreased the oxygen in the entire house by lowering the oxygen in surrounding rooms and the more remote bedrooms until combustion was not possible.
In most cases surrounding rooms such as the dining room and kitchen had no fire in them even when the fire room was fully involved in flames and was ventilating out of the structure.
Online Training Program
In order to make the results of this study more user friendly for the fire service to examine, UL developed an online interactive training module that can be viewed by clicking here. The program includes a professionally narrated description of all of the experiments, their results and the tactical considerations. Experimental video is used and graphical data is explained in a way that brings science to the street level firefighter.
UL University On-Line CBT
Comparison of Modern and Legacy Home Furnishings
An experiment was conducted with two side by side living room fires. The purpose was to gain knowledge on the difference between modern and legacy furnishings. The rooms measured 12 ft by 12 ft, with an 8 ft ceiling and had an 8 ft wide by 7 ft tall opening on the front wall. Both rooms contained similar amounts of like furnishings.
The modern room was lined with a layer of ½ inch painted gypsum board and the floor was covered with carpet and padding.
The furnishings included a microfiber covered polyurethane foam filled sectional sofa, engineered wood coffee table, end table, television stand and book case.
The sofa had a polyester throw placed on its right side. The end table had a lamp with polyester shade on top of it and a wicker basket inside it.
The coffee table had six color magazines, a television remote and a synthetic plant on it.
The television stand had a color magazine and a 37 inch flat panel television.
The book case had two small plastic bins, two picture frames and two glass vases on it.
The right rear corner of the room had a plastic toy bin, a plastic toy tub and four stuffed toys.
The rear wall had polyester curtains hanging from a metal rod and the side walls had wood framed pictures hung on them.
The legacy room was lined with a layer of ½ inch painted cement board and the floor was covered with unfinished hardwood flooring.
The furnishings included a cotton covered, cotton batting filled sectional sofa, solid wood coffee table, two end tables, and television stand.
The sofa had a cotton throw placed on its right side.
Both end tables had a lamp with polyester shade on top of them.
The one on the left side of the sofa had two paperback books on it.
A wicker basket was located on the floor in front of the right side of the sofa at the floor level.
The coffee table had three hard-covered books, a television remote and a synthetic plant on it.
The television stand had a 27 inch tube television.
The right front corner of the room had a wood toy bin, and multiple wood toys.
The rear wall had cotton curtains hanging from a metal rod and the side walls had wood framed pictures hung on them.
Both rooms were ignited by placing a lit stick candle on the right side of the sofa. The fires were allowed to grow until flashover. The modern room transitioned to flashover in 3 minutes and 30 seconds and the legacy room at 29 minutes and 30 seconds.
Video Clip provided by PGFD Captain Greg Zalenski, Station 812 -College Park (MD)VFD.
A mid-morning fire in a Single family (SFR) residential structure challenged arriving companies as they went into operations. A video clip depicting the responding fire chief enroute and arrival provides a good sequence of the events, fire severity and fire growth. The 2,074 square foot (SF) residential occupancy built in 1988 of wood frame construction did not have any immediate exposure concerns and was readily accessible for operating companies.
Make this a training opportunity; Some things to think about….
After reviewing the video, stills and aerials; as an arriving company or command officer-what some of the operational concerns you would have upon arrival with the volume of fire showing and progressing?
In this incident, a second alarm was transmitted as a precautionary measure.
How would you determine the need for additional resources?
How effective would your box alarm assignment be based upon your current deployment critera?
Would you have enough personnel and equipment to effectively and safely engage in combat fire suppression, search and rescue and support operations?
How would the dynamics of this event change- if there were reports of unaccounted civilians?
How would you defined the command or tactical risk profile of this evolving incident?
What concerns would you have related to the actual or suspected construction features?
In the event of a collapse, compromise, entrappment or fire induced condition resulting in a firefighter mayday and need for RIT; what operational considerations would you need to consider, assign or implement?
Incident Overview From PGFD NEWS; Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson
Firefighters from Beltsville (MD) and surrounding stations were alerted to a house fire in the 4100 block of Ulster Road on Monday April 11th morning just before 10:00 am.
Fire/EMS units arrived within minutes and encountered heavy fire coming from the 2-story single family home with an attached garage. A precautionary 2nd Alarm was sounded as fire consumed the garage and had extended into the second floor and roof area.
As firefighters were advancing hose lines and searching for any occupants inside the home, a roof collapse appeared imminent and all personnel were ordered to evacuate the structure. All firefighters self evacuated safely and the firefight continued from the safety of the exterior. Once the bulk of the fire had been knocked down, firefighters re-entered the structure to complete searches and extinguish the remainder of the fire. With the exception of a family pet dog, no one was home when firefighters arrived.
It required about 40 minutes to extinguish the bulk of the fire. There were 60 firefighter/medics, command officers and support personnel that operated on the scene of this incident.
The cause of the fire is under investigation and estimated fire loss is still being tabulated. An adult male neighbor sustained minor lacerations to his arm when he broke the window out of a rear door to allow a dog to escape from the burning home.
Take this scenario and download the details or project the post on a screen and work through the incident and parameters with your company of command officers. Take ten minutes and discuss the operational issue and factors at the Kitchen Table at the firehouse or in the dayroom between calls. Make it a training opportunity today.
Ten Minutes in the Street: On-scene, with Engine 13….You’re dispatched to a commercial building address in your first-due area along with the Truck Company for a report of smoke coming from the building. As you (Engine 13) and Truck 2 respond, another alarm goes out for a reported structure fire with civilians in distress….( take a look at the concurrent Ten in the Street Scenario-Second Alarm that we’re posting along with this scenario HERE). Since you didn’t have enough to do…. Your box alarm assignment is just one and one (Engine and Truck) with a staffing level of five personnel on each company (yah, I know…it’s a real good day on staffing today).
You arrive and are on-scene with Engine 13 and find “some” smoke issuing from the Bravo side (office) and from the Delta side. Both sides have access limitations due to secure fencing.
The building is a commercial building, approximately 100 feet wide x 140 feet deep.
It appears to be a single story; however you can see the grade slope downward on the Bravo Side to the rear: looks like another level in the rear. The Delta side also has a secured fence that separates a vacant exposure structure, which appears to be a vacant convenience store.
Smoke is getting more pronounced..you might say, heavy smoke showin’ at this point.
You’ve got command in the absence.. of a commanding officer. A chief’s enroute, but due to the other alarm, is going to be delayed (either a greater alarm Battalion Chief, or a mutual aide chief is coming). You have additional resources you can call for.
Here’s what you have:
100’ x 140’ Unoccupied (Appearing) Building, 14, 000 SF. Circa 1940’s built Type II construction.
Masonry perimeter walls, appears to be a heavy wood timber gable truss roof…
Security Fencing on both Bravo and Delta sides
Apparent vacant exposure structure on the Delta side.
Appears to have multiple levels due to grade change on the Bravo side
Heavy smoke showing…
Forcible entry will be required to gain access
You have other resources available, But they are not enroute
Hey what about the 360? …what’s up with the Charlie side….?
You have another alarm that was dispatched while you were enroute, that sounds like a job with possible civilians’ in distress… so a number of other companies are being dispatched to that call
You’re the officer of Engine 13, On-scene with some showing, assuming command….
What are you going to do?
We’re looking for the usual…IAP, resources, safety, strategy, tactics, limiting factors, risk, operations, construction or occupancy hazards…..
Check out the Ten Minutes in the Street: Second Alarm scenario HERE, it’s the other incident that’s happening across town that we mentioned above, while you were enroute to this alarm….
Today December 3, 2010 marks the 11th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire that resulted in the line of duty death of six courages brother firefighters.
For those of you who remember this event, take the time to reflect and honor the sacrifice made this day; to those of you who have not heard about the fire before- take the time to learn about the incident, the firefighters, the building, the operational factors and challenges, the courage, fortitude and convictions that define the American Fire Service, it’s honor, tradition and brotherhood.
The Worcester Six;
Firefighter Paul Brotherton Rescue 1
Firefighter Jeremiah Lucey Rescue 1
Lieutenant Thomas Spencer Ladder 2
Firefighter Timothy Jackson Ladder 2
Firefighter James Lyons Engine 3
Firefighter Joseph McGuirk Engine
Take the time today or over the weekend to read for the first time or review both the USFA report and the NIOSH Report on the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire. Start thinking about or reminding yourself what it is that we do as firefighters, fire officers and commanders.
Reflect upon the incident parameters, the building, the report and conditions upon arrival, command and operational integrity, company level responsibilities and duties, command fortitude and accountability. Think about your understanding of building construction, operational demands and training and skill set competencies.
More importantly, think about the duty, honor, courage, integrity and sacrifice reflected in all the men and women on that day in 1999 and especially the brother firefighters who will always be known as the Worcester Six, but who were much, much more….
For a detailed overview of the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, go to Commandsafety.comHERE for a comprehensive posting.
Wednesday Night’s Program has been postponed due to Emergent Server issues at BlogTalkRadio.
The Program has been rescheduled for Thursday November 4th at 9:00pm EDT
Turn Out to FireFighter NetCast.com and Taking it to the Streets for; “Redefining the Fire Ground”
If you missed last month’s program on the Tactical Renaissance of Combat Fire Suppression Operations and the new Rules of Engagement, with Chief Gary Morris (ret) Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department and Dr. Burt Clark from the NFA, then you missed out a some great insights and discussion. This month Taking it to the Streets is looking to further the dialog and look at “Redefining the Fire Ground”. Many would argue that the fire ground doesn’t need to be “redefined”; that the way we do business in the Streets is just fine and that the American Fire Service knows how to get the job done, at any cost.
The recent release of the NIST Technical Study of the Sofa Super Store Fire – South Carolina, June 18, 2007 has presented compelling data and information that provides further discernments of how our buildings react under fire conditions and how our tactical assumptions and deployments continue to be willfully miscued. Joining Chris will be Chief Douglas Cline, from the City of High Point FD, North Carolina, a highly regarded national instructor, author, advocate, tactician and incident command.
Don’t miss out on debating and dialoging the transitional fire ground. It is here and it’s here to stay; you just didn’t know that it was changing. But then again, was anyone paying attention? Join the live broadcast on Thursday night November 4th at 9:00pm ET, or download the post production podcast from Firefighter NetCast.com.
For additional Taking it to the Streets programming, HERE
Ten Minutes in the Street is back, bringing you insightful and provoking street scenarios for the discriminating and perspective Firefighter, Officer and Commander; where you make the call.
You don’t have to have any special rank to participate in this interactive forum, just the desire to learn and expand you knowledge, skills and abilities in order to better yourself, create new insights, while sharing your experience and perspectives to help you and others in the street in making the right call; so everyone has the opportunity of going home.
Ten Minutes in the Street: “Three For One”
Volume 10, Number 9
An alarm of fire clears the airways, as the communications center dispatches a first alarm assignment for a report of a structure fire in a single family residential occupancy in a new neighborhood. Most of these residential structures were built between 2005 and 2010. They vary in size from 2500 SF – 3500 SF. They are closely spaced and are Type V constructed with wood clad or vinyl siding.
Drop in at FFN for and check out the full scenario and get involved, HERE
Here’s the PDF for the scenario that you can download and use for drill, tabletop exercise or kitchen table discussion.Copy of Vol10NO09
BURN is a documentary about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are on the front lines charged with the thankless task of saving a city — and an American Dream — that many have written off as dead. We made a 10-minute trailer. Please SHARE, ASK QUESTIONS, DONATE so we can start production on the film as soon as possible. Take the time to watch the video trailer…..it will speak for itself.
Ten Minutes in the Street is back, bringing you insightful and provoking street scenarios for the discriminating and perspective Firefighter, Officer and Commander; where you make the call. You don’t have to have any special rank to participate in this interactive forum, just the desire to learn and expand you knowledge, skills and abilities in order to better yourself, create new insights, while sharing your experience and perspectives to help you and others in the street in making the right call; so everyone has the opportunity of going home.
The recruit firefighters just finished brewing a fresh pot of coffee and you’re about to have your first cup this morning when the tones and bells alert the station of a report of smoke coming from a house across the street from the caller. The communications center advises that the caller doesn’t know if anyone is home, but they are certain there’s smoke coming from the house, even though a slight morning fog layer is beginning to burn off. OK, so much for that coffee. You’re the acting chief this morning, so instead of riding the engine company, you’ve got the chief’s SUV. As you get ready to head out the door, you can hear the engine company fire up a bay over signaling you a driver is in the house and a crew is assembling and preparing to roll out shortly. Go to FireFighter Nation.com for the full scenario and interaction….
Here’s the download PDF for use in the station or for a drill. Vol10NO08
From Waldbaum’s to Hackensack- Worcester to Charleston; Legacies for Operational Safety
“From Waldbaum’s to Hackensack- Worcester to Charleston; Legacies for Operational Safety”; I still find it surprising during my travels around the country lecturing and presenting programs on building construction, that when the audience was asked, “What do the Walbaum’s Fire and Hackensack fire share in common?”, the response typically were blank stares. The more seasoned and experienced veterans (translation; Older firefighters) when present, were able to convey some information on the subject. But yet, the true essence of the basic incident particulars and the lessons learned fail to be fully conveyed. We’re not remembering the past!
I’ve spoken on numerous occasions about History Repeating Events (HRE), and the common themes related to LODD. Events that resonate with common issues, apparent and contributing causes and operational factors that share legacy issues that the fire service fails to identify, relate to and implement. In other words, we fail a times to learn from the past, or we make a deliberate choice to ignore those lessons due to other internal or external influences, pressures, authority, beliefs, values or viewpoints. We make choices and we determine our direction, path and destiny.
When you look over these LODD events over the years (NIOSH, NFPA, USFA Reports), it doesn’t take long to identify that many LODD events share similarities, and that specific incident events, deficiencies, outcomes and recommendations are identical in every way, except for the fire department name and geographical location. In other words, we have History Repeating Events (HRE).
What have we learned from the past? What is it that we’re passing down to each incoming recruit class and probationary firefighter? What are Company and Commanding Officers recalling and considering in their dynamic risk assessment, size-up and decision-making (IAP) process when looking at a particular building, occupancy and fire? Are mission critical operational elements & HRE factors being recollected? (Naturalistic/ Recognition-Prime Decision-making).
Are the fire service legacies of the past and the lessons learned from those incidents and the sacrifices that were made transcending time? Or are they lost in the immediacy of day to day challenges, issues and operations. Or are these events, lessons and operations issues dismissed and disregarded as a result of their “time and place” not being relevant to “today’s” operations and modern fire service advancements.
The reality is, we, the present generation of veteran firefighters and officers at times neglect or fail to recognize the importance of passing along the lessons of our life’s journey through our fire service careers, the events of our day and the profound tough lessons and sacrifices learned the hard way. We sometimes need a receptive, sympathetic and compassionate audience that is willing to listen, hear and comprehend the messages conveyed. There needs to be a high degree of empathy related to these past History Repeating Events. For each event, each and every line of duty death has a message and a Legacy of Operational Safety.
Throughout the past thirty-three years (1977-2010), over 4,000 firefighters have lost their lives in the course and conduct of their duties as firefighters and officers within the fire service. Although there are numerous LODD fire incidents and events that could be discussed, all distinguished and exemplified by heroism, nobility, cause and fortitude. There are four that stand out when related to the lessons learned and the significance and impact each LODD incident had at the time to the national fire service.
Each of these incidents also have significance as they relate to the building, occupancy, use, construction features, inherent structural systems, fire behavior and fire dynamics; coupled with interrelated elements of strategic and tactical fire suppression operations and incident management . Again, “Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety”.
The Waldbaum’s Supermarket Fire: Brooklyn, New York August 3, 1978
Six FDNY firefighters died at this fire when the wood bowstring truss roof collapsed, 34 were injured. The fire started at 8:40 hrs. in Waldbaum’s Supermarket, Ave. Y and Ocean Ave., Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY. Nearly 23 electricians, plumbers etc ., were in the process of renovating the building, while it was still open and operating when the fire started in the mezzanine area. An All hands was transmitted at 08:49 hrs. the 2nd alarm at 09:02 hrs. Shortly after 09:20 hrs., with 20 firefighters on the roof a crackling sound was heard and the center portion of the bow string trussed roof fell into the smoke and flames. A total of 12 firefighters fell into the inferno, six were rescued, six died in the line of duty.
Honor and Remembrance
• Lt. James Cutillo, 33rd Battalion
• Firefighter Charles Bouton, Ladder Co. 156
• Firefighter William O’Conner, Ladder Co. 156
• Firefighter James P McManus, Ladder Co. 153
• Firefighter George Rice, Ladder Co. 153
• Firefighter Harold F. Hastings, Ladder Co.153
Hackensack Ford: Hackensack, New Jersey July 1, 1988
Five fire fighters from the Hackensack, New Jersey Fire Department were killed in the line-of duty while they were engaged in interior fire suppression efforts at an automobile dealership when portions of the building’s wood bowstring truss roof collapsed.
Honor and Remembrance
• Captain Richard Williams
• Lt. Richard Reinhogen
• Firefighter William Krejsa
• Firefighter Leonard Radumski
• Firefighter Stephen Ennis
Note: The 1988 Hackensack Ford Fire occurred almost ten years to the date of the Waldbaum’s FDNY Fire in 1978. (History Repeating Event…we forgot something along the way regarding bow string trussed roof systems and fire impingement…)
As a result of this incident passage of a NJ State law mandating the clear demarcation of truss roofs and other structural hazards with warning signs (placards) on building with truss roofs was. In 1991 NJ State law required the State Bureau of Fire Safety to investigate all fires in which a firefighter dies or is seriously injured. See National Truss Placarding.
The Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Fire: Worcester, Massachusetts, December 3, 1999
On December 3, 1999, the vacant, six-story Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building in Worcester, Massachusetts, was set ablaze by two homeless people knocking a lighted candle into a pile of ragged clothes. The Worcester Fire Department responded at 6:13 p.m. to Box Alarm 1438. The Rescue 1 team of Firefighter Paul Brotherton and Firefighter Jerry Lucey entered the building searching for occupants. Fire conditions worsened in the building at an alarmingly unexpected rate. Paul and Jerry, on the fifth floor, became disoriented in the smoke-filled building. Lost, and running low on air, they called for help. Several teams began searching for the lost fire fighters.
Two teams reaching the fifth floor also found themselves disoriented in the smoke and trapped by the maze of interior walls — Lieutenant Tom Spencer and Firefighter Tim Jackson from Ladder 2, and Firefighter Jay Lyons and Firefighter Joe McGuirk from Engine 3. Though many more brave fire fighters attempted to locate their missing brothers, their efforts proved futile. Their deaths marked the worst loss of fire fighters’ lives in more than 20 years in a building fire in America, and the third worst fire in Massachusetts’ history. Six days after they died, a memorial service drew 30,000 fire fighters and 10,000 civilians in what was believed to have been the largest such service for fire fighters killed on duty.
Honor and Remembrance
• Firefighter Paul A Brotherton, Rescue Co.1
• Firefighter Timothy P. Jackson, Ladder Co.2
• Firefighter Jeremiah M. Lucey, Rescue Co.1
• Firefighter James F. “Jay” Lyons III, Engine Co. 3
• Firefighter Joseph T. McGuirk , Engine Co. 3
• Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, Ladder Co.2
Sofa Superstore Fire: Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2007
On the evening of June 18, 2007, units from the Charleston Fire Department responded to a fire at the Sofa Super Store, a large retail furniture outlet in the West Ashley district of the city. Within less than 40 minutes, the fire claimed the lives of nine firefighters. The highly flammable characteristics of the materials that were stored in the loading dock and throughout the premises provided an ample supply of fuel and caused the fire to spread rapidly, affecting the building’s structural integrity and adversely affecting manual fire suppression activities.
Honor and Remembrance
• Bradford Rodney “Brad” Baity – Engineer 19
• Theodore Michael Benke – Captain 16
• Melvin Edward Champaign – Firefighter 16
• James “Earl” Allen Drayton – Firefighter 19
• Michael Jonathon Alan French – Engineer 5
• William H. “Billy” Hutchinson, III – Captain 19
• Mark Wesley Kelsey – Captain 5
• Louis Mark Mulkey – Captain 15
• Brandon Kenyon Thompson – Firefighter 5
Commemorate and Remembrance
On the evening of June 18, 2007, units from the Charleston Fire Department responded to a fire at the Sofa Super Store, a large retail furniture outlet in the West Ashley district of the city. Within less than 40 minutes, the fire claimed the lives of nine firefighters.
The Executive Summary of the FIREFIGHTER FATALITY INVESTIGATIVE REPORT Sofa Super Store Fire, Phase II Report issued MAY 15, 2008 provided critical insights into the apparent and contributing causes that culminated in the event. The Sofa Super Store was a large property that incorporated a very significant potential for a major fire to occur. It’s appropriate at this time to revisit those key factors described within the report in order for provide the opportunity for departments or agencies to recognize or identify similar gaps that exist, and take the necessary corrective actions. These gaps may be precursors to potentially significant or serious future events and extend in operational, training, administrative, managerial, construction, prevention and regulatory and codes.
• The fire risk factors associated with the Sofa Super Store exceeded the limits prescribed by the applicable building and fire codes. An automatic sprinkler system should have been installed to reduce the level of fire risk or the buildings should have been divided into manageable fire compartments by a system of fire walls.
• If a sprinkler system had been installed, the fire probably would likely have been controlled within the loading dock area.
• If effective fire walls had been provided, the fire probably would not have spread beyond the loading dock.
• The highly flammable characteristics of the materials that were stored in the loading dock and throughout the premises provided an ample supply of fuel and caused the fire to spread rapidly. The burning contents released copious quantities of heat and toxic smoke.
• Significant quantities of flammable and combustible liquids that were stored in the loading dock likely contributed to the severity and rapid spread of the fire.
• The fire had extended to the loading dock when firefighters arrived.
• Charleston Fire Department members attempted to fight the fire by initiating an offensive interior attack into the loading dock.
• The offensive attack was launched from two directions. One attack line entered the loading dock from the exterior, while a second line was stretched through the showrooms and into the loading dock.
• The offensive attack failed to control the fire. The fire extended into adjoining areas on three sides of the loading dock.
• At least 16 firefighters, who were operating deep inside the showrooms, became enveloped in heavy smoke.
• Conditions inside the showrooms became critical as the fire began to involve this part of the building. Several firefighters became disoriented and were running short of air. Radio messages requesting assistance were not heard.
• Seven firefighters managed to find their way out of the showrooms. The nine deceased firefighters were unable to find their way out as the fire spread rapidly from the rear of the building to the front.
• The size and layout of the building, inadequate exits, and the highly flammable nature of the contents likely contributed to the inability of the lost firefighters to escape from the building. Rescue efforts were attempted when the situation inside the showrooms was recognized. In spite of valiant efforts, it was too late to save the missing firefighters before the store became fully involved in flames.
The analysis of operations conducted by the Charleston Fire Department includes the following observations and findings:
• Fire fighting operations at the Sofa Super Store did not comply with Federal occupational safety and health regulations, recommended safety standards, or accepted fire service practices.
• The Charleston Fire Department failed to provide adequate direction, supervision, and coordination over the operations that were conducted.
• The documented duties and responsibilities of an Incident Commander were not performed and risk management guidelines were not adequately applied to the situation.
• The culture of the Charleston Fire Department promoted aggressive offensive tactics that exposed firefighters to excessive and avoidable risks and failed to apply basic firefighter safety practices.
• Insufficient training, inadequate staffing, obsolete equipment and outdated tactics all contributed to an ineffective effort to control the fire with offensive tactics during the early stages of the incident.
• The Charleston Fire Department continued to apply offensive tactics after the situation had evolved to a point where risk management guidelines called for defensive strategy.
• Factors that should have caused firefighters to be removed from interior tactical (offensive) positions were not recognized.
• There was a lack of accountability for the location and function of firefighters who were operating inside the building. The Charleston Fire Department did not have appropriate Mayday procedures to be followed by firefighters in distress, for dispatchers, or for command officers on the scene.
All of the listed factors and many others were analyzed and discussed in detail within the body of the issued report. If you haven’t found the time or reason to read the report, do so; it would make for a good task activity for Safety Week. The report document presented the dedicated and conscientious efforts of the review team to honor the nine fallen firefighters by making every possible effort to learn from their sacrifice. The operative question is this; “What factors or attributes are comparable to situations or conditions that presently exist within your Department, Organization or community? What are you going to proactively do to address these issues or conditions in a timely manner?
Understanding the Building Profile and Risk
The Sofa Super Store occupied a complex of interconnected structures that had been constructed in several phases. The showroom building, facing Savannah Highway, was actually an assembly of three separate structures. The front wall was a façade, with a parapet extending above the roof line, creating the appearance of one large building when viewed from Savannah Highway. (Refer to the Report for diagrams, plans and photographs)
• The front wall, including the parapet, was approximately 23 feet tall, while the roof behind the parapet varied from 12 to 14 feet above grade.
• The main showroom was originally constructed as a grocery store, probably during the 1950s or 60s. The original building was approximately 125 feet in width and 130 feet deep, with a rectangular extension in the southwest corner (right-rear facing the building from Savannah Highway).
• The front wall was brick construction with large storefront windows, while the side and rear walls were constructed of concrete block.
• The original structure had a flat metal deck roof, supported by lightweight steel bar joists (trusses), spanning from east to west across the store. The side walls supported the ends of the bar joists, while two rows of steel beams and columns provided intermediate support.
• A suspended ceiling was installed below the roof trusses.
After the property was converted to a furniture store, two pre-engineered metal buildings were added-on to the original structure to expand the showroom area. Each showroom addition was approximately 60 feet in width and 120 feet deep. The first showroom addition was constructed on the west side of the original building in 1994 and the second was added on the east side in 1995. (The add-on structures are referred to as the east and west showrooms in this report, while the original structure is identified as the main showroom.) Six large openings in the concrete block side walls, three on each side of the original building, provided connections between the showroom areas; their combined floor area was in excess of 31,000 square feet. An additional pre-engineered metal structure was erected at the rear of the property in 1996 to serve as a warehouse. This structure was approximately 120 feet wide by 130 feet deep and 29 feet tall. Furniture was stored on steel racks, 20 feet in height, inside the warehouse.
Going Forward: The Structural Anatomy of Building Construction
The following are quotes from Fire Chief Anthony Aiellos (ret) Hackensack (NJ) Fire Department
Fire Chief during the Hackensack Ford Fire, July, 1988
“If you don’t fully understand how a building truly performs or reacts under fire conditions and the variables that can influence its stability and degradation, movement of fire and products of combustion and the resource requirements for fire suppression in terms of staffing, apparatus and required fire flows, then you will be functioning and operating in a reactionary manner.”
“This places higher risk to your personnel and lessens the likelihood for effective, efficient and safe operations. You’re just not doing your job effectively and you’re at RISK. These risks can equate into insurmountable operational challenges and could lead to adverse incident outcomes. Someone could get hurt, someone could die, it’s that simple, it’s that obvious”.
Risk Based Response Assignments
The buildings, structures and occupancies that comprise typical response districts pose unique and consistent challenges during structural fire attack. The variety of occupancies and building characteristics establish varying degrees of risk potential, with defined and recognizable strategic and tactical measures to be taken-sometimes uniquely to each occupancy type. Although each occupancy type presents variables that dictate how a particular incident is handled, most company operations evolve from basic principles rooted in past performance and operations at similar structures. This is based on what I define as; “predictability of performance.”
When we look at various buildings and occupancies, past operational experiences; those that were successful, and those that were not, give us experiences that define and determine how we access, react and expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future. Naturalistic (or recognition-primed) decision-making forms much of this basis. We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a given duration of time, that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system.
We used to know with a measured degree of predictability, how our buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions. This is what our years of fireground experience provided us, and how we ultimately would predict, assess, plan and implement our incident action plans and ultimately deploy our companies-based upon the predictable performance expected. Conventional Construction Structures (CCS) had this “predictably of performance.” You know, that typical residential structure, the 2-1/2 story wood frame, the three story brick and joist type III occupancy, the four story frame multiple occupancy, etc., etc. Unlike Engineered System Structures (ESS) whose predictability is rooted in the fact that they are unpredictable.
The emerging fire service issues affecting buildings, occupancies and structural systems related to ESS is only beginning to take hold a prominent role and level of significance that is long overdue. The fire service has been dealing with the operational issues and line-of-duty deaths related to ESS since the 1980s and now in 2009, we’re finally raising these ESS issues to a dialog point that is influencing firefighter safety, survival and operations. ( Refer to the Underwriters Laboratory’s (UL) UL University on-line training module for a state-of-the art presentation on Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions and performance results that correlate towards redefining fire suppression operations)
The fire service is beginning to fully recognize the merits in adjusting, altering, and changing our strategic and tactical ways of doing business in the streets. It’s becoming self evident in the fire service that it’s no longer acceptable to think that ESS buildings and occupancies will perform in the same manner as CCS buildings and occupancies and that tactics deployed in both CCS and ESS buildings and occupancies will react under similar strategic and tactical plans and tasks. These unique and inherent factors within the ESS profiles must give us a new standard for operational deployment; strategies and tactics that are defined by the risk profile of the building, its engineered structural systems, materials and methods of construction and the fire loading present.
Considerations for changing fire flow rates, the sizing of hose line and the adequacies for fire flow demand and application rates, staffing needs for safe operations, considerations for defensive positioning and defensive operating postures must be considered, and it warrants repeating again; Reckless-Aggressive firefighting must be redefined in the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environment- with determined, effective and proactive firefighting.
Risk-Preferring and Self-indulging Firefighting
Don’t mistake determined, effective and proactive firefighting with that of reckless, baseless and risk-preferring and self-indulging firefighting. There is a difference, a big difference. When we address relationships of Building Construction, Command Risk Management and Fire Fighter Safety with the occupancy and structural environment, all personnel, regardless of rank, need to equate the occupancy risk with strategic and tactical incident action plans. These safely compliment the identified firefighting operation risk, with the projected building risk profile and interface appropriate behavioral characteristics in the task level firefighting activities. Again, equating building, occupancy risk profiles with determined, effective and proactive firefighting.
The traditional attitudes and beliefs of equating aggressive firefighting operations in all occupancy types coupled with the correlating, established and pragmatic operational strategies and tactics MUST not only be questioned, they need to be adjusted and modified; risk assessment, risk-benefit analysis, safety and survivability profiling, operational value and firefighter injury and LODD reduction must be further institutionalized to become a recognized part of modern firefighting operations.
It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations. Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments. Consider the following definitions as they relate to defining structural combat fire suppression operations.
Aggressive and Measured Approach. Aggressive: Assertive, bold, and energetic, forceful, determined, confident, marked by driving forceful energy or initiative, marked by combative readiness, assured, direct, dominate…
You be the judge as to what should be appropriately defining interior fire suppression operations.
It’s all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management. This is what it’s going to take to truly provide a means for “everyone to go home”.
Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type
Many of today’s incident commanders, company officers and firefighters lack the clarity of understanding and comprehension that correlate to the inherent characteristics of today’s buildings, construction and occupancies. We assume that the redundancy of our operations and incident responses equates with predictability and diminished risk to our firefighting personnel.
Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past conventional construction, therefore risk assessment, strategies and tactics must change to address these new rules of structural fire engagement. You need to gain the knowledge and insights and to change and adjust your operating profile in order to safe guard your companies, personnel and team compositions. Again strategic firefighting operations; Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk not occupancy type.
With this being stated, another primary consideration that must be deliberated and changed as it relates to firefighting and the built environment is the long held fire service tradition and practice of Structural Fire Alarm Response (resources) Assignments being based upon the Occupancy Type. Sending the two Engine Companies and one Truck Company assignment with a Battalion Chief and a RIT team to a reported structure fire in an occupied single family residential structure; is not acceptable.
As previously stated; the rules for structural fire engagement have changed. Structural Fire Alarm Response (resources) Assignments should be based upon the Risk Profile the occupancy has related to Building construction, systems and projected or determined fire loading. Sending the four Engine Companies, two Truck Companies, a manpower Heavy Rescue Company, two additional Battalion Chiefs, a Safety Officer and support staff assignment with the assigned Battalion Chief on the alarm assignment to a reported structure fire in an occupied single family residential structure, that happens to be 5000 square feet in size with ESS components; IS Acceptable.
• There is an acute understanding and corollary of technical knowledge and inter reliance on occupancies, construction, strategy, tactics, risk, safety, physics, engineering and fire suppression theory, This is a fact.
• Previous, historical parameters and Building/Structural Performance always provides a postulated measurement to gauge operational tasks and form the basis for the Incident Action Plan. These parameters must be recognized and integrated
• There is a need to integrate performance based incident indicators derived from engineering, physics, fire dynamics, historical and statistical basis
• Basic Size-Up is Antiquated for Firefighting and the Built Environment. – Start Thinking in terms of Dynamic Risk Assessment and Command Risk Management
• USFA Annual Report on Firefighter Fatalities in the United States; “More firefighters using an aggressive interior attack in enclosed structures die more often, in greater numbers, and with greater multiple line-of-duty deaths than those using the same tactical approach in opened structure fires.”
Start integrating an understating of Fire Dynamics and Fire Behavior and the impact on structural integrity and operational deployment
Situational Awareness and Risk Assessment
Situation Awareness related to Building Construction, Command Risk Management and Firefighter Safety is another mission critical element. Situation Awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic situations and incidents. Both the 2006 and 2007 Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System Annual Reports identified a lack of situational awareness as the highest contributing factor to near misses reported.
Situation Awareness involves being aware of what is happening around you at an incident scene to understand how information, events, and your own actions will impact operational goals and incident objectives, both now and in the near future. Lacking SA or having inadequate SA has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error (Hartel, Smith, & Prince, 1991) (Nullmeyer, Stella, Montijo, & Harden, 2005). Situation Awareness becomes especially important in the structural fire suppression and firefighter domains where the information flow can be quite high and poor decisions can lead to serious consequences. Dynamic Risk Assessment is commonly used to describe a process of risk assessment being carried out in a changing or evolving environment, where what is being assessed is developing as the process itself is being undertaken. This is further problematical for the Incident Commander when confronted with competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission critical or essential information and data has been obtained. The dynamic management of risk is all about effective, informed and decisive decision making during all phases of an incident at a structural fire.
To the Incident Commander, fire officer or firefighter, knowing what’s going on around you, in and around the building structure and understanding the consequences of building, construction, assembly, fire load and fire development and growth is mission critical to incident stabilization and mitigation and profoundly crucial in terms of personnel safety.The integration of Situational Awareness and Dynamic Risk Assessment related to the building and occupancy is a mission critical element in managing structural fires and in the strategic command management and company level tactical operations as we go forward into the next decade. Traditional phased incident scene size-up and monitoring is antiquated and no longer appropriate or applicable to modern fire service operations.Situational awareness is a combination of attitudes, previously learned knowledge and new information gained from the incident scene and environment that enables the strategic commanders, decision-makers and tactical companies to gather the information they need to make effective decisions that will keep their firefighters and resources out of harm’s way, reducing the likelihood of adverse or detrimental effects.
Command and company officers and firefighters MUST understand the building, the occupancy features and the inherent impact of fire within and on the structure, AND be able to identify, communicate and take actions necessary to support the incident action and battle plans, mitigate incident conditions and provide for continuous safety protection to themselves, their team, their company and the entire alarm assignment operating at the incident scene.
It’s Not about Our Entertainment Value
When we focus our attention on the interdependent functional domains of Building Construction, Command Risk Management and Fire Fighter Safety and the essence of combat structural fires; Structural firefighting is what it’s all about, is it not? The reason we have such veneration for firefighting and the fire service and all it entails; has a lot to do with going into burning buildings and fighting fire. We enjoy it tremendously; because of who we are and what we do-as firefighters. But, firefighting has its adverse consequences, with all too familiar costs, in the form of injuries, debilitating accidents and line of duty deaths.
As a firefighter, to say that we love firefighting would be an understatement, but one issue that we need to address is the fact that there are many individual firefighters, companies and organizations that employ fireground operational practices that promote the “enjoyment and entertainment” of working a good job within the occupancy compartment of a structural fire in the building environment.-Staying too long in the wrong place, operating tactically in an adverse environment with known hazards that does not have value, for nothing other than the enjoyment of nozzle time and operating time in the fire.
Fire suppression tactics must be adjusted for the rapidly changing methods and materials impacting all forms of building construction, occupancies and structures. The need to redefine the art and science of firefighting is nearly upon us. Some things do stand the test of time, others need to adjust, evolve and change. Not for the sake of change only, but for the emerging and evolving buildings, structures and occupancies being built, developed or renovated in our communities.
If the fire service can significantly increase proficiencies in building knowledge and equate that to other fundamental operational aspect in structural fire operations, then there would be a direct enhancement to firefighter safety, through injury and LODD reduction. If we understand buildings, occupancies and construction, and balance this with our understanding of fire dynamics and orchestrate it with appropriate strategies, tactics and command management, then we made the new safety equation work; Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety (Bk=F2S). It’s all about the Structural Anatomy of Buildings.
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