Managing Big Fires 101: Divide and Conquer

Issue 8 and Volume 162.

BY THOMAS DUNNE Of all the fire challenges that may confront an incident commander (IC), two are at the forefront. One is a situation in which high heat and heavy smoke are showing with no visible fire. Under these conditions, firefighters are always in jeopardy until the exact location and limits of fire spread are uncovered. Lying at the other extreme is a scene where a visibly overwhelming, wind-driven fire is threatening a number of buildings. On May 2, 2008, Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighters were faced with this exact scenario. At 1726 hours that afternoon, an alarm was received for a structural fire in the Bronx. The first unit assigned, Engine 88, was confronted with an advanced fire when it arrived at the scene. A heavy body of fire was burning in two adjacent 2½-story wood-frame buildings and was rapidly extending to a third vacant structure on…

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