Fires in abandoned structures have posed great dangers to firefighters. We never really know what exactly awaits us until we conduct a thorough 360 and make a good risk assessment; however what we do know abandoned structures are notorious for mantraps, collapse potential, and holes in floors.
“Units were dispatched to smoke coming from the window air conditioner unit on the second floor of a single family structure… found an abandoned/vacant building that was boarded up (first floor only) with the exception of the side door (side B) that was open…observed the front second floor bedroom on fire, with heavy smoke and fire coming from the front windows and the gutter line. It was reported the first due truck secured accountability, command, and operations.
…The second vehicle (engine co) entered the structure and advanced an inch and three quarter hand line through the open side door (side B) to the second floor. After being inside the house for a short time (a few minutes, less than 5) they reported the fire was in the front room and in the attic and they were not going to be able to access the attic.
At that time, they reported to Operations they were backing out and ‘this was a loser.’ Operations acknowledged the interior crew…and advised other units to stand by to go to defensive operations pending the interior crew exiting the structure. The crew made it out without incident and the other crews on scene went to defensive operations.
Approximately 8-10 minutes went by and crews were permitted to re-enter the structure and advance to the second floor to continue fire attack, pull ceilings and chase and extinguish the fire in the attic space…During fire attack in the front room on the second floor, one of the firefighters fell through the floor in a spot where the floor was burned out…”
The interior attack is mounted by the American fire service hundreds of times each day. Most of these attacks are handled with the first-alarm assignment, but the dilemma that crews face is the risk that they expose themselves to danger in a building that is already lost. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:
1. Should crews be permitted to re-enter a structure after defensive operations are called for?
2. If crews are not allowed to re-enter a structure after defensive operations are concluded, how can the fire be completely extinguished?
3. If a structure has two 1,000-gpm master streams flowing into it for 30 minutes, how much water has been added to the building?
4. What options do you have to secure an unsafe structure or declare a structure “no interior attack allowed?”
5. If your department condones re-entering a structure after defensive operations, what safeguards are in place to reduce injury?
Have you experienced a near miss involving vehicle maintenance? Pass along your lesson to make another firefighter’s apparatus check more complete. Submit your incident to www.firefighternearmiss.com today so everyone goes home tomorrow.
Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.