Commercial Building Fires: When To Go Defensive

Issue 3 and Volume 164.

BY STUART GRANT AND LES STEPHENS No decision made at a working structure fire is more basic or advanced than “offensive” or “defensive.” No other decisions can or need be made before the incident commander (IC) determines the strategy that will be employed. You might think the decision to “go” or “not go” would be simple and straightforward, but nothing could be further from the truth. No other decision made during the course of an incident places firefighters in immediate danger or calculated safety more than the offensive or defensive decision. Nowhere else is the potential for immediate catastrophic failure and subsequent multiple injuries or deaths more present than at a commercial building fire—a fire in an occupancy that is not classified as single or multifamily residential. (1) A change in strategy must occur early enough to allow for safe and orderly withdrawal to defensive positions prior to the catastrophic…

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