Drill of the Week: Protecting Exposures

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Part of any size-up is determining how many exposures are present and to what extent you must protect those exposures during a fire fight. Pictured is a detached garage which, upon arrival, was fully involved. Not visible in this picture is a C-side exposure which had already been exposed to much radiant heat by the time the first-arriving engine began to attack the garage fire. The IC almost immediately ordered next-in units to set up a water curtain in the alleyway behind the garage to protect the C-side exposure. In this case, protecting the exposure was an integral component of an offensive attack on the main fire. This isn’t always the case, however.

In many cases, defensive attacks require these types of operations, with a careful mix of defensive fire control and offensive line advancement into and around exposure properties. At the incident mentioned above, companies didn’t have to enter the exposed structure. A few minutes later, however, another structure fire could have been well underway, requiring another attack team to enter and protect the structure from further extension. Stretching additional handlines into exposures, use of exterior streams operated by elevated streams, portable master streams and handlines will improve your ability to keep the fire from progressing. Careful observation of the collapse danger zone in the initial fire buildings as well as observations of utility hazards are just some of the safety concerns during these operations.

Various considerations exist for suppression teams, company officers, and apparatus operators when protecting exposures. Officers must determine to what extent they are going to protect exposures, whether to protect them from the inside or outside, what size handlines to use, where to find the most water to supply those handlines, and so on, while putting the safety of their firefighters at the top of their list. Pump operators have to ensure they have enough water to supply main attack lines, exposure protection lines, water curtains, or aerial apparatus called upon to protect an exposure. Aerial apparatus operators must be in the right place at the right time and out of harm’s way to ensure they can be used effectively to protect exposures.

This week’s drill covers many of the considerations that must be addressed when protecting exposures. You can use the image above or one of several located with this drill at FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Some discussion points include:

  1. Describe how the first-in engine at a defensive fire with exposures can determine if the exposure is threatened?
  2. What steps can be taken to insure that the exterior of a structure is protected?
  3. What methods of heat transfer should you be concerned with in relation to fire extension?
  4. How many ways can a stream capable of flowing in excess of 250 gpm be put to work off of your engine, off of your truck?
  5. In the Incident Management System, how are exposure buildings to be labeled and referred to on the radio and within the system?

Other points include:

  • What is the water supply?
  • How will the exposures be protected?
  • Can lines be stretched inside the exposure?
  • Can the main fire be knocked?

Visit FirefighterCloseCalls.com’s Protecting Exposures drill for more discussion questions and more discussion images.

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