Firefighter Training at FDIC 2013: Firefighing in Big Box Stores

Captain Aaron Heller‘s Monday afternoon workshop, “Firefighting in Big Box Stores,” was inspired by the influx of such stores in his response area. “We realized the importance of changing from a residential and small commercial mindset to a much larger building mindset. I have seen this all over the country,” he said. These buildings are complex and require solid preplanning and above all, fires at these structures aren’t “bread-and-butter” fires–they require their own set of tactics.

A member of Hamilton Township (NJ) Fire District #9, Heller has been attending FDIC since 1996 as a student and became a presenter in 2001.

One video shown demonstrated how quickly fires in big box stores can progress. A civilian saw the initial stage of fire with some smoke showing. When she returned 15 minutes later with a camera, the structure was fully involved with large volumes of smoke coming through the roof. 

Heller reviewed engine company size-up and tactics using the acronym ADULTS: Advanced fire; Defensive operations; Unable to defeat extension; Large open areas; Tons of water; Standpipe operations.

“Go big fast,” he recommended, using 2 -1/2-inch lines or other large volume appliances, which provide better cooling and deeper penetration. Heller showed photos of a strip mall arson fire at which 1-3/4-inch lines were used; it was not successful.

Another size-up acronym Heller offered was BAG: where has the fire Been; where is it At; where is it Going. Other issues he addressed included knowing what hose loads your apparatus carries, which should appropriate for the department’s typical responses and potential threats, and arranging hose loads for quick deployment. “Can you quickly get the line off the rig and get it where it needs to be, or will it be spaghetti?” he asked. 

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