Training Days: Laddering and Venting

Part Four

Article and photo by Tom Kiurski

For this training day, we were fortunate enough to have two old houses, located next door to each other, donated to us. They were were to be demolished to make room for an office complex. Although we had used them for previous training sessions, we held off on the heavy destruction until demolition was at hand. This limited the time that the buildings would have openings in them. This kept out kids, animals, and the elements for as long as possible.

Since one house had a large garage, we used it for some laddering and ventilation drills. Recall your academy days and the number of laddering drills you did, almost every day. But how many times you have handled ladders since being on the job? Although they may performed them extensively in the fire academy, firefighters need to practice these basic skills to keep them sharp.

At the start of the evolution, crews were brought down to the house in small groups of four or five. Once there, they received the objective: laddering the roof of the house (or garage) for ventilation. Once they completed laddering, we discussed that portion of the drill. There should be an extension ladder with five rungs showing over the roof line, a roof ladder from which to work, and a secondary ladder to use in case of an emergency. The roof ladder hooks should be extended and firmly hooked over the roof edge. There are plenty of other ladder drill options, as I found out when I took part in the laddering class at FDIC 2007. At the conference, Mike Ciampo and his crew did a nice job giving us some scenarios on which to practice, but on this training day, time limited my department to just a basic review.

The next task was to take all necessary equipment to perform safe and effective ventilation up to the roof. Once on the roof, we inventoried the tools that had been brought up: chainsaw, pike pole, Denver tool, hose and nozzle, and the full firefighter gear ensemble. We reviewed the proper size of vent hole needed for to ventilate a residential building and the need to place the vent hole high on the roof and as close to the fire as possible. We discussed the order of the ventilation cuts and how to ensure the hole is properly venting the fire below. We also talked about final safety items, such as having a backup firefighter to look out for the one using the saw. After this, each firefighter was allowed to start the chain saw and cut a ventilation hole in the roof.

Several firefighters took me up on the offer to make a vent hole “the old-fashioned way.” Using a Denver tool, participants made a hole in the roof in just a little longer time frame than it took to cut a hole with a chain saw. Yes, it took some additional time and much more energy, but it was discussed as an option to keep in mind if for some reason the chain saw was unavailable. Chain saws will not run if smoke conditions keep fresh air from the engine, and a broken chain or flooded engine are all realistic setback scenarios. After the vent hole was cut, each firefighter was asked how they would confirm that the fire is vented. Then crews left the roof with all tools and equipment.

We performed this drill in the July heat, but moving the classes to the early morning reduced the heat level compared to that of afternoon sessions. Although they were hot, firefighters knew the training provided a good review of some basic skills. If possible, holding this drill when the outside temperature is cooler is recommended. Remember to keep plenty of water on hand for the firefighters.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.

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