Training Tips: Making the Most of a Dumpster Dive

Bill Gustin and Juan Miguel on forcible entry
Fire Engineering/YouTube

In his book Building Construction For the Fire Service, the late Frank Brannigan inspired generations of firefighters to be inquisitive any time they saw a large construction dumpster in front of an existing building. Brannigan’s warnings  of  the hazards of renovated buildings have never been more relevant than today, especially given the trend of gentrification of old neighborhoods. 

When old buildings are renovated, it is not uncommon to demolish the original floors supported with large dimension lumber and replace them with floors supported by lightweight engineered “I” joists or parallel chord trusses.  The exterior of a renovated building can be dangerously deceiving, leading firefighters to believe they are fighting a fire in an old building of substantial,  legacy interior construction. In fact, this has replaced with lightweight construction that, when exposed to fire, will collapse in a fraction of the time it would take for the original construction to collapse.


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The tell-tale dumpster may be firefighter’s only indication that they had better get into that building and take a look  before plaster board covers the lightweight structural members. For firefighters, a construction dumpster can also be a treasure trove of training props. 

In the video above, Bill Gustin and Juan Miguel of Miami-Dade (FL) Fire/Rescue perform four forcible entry techniques on just one door found in a construction dumpster.

 is a 45-year veteran of the fire service and a captain with the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire/Rescue Department. He began his fire service career in the Chicago area and is a lead instructor in his department’s Officer Development Program. He teaches tactics and company officer training programs throughout North America. He is an advisory board member of FDIC International and a technical editor of Fire Engineering.


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