Dunn’s Dispatch: Debris Disposal

By Vincent Dunn

Throwing a smoldering mattress or stuffed chair out of a window can be a deadly act during salvage and overhaul operations. Dropping smoldering rubble to the street or yard from a window can kill or injure another firefighter. The falling piece of furniture may strike a firefighter who is about to enter or leave the fire building. Even fire rubble thrown out a rear or side window can injure a firefighter.

This happened one evening when firefighters entered a multiple dwelling for a smoky fire on the fourth floor. The fire in the living room was extinguished quickly, the room vented, and the unconscious victim dragged out to the hall. A smoldering chair, the fire source, was dragged to a rear window, maneuvered onto a fire escape and tossed over the railing into the dark backyard. The firefighter yelled, “Watch out below.” Down in the backyard, another firefighter was lowering the fire escape “drop ladder” to climb the rear fire escape. He was struck by the chair and suffered brain damage and a permanent loss of balance.

If it is absolutely necessary to throw a piece of rubble out of an upper-floor window, there is a safe way or a deadly way to do it. Do you know the safe way to discard smoldering rubble from an upper floor of a burning building?

For more information on this subject, go to vincentdunn.com or Google search “salvage and overhaul.” Chief Dunn can be reached at 1-800-231-3388 or via e-mail at vincentdunn@earthlink.net.

Deputy Chief Dunn (Ret., Fire Department of New York) is the author of a number of textbooks, including the new Strategy of Firefighting (Fire Engineering, 2007), Collapse of Burning Buildings (Fire Engineering, 1988), Safety and Survival on the Fireground (Fire Engineering, 1992), and Command and Control of Fires and Emergencies (Fire Engineering, 1999).

Subjects: Salvage and overhaul, fire debris

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