Fireground Size-Up: High-Rise Buildings Under Construction

BY MICHAEL A. TERPAK

Fires in high-rise buildings under construction present numerous and unique challenges to the fire service. Responding firefighters must be prepared to deal with a number of concerns that will extend well beyond what firefighters are normally used to in a completed or occupied building. The presence of large amounts of combustibles, limited accessibility, the lack of a water supply, poor housekeeping, and unlimited exposure to the wind make these partially constructed buildings vulnerable to rapid fire spread and structural collapse. These factors, combined with the potential for injury to firefighting forces, rival the operations needed in vacant/abandoned structures.

From the time construction workers break ground to the time they complete the structure, fire departments will find conditions that will produce dangerous situations if not planned and prepared for. The information-gathering process has to start early. Not visiting construction sites and planning for the worst is sure to promote added difficulties.

 

SIZE-UP

 

Following is a list of size-up factors and operational suggestions specific to these types of buildings. To assist with the review, we will use the fireground size-up acronym COAL TWAS WEALTHS. Many departments have used this guide to develop preplans and have used it as a format for developing standard operating procedures for structural firefighting. Whether fighting fire in a private dwelling or in a high-rise building, it is critical that all firefighters and fire officers review, understand, and prepare for any challenges and dangers that may lie ahead. It has been said that company officers need to be concerned only with a few of the size-up factors present at a structure fire. This type of thinking is not only limited but also dangerous. Regardless of rank, it is every fire officer’s responsibility to review and prepare for any size-up factors that could possibly affect the outcome of the incident. The need to anticipate the difficulties and be prepared becomes more critical when the fire is in a high-rise building under construction.

 

Construction/Occupancy

 

The building construction industry continues to use two types of framework for designing and erecting structures of significant height: structural steel skeletons and cast-in-place concrete structures. The method of construction architects and engineers use in their designs often depends on the building’s occupancy design and square footage. When the buildings being erected are to house commercial office space, architects incorporate the steel skeleton design. This type of structure allows for large, open floor spaces characteristic of the needs of this style of occupancy. The term “steel skeleton” is derived from the actual design and appearance.

The primary structural elements that make up the vertical and horizontal framework are a series of steel columns and girders, similar to those in the toy building erecter sets many of us played with as children. Within this steel skeleton, the fire service has come to expect a center or side core, which is another network of steel that allows a steel bar joist or steel I-beam transfer system to span the openings between the structure’s exterior walls and the building’s core. Center or side core construction resembles a box built within a box. Engineers place within this core the building’s stairs, elevators, utility shafts, and so on.

In the steel skeleton design, builders then lay out and attach steel deck sheets, also referred to as “Q-decking,” over the bar-joist truss or steel I-beams, to begin to assemble the building’s floor system. On top of the steel deck sheets, masons install a wire mesh and then pour and level an average of six inches of concrete over the entire steel deck floor system, to serve as the floor surface in what is referred to as a “composite” floor system. This floor design within a steel skeleton structure allows for the large, open floor spaces desirable for office occupancies.

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(1) Concrete poured over Q-decking. [Photo by John Martucci, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, Ladder 6; other photos by author unless otherwise indicated.]

As expected, the structural concerns in a building of this design come from fire and heat impingement on any part of the structure prior to its being protected. When there is exposure to the heat from a fire, you must anticipate structural failure. The collapse concerns are numerous when the structure is being constructed. They include the buckling of the Q-decking, the spalling of the concrete floor system, the elongation and failure of an unprotected steel bar joist, and the exposure of the connection points that hold the exterior curtain walls to the building.

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(2) Curtain wall anchor. [Photos by John Martucci, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, Ladder 6.]
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(3) Curtain wall.

In buildings designed and built primarily for residential use, you will find cast-in-place constructed floors and columns. Just as with the previous building term, cast-in-place literally defines how the structure is erected. The columns and floors of each floor are formed and poured on-site, one floor at a time, in what eventually will be a monolithic structure.

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(4) Wooden formwork.

As carpenters construct the wooden formwork in the shape of columns, girders, and floor decks to accept the concrete, workers assemble a network of steel-reinforcing rods to create a support system to bond with the concrete and provide the building with the needed tensile strength. Prior to each “pour,” a network of supports created from timber columns and steel jacks is constructed to brace and support the formwork from below. This is where just a few of the many concerns for firefighters begin.

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(5) Steel jacks supporting wooden formwork.

The wooden formwork, once erected, is nothing more than a neatly arranged lumberyard in the sky. The vast amount of wood used to construct the formwork is hoisted up and stored on floors directly below the soon-to-be formed floor. From here, the wooden formwork is assembled, dismantled, and used over and over again as the building climbs in height. Each formwork system is designed to hold the weight of a newly poured concrete floor for a minimum of 48 hours. Collapse is most probable during this time. Once the formwork is removed and erected again for the next floor, vertical bracing will remain below the new concrete floor for days or even weeks, depending on the cure time for the recently poured concrete floor. The greatest danger of structural collapse is obviously when the formwork of a newly poured floor is involved in fire. Incident commanders (ICs) must make it a priority to obtain immediately on arrival information relating to the date of the last pour. This information may or may not be available, depending on the time and day of the incident.

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(6) The finished floor.

Firefighters must be mindful of the bracing that often remains for days and weeks after the floor has been poured. Any fire involvement and subsequent failure of a timber column or steel jack could cause the floor or a section of the floor to fail, impacting on the floor below. Additionally, if any of the steel jacks and timber columns fail, they could also become projectiles as they fall from the building’s upper floors, piercing the roofs of neighboring buildings and apparatus on the streets below. You have to be very cautious and must calculate the risk when committing forces to fight a fire in a building under construction, even when the fire appears to be small. But be prepared; the fire won’t stay small for very long.

 

Apparatus and Staffing

 

Fires that involve high-rise structures will tax the resources of any size department. If you make any attempt to fight a fire inside a building under construction, you will have to do it early into the incident, if at all. This decision will undoubtedly necessitate a large commitment of forces to tackle the known, as well as anticipated, challenges. From water supply and upper-floor accessibility to rapid fire growth, you will need what seems like an army of firefighters to handle the immediate challenges. It is hard to say how many firefighters will be enough, but a commonsense grouping of your resources is necessary.

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(7) A wooden ladder between floors.

Engine companies must be teamed up to establish and deliver quick and effective fire streams on the fire. Procedures should outline the stretching and deploying of the 2½-inch hoseline with a smooth bore nozzle. The 2½-inch hoseline is designed to deliver an appreciable amount of water from a significant distance. In Jersey City, we also choose to use smooth bore nozzles to enhance this option, most notably when anticipating the wind on the open floor space.

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(8) A wooden railing protecting an elevator shaft opening.

However, there are a few concerns when making this choice. With a well-supplied 2½-inch stream, nozzle firefighters must take advantage of the stream’s reach and penetration to slow the fire’s advancement. But they also must be mindful of the power of a smooth bore stream when it strikes a formwork jack/column. A 2½-inch hose stream could further loosen and dislodge any compromised or damaged column from its position. If this occurs, it is an obvious collapse indicator; evacuate the floor. If the stream is kept moving and there are no obvious signs of column or floor failure, the nozzle firefighter should resort to a broken stream or reattach a variable stream tip for overhaul, still from a safe distance. Remember the weight above the formwork. If you choose an offensive operation, use the distance of a well-protected and supplied hose stream to give you some indicators.

 

Life Hazard/Firefighters

 

Where do we begin? Numerous life hazard concerns affect firefighters. History, personal experience, and building characteristics should remind us of the many difficulties. These difficulties will begin on your arrival. From accessing the building to climbing up to the fire floor to operating hoselines, you’re in for a difficult and dangerous fight. To put it more clearly, nothing will be easy. Nothing!

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(9) Lumber hanging over the side of a building.

Consider the following situations:

  • Limited accessibility to the site. There will be construction vehicles, construction trailers and shanties, dumpsters, stored materials, fenced-in areas, and unfinished streets. Expect apparatus placement and aerial scrub areas to be limited.
  • Trip, fall, and exposed hazards in and around the site. Expect to navigate around open/excavated streets, large piles of debris, exposed or poorly constructed utility connections, and uneven terrain.
  • Limited/delayed accessibility to the upper floors. You will generally have a few choices—climbing wooden ladders from floor to floor, partially completed to completed stairs, or accessing and using construction elevators. The latter will prove beneficial.
  • Construction elevators. They will prove to be a critical and viable option for accessing the upper floors, but they don’t come without concerns of their own.
  • Wooden ladders and platforms between floors. They are flimsy, are poorly supported, and can burn.
  • Flimsy/shoddy coverings over shafts/staircases. This is a major concern not only as a fall hazard but also as a means of rapid-fire extension to the upper and lower floors.
  • Open shafts, staircases, and floors. All you will find is a flimsily constructed railing of dried-out 2-inch × 4-inch lumber, an orange safety net, or nothing at all. They all can easily fail as well as allow a firefighter to crawl under and into an opening.
  • Combustible materials. Not only are they plentiful, but they also are often large. Building material is often raised from the street by sky cranes and placed onto the floors above. When this type of “picking” is done, the crane can place the material only so many feet in and onto the floor, resulting in a large portion of the material’s hanging over the side of the building.
  • Wooden formwork. It supports great loads and is entirely combustible. On an average, wooden formwork will support loads in excess of 175 pounds per square foot.
  • Exposed structural members and supports. They range from unprotected steel to dried-out, oil-soaked formwork. Anticipate early failure.
  • Flammable/combustible gases and liquids. Expect to find oxyacetylene and propane cylinders being used and stored on the floors. If exposed to fire, they can significantly complicate matters, causing fire advancement, an explosion, or structural collapse.
  • Poor housekeeping. As well inspected as these buildings can and should be, poor housekeeping and storage of debris can result minutes after you leave the site.
  • Floor disorientation. Not knowing where you are in the building is a common problem. Construction workers often spray-paint the floor number just outside the elevator hoistway and on the wall near every staircase landing to assist with floor identification. It will be there; look for it.
  • Disorientation on the floor. Once the building is topped off, the exterior walls or curtain walls and windows will be installed. Once this occurs, smoke and heat will be contained within the building. Conditions on the floor combined with compartmentalized areas and the storage of construction materials will turn the floor into a maze. When this occurs, members must use search rope operations, thermal imaging, and air management to safely operate on and exit from the floor.
  • Rapid fire growth. As can be seen from everything we mentioned above, fires in buildings under construction will not remain small. Attempt to fight a fire in a building under construction only if the fire is small.
  • Fire dropping on top of and below members. Because of the numerous openings in the floor spaces, fire will drop below the fire floor on top of members as they attempt to advance, as well as onto floors below by way of the exterior or through any opening in the floor space.
  • Delayed/limited water supplies. If a standpipe system is present, anticipate problems with open valves, no valves, and rusted/painted-over valves; riser threads not matching fire department hoses; and risers not keeping pace with construction. Add the fact that the system will remain dry for most of the duration of the construction, and the delay in getting water on the fire floor becomes very evident.
  • Delayed notification. Unless this fire occurs during the day, fires in these types of buildings can go unnoticed for quite some time.
  • Wind-driven fires. This is a major concern. Fires in wooden formwork spread quickly enough all by themselves. Add a moderate wind condition, and a 40,000-square-foot floor space will become fully involved in minutes.
  • Structural collapse. Based on everything mentioned, portions of this building will fail; be prepared.
  • Time of day. Attempting to enter a high-rise building under construction at night is very different from entering the same building during daylight hours. This is the type of structure that reminds all members to have a good flashlight.

 

 

Terrain/Water Supply/Auxiliary Appliances

 

As previously identified, the area around the site will be full of construction materials, vehicles, and equipment, making accessibility limited to impossible. This will place apparatus farther away from the building, necessitating longer hose stretches to the building’s standpipe connections, as well as limiting or totally eliminating aerial apparatus scrub areas.

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(10) Housekeeping practices.

The lack of a viable standpipe system is another common concern many of us often read about and experience. Sometimes, a system has not kept pace with the height of the structure. Many city building codes and enforcement agencies require that the system be installed and completed up to a minimum of two floors below the top floor or the floor being constructed. This often is not the case. In many instances, firefighters have found risers ending five to 10 floors below the building’s top floor, creating significant water-supply challenges.

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(11) Formwork collapse. [Photo by Ron Jeffers, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department photographer.]

Another common problem not often found until the standpipe is supplied with water is that of missing, removed, or open riser outlets on floors throughout the building. This happens for a number of reasons: neglect, carelessness, an attempt at eliminating moisture and condensation in the system, and construction workers within the building who think they will find water to clean their tools and hands—they forget to close the valves after they attempt to access the system. When this occurs, the water supply will be minimal to nonexistent.

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(12, 13) The gangbox makes additional equipment available, should it be needed.
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Many experienced chief officers assign a complement of firefighters to check floor outlets as they make their way up. This is a critical assignment to consider early in the incident and must begin at the lowest point in the system. Waiting to hear that companies are receiving little to no water from the riser many floors above street level before acting on this will add to the delays and difficulties. A more proactive water supply plan would be to have a diligent preplanning and enforcement program to eliminate this problem. Through company inspections or a dedicated inspection staff, the levying of a few hefty fines during the construction process will help to solve this problem.

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(14) Protecting the sky crane. [Photo by Ron Jeffers, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department photographer.]

In addition to the above concerns, we also have to expect that the system will be dry during most of the construction period; building fire pumps are installed much later in the construction phase. Depending on the building’s height, building fire pumps often are not installed until the building has been enclosed and heated.

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(15) A tower ladder stream extinguishing fire on the 17th floor. [Photo by Ron Jeffers, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department photographer.]

Another consideration is that at some point in the construction phase, the building will eventually be tied into the municipal or public water supply system. The municipal or public water supply is often locked out and shut off to the building’s standpipe system to prevent freezing, vandalism, or misuse. One of the first pieces of information to attempt to obtain from the construction foreman is whether the building is tied into the public water supply system and the location of the main control valves or “water room” (a term often used by construction workers). If the answer to the first question is yes, then accessing the main control valves can prove to be extremely beneficial.

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(16) An elevator/equipment hoist car.
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(17) An elevator/equipment hoist system.

To further assist fire department efforts, Jersey City recently has required that a fire department “gangbox” be installed two to three floors below the building’s top floor in all high-rise buildings under construction. It is to be placed just outside the staircases and must contain a complement of tools and equipment intended to supplement fire department operations. As members advance, they will find a minimum of one box on a designated floor that will be identified, marked, and padlocked. Within the box, members can expect to find the following:

  • Three 75-foot lengths of 2½-inch hose.
  • One 2½-inch variable tip/smooth bore nozzle.
  • 200 feet of utility rope.
  • A 2½-inch gated wye.
  • A flathead ax and a halligan bar.
  • A six-foot step ladder.

 

The gangbox does not eliminate the need for the fire department to bring its own equipment; it is intended to provide added equipment should it be needed.

 

Streets/Weather/Exposures

 

As if the challenges inside the structure weren’t enough, the surrounding properties and your ability to operate safely will also be compromised. Anytime you need to deal with a fire involving an upper floor in a building of significant height, you need to factor in the height of the building and the wind speed and direction, and you will have to begin to remove people from harm’s way quickly.

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(18, 19) Elevated master stream operations. [Photos by Ron Jeffers, Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department photographer.]
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First and foremost, immediately consider your people. Don’t place equipment and firefighters on the exposed sides of the building. Members should attempt to enter the building from the uninvolved side and get under the protection of the building itself as soon as possible. Place and set up apparatus in flanking positions outside of all possible collapse/falling debris zones. Also anticipate that building materials and structural components will fail and fall within the building through open shafts and stairwells and also outside and away from the structure, generally perpendicular from its exposed sides. This is not to say that the flanking positions are totally safe from any falling debris. Falling timbers, formwork, and steel bracing can bounce off building obstructions and scaffolding and become projectiles falling into flanking areas, into streets, and through the roofs of surrounding exposures.

 

Evacuating Surrounding Exposures

 

This is the next priority to consider early in the incident. If you wait until a portion of the building is well involved and raining embers and debris onto the street below, it is a little late to start removing civilians from their homes and places of business. What works very well for us in similar situations is to quickly request representatives of the police department and the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate area evacuations and provide shelter for displaced occupants. Their assistance is invaluable in this area.

 

Weather

 

Give weather, most notably the wind, a great deal of respect as a size-up factor. In high-rise structures, you have to constantly consider wind-driven fires when committing firefighters into the building. Experience and research continually show the concerns and consequences of window failure and blowtorch conditions in a finished/enclosed building. You must anticipate and prepare for this. Departments around the country assign a safety officer or a street vent coordinator to observe and monitor fire behavior when fire exits to the exterior of a high-rise building. Visual cues can sometimes indicate wind direction on the face of the building and how it may impact forces on the fire floor.

When fire involves a high-rise building under construction, the wind challenges change. In these types of structures, the wind affects the entire building, most notably the fire floor. This obviously can promote rapid fire development throughout the entire floor space. Chief officers cannot expect the wind at street level to be an indicator of what to expect on the floors above. Firefighters who frequent high-rise buildings under construction will often tell you that although they experienced little to no wind at street level, the wind was blowing from 20 to 30-plus miles per hour as little as 10 to 12 floors above. Nearby high-rise buildings can further affect wind speed and direction as winds attempt to move around these structures as well.

During your next inspection of high-rise buildings under construction, keep all this in mind. As a matter of safety, construction foremen will install a wind gauge on the building’s top floor to monitor the wind speed and direction. The next time you visit a site, ask for a reading. You might be surprised. Although there are many objects you can use to help you determine wind conditions at an actual incident on the upper floors of a building under construction, a flag is one of the easiest for you to observe easily and quickly. It is a tradition in the construction industry to fly a flag of the United States off a sky crane used to raise and lower materials to the building’s upper floors. Many times, the flag is placed above the floor under construction and is often easily seen from street level. If the flag is flapping, fully displaying the Stars and Stripes, be prepared.

 

Location and Extent of Fire/Height

 

Even though the building is termed a Type I/fire resistive structure, during the construction phase, it will present numerous opportunities for rapid and uncontrolled fire growth. From the collection of refuse to the storage of lumber used for the formwork to the actual involvement of erected formwork itself, fire will spread rapidly up, down, and horizontally throughout the floor area. These concerns are greatly complicated when fire is beyond the reach of your highest aerial device. But don’t forget about the reach of your elevated streams. In a recent fire in Jersey City, elevated streams set up in flanking positions were not only able to protect the building’s sky crane, they were also able to extinguish fire on the 17th floor of a residential high-rise building under construction.

When the building is in its earliest stages of construction, firefighters have limited options for accessing the building’s upper floors—a wooden makeshift ladder or accessing and using a construction elevator. The latter is a viable option, and you must seriously consider it when the fire is well above street level. Elevators used to bring workers and materials to the structure’s upper floors are a reliable alternative. They may seem intimidating to some because of their open-air design, but they are very strong systems that are rated and able to withstand loads of 6,000 pounds. Additionally, they are screened in to protect from any falling debris, and they have an independent electrical utility that the fire should not affect.

Another favorable asset is operating the car. It is relatively easy and can be done by a firefighter from within the car. If an IC decides to use this option to move members and equipment to the upper floors, common sense has to come into play. First, avoid using an elevator that is in close proximity to the fire, regardless of the fire’s size. If you are able to determine the wind’s direction, use a car that is on the windward side of the building. When using a construction elevator, it is also strongly suggested that the car proceed up to an area of no less than five floors below the fire floor, or the lowest floor containing fire. The reasons for this are the “drop-down” probability from the fire floor, the chance to view the structural bracing on the floors below, and any other inherent concerns as you work your way up. The initial concern is based on the probability that burning timbers and embers may fall down into the many openings found on the floors under construction. Factoring the additional floors into the elevator operation allows for a safer approach and a better opportunity to assess the overall picture.

Another critical concern with this operation is the need to assign companies to the floors below to monitor and, if necessary, extinguish any drop-down fire that occurs. You cannot ignore this. Companies cannot operate on the fire floor or the floor directly below without having companies staged to monitor and be prepared to extinguish any fire. There is no exact science or scripted plan for this concern. At a recent fire in Jersey City, a 17th-floor fire had dropped down and started fires on floors 16, 12, and 10, as well as in a pile of construction materials at street level.

 

Special Considerations

 

We often reserve this section in our size-up to provide operational cues or tips to assist with the overall operation. This is often developed from a combination of previously made size-up factors in an attempt to assist with the incident’s efficiency, effectiveness, and safety.

Without a doubt, any decisions we make on the fireground must focus around our members’ safety. It is critical that we do everything in our power to “get everyone home.” At this point, you may be asking, “Why would you ever consider committing firefighters into a building that is under construction?” This is a valid question that must be answered, especially in light of the known hazards that a building of this type presents. Obviously, this is where your ability to conduct a risk assessment must come into play. When you arrive at a high-rise building under construction and assess the conditions, if the risk far outweighs the gain, the answer should be obvious. Remember, whatever was on fire and extinguished by you and your members will probably have to be dismantled and reconstructed again. But what happens in the less obvious situations when the fire is small or “seems” controllable on arrival? This is where the word “anticipation” and a true understanding of its definition weigh heavily.

The next concern is, do you have enough staffing to mount and sustain an offensive operation? For most departments, the answer is probably no. For those that think they can, what is the next concern? Consider all of what has been discussed:

  • Floor accessibility and lead time to start the attack.
  • Water supply to the standpipe system and the gallons-per-minute delivery to the fire floor.
  • The current size of the fire and its anticipated growth.
  • Staffing to monitor fire drop-down.
  • Structural integrity of the formwork or unprotected steel.
  • The wind and its effect on fire conditions.

 

 

BE PREPARED FOR A DEFENSIVE OPERATION

 

If the IC weighs all and authorizes an offensive operation, he must also begin to prepare for a defensive operation. This may seem a little unusual, but, based on all that has been discussed, you cannot “wait to see how the first hoseline does” before you order apparatus and equipment into defensive positions. This thought and its actions must begin immediately. Prepare for the following:

    • Area/exposure and street evacuations.

    • Transmission and management of additional alarms.

    • If the involved floor is within the reach of your elevated streams, have companies prepare for aerial and tower ladder operations from flanking positions. With that in mind, add the following:

    —Assign an engine company to each aerial apparatus to maximize the water supply.
    —To gain height for your streams, narrow the tip sizes.

     

    • Seek additional water supplies. In one incident along Jersey City’s waterfront, a marine company was assigned to the incident and prepared to deliver water to awaiting engine companies.

    • Protect existing water supplies. Consider early protecting/covering supply hoselines to the building’s fire department connection. Falling debris could sever hoselines.

    • Consider using nearby high-rise structures. If there are adjacent high-rise buildings from which companies can operate opposite the fire building, you may be able to use the exposure buildings’ standpipe systems and operate portable deluge sets to slow the fire’s growth.

    • Constantly seek progress and reconnaissance reports. There is a difference! Obviously, progress reports indicate how the assigned forces are doing, their needs, and the current fire conditions. The problem with the latter is that the units assigned to the interior of the building cannot provide an early and adequate report of fire conditions. As they make their way up, their view is often limited to a glow showing through the floor openings. The view may be no better from the command post. With the command post set up a few city blocks away from the fire building, it will also be difficult to observe the fire floor. Unless the fire originated on the command post side of the fire, the mere size of the building and its surrounding exposures can mask the conditions. Many times, high-rises are built in clusters, and the command post view is limited to one or possibly two sides, requiring frequent reconnaissance reports from the unviewed sides.

    A case in point was a reported fire on the upper floor of a high-rise building under construction. We made a deliberate effort to view all four sides of the building before reporting into the command post to receive a briefing and assume command. After assuming command and listening to reports from companies as they made their way up, the only thing we could see from the command post was the original glow we observed on our arrival. It was not until we observed the fire’s reflection in windows of the high-rise building across and behind the original building that we realized how rapidly conditions were deteriorating. Our view was blocked by buildings of greater height and a wind condition that was forcing the fire to vent toward the rear of the structure and away from the command post side. If we had assigned a member early to “constantly view” and report conditions not observed from the command side, this report definitely would have influenced our decision making.

    • Give additional consideration to asking for reconnaissance reports from fire officers assigned to the upper floors of nearby high-rises or to obtaining an aerial view from an aviation unit (helicopter), if one is available to you.

    • Prepare for defensive operations early so you can order exterior master streams into operation once units are removed from the building or, at the very least, moved to a lower floor and accounted for. If you wait, you will be attempting to catch up to what will be a memorable fire.

     

    •••

     

    The most important decision we make on the fireground is to protect our firefighters. Some may view fighting a fire in a high-rise building under construction as a defensive operation regardless of the fire’s size. If you attempt an offensive operation, you must continuously review and evaluate the operation and, if necessary, rapidly revise the attack plan. The bottom line is, “Everybody goes home.”

    MICHAEL A. TERPAK, a member of the fire service for 33 years, has spent the past 29 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, where he is a deputy chief and citywide tour commander. Throughout his career, he has worked in the city’s Lafayette and Greenville areas with Engines 10 and 17, Ladder 12, and Rescue 1; as chief of the city’s 2nd Battalion; and as the former chief in charge of the city’s Training Division. He lectures extensively around the country on fire/rescue and related topics and is the founder of Promotional Prep, a New Jersey-based consulting firm that prepares firefighters and fire officers for promotional exams. Terpak, who also has a B.S. degree in fire safety administration from the City University of New Jersey, is the author of Fireground Size-Up (Fire Engineering, 2002) and the Assessment Center, Strategy and Tactics (Fire Engineering, 2008).

     

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