Fire Envelopment at Private Dwelling Fires


The house fire is the most common type of working fire faced by the majority of fire departments across America. Firefighters too often take them for granted and don’t recognize the risk house fires present and the important ways they have changed in recent years. The traditional strategy and tactics are usually pretty simple: conduct a good size-up with a 360˚ walk-around, develop and execute a search/rescue operation, get a line through the front door to the seat of the fire or to protect the means of egress quickly, and ventilate as needed. However, standard strategy and tactics do not take into account new home construction materials and methods.

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Modern House Fires Warrant Tactical Agility

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Rapid Fire Spread at Private Dwelling Fires

Wind-Driven Structure Fires: Adjusting Tactics and Strategies

The combination of new building methods and materials for the single-family dwelling has created a new and dangerous dimension: extremely rapid fire spread. In these cases, the fire quickly envelops the home along several paths at the same time. The purpose of this article is to examine the causes of residential fire envelopment, suggest some tactics to counter this dangerous new threat, and provide lessons learned from case histories and a recent fast moving residential fire.

Residential Fire Envelopment

The West Haverstraw (NY) Fire Department (WHFD), in May 2013, was dispatched to a mulch fire (as reported by the homeowner) in front of a home in a suburban neighborhood at 0145 hours. At 0147 hours, the police officer on scene reported: “The entire front of the house is involved.” A WHFD officer arrives on scene at 0148 hours and reported a fully involved house fire (photo 1).  In a little as three minutes, this mulch fire had spread so rapidly that when the first apparatus arrived at 0149 hours, the fire had already established flow paths that would soon allow it to envelop the entire building.

(1)  Arrival of first WHFD officer. The fire appears to be mainly exterior at this time, but already it has extended to the eaves/soffit on the A/B and A/C corners. [Photo courtesy of the West Haverstraw (NY) Fire Department.]

On arrival of the first apparatus (quint), the fire was so extensive that it ranged from ground level (the shrubs and grass on the front lawn), up the entire front surface up to the eave line. Fire was aggressively pushing out all the doors and windows on all floors. The roof rapidly collapsed, and the attic was burning and showing at the eave line, which was fully involved with fire that was silhouetted against the night sky (photo 2). Winds increased the exposure problem on the Bravo side (photo 3). The first engine arrived on the scene approximately two minutes later (photo 4) established a supply line from a hydrant, and flowed its master stream soon after this photo was taken.

 The good news of the night was the police officer on scene reported (when questioned) that everyone was out of the house and pointed to the family standing on the side of the road. The father asked if we could get his dog from the back yard. A wind from the east was sending brands across the neighborhood, and the radiant heat was very severe on the Bravo and Delta exposures. Sadly, at that point, saving the neighborhood was more important to the first-arriving units than the family dog.

(2) This photo was taken three minutes and 58 seconds after photo 1. It is clear that the fire has entered the first floor as evidenced by the first-floor window on the Bravo side and the fully involved eaves.

(3)  Winds gusting from the east (Delta side) increased the exposure problem and created a significant flying brand problem.

(4) As first-due units protect exposures and prepare for master stream operations, the fire now has complete posession of the house.

(5) Bravo exposure, the most severe, was held in check with the first hoseline. Before water was applied, the siding and roof materials were vigorously smoking and ready to light up. (Photo by author.)

Investigation revealed the likely ignition source of the landscaping mulch in the front of the house was a carelessly discarded cigarette. Another factor in the mulch’s ignition by the cigarette was that the house faced due south. This orientation (and no shade trees) provided direct sunshine most of the day, drying the mulch to tinder-dry conditions. A recent spell of very dry weather and lack of rain completed the mix of dangerous conditions.


The mulch burned vigorously and easily ignited the vinyl siding (photo 5). Occupants first reported a mulch fire, which quickly extended to the siding. This is what the police officer saw when he reported the front of the house was on fire. As the fire burned the siding, it preheated and pyrolysed the vinyl above it, adding to swift fire advancement up the front of the house. The pyrolysis also added to the flammable gases in the smoke that entered the attic through the soffits.

 As fire moved up the vinyl siding on the front of the house, the large, vinyl-covered soffits became involved (photos 6 and 7).  Fire quickly burned through these thin pieces of vinyl as a result of the huge volume of fire racing up the front of the house. Soffits are usually covered with perforated sheets of vinyl to use natural convective air currents to ventilate the attic. Air rises, entering the underside of the soffit; enters the attic; and moves along the underside of the roof and out a ridge vent or gable vent, providing natural ventilation for the life of the home.  Essentially, this is a flow path already established for the fire racing up the exterior of the building and drawing it into the unprotected attic space.

(6) This house is the Bravo exposure and is a mirror image of fire building. Note the large soffits on the attic over the windows (Photo by Tom Bierds.)

It is unclear how long the fire was only exterior. This rapidly extending vertical exterior fire entered the structure unknowingly, but the effect on the fire entering the attic was clear. Soon after our arrival, the roof collapsed. Fire had gotten in and spread throughout the attic quickly, heavily, and thoroughly. The subsequent roof collapse was actually more of a quick, nondramatic sag.   

(7) Typical perforated vinyl soffit covers. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)


Hazards of rapid fire spread via vinyl siding were well-documented and supported by various testing agencies and were researched in detail in a paper by Anthony McDowell of the Henrico County Division of Fire in 2009.1 According to information obtained from the Vinyl Siding Institute, 78 percent of new homes in the northeastern United States in 2008 and 32 percent nationwide are clad in vinyl siding. It is a widespread problem with which the fire service must deal tactically during fireground operations and through code enforcement.

The following information in McDowell’s paper bears repeating:

A 1997 NIST study (Madrzykowski, et. al.)2 compared the combustibility of three siding materials:  aluminum siding, T-111 (plywood), and vinyl siding. McDowell continues:

The results were interesting. A small focused area of the aluminum siding melted after 10 minutes of flame contact, at which point a smoldering fire developed inside the wall, but there was no vertical flame spread. The T-111 allowed burning and flame spread 200 seconds after ignition and took an average of 80 seconds to burn to the soffit level. The NIST report describes the test results for vinyl siding: “Less than 90 seconds after ignition, the flames began to spread upward, and within another 50 seconds, the flames were in the attic space. (1)

Fireground Experiences

The rapid fire spread in homes in Acushnet, Massachusetts,3 and West Haverstraw, New York, are not unique, as the following case histories demonstrate.

• A grass fire in Raleigh, North Carolina, in Feb. 2007, spread to a vinyl-clad townhouse complex destroying 32 townhomes.4

• In April 2007, three Fairfax, Virginia, firefighters were injured during interior operations in a house when vinyl siding burned up through the soffits, resulting in what Fairfax County Rescue Department determined to be a carbon monoxide (CO) explosion. Note that CO ignites at about 1,150˚F and is very flammable in high concentrations.6

Diagrams from NIOSH report on Virginia LODD.
Diagrams from NIOSH report on Virginia LODD.

NIOSH: Career Fire Fighter Dies in Wind Driven Residential Structure Fire – Virginia

• In April 2007, in Prince William County (VA) Firefighter Kyle Wilson was killed while conducting operations in a home fueled by burning vinyl siding that simultaneously entered the structure at multiple points.7 The following section of the report summarizes the events:

Initial arriving units reported heavy fire on the exterior of two sides of the single-family house, and crews suspected that the occupants were still inside the house sleeping because of the early morning hour.

A search of the upstairs bedroom commenced for the possible victims. A rapid and catastrophic change of fire and smoke conditions occurred in the interior of the house within minutes of Tower 512’s crew entering the structure. Technician Kyle Wilson became trapped and was unable to locate an immediate exit out of the hostile environment. Mayday radio transmissions were made by crews and by Wilson of the life-threatening situation.

Valiant and repeated rescue attempts to locate and remove Wilson were made by the firefighting Department of Fire and Rescue crews during extreme fire, heat, and smoke conditions. Firefighters were forced from the structure as the house  began to collapse on them and intense fire, heat, and smoke conditions developed. Wilson succumbed to the fire. The cause of death was reported by the medical examiner to be thermal and inhalation injuries. (7)

• In May 2008, seven Loudon County, Virginia, firefighters were injured (some suffered serious burns) in a vinyl-clad home that went quickly to flashover and collapse.8

The complete story on rapid fire spread caused by vinyl siding would fill volumes. You are directed to the references at the end of this article for additional details.


The exterior fire is fueled not only by the siding but also by the building insulation (foam or fiber board) that is directly under the siding. Under the insulation may be plastic house wrap; and, of course, under that is the sheathing of oriented strand board (OSB). The OSB contains large amounts of glue to hold the strands together into a usable board. All these combustible components significantly contribute to a large body of exterior fire.

In photo 8, the yellow arrow indicates the A side of the house, where the fire reportedly started. Note that the siding, insulation, and sheathing were completely consumed by the intense exterior fire. The white arrow on the B side shows the area where heat caused the vinyl siding to melt and burn away, exposing the combustible foam insulation and subsequently burning the sheathing. After a reliable water supply was established, the exposure line operated on this exterior fire and quickly extinguished it.

(8) Flammable exterior siding, insulation, and sheathing added to the fire. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)


(9) The red arrow depicts how the quickly spreading and intense fire progressed out the window, headed directly up to the eaves/soffits, and entered the attic. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)


(10) Rockland County, New York. The home on the right is clad with aluminum siding and did not sustain even minor damage despite the severe exposure to radiant and convected heat. Note the exposure on the Bravo (far side of the photo). It is 75-100 feet away, and the vinyl siding is already melting, exposing the flammable wood and insulation underneath. (Photo by author.)


Another likely route for the fire to enter the home was through the windows. Live burn tests conducted at the Rockland County Fire Training Center comparing the relative fire resistance of wood-frame, single-pane vs. vinyl-frame (double-glazed, energy-efficient windows and sashes) was very interesting.  Multiple live burns revealed that the vinyl window frames and sashes fail quickly under a fire load. This failure, which included the frames and the window glazing, was much more rapid and catastrophic than anticipated, and much more rapid than for legacy, wood-frame/sash windows. In summary, the legacy windows failed in small amounts over time; the vinyl (frame/sash) energy-efficient windows failed quickly and catastrophically.

A 1997 NIST study reported: “Vinyl-framed window fared poorly. The vinyl frames and sashes lost strength, sagged, and distorted under the imposed heat fluxes, typically within minutes.”5)

(11) A wooden-frame, single-pane window is on the left, and an energy-efficient, double-pane vinyl frame and sash window is on the right. Heavy fire inside the test facility is causing the vinyl frame to melt and burn before the wood frame. (Photo by author.)

(12) Later in the test, the vinyl frame and sash have completely failed, allowing massive amounts of air into/out of the fire area, creating a flow path and helping drive the fire to its current post-flashover state. (Photo by author.)

(13) Note the total destruction of the roof/attic as a result of the exterior fire’s intense assault upward. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)

Modular Concerns: The Dangers of Sunlight Reflected Off Energy-Efficient Windows

Modular Concerns: Reflected Sunlight and Vinyl Siding Distortion


 A major component of the exceptionally rapid fire spread in this house was its modular construction.  As a reminder, modular homes are brought onto the home site as nearly finished modules and are placed together and secured to each other and an existing foundation.

(14) A second-floor module is added to complete the living area. (Photo by author.)

 Modular construction has its own set of unique and significant contributing factors to exceptionally rapid fire spread in homes. This was first expertly detected, researched, and presented at FDIC 2012 and 2013 by Chief Kevin Gallagher of the Acushnet (MA) Fire Department based on the fire department’s response in 2008.  .

(15) A total involvement of a modular home in Acushnet, Massachusetts. Note the similarities to the West Haverstraw fire (photo 1): low burn on the lawn, fire from foundation to eaves and roof, exterior surface fire, and total involvement of the entire interior of the house. (Photo by Kevin Gallagher.)

Gallagher and his department responded to a fire in a modular home and became concerned about how rapidly the fire spread. Researching the causes, he determined that the ceiling gypsum board is often attached to the ceiling joists only with thermal setting glue. There are no traditional gypsum board nails or screws.  After careful research and testing, he determined that at approximately 400˚F, the glue softens. This obviously causes the ceiling gypsum board to fall, allowing fire to enter the 20-inch void space between the first-floor ceiling and the second-floor subfloor. Obviously, something as benign as a small-room-and-contents fire can lead to the failure of this fire barrier failure, rapid fire spread, and total loss of the home.

The 20-inch space is similar to a cockloft and its fire problems. However, this void is between the floors. This space/void is created as a result of the construction method:  stacking of the second-floor module on top of the first floor. Clearly, this is another contributing factor to the unusually rapid fire spread we saw at this house fire. The danger of fire entering the cockloft is well known; and based on recent experience, we should anticipate similar effects at modular homes fires.

Captain Bill Gustin, of Miami-Dade (FL) Fire and Rescue, has observed fire spread in modular homes and legacy construction as follows.  

 “I compare the fire spread in the space between the first-floor ceiling and the second-floor deck this way: In older homes, the floors are supported by “dimensional” lumber, usually 2- ×10 inches. The first-floor ceiling is attached directly to the underside of the floor joists, thus dividing the ceiling space into “bays,”–that is, the space between the floor joists, the floor above, and the ceiling below. Bays are inherent fire stops that  limit the horizontal spread of fire. That is hardly the case in lightweight and modular construction, where the space between the floor and the ceiling is wide open with nothing to stop fire that enters or originates in the space from rapidly taking possession of the entire home…and any of our members who may be inside.”

(16) The polyurethane foam structural adhesive is shown from above the first-floor ceiling in the void between the floors/modules. Note the parallel chord, finger-joint trusses supporting the second-floor subfloor. (Photo by Kevin Gallagher.)

(17) The glue holding the gypsum board to the first-floor ceiling failed in this New York fire. (Photo by author.)

(18)  Glue recovered from the West Haverstraw, NY, fire (Photo by author.)

Fire Department Tactical Actions

Several important tactical lessons have been learned from these fires. All fire departments should consider them and appropriately apply them to these fast moving house fires.

• During size-up and when formulating your search and rescue, ventilation, and fire attack plan, remember that a building with these dangerous characteristics will likely light up quickly as experience has pointed out with several case histories. Fire can envelop the building by several routes and trap firefighters.

Be conservative in deploying members for interior operations, as they may be quickly surrounded by fire from various internal and external routes.  Multiple hose streams (interior and exterior) will be needed to control the fire. If you do not have enough personnel on the scene to accomplish this, consider defensive operations before placing members in the path of a fast moving fire. Recall that this fire is advancing in several directions at one time and that they are all contributing to the hazard–a heavy exterior fire that is quickly becoming multiple interior fires that are creating a huge threat to interior firefighters. In homes, the fire may be coming in the first floor (and up the open stairwell), in open or failed (by fire) doors/windows, or in second-floor windows and down from a fully involved attic.

For fires that begin outside the building (mulch, siding, or decks), one firefighter can start the fire attack from the outside—cutting off one of the main bodies of fire—in relative safety. This line can be stretched simultaneously with the conventional (in the front door) line if staffing permits. The line operated by one firefighter can protect exposures and quickly extinguish the heavy and fast moving exterior fire.

At the West Haverstraw fire, firefighters’ on the first-in apparatus (100-foot quint) first priority was to stretch a 1¾-inch line to protect severely threatened exposures. In this case, the quint concept worked exceptionally well.

Although sound arguments can be made for truck companies of specific cities and personnel situations, to focus only on truck company work and to have rigs that do not have a pump or hose, water from the quint undoubtedly saved the exposure and additional property loss. In this case, the additional minute(s) and personnel it would have taken for the engine to hit the hydrant, drop a supply line, and then stretch the exposure line certainly would have allowed the fire to extend to the exposures and possibly further. As the small 300-gallon tank on the quint ran dry, the engine company was able to get a water supply to the quint and provide sustained water to the handline to continue to protect the exposure while the truck set up to operate its master streams.  Adequate staffing made this possible. The truck company split into two teams. Two members were on the hoseline, two set up the tower ladder.

Positioning of this line was critical because it needed to get close enough to the exposure to ensure complete distribution of water on the exposure to prevent it from lighting up. There was, however, a huge amount of radiant and convected heat coming off the fire building. The nozzleman crouched down between the cars in the driveway, using them as a shield from the intense heat, as he applied the limited water on the exposure.

Remember, never position yourself or your members where their lives depend on a limited or unreliable water supply. In this case, we could have withdrawn at any moment, and we had a safe, clear, and unobstructed path to complete safety.

The calculated risk/benefit paid off, saving the exposure.  Additionally, this position allowed the firefighter to get water on the exposed cars and prevent them from incurring major damage. The blistered paint, melted plastic trim, and cracked windshields could not be prevented

• This is a fast moving fire that needs quick decisive action. Use the water you have to deliver a decisive blow to the fire. Saving it in your tank or flowing non-decisive amounts of water in weak, ineffective, and limited-reach streams will not increase the probability of success. This has been the battle cry of Gustin for years. In a recent conversation, he emphatically summed it up:

 “We have got to deliver water in amounts that make a difference in the fight to protect exposures or extinguish the fire, no matter what kind of fire it is.  We don’t want to aggravate it or prolong the fight. We want to kill it, and kill it now, before it can destroy more property or threaten lives of firefighters and civilians. There is almost a paranoia in the fire service about running out of booster tank water before the fire is out. There are firefighters who are more comfortable with fire spreading to an exposure  than running out of water; consequently, they do not apply sufficient flow to keep the exposure from igniting. When operating off tank water, you have only two options: First, put the fire out if you have sufficient water. Second, if you do not have sufficient water to put out the fire, use it to protect exposures. 

Structure fires are not class B fires; they don’t have to be extinguished completely to keep from reigniting. Properly applying 300 gallons of water can reduce a fire’s intensity and keep it from spreading to exposures until an engine establishes a continuous water supply. Don’t forget that it takes a heck of a lot less water to keep something from igniting by keeping exposed surfaces moist with intermittent applications of water than to extinguish the fire once it ignites. There is no third option: Saving water in the booster tank is not an option.  

The first handline was directed at the most severe exposure (Bravo), which was being impacted by radiant and convective heat as well as flying brands delivered by wind.  The solid line flowing 180 gpm delivered decisive amounts of cooling water on the exposure. There were no thoughts of water conservation. We had the bullet and used it, all of it. The strong stream reached the roof, eave line, and soffits and was able to wash down the entire side of the worst exposure.  We knew we had about a minute and a half worth of water to gain control of the exposure, and we used that resource for that mission knowing two engines were en route to sustain and finish the job. The important lesson learned here is to use, and sometimes totally use up, the resources you have to buy time until the permanent fix (reliable water supply) is established.

(19) The handlines were shut down, and the water supply was concentrated on the tower ladder operation. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)

• Strategic changes to fire suppression. The goal of any fire suppression plan or operation is to get ahead of the fire and cut it off or to get a hoseline to the seat of the fire and extinguish it. If a large body of fire is on the exterior of the building, it is nearly impossible to extinguish it from the inside with a traditional “aggressive interior fire attack.”

It is important to consider that there now are two main bodies of fire; one interior and one exterior. The exterior fire has the following advantages. Because it is on a vertical surface, it preheats the fuel above the flaming siding, generating (pyrolyzing) flammable gases to intensify the fire. It also preheats fuel not yet involved, making it easier to ignite. The exterior fire has layers of fuel that contribute to the fire: vinyl siding and trim, flammable insulation (foam or fiber board), and flammable sheathing (plywood or OSB).  All of these contribute to a large body of fire outside the structure that is providing a flow path up to the eaves or soffits that provide little or no resistance to the vertical spread. If you don’t stop this fire before it reaches the attic, property loss will be exceptionally high, if not total.

This large body of exterior fire must be stopped before firefighters are committed to the interior for any operations. This exterior fire is like an octopus that is wrapped around the building and has many ways to get inside the building. Further endangering firefighters is that if the roof structure is lightweight (trusses, I-joist) it will not withstand a thermal assault very long, resulting in a collapse that will trap members inside.  The well-involved attic fire can and will extend downward rapidly when gypsum board ceilings are pulled or fail. Heavy fire in the attic dropping down and causing a flashover on the second floor is all too common a fatal scenario for firefighters, especially if they do not have a hoseline to defend themselves.

As Steve Kerber PE, Director of the Firefighter Safety Research Institute, said in his FDIC presentation, “If the fire starts on the outside, the fire attack should start on the outside.”

• Interior and exterior opposing streams.  For years, the simultaneous use of exterior and interior streams has been a major tactical taboo, and rightfully so. Opposing streams pushing products of combustion onto interior firefighters is never a good thing. However with vinyl siding causing intense and fast moving fires on the outside of a home, it is imperative that fire be controlled quickly. Obviously, the key is to train our members to use that stream only on the exterior fire if members are working inside, and there must be excellent communication between these lines and command.

• Exterior fire caused the electric service line to fall. Early in the operation, the service line from the pole to the house sparked a few times and then rapidly came down. The heavy body of fire outside the building caused this, creating a major hazard for firefighters.

•. Flexible heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC) duct fires are another type of firefighter killer fires we often overlook in modern houses. The flexible ductwork is nothing more than a plastic tube, possibly insulated/double wall held in its shape by a spiral/helix of wires. When the ceiling comes down and fire in the void space has burned away the plastic, a myriad of helix-curled wires drop to trap and kill firefighters. Obviously, some type of wire cutters must be in every firefighter’s pocket so they can get out of this deadly trap. Wires from the electrical system, HVAC controls, computers, smart house systems, audio visual systems, and other sources may compound this deadly problem.


(20) A flex duct that contains wires. (Photo by Brian Dennehy.)


 (21) Wires from a flex duct that have burned away, creating a significant entrapment threat for firefighters. (Photo by Brian Dennehy.)

(22) The coiled wires from the ductwork. (Photo by Brian Dennehy.)

• Roof collapse. In a modular home, the roof rafters are often hinged. Shipped folded down to reduce the height of the load on the tractor trailer, the roof panels are simply hinged up on site. There is no ridge pole for structural support. Expect early roof collapse. The damage to the roof, total destruction by the fire, and subsequent collapse were noted as similar traits in the Massachusetts and New York fires. Be conservative when considering interior operations in these types of homes.

(23) Roof rafters are hinged at the top plate at the eave line to allow easy tilt up of the finished roof on site. (Photo by Kevin Gallagher.)

(24) Hinged gusset plates in a modular home under construction. (Photo by Kevin Gallagher.)

(25) A hinged gusset plate recovered from the fire. (Photo by author.)

• It is important to note that residential sprinklers will not control the exterior fire on the siding, deck, or other exterior areas or a fire that has extended into the void between floors. These fast moving and well-established fires may overwhelm the flow from residential heads.

• The importance of being “nice” [as advocated by Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini]. This family just lost everything they own and a lifetime of memories. They had a life-changing experience they will never.  As the fire was brought under control, firefighters had time to search for the family pet. The dog was rescued from under the shed in the rear of the house. It was “f a trench rescue.”  We had to dig him out of the gravel under the shed.  In his panic to run from the house, he wedged himself in so tight that he became stuck.


(26) When firefighters reunited the family dog with the family, the scene shifted from family members stopped crying on the street corner to a happy reunion. (Photo by Tom Bierds.)


Across our country, modern houses are threatening firefighters’ lives with new hazards that can complete a deadly failure chain on the fireground. We must consider new strategies and tactics for new fire development models. The flammability of vinyl siding is not a new revelation for firefighters. We have all seen it melt on exposures and burn furiously on involved buildings. What is new is the combined effect of vinyl siding, flammable insulation, lightweight/modular construction techniques, and combustible sheathing that causes rapid fire spread and large volumes of fire on the exterior of houses. This massive and fast moving exterior fire has the combined effect of creating multiple flow paths for fire to envelope the home and kill firefighters inside when using traditional interior attack strategies and tactics.


1. “The Wall of Fire: Training Firefighters to Survive Fires in Vinyl-Clad Houses,” Anthony McDowell, Henrico County Division of Fire, Richmond, VA, Sept. 2009.

2. Durable Agents for Exposure Protection in Wildland/Urban Interface Conflagrations, Madrzykowski, D., et al., National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NISTIR 6030, 1997.

3. “The Dangers of Modular Construction,” Kevin A. Gallagher, Fire Engineering, May 2009.

4. “Fire Protection Study: Pine Knoll Townhome Fire,” Lisa Bossert, 2007.

5. Window Breakage Induced by Exterior Fires, Mowrer, F.W. NIST, GCR-98-751, June 1998, p 15.

6. “Rapid Fire Spread at Private Dwelling Fires,” Jerry Knapp, FE,

7. Career Firefighter Dies in Wind-Driven Fire, Career Fire Fighter Dies in Wind Driven Residential Structure Fire – Virginia. Revised June 10, 2008, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

8. Loudoun County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Management. Significant Injury Investigative Report 43238 Meadowood Court. May 25, 2008.

Author’s note: Thanks to Bill Gustin, Fred Viohl, George Behn, John Kryger, Tom Bierds, and Brian Dennehy for their assistance with this article.


JERRY KNAPP is a 38-year veteran firefighter/EMT with the West Haverstraw (NY) Fire Department and a training officer at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, New York. He is a battalion chief and a member of the Rockland County Hazmat Task Force. He is the author of the Fire Attack chapter in Fire Engineering’s Firefighter 1 and 2. He recently retired from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, as the plans and operations specialist, Directorate of Emergency Services. 


  • JERRY KNAPP  is a 44-year veteran firefighter/emergency medical technician with the West Haverstraw (NY) Fire Department; a training officer at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, New York; chief of the Rockland County Hazardous Materials Team; and a former nationally certified paramedic. He has a degree in fire protection; is the co-author of House Fires (Fire Engineering); wrote the “Fire Attack” chapter in Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering); and has authored numerous articles for fire service trade journals.

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