Article and photos by Brian Stoothoff
Most fire department responses to vehicle fires are limited to passenger vehicles; SUVs, or the occasional recreational vehicle. Tractor trailer fires are usually limited to isolated brake fires. If your jurisdiction has not had a vehicle fire lately that shut down an interstate or busy roadway for more than five hours, here is one case study from which you can learn.
(1) The incident scene.
00:32:07 Units Responding…
(3) The ARFF truck is staged after expending its foam supply.
- The incident command system was followed.
- The first-arriving unit announced a scene size-up.
- The control of traffic is of paramount importance on roadways, and the interstate was shut down.
- Look for placards; the crew asked about shipping papers and considered the possibility of hazardous materials when arriving at this vehicle fire.
- Parking apparatus upwind and uphill is taught in all hazardous materials classes and should be enforced at all potential incidents, even if hazardous materials are not suspected.
- A safety officer was used to ensure firefighter safety.
- Keeping the media informed about traffic delays and updating the information for the public is an important function of a department PIO.
- Whether an assigned safety officer responds or not, don’t forget about providing rehabilitation for firefighters. Incidents of long duration and inclement weather will take its toll on emergency responders.
- A postincident analysis (critique) was conducted the following shift for all personnel who were on scene. Strategy, tactics, lessons learned, and things that could be improved were all discussed.
- Have a list of rehabilitation resources after hours and on weekends (cold and warm beverages, as the season dictates; nourishing snacks; and high-energy food. If your fire department does not have a formal list of business occupancies that are open at 3 a.m. to furnish beverages and refreshments, develop a list and periodically update it. It will save you time in an actual emergency.
- Formalize a list of contactors who can supply heavy equipment during and after normal business hours.
- Know the capacity of your foam supply and where to locate additional foam concentrate.
- Follow the following Truck Fire Strategy:
- Life safety is first. Safety of civilians and firefighters. Shut down the roadway if necessary, and post a look-out with a portable radio to warn of danger.
- Approach the scene from uphill and upwind. Use a pair of binoculars from a safe distance looking for placards and hazards before committing apparatus and personnel.
- Check with the truck driver for shipping papers or the presence of hazardous materials.
- Identify a water source and foam supply, and determine if the fire should be fought defensively.
- Be aware of shifting loads or unstable cargo that can fall on firefighters.
- Separate the tractor from the trailer early if the fire may not be contained to the trailer.