LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Prostate cancer awareness

Thanks for the Firefighter Cancer Issues podcast (On the Road with Bobby Halton, www.fireengineering.com). As a firefighter with prostate cancer, having been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 46, I think this is a very informative video. I’ve sent out the link to my department in hopes of furthering their awareness-something I’ve been working on since my diagnosis.

John Wagontall
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Good resource

Tom Donnelly’s “Primary Ventilation: A Review” (Training Notebook, June 2007) is exactly the reason I have subscribed to Fire Engineering for more than 30 years-solid information the troops can use every day: safety, fire department connections, vehicle extrication, and more. Also, the new layout looks good.

Denis M. Murphy
Assistant Chief Instructor
Nassau County (NY) Fire Service Academy

Cutting roofs

Thanks to Captain Daniel P. Sheridan for his article “Creating a Roof Cutting Prop” (August 2007). Although vertical ventilation is one of the most effective forms of ventilation, it seems as though it is becoming a lost art because of fewer fires, some instructors’ believing that roof ventilation is too dangerous, and a lack of training opportunities. Sheridan’s article shows that innovative thinking by company officers, who in many cases are the real fire service training officers, can develop practical standard operating procedures (SOPs) before cutting a roof in a fire. In most cases, if roof SOPs cannot be safely and accurately performed in the drill yard, they probably will not be correctly performed at a fire.

I would add the following observation on this topic: When cutting inspection holes in a roof for diagnostic purposes, size matters. Inspection holes should be cut small enough so roof personnel cannot inadvertently step into the hole and break an ankle or sustain another injury. This is more than a possibility when it is dark and smoky and personnel are exiting a roof in a timely manner.

John Mittendorf
Battalion Chief (Ret.)
Los Angeles City (CA) Fire Department

The idea for a roof cutting prop, proposed by Daniel P. Sheridan (“Creating a Roof Cutting Prop,” August 2007), is a good one. However, in the “When and Where to Cut” section, the author states: “If possible, make your cut directly over the fire.” I strongly disagree with this statement. This is a very dangerous “old school” practice. We train our firefighters to make the cut near the seat of the fire, not directly over the fire. As we all know, vertical ventilation is very effective if done properly; at the same time, it can be a hazardous operation. We do not want our personnel standing on an area that has been compromised by the fire below. If the hole is cut near the seat of the fire, it will still provide the needed ventilation and will give firefighters a safer working platform.

Marty Roberts
Lieutenant, Ladder 54
Tukwila, Washington

Daniel Sheridan responds: I see Marty Roberts’ point of view and respect it. We always try to cut the roof in the early stages of a fire, when the roof is strong. Obviously, if the fire has been burning for awhile, that must be considered. Cutting directly over the fire is done to prevent the possibility of pulling the fire into uninvolved parts of the fire building. Also, with respect to lightweight building construction, the stability of the roof will always be a strong consideration.

The roof types to which I was referring in the article are generally nailed right to the main beams and are a minimum 2 inches × 8 inches. Even in the raised-roof types, there is a built-up roof that is generally comprised of 2 inches × 4 inches. Nevertheless, if you consider that wooden structural members burn at approximately one inch every 45 minutes (the estimated burn rate under lab conditions at 1,400°F, burning all exposed sides), there should be adequate time to get to the roof and open it up.

Another consideration when talking about cutting directly over the fire is that there may be a cockloft up to four feet between the actual fire room and the underside of the roof boards. An important part of roof ventilation is to push down the ceiling lath and plaster after the cut. Cutting the roof is always an extremely difficult assignment; if there is any doubt, stay off the roof despite the benefits of making the job of the engine company much easier and impeding the horizontal spread of the fire.

Editor’s note: This refers to “Why Do We Do That?” by Frank C. Montagna, August 2007, page 101.

  • Paragraph 3, column 2: Replace sentences 1-3 with the following: “The first flare should be at the curbside at least 100 feet back from the barrier truck. Place subsequent devices slightly further from the curb as the accident scene is approached.”
  • Page 104, line 12, column 3, should read: “water to enter the area and extinguish the ….”

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