A comment on “Mattress Fires” (Frank C. Montagna, Training Notebook) in the April 1995 issue.
I have observed the method used by the Seattle Fire Department to remove a mattress from a building. A worn, but hole-free, tarpaulin that has been wet down with a pump can or hose is used to wrap up the mattress quickly and completely. This helps smother smoldering hot spots and keep air away from the mattress while it is being carried down the stairs. I have noted the tarp also provides firefighters with something to firmly grip while negotiating turns and stairs. It precludes loose burnt pieces from being dropped during removal and keeps smoke from being spread through the stairwells.
Wetting down the tarp minimizes the likelihood of burn-through. Only when the mattress is clearly outside the building is the tarp removed and further extinguishment performed.
I have seen occupants push mattresses out windows or doors. During the fall, the mattresses usually break into flame. This gives the firefighters two fires to fight–one in the building and one outside, usually not visible to responding units.