BY TOM BRENNAN
How many of you have carried, raised, extended, and tied the halyard off on the third rung of a properly placed portable extension ladder, only to have another firefighter fly through the crowd and jump on the rungs in front of you?
Here are more unique solu-tions that work in routine situations. We knew that we had a fire in the cockloft of a one-story commercial occupancy. We had been making progress for a while now. We had penetrated and advanced and cooled and opened and penetrated some more. We were winning. Then we came to the office spaces in the rear of the occupancy.
Each time we tried to “drive” through, we were chased back by the fire’s extending from the void behind the “dropped” door frame to the private space. Not this time, though. Tom took the nozzle and did a roll-slide through the door on his back as if it was second base and he was avoiding a sure tag out. I lunged for him, thinking he was in trouble.
“Leave him alone, Lieu, he’s doing great!” It took me a second to realize what he had really done. The hidden extensions were out now and rolling to his left-good ol’ Tom put out the rest of the room, and we exited out the rear door.
Another “trick” this engine company taught me gave me much respect for the members. We had moved rapidly down the hall under 25 feet of fire to the rear bedrooms. Now we were stopped! Two rooms seemingly fully involved were taking turns chasing us back the few feet we needed to get inside the door with our 11/2-inch hose (old days).
Frustrated, Nick-assigned the nozzle for that tour-turned to me and said, “When I say ‘Go,’ keep your head down and push seven or eight feet of hose as fast as you can.” No time for questions, I nodded.
“Go!” was the command. As I pushed, I watched Nick stand rapidly and push himself erect against the small space between the two doors. Holding the line three feet from the nozzle, he thrust it into the inferno and twirled (no one cared then whether it was clockwise or counterclockwise) and then flipped it around his back like a baton and “got” the other room. Extinguished? Nah, but manageable now for us to do it properly.
Hey, what about truck stuff? Well, how many of you have carried, raised, extended, and tied the halyard off on the third rung of a properly placed portable extension ladder, only to have another firefighter fly through the crowd and jump on the rungs in front of you? (Usually it’s one of our brothers in the rescue looking for an opening.)
Well, George, our chauffeur, taught me something that day. He meandered over to the scene and said, “What’s wrong, kid? Someone steal your ladder? Watch!” I stood in disbelief as he waited for the grandstanding firefighter to get to the center of the 35-foot ladder; then, he placed his foot on one butt and turned the ladder over. “Go ahead kid, nice job!” he said. I carefully avoided the “brother’s” fingers on the way up as I passed over him and to my primary objective.
How many of you have “popped” onto the roof of the exposure of attached buildings-one of which has a severe fire condition somewhere under the roof? You know you are in the wrong spot and have to move laterally across the roofs of the exposures to your objective. One thing is missing-visibility! Whaddaya do to cross to your objective as safely as possible? Well, this is not brain surgery, where all the building roofs are even and meet each other with no surprises (shafts, short buildings, and the like). Use the front! Make your way to the front of the building facade and crawl across there, on the same roof, truckie!
Everything is opened, and you are not sure that the fire is in the top floor or cockloft. How can you get a quick clue as to the seriousness of the problem for the roof assembly and certainly for the team below? Go to the roof space, the cockloft enclosure (these are known as “returns”), and seal off the space from human routine access as openings are finished-bulkheads, airshafts, scuttles, and skylight trimmings are just a few.
Punch out the flimsy construction, and use your experience to determine if the pressure behind the smoke is generated by fire or by just that-smoke. Easy, huh?
TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He was the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno “Unplugged” (Fire Engineering/FDIC, 1999).