BY ANTHONY AVILLO
In the previous article (June 2005), we explored the differences and characteristics of old- and new-law multiple dwellings. In this article, we will visit a new type of multiple dwelling that has been cropping up in urban areas across the Northeast, what I refer to, for lack of a better term, as the “new millennium” multiple dwelling. Whereas the old- and new-law multiple dwellings were constructed of standard materials and were of wood-frame or ordinary construction, the new millennium multiple dwelling is a hodgepodge of various construction styles, resulting in what can truly be called hybrid construction.
These buildings make use of almost all construction types in the same building, from the large steel members of fire-resistive construction that make up the building’s skeleton to the unprotected lightweight steel of noncombustible construction used to help seal off the parking deck from the building proper to the lightweight wood construction of the truss and laminated wooden I-beam used for flooring and the roof supports. In fact, when one of these complexes was going up on the waterfront in North Hudson, New Jersey, the engineer told me that he was not quite sure how these buildings would react in a serious fire, as no fire had yet been experienced. He said all there was to go on were the results of standard burn tests of the individual materials, not the finished product itself. I thought to myself, in other words, it seems that they are telling us, “Good luck; let us know how it turns out.”
With that vote of confidence in mind, coupled with the usual need to watch out for ourselves because no one else does, let’s examine this building from the bottom up and then from the outside in.
UNDER THE BUILDING PARKING
Because many of today’s cities are overcrowded, making the parking situation a nightmare, the “geniuses” running the cities came up with a creative idea to solve the parking dilemma and make the developers rich all at the same time. They passed ordinances that require any new construction to provide ample off-the-street parking for all residents. To meet these requirements, the building is raised on stilts, under which residents park their cars. These parking decks acting as the lower supports for the building are generally constructed of large I-beams supporting corrugated lightweight sheet-metal floor decks, similar to those found above the drop ceilings-i.e., the Q-roof decking in strip malls. The drop ceilings act as a fire-rated assembly to protect the unprotected steel above. Typically, the steel is protected with sprayed-on fireproofing. This fireproofing is then scraped away to hang the drop ceiling. If the drop ceiling is not completely intact at all times, the fire rating will be compromised, allowing fire to assault the unprotected steel.
(3) This drop ceiling is being used to protect the corrugated steel above the parking area. Note the fire protection that has been scraped away to hang the ceiling.
These parking decks are usually one level, but they may also be multilevel, making access difficult if there is a car fire. Apparatus will not fit in these areas. Standpipes may be available, making the hose stretch more palatable, but it increases reflex time for getting water on the fire. By the time the area is accessed, several cars may be burning. Fortunately, the codes require a sprinkler system in these areas, although it will likely be a dry or preaction system. Supplementation of the system is mandatory and should be assigned by standard operating procedure (SOP). If the garage is open to the environment, the smoke will readily dissipate; but, if the parking garage is enclosed, the cold-smoke condition created by the sprinkler system may make it difficult to find the fire and cause firefighters to get lost in the smoke. In these cases, anybody not on a hoseline should be on a lifeline and use a thermal imaging camera. In any event, this solution of off-the-street parking may help the parking problem in the area, but it does nothing to solve a worse problem for the fire department, that of more congested streets. This will significantly affect our response time, a statistic that does not show up on the tax records. Obviously, this is not their problem.
The other issue in regard to car fires in substructure parking decks is the ability of the fire to spread into living areas. Any vehicle fire that directly exposes a structure above, be it sprinklered or not, requires that the incident be handled as a structure fire. You must conduct primary and secondary searches of areas immediately above the fire as well as evacuate any threatened areas. In addition, don’t overlook the need for a thorough search in the fire area, including all areas of the vehicle. Stretch hoselines early to control any vertical fire extension into the building, be it through voids or autoexposure. Supply auxiliary fire protection systems. Decentralize Command by assigning supervisory officers to all areas of major concern.
Although the roof construction may be anything from concrete plank to corrugated steel supported by lightweight steel trusses, the great majority of these structures use a plywood roof deck supported by laminated wooden I-beams. To weatherproof the roof, roofing paper and tar are layered over the plywood decking. These lightweight roof assemblies can fail in as little as five minutes of fire exposure, just like a truss. It is unfortunate that the codes do not require building markings to identify this lightweight roof (or floor). (In New Jersey, buildings that use truss roof construction must be marked; laminated wooden I-beams do not require any marking.) It is prudent to do your homework here during the construction phase.
(5) Weatherproofing material is wrapped around the building’s exterior. On some new buildings, this is now nothing more than a Styrofoam panel.
There generally are natural roof openings in the forms of skylights and scuttles. Skylights are usually located over the top-floor apartments, making for an effective way to vertically ventilate the top-floor fire area. Scuttles are also present, providing a termination point for one or more stairwells. Just as in a high-rise, stairwells should be marked for roof access to assist those supporting the attack operation.
6) Looking up from the parking area, you can see the joist pockets of the old factory wall. The new building is riveted to this wall.
Parapets may or may not be present, so it may be possible to walk right off the roof in a heavy smoke condition. In addition, it is not uncommon to find a parapet at one area of the roof, only to have it diminish in height or disappear altogether. In addition, roof teams should also note the presence of concentrated or eccentric loads such as HVAC units, cell phone towers, and satellite dishes and report them to Command. Prefire planning and proper roof-to-Command communications are critical here.
EXTERIOR WALL CONSTRUCTION
Exterior wall framing often is constructed of medium-gauge steel. This steel is a more substantial gauge than that used for interior partition walls, but it still is relatively flimsy in comparison with a true-steel skeleton building. Weatherproofing is added to the exterior, often no more than Styrofoam or a similar material. Brick veneer is added to finish off the wall. Although not load bearing (the weight is supported by the steel I-beams making up the exterior skeleton), fire impinging on these structural members can cause early failure, potentially compromising the loads above. Especially during construction before the protective (barely) layers of weatherproofing and brick veneer are added, these members are extremely vulnerable to failure. In fact, prior to the adding of the brick veneer, it is no major feat of strength to put your fist right through the Styrofoam-like exterior wall covering the metal studs.
(7) In this new building, a new block wall was built as the “B” side wall where the old wall terminated. I’m no engineer, but does anyone else think this is dangerous?
Interior partition walls are also constructed of steel framing, but they are of a lighter gauge. The framing is then covered with gypsum board. If fire extends into the voids behind the walls, the integrity of these vertical members may be compromised.
(8) Brick veneer is being added to the facing of the structure. Don�t mistake this for ordinary construction.
Also, be prepared for construction-related surprises. A new millennium multiple dwelling is being constructed in North Hudson on the site where the previous building, a factory, was razed-all except the “B” wall. In this instance, the “B” wall was attached to the “B” exposure in such a way that removing the wall would have done significant damage to the structural integrity of the exposure. The “B” wall was left intact. The horizontal supports of the new building were built and attached to the old “B” wall. In the area where the new building extends higher than the old one, a new block wall was mortared in place to sit above the top of the old wall. You just can’t make this stuff up!
It is common for these buildings to be finished with a brick veneer to enhance their aesthetic nature. Brick veneer consists of fastening one width of brick to the exterior of the building-in this case, usually the Styrofoam weatherproofing material. This structural addition often leads to improper size-up of the structure and its inherent hazards. Mistaking this building for ordinary construction can have severe consequences. As an eccentric load on the wall, these veneer brick walls also are able to shear off the building if the adhering material is compromised by heat or fire. Usually connected by light-gauge steel tie rods, or maybe glue, fire and heat can compromise the space between the brick and the wall behind it. Virtually no new buildings of ordinary construction are being built today. Any “brick” building built over the past 20 years should cause enough suspicion to warrant further investigation as to its true construction.
Ceilings generally are constructed of drop-ceiling panels in a lightweight steel grid or gypsum board attached directly to the ceiling studs. As previously discussed, the ceiling joists usually are of laminated wooden I-beam construction. In addition, tin ceilings have also made an appearance here, but they are rare. In the buildings I have investigated (or instigated), it seems that the drop ceilings most often are in the common hallway, where the building services are run to each apartment and to the floors above. The gypsum board ceiling is more common in the apartment areas. Firefighters conducting searches or advancing hoselines below drop ceilings must be aware of the abundance of wiring above the ceilings. If the ceiling collapses, gravity will take over and drop what can be likened to a net of steel grid and wiring on top of them. Once entangled, it may be difficult to self-extricate. In a zero-visibility smoke condition, it may be next to impossible.
(9) These C-channel trusses hold up a plywood floor.
Floors are usually constructed of plywood. On the floor directly above the parking deck, as stated previously, the plywood is supported by corrugated steel similar to the underside of the roof of a noncombustible building. This corrugated steel typically is supported by (spray-on) protected steel I-beams. I have also seen the plywood supported by lightweight steel trusses or C-channel trusses. In this case, personnel operating on the floor above the fire must be aware of both the construction and conditions below and search cautiously, noting any floor areas that appear to be sagging.
(10) Laminated wooden I-beams support this plywood floor. Note the wood casing around the window frame.
Upper floors likely are supported by laminated wooden I-beams. These beams, like their cousin, the lightweight parallel chord wood truss, can fail in as little as five minutes. Burn-through time for the laminated wooden I-beam can be extremely rapid. The connection on which these beams may be supported can be deemed questionable at best, oftentimes supported at just the edge of the top chord of the truss, hardly a substantial connection.
Because apartment layouts are generally identical from floor to floor, area-specific floor collapses must be considered. Common floor layouts mean that not only are bathtubs stacked one above the other but also are refrigerators and HVAC units. HVAC units are typically located in each individual apartment instead of having one central unit heating the whole building, as in old- and new-law buildings. Although the floor below the fire can give clues, this does not circumvent the requirement to send companies early in the operation to the floor above the fire to recon just what might fall through the floor should the fire apartment ceiling be compromised and cause the lightweight floor joists above to be exposed to fire.
STANDPIPES AND FIRE DEPARTMENT CONNECTIONS
These buildings are served by auxiliary fire protection. Wet pipe sprinklers are located throughout the building, including the individual apartments. This helps keep the fire under control, but it may create a cold-smoke condition that brings with it, among other things, panic among occupants. Sprinkler-controlled fires may also make it difficult to detect the seat of the fire on arrival, especially if the annunciator is showing several zones because of the smoke’s migration. Ensure that companies make it a habit to investigate the lowest reported floor first. It may also be wise to look for signs of water flowing off balconies on the exterior or under doors on the interior.
Because of cold smoke, ladder company personnel on recon missions would be well advised to use lifelines as well as thermal imaging cameras to prevent disorientation.
Standpipe operations are required, especially on upper floors. Using the unwritten rule of always stretching from the street for a lower-floor fire may spell trouble in these types of buildings because the stairwells may be in an area remote from the lobby and be locked from the outside. Having keys in advance by virtue of a key box or some other firefighter-friendly entry system, coupled with prior knowledge of the building, will save time and enhance the decision-making process.
(12) Hot-water heaters may be in a ‘linen-closet’ type enclosure in the center of the hallway.
Standpipe outlets are in the enclosed stairways on either end of the building. Because of the size of the building and to meet the codes, there must be at least two stairwells. The presence of only one standpipe riser simplifies matters in regard to the attack stairwell and evacuation stairway. However, if standpipe risers are in more than one stairwell, you will have to decide which stairwell should be designated the attack stairwell based on the fire’s location. Conversely, use the stairwell remote from the fire as an evacuation stairwell, and keep the door to the fire floor closed.
(13) Each individual apartment is likely to have its own HVAC system, located in a closet. Note how the extra space in this closet is just perfect for combustible storage.
In regard to attack, high-rise tactics are required. The attack line must be supplied from the standpipe on the floor below the fire and stretched to the fire floor by way of the enclosed stairwell.
Although elevators will be available and generally are equipped with firefighter operation, it is not necessary to use them for initial fire attack operations. New millennium multiple dwellings generally are no more than six floors, so it is advisable that personnel walk up the stairs to initiate the fire attack. It must be pointed out, however, that even though elevators may not be used, it is still the responsibility of the fire department to ensure that the elevators are recalled to the lobby, searched, and placed under fire department control. In this way, they are available only to fire department personnel if they are needed. As the operation winds down, you can use them for equipment and possibly as a personnel shuttle. If this should be the case, make sure that someone is designated as Elevator Control and that the elevators operate no higher than two floors below the fire floor.
LOBBY AND BUILDING STAFF
Invariably, the new millennium multiple dwelling will have a lobby not unlike a high-rise, but it will generally be smaller. There may be a communication center and a service staff. Use this service staff as required to assist in logistical operations, such as utility shutdown, and to locate any disabled occupants. Remember that this building is not fire-resistive construction. It uses lightweight building components. Therefore, the lobby is not necessarily the best place for a command post. Stay in the street.
(14) The scuttle above the top-floor landing will be the route by which products of combustion will escape once the stairwell door has been opened to accommodate the attack.
Department officials must ensure that keys to access and control building systems, such as elevators and suppression equipment rooms, are available, preferably through a box or some other fire department “only we have access to this area” system. Do not rely on building personnel for the keys on the day of the fire, because they won’t have them. In addition, it must be very strongly impressed on these people that the investigation should be left to the fire department. Often, as in high-rises, building personnel take it on themselves to investigate the causes for alarms or sources of smoke, only to get in over their heads or cause some vital building system to be compromised. Be stern here. If they are not doing the right thing, advise them at once, and do not be afraid to get tough with them and the building management. Teach first, then crucify. They will get the message. Better yet, institute a fire education program for building staff and occupants. The day of the fire is not the time to educate anybody.
Just as in a high-rise building or a strip mall, the HVAC system can channel smoke throughout the structure. The HVAC system may permeate the whole building, or it may just serve common areas such as hallways. In this case, as previously noted, each apartment will have an individual air-conditioning unit. One tip-off to this arrangement is the presence of built-in wall air-conditioners, usually located just below each apartment window and clearly visible from the exterior. If this is the case, the HVAC unit may serve only common areas or there may be no HVAC system at all. Preplan and document this so the information will be available when needed. In any case, shut down the system and preplan its control areas and enter the information into the computer-aided dispatch system (CADS) if the department uses one. If not, the information should be available in preplan binders or somewhere in the lobby, preferably in an easily accessible location.
Remember also that the presence of an HVAC system in the building should be a tip-off to concentrated loads somewhere in the building, usually the roof. Especially for a top-floor fire, this information should be of interest to the incident commander (IC). Roof Division firefighters should relay this information to Command as soon as the roof is accessed.
I found it strange to see what looked like a linen closet in the public hallway. Further investigation revealed the presence of several hot water heaters behind what are nothing more than wooden louvered bifold doors. In addition to the obvious ignition and fire hazard and the presence of gas, the concentrated load created by the heaters is compounded by the fact that they are in identical locations on each floor and should be a definite cause for concern.
As mentioned earlier, the heating unit for each apartment is also inside each unit, again, in identical positions from floor to floor. Think concentrated load here as well and the possibility of a chain-reaction impact load collapse as the failure of one floor leads to the failure of the floors below it. Do you really think these areas have been reinforced to support these dead loads?
(16) Skylights may be over the top-floor apartments. Since they are made of plastic, heat from a top-floor fire should melt them out, allowing firefighters to keep roof time short.
The major advantage the new millennium multiple dwelling has over its older counterparts is that the stairwell is enclosed and should provide an area of refuge for attack teams and evacuating occupants, as well as a safe platform from which to organize and mount the fire attack. Stairwells are usually of the return type and constructed of steel and concrete. The stairwell(s) leading to the roof terminate at the top-floor landing, with just a vertical wall ladder leading to the roof scuttle. This should discourage occupants from using this route for escape. Fire department personnel should make it a point, prior to occupancy, to have stairwell doors labeled and marked for roof access.
Generally, hallways are not unusually long, which is an advantage relative to the length and speed of the stretch. It appears that one length of hose should generally be sufficient to reach all areas of the apartments on that side of the hall from the closest standpipe. The issue may arise if the fire must be attacked from the stairwell opposite the fire apartment because of standpipes being out of service, unfavorable wind conditions, or poor information relative to the fire’s location (and premature commitment to the wrong standpipe). In this case, an additional length may be needed to reach the fire.
CRAVE: THE INTERIOR FIREFIGHTING FACTORS
The acronym CRAVE consists of the following interior firefighting factors:
• Extension Prevention
Fire command operations should begin with a strong command presence. Operations should be disciplined and SOP-directed. The best place to establish the command post is on the exterior of the building, where you can see a two-sided view of the building. Resist the temptation to set up command inside the lobby because none of the features of the fire-resistive building, except a large lobby, are present.
Decentralize command as soon as possible. Establish early, and assign to the fire floor, an Interior Division supervisor. This is the position for a battalion chief in larger departments and for at least a trusted officer in smaller departments (generally the position directly subordinate to the rank of the IC). The sooner a hands-off supervisor can get up to the fire area, the better. Only with pertinent and updated information from the area of operation can the IC make informed, safe, and effective decisions.
Ensure that additional personnel are on-scene as a tactical reserve to relieve initial attack crews and address unplanned-for issues that arise during the incident. Do not be afraid to strike additional alarms. If the fire is serious enough, they will be needed early. Evacuations, searches, and the need to get additional attack lines to upper floors necessitate a large number of personnel. There is also the additional issue of relief and rotation. The best rule of thumb here is to have at least two companies in reserve at all times while the incident is still escalating and even when it is stabilizing. Strike another alarm if this tactical reserve is not on-scene and at the command post. Once the incident is under control and deescalating, this reserve is not necessary. The worst place to get caught is short.
A primary search and especially an evacuation is a major undertaking in this structure because of the number of occupants who live in the building. Whereas it is advisable to use protection-in-place measures for most of the building’s occupants in a high-rise, it is not recommended in the new millennium multiple dwelling because suspect construction materials and connection methods are in use. For that reason, it is best to evacuate the entire building. If the fire is minor, it may be possible to relocate occupants to a lower floor, but they are best kept out of harm’s way in the areas of the fire and the areas above.
As stated earlier, because the floor layouts are generally identical from floor to floor, it is beneficial to check the floor below the fire for clues to the fire apartment layout. A few seconds spent in a clear area may pay large dividends later in the zero visibility of the fire floor.
It is critical to establish an evacuation stairwell remote from the attack stairwell (and the fire). Remember, there is no such thing as protecting in place at a working fire in this structure. Get the occupants above the fire out quickly, safely, and in a coordinated manner. This means keep the evacuation stairwell doors closed, especially on the fire floor, once the attack is underway. Unlike a high-rise, where smoke doors are usually on each side of the elevator bank, this is not the case in the new millennium multiple dwelling. Once the fire apartment door is opened and the attack is begun, the hall will fill with heavy smoke and heat seeking an area to escape. Try as much as possible to keep it out of the evacuation stairwell. It may even be necessary to keep the door to the fire apartment closed until the hallway and attack stairwell can be cleared of occupants before attacking the fire.
The Interior Division commander must carefully coordinate the stairwell operations to ensure that the firefighter-above-the-fire vs. the open-stairwell-door-leading-to-incineration factor is avoided. This necessitates, in addition to strong command and control, enforcement of an effective SOP, followed by well-trained and equally disciplined firefighters and officers.
Attack must be made from the enclosed and designated attack stairwell, much like in a high-rise. To keep the stretches as short as possible, it is prudent to locate the apartment line on the floor or floors below the fire to choose the stairwell closest to the fire. Since it is possible that a heavy smoke condition may be present in the hallway of the fire floor, you may have to keep the stairwell door closed until all occupants are cleared from the stairwell above the fire or directed to a designated evacuation stairwell. If the hall is heavily charged, once the attack is underway, the stairwell is likely to be impassable and be useful only as a vent stairwell. Practically speaking, since most of these buildings have only two stairwells, one will have to be used as an evacuation stairwell while the other doubles as an attack/ventilation stairwell. Like many high-rise situations, there may be little choice here. To keep it safe, it must be coordinated and managed well. This requires discipline and a strong command presence in the fire area. That is why it is imperative to get a supervisory officer into that area as soon as possible.
This is where the similarities to a high-rise fire end. Unlike a high-rise, the hoseline of choice here would be the 13/4- or two-inch line because of the need for speed, and it will take maneuvering to keep the fire confined to the apartment of origin. Solid-bore nozzles are urged here, to cut down on friction loss, enhance the stream’s reach, and help prevent the standpipe-related clogged nozzle. In addition to a backup line on the fire floor, a line must be stretched as soon as possible to the apartment above the fire, to check for extension.
Since there are no fire escapes, you will have to conduct, from aerial devices or ground ladders, horizontal ventilation of the windows opposite the fire area (and attack line). It may be possible to horizontally vent from an adjacent apartment. It is not a great idea to vent from the apartment on the floor above; this action may create a building autoexposure and a firefighter exposure problem. For a top-floor fire, however, you can vent windows from the roof using a long-handled tool such as a halligan hook or, better yet, a halligan tool tied to a rope and launched over the side of the building. As windows are likely to be of the double-pane type, extra effort will be needed to break through the two layers of glass.
For lower-floor fires, vertical ventilation is limited to the use of the scuttle. On top-floor fires, you will have to use the skylights, if available, to vent the fire. Remember that these buildings are sprinklered. If the sprinklers have not controlled the fire, prolonged roof operations are not advisable because of the lightweight nature of the construction materials.
Remember, the lightweight wooden I-beam is as weak as the truss. If you have to consider cutting the roof because of severe fire conditions, consider also that the integrity of the roof structural members already have been compromised-in other words, if you have to cut it, you shouldn’t be on it. Let the fire burn through the roof. If conditions warrant, place lines and open ceilings in adjacent areas in an attempt to confine the fire to one apartment if possible. For this operation, it is critical that a safe and easily accessible (read QUICK) retreat point is available and all participants know its location. An Interior Division commander is an absolute necessity for this operation, to constantly evaluate the risk vs. gain regarding this strategy.
The aerial is the preferred way to get to the roof. These buildings do not classify as high-rises (75 feet in height), so barring setbacks and power lines, the aerial should reach. Even though the stairwells are enclosed, the integrity of the structural elements (and the possibility that fire-floor doors may be unintentionally opened at the wrong time) makes me skeptical concerning whether the enclosed staircase is the best way to the roof.
If the stairwell is a necessity because of power lines or other aerial accessibility issues, the stairwell operations (read command and control operation) must be well coordinated to have the roof team access the roof by way of the scuttle. If taking the attack stairwell to the roof, delay the attack until the crew is on the roof and has a confirmed second way off or has opened the scuttle and has returned to the position of the attack team. If using the evacuation stairwell as a way to the roof, communication between the Vent Group and the Attack Team is critical. In fact, the attack cannot be commenced until the Vent Group has completed its assignment and is in a safe area.
Finally, as previously mentioned, sprinkler-induced cold smoke will make ventilation operations more difficult, so be prepared for it and anticipate the need to be creative in your ventilation tactics.
The major concern in regard to fire spread in these structures is whether the fire has penetrated the building’s concealed spaces, namely the areas occupied by trusses or wooden I-beams. Even though the building’s occupied areas may be sprinklered, these void spaces, where the most structurally unsound parts of the building are located, are not. It is critical to check these spaces early from a protected area. Thermal imaging equipment will be valuable here. Once the fire has a hold on the building’s arteries, the operation may be doomed, especially if lightweight material is exposed.
Another fire extension operation often overlooked in this and other nonhigh-rise buildings is the need to shut down the HVAC as soon as possible. Fire can spread with frightening rapidity to upper floors and adjacent areas through this metal highway.
An additional issue that must be addressed is autoexposure. Fire spread through window-to-window transmission of convected heat into the upper floor, especially in areas not visible from the command post, can wreak havoc on a building and a fire strategy. This is compounded when the building has individual HVAC units in each apartment. The fire may take the path of least resistance right into the apartment on the floor above through the exterior wall opening where the HVAC unit is located. In addition to stretching lines to this area right away, it may be necessary to use an outside stream to “wash” the spandrel wall to cut down on the autoexposure threat. Personnel operating these lines must be very careful not to let the stream enter the window, lest they push fire right at the attack team. Once the attack team is actively putting water on the fire and the threat of autoexposure is reduced, you can shut down this line.
New construction techniques necessitate investigation and the development of new approaches to firefighting. This article has identified some techniques now being used to construct the buildings in which we will be working tomorrow. As has been proven before, our best weapon against these dangers is collective and shared knowledge. Remember, virtually no one out there, especially in the construction industry, is looking out for our best interest; therefore, we had better take these matters into our own hands and do whatever is necessary to protect our greatest resource, our personnel. ■
■ANTHONY AVILLO, a 20-year veteran of the fire service, is a deputy chief in North Hudson Regional (NJ) Fire & Rescue, assigned as platoon commander of the First Division. He is also an instructor at the Bergen County (NJ) Fire Academy and is a partner in Study Group, Inc., a firm that trains promotional and entry-level candidates in the fire service. He is an adjunct instructor at New Jersey City University, Rutgers University, and Kean University. Avillo has been both a Hands-On Training (H.O.T.) instructor and speaker at FDIC, FDIC East, and FDIC West and was a keynote speaker at FDIC in 2004. He is an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering and the author of Fireground Strategies (Fire Engineering, 2002) and Fireground Strategies Workbook (Fire Engineering, 2003).