In June we reviewed some of the impact rolldown security doors have on the behavior of a fire building and, therefore, on our operations, preplanning, and immediate decision making. We left off trying to tie in our staffing difficulties with one of America’s more common fire problems—the taxpayer or strip store. You know the ones I’m talking about —fourto many-store occupancies within a single structure. Taxpayers are built as cheaply as possible and are separated by fixed or movable separation walls within a single structure enclosure— two bearing walls and two enclosure walls. An additional fire problem is that all the stores share a common attic space or cockloft. Some have common cellar spaces separated with flimsy combustible security partitions.

I promised to tie this type of fire problem in with our staffing levels— more directly, into marketing our need for adequate staffing to our financial decision makers. We have not marketed our real needs as far as the adequate number of personnel that should respond on each fire apparatus is concerned.

Perhaps it is time for another approach. Take the common types of fires to which we respond most frequently and break them down into “instant,” all-at-once priorities that are needed for a three-line fire. Consider a fire in a seven-store, one-story taxpayer. Where’s the fire? In the middle store, of course.

Solve the strategic factors—those factors we must overcome with tactics to be successful. Vertical roof venting: We must be able to cut a primary hole in the roof as near to the location of fire as is safe—two firefighters. We must raise portable ladders to that point—two locations, two firefighters.

Another, and often overlooked, strategic factor at fires in these occupancies is that we must open the rear of the store for the rapid advance of our aggressive handline(s). These stores present fortress-like problems at the rear, and it takes an additional two firefighters with heavy-dutyequipment to accomplish the mission.

Now, for the front. Forcible entry to the fire occupancy as well as the exposures requires additional personnel-second alarm or mutual aid immediately. Two firefighters to force entry into the fire store and stay with the attack team. But remember, the strategy to stop these fires is to get into the exposures that have no fire in the cockloft yet, pull the ceilings, and force the fire back toward the fire occupancy; this requires two firefighters for forcible entry on each side of the fire store (B-1, 2, 3, or 4 and D1, 2, 3, or 4) and two additional firefighters on each side to enter and examine cockloft spaces as the forcible entry teams move farther down the line—eight more people.

We have not even touched on engine company needs. All at once, we need three handlines—one awaiting to advance into the fire store and the other two awaiting the entry teams to identify which of each exposure sides is the cutoff point. Each handline must have a minimum of two firefighters being led/supervised by an officer— three each for a total of nine.

A fourth line must be in place to answer immediate needs—to back up the one in the fire store or assist at the exposure side that is most severe. Three more. If you plug pump operators into the picture, another four.

Now add it up: You need 16 people for truck work and 16 to operate handlines and related pump concerns—32 firefighters—not including truck officers, chief officers, safety officers, and others.

We have not even addressed the future probability of large-caliber streams, tower ladder defensive/offensive operations, and trench cuts with related handlines and additional saws. See how it works? Simple, right?

Next month we’ll discuss some random thoughts on other responsibilities related to fires in these occupancies*


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