MOBILE HOMES FIRES, PART 2: OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

BY BILL GUSTIN

Part 1 appeared in the April 2004 issue.

A fire in a crowded trailer park requires a strong command and thorough size-up before committing resources. You must determine the exact location of the fire and the route your apparatus will take. Follow the directions of excited civilians, and you may end up stuck on a street that is too narrow for your apparatus. On arrival, have fire apparatus stand by at the entrance to the trailer park while an officer on foot or in a car goes ahead to determine the best route for the apparatus to proceed. This may take a few minutes, but it is nothing compared with the time wasted if your first-due pumper gets jammed in on a street blocked with awnings and parked cars.

If no hydrants are available inside the trailer park, consider the option of a “split lay,” that is, the first-arriving engine forward lays its supply line from the entrance gate to the fire and then the second-arriving engine connects its hoseline to the first engine’s and reverse lays to a hydrant.

Seriously consider the consequences of attempting a tank shuttle operation in a crowded trailer park; it may require too much backing up and maneuvering of large apparatus on narrow streets. To facilitate a smooth, effective water tank shuttle operation, connect a clappered siamese to the line of the first-arriving engine forward laid in from the entrance gate. Now, tankers or engines can remain on the main road, pump into the siamese, and then proceed to a water source to refill their tanks.

When spotting apparatus inside a trailer park, stick to the wider and less congested main drives. It is usually faster to stop the apparatus on the main drive and hand stretch hose to reach a remote lot than to creep along at a snail’s pace just so you can get within the reach of your preconnects.

HAND STRETCH

At rapidly spreading fires, company officers must accurately project fire extension and spot apparatus at a safe distance; otherwise, the apparatus may become another exposure as fire spreads from trailer to trailer. Narrow, congested streets in a trailer park often prevent the fire apparatus from passing through and necessitate long hand stretches of hose. This can be difficult for many rural and suburban fire departments with inadequate staffing. Hand stretching is personnel-intensive.

As a practical matter, each firefighter can stretch 100 feet of 21/2-inch or 3-inch hose, given corners and obstacles that hose can catch on. Additionally, engine apparatus outside the big cities tend to have large booster tanks and, as a result, extremely high hosebeds. It can be difficult and dangerous for a firefighter to reach into the hosebed and grasp flakes of hose. Also, many fire departments do not arrange their 21/2- and 3-inch hose with a “finish”—that is, 200 to 300 feet of hose formed into folds or horseshoes that can be readily pulled, placed on firefighters’ shoulders, and stretched toward the fire. Of course, you may get away with just grabbing the end of the hose from the hosebed and dragging it toward the fire. This will work when the stretch is short and in a straight line, but this seldom is the case.

For a long stretch, begin by positioning the apparatus with the hosebed facing the direction of the fire. Now, pull the hose hand-over-hand until the couplings clear the hosebed. This will form loops measuring 25 feet from the rear of the apparatus and consist of one 50-foot section. Continue to pull hose hand-over-hand behind the apparatus, leaving all the couplings at the back step. Each firefighter in the stretch will “shoulder” couplings on each shoulder and drag two loops. All but the first firefighter in the stretch will drag 100 feet of hose. When personnel are immediately available, have them stand at the back step of the apparatus ready to place couplings on each shoulder as they clear the hosebed.

When personnel are not immediately available to stretch the line, pull and lay out the hose behind the apparatus, forming loops as described, and arrange the couplings side-by-side at the back step in the order in which they were pulled from the hosebed. Now, when additional firefighters arrive, they will simply pick up the couplings, shoulder two loops of hose, and begin the stretch. The last firefighter in the stretch should be the first to feel the hose tighten as slack is removed. At this point, he will drop the loop as it tightens and pull out the slack so that the hose lies in a straight line without potential kinks. As each firefighter in the stretch drops and straightens his loops, they should walk ahead and assist other firefighters by moving hose around corners and obstacles. Watch for vehicle tires; they are “hose magnets” and will be sure to wedge the hose against the pavement and hang up the stretch.

A gated wye connected to the end of 21/2- or 3-inch hose facilitates the connection and control of two 13/4-inch handlines that can be carried to the fire in 100-foot bundles.


Performing a split lay: (1) The first-arriving engine forward lays its supply line from the entrance of the trailer park and then

null


(2) the second-arriving engine connects its five-inch manifold to the first engine’s supply line and reverse lays to a hydrant.

null


(3) A clappered siamese connected to the supply line at the entrance to the trailer park facilitates a smooth and effective tank-shuttle operation.

null


(4) Tankers or engines can remain on the main road outside the trailer park, pump into the siamese, and then proceed to a water source to refill their tanks. (Photos by Lazaro Acosta.)

FIRE AND RESCUE OPERATIONS

Try to get a 360° view of the fire-involved trailers. This will give you a more accurate assessment of the location of the fire and where it is spreading. One of the most critical exposures is liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tanks. Assign someone to account for them; determine if they are threatened, and shut off their valves.

Although search and rescue is our first priority, it may have to be secondary to firefighting because mobile homes are prone to such sudden and rapid flashover. Often, there isn’t enough room for firefighters wearing full protective clothing and SCBA to advance a hoseline and search simultaneously. A friend of mine was seriously burned when he attempted a rescue in a trailer before the fire was controlled.

Don’t overcrowd a burning trailer with firefighters! You will get in each other’s way and impede a rapid exit in an emergency. A hoseline crew of no more than three members is sufficient to advance and operate a 13/4-inch line. One firefighter remains at the entrance door to advance and withdraw hose; a second member, usually an officer, feeds hose around corners to a third member, the nozzleman.


(5) “Shouldering” hose for a hand stretch. Couplings and gated wye are carried by the first firefighter in the stretch.

null


(6) Hand stretching. Each firefighter, except the first, drags two loops, each consisting of 50 feet of hose. Never drag couplings; carry them over your shoulder with the couplings resting on your chest.


7

null


(8, 9) When personnel become available, they “shoulder” the couplings and begin the stretch. (Photos by Lazaro Acosta.)

null


9

null

Tread lightly. A particleboard floor, found in many old trailers, will fail from fire or firefighting water. The practice of probing ahead with a tool or an outstretched leg is a good idea, especially since darkness, smoke, and carpeting can conceal a weak floor.

Wear full protective clothing and SCBA. This should be mandatory at all fires, but a mobile home could be an unprotected firefighter’s last fire.


(10) Search may have to follow fire control because mobile homes are prone to sudden and rapid flashover. Here, the smoke’s pressure and density indicate imminent flashover.

null


(11) The trailer in photo 10 lights up, seriously burning a firefighter attempting a rescue before the fire is controlled. (Photos by Bob Pallestrant.)

null

Watch for the following:

  • exploding LPG cylinders;
  • dripping, molten aluminum;
  • jagged metal siding;
  • sudden early flashover; and
  • plastic foam insulation present in ceilings and wall cavities, which make SCBA a must during overhaul.

Do not take mobile home fires lightly. Too many things can go wrong. Good prefire planning, hazard awareness, and regular drills can make the difference between a “good stop” and a dangerous situation that gets out of control.

BILL GUSTIN, a 32-year veteran of the fire service, is a captain with Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue and lead instructor in his department’s officer training program. He began his fire service career in the Chicago area and teaches fire training programs in Florida and other states. He is a marine firefighting instructor and has taught fire tactics to ship crews and firefighters in Caribbean countries. He also teaches forcible entry tactics to fire departments and SWAT teams of local and federal law enforcement agencies. Gustin is an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering.

No posts to display