“Taxpayers”-Fires with Potentialities
Channels for Rapid Spread of Fire Make Careful Work Imperative—Proximity of High Buildings a Serious Factor
“TAXPAYERS” are usually one story buildings placed upon property of fairly high value in order to make such property produce a little revenue while the property itself increases in value. Thus the name “taxpayer.”
Because of the temporary nature of these structures, and the fact that they are rarely more than one story in height, fire safety methods are given little consideration in their construction.
Due to the unsettled real estate market in recent years, taxpayers have increased at a tremendous rate. They represent a severe problem for the fire department, particularly where they are placed alongside tall structures.
While these buildings are usually used entirely for commercial purposes, they are sometimes fitted in the rear with apartments for occupancy by the persons conducting business in the front part of the store.
The taxpayer which predominates at the present time is constructed as follows: A basement is first built of
concrete block, and on this basement is erected a one story brick store. The store itself is encircled by a brick wall, but the partitions between adjacent stores are usually of gypsum block, or lath and plaster on two by four studding.
The roof which rests directly on the front and rear walls is of a gentle slope while the ceilings below are horizontal. The result is an open cock loft. The roof is constructed over the entire building which may occupy eight or ten lots in length, and the ceiling is suspended by short pieces of two by four attached to the roof beams and the ceiling two by fours below. As these supporting members are placed about eighteen inches apart, they offer no obstruction to the passage of flame through the cock loft from one end of the structure to the other. And this is a serious hazard. Eire rising in any one of the stores and entering the cock loft quickly spreads through the entire length and may involve the row before its progress is fully appreciated.
Attempts are occasionally made to fire-stop the buildings at points where dividing partitions rise, but these are usually but lame excuses for fire walls, since they are chiefly of bricks loosely piled and not reaching to the roof boarding. While they may delay the fire in its spread, they can by no means be classed as fire stops.
The basements may be divided by concrete block, or they may be open from one end to the other. In the latter case bins with padlocked doors are provided for storing material from the various establishments above But more often the basement is found divided by frame partitions or by gypsum block division walls. In the case of frame partitions, fire will spread quickly throughout the entire basement due to the highly inflammable materials usually found therein.
Entrance to the basement is usually provided in the front as well as within the buildings. Partitions do not always pass through the floor, but are frequently built from the floor to the ceiling.
The contents of the stores must receive consideration. Such stores may be occupied as dry goods stores, clothing stores, drug stores, tire shops, battery shops or for any of a multitude of retail establishments. The nature of the contents will determine how rapidly fire will enter the cock loft.
hire usually starts in the basement and unless it is discovered early it may pass from one basement through the entire row. If the partitions run through from the basement to the cock loft and fire starts in the basement, then a cock loft fire is almost sure to result. Unless the fire is discovered early the entire row of buildings may suffer. In handling fires of this sort where they have started in the basement, quick work in covering the adjoining basements is apt to be necessary.
Usually the first line endeavors to make the basement by either the inside stairway or the entrance at the front of the building. Following lines go to the basements on either side to make sure that the fire has not extended, opening the doorways leading to basement both within the store and at the front to provide ventilation for the men operating therein.
Where the fire has spread to the cock loft, fast work is vital. Members of the first truck company are sent to the roof at once to open up over the store in which the fire has advanced the most, and from which store it has probably entered the cock loft. The men on the roof also open up for lines if such can be used with effectiveness.
The ceilings of the stores on either side of the fire section are pulled to make it possible for lines to be placed in operation. If necessary, the ceiling of stores on either side of the adjoining stores are also pulled. These ceilings are usually of tin, and are readily removed with a 6-foot hook.
Extinguishing Cock Loft Fire
Once the ceilings are opened, then it is a question of getting lines in operation to kill the fire in the cock loft and to prevent its spread in any direction. A bent nozzle, such as the New York bent pipe, or nozzles which function in a similar manner, are very effective for this work.
Occasionally cellar pipes may he put to work through the roof of the building on either side of the store burning, to check the spread of the fire. But in operating any type of nozzle particular care must be taken to prevent unnecessary water damage, as more water than necessary may be employed in checking the fire and this water will ultimately find its way down to the floor below.
Where the fire is burning in one of the stores, the first line is usually stretched to the front of the building, and the second line to the rear. The width of such stores being small, the task of the department in killing the fire is comparatively small, unless the fire has entered the cock loft and has spread over the row. In this latter case, it is a question of covering exposures and thus confining the fire to a single unit.
As noted above, unnecessary water damage must be avoided by the prompt shutting off of streams when they are no longer needed.
Where one of the taxpayers is located alongside a tall building, the exposure hazard may be severe, particularly if the contents of the store are such as to make a hot fire. In this case, in addition to operating on the fire a line or two will have to be put in operation on the roof of the row to cover windows of the exposed building.
A deck gun may also be used with good effect, if placed in street in front of the burning building. Deck gun can cover exposures very effectively and if reporting on first alarm, it can be put in operation so as to provide the maximum effectiveness of the first company on hand.
Finally, the taxpayer is a comparatively simple structure in which to handle a fire, but it may be a serious matter if there are exposures around it and if fire gains control of the cock loft. One point to remember is that once fire has entered the cock loft it is going to travel unobstructed in both directions with great rapidity. Fast work in opening up both to provide ventilation and to get streams in operation is of prime importance.