TENEMENT, FLAT AND APARTMENT HOUSE FIRES
Regarding the actual operations at fires, impress upon your mind the following points:
1st. The stretching in without any delay of a second line from your own or other companies when conditions call for it.
2nd. To so locate the lines at points where they may be operated to obtain the greatest amount of good.
3rd. To manipulate the nozzle in such manner that the water it is delivering is doing exactly what is intended that it should do.
4th. The venting of the structure at those points that will liberate the heat and smoke generated by the combustion going on within the structure.
All of these points are essential to the quick extinguishment of a fire, and I want to impress upon you particularly the necessity of prompt venting of the structure. Get the idea out of your head that this portion of the work is confined solely to truck companies, for it is not. The officers in engine companies should send a man to the roof to open up bulkhead door, scuttle, dumbwaiter door, skylights, or coverings over all vertical shafts that run through the building, and where it is calculated that it will be necessary to open up any portion of the roof. (Fig. 148.) Don’t lose any time in waiting to assign a truck company to do that work Take, for example, a fire in an old style tenement. It originates in the cellar, and on your arrival you find that it is confined to that point. It is one of the stubborn kind. Usually the first line is taken to the hall and efforts made to extinguish the fire by way of the stairway leading to the cellar. In many cases you are successful, and in many you are not. One or more additional lines should be promptly stretched and assigned to rear, sides, or front, according to the conditions that exist. It may be that you are unable to hold your position at the cellar door. If so, close it. but still keep your position. You have your line at hand, and use caution. Open the cellar door frequently for the purpose of relieving the cellar of heat and smoke. One of the additional lines should be taken into the hall and a board taken up from the floor just as soon as the line is charged. Put a cellar pipe on the line and operate it in a commonsense manner. The only vertical shaft that may run through construction of this kind is the dumbwaiter. It requires your attention. You know that the fire is not going up the stairwell, but you doidt know whether it is going up the shaft or not, so be sure to send a man to roof to open up the top of shaft. This method of fighting a cellar fire also applies to the second type of tenement house, but you would have more shafts extending through the structure, in that they have interior lath and plaster lined light or air shafts and vent shafts which are usually at the rear end of the hall. In the majority of cases these shafts originally ran from the cellar to the roof, but have been-cut off from the cellar by the installation of floor boards opening on the first floor. Be on the alert to ascertain whether the fire is extending in this way, and take proper measures to cope with it, but do not overlook the opening of the tops of the shafts.
*Copyright, 1018. by Freit Shepperd.
The third type cellar fire calls for the method outlined for the first type, but in addition to being able to fight fire from the front and rear, you have the windows in inner courts, which, in nearly all cases, may be entered by way of adjoining cellar or cellars on both sides.
Take a different condition, i. e., where a fire has started in the cellar and has already extended up through the stairhall. A man should be sent to the roof instantly to ventilate. Your first line should be taken into the hall and the stream directed up the stairwell. The second line must be instantly stretched and taken to the hall at cellar door, and another line to the rear, according to the conditions that exist. If it is possible to shut the door, do so. Get a line with a cellar pipe charged, and open the floor in the hall or such other place as you think proper and direct stream in all directions. In the mean while the first line must proceed up the stairway as rapidly as possible, and the second line should do likewise as soon as conditions in the cellar permit.
You will notice that I have made no reference whatsoever to a fire in the cellar of the new style tenement. That will be treated later. Before going further. I want to emphasize one point regarding operations in the three old style tenements and dealing with the directing of streams up a stairwell. If you had a fire in a dumbwaiter shaft or an elevator shaft, what would you do? You would naturally direct your stream up the shaft, for that would be the correct method of getting at the fire. Then common sense must dictate that it is proper to do likewise in the case of a stairwell. In doing so, you are getting the good out of every drop of water that your nozzle is delivering. You are extinguishing a lot of fire quickly and saving your stairway. Some officers and men avoid water. They don’t want to get a wetting. They wriggle and jump around to avoid a few drops falling on them. You would think that thev were being sprinkled with the germs of smallpox so eagerly do they try to avoid it. Officers must take a wetting and the men also. For if they do not use the line up the well, the evidence that they did not will be there after the fire is extinguished, for the stairway on the upper floors will be gone. Anyone knows what a serious handicap that is for a quick extinguishment of fire. In my opinion any man in this department, no matter what his position, who fails to perform, or avoids, a duty because he has a dislike for a wet foot or wet clothing, should not be in the fire department.
in the three old type structures, let us assume that a fire has originated in one of the apartments on the first, second, third or fourth floor, and has extended through a door or by way of a vertical shaft to the stair hall and apartments above the floor on which it originated. Two lines are necessary up the stairway as rapidly as possible—while one line is used in covering the apartment involved with fire, the other line should be advanced to upper floor or floors as conditions permit; other line or lines to take position on front or rear fire escapes as conditions may require. Buildings with side windows in front, inner or rear exterior courts—which are a hazard because of similar side windows in adjoining structure or structures—should be given prompt consideration and a line or lines should be sent in these adjoining structures promptly. They will not only be a protection to the buildings endangered, but will be of great assistance in extinguishing the fire in the first building involved through windows opening on exterior courts.
Where a fire has extended up through the old type of building and involved the hanging ceiling under the roof to any great extent, do not hesitate to open up such portions of the roof as may be necesfeary, Exercise proper judgment and caution before making ah opening in any roof, as much greater damage has been done to property within the structure by storms after the fire than by the fire itself.
The new law apartment cellar fires are very readily extinguished, even though there is a large quantity of combustible material stored therein in addition to the great quantity of lumber in the woodbin construction. There are a number of windows on sides and rear, as well as doors, and lines should be placed or operated through those nearest the seat of the fire. The flooring over all openings in the cellar ceiling should be examined, to ascertain whether or not the fire has extended to sleepers and floor boards. The points where steam pipes, plumbing pipes or speaking tubes extend through flooring should also receive proper consideration in the shape of a careful examination. Fire in stores in buildings of this type are in no way a serious problem, but your attention should be given to the metal ceiling promptly.
Fires in the apartments are readily extinguished, except in cases where a long private hall heavily charged with heat and smoke has to be made before the rooms on fire are within reach of the stream. In such case relief is had by entering the apartment on the floor below and directly under the one involved with fire, and ventilation may be had or line sent up the fire escape to cope with the fire.
In all types of tenements of old or new construction, non-stopped stud partitions and folding door stud partitions are matters that should receive prompt and careful consideration, for if a fire gets a good hold within you have a very difficult situation confronting you, for fire quickly travels from floor to floor and usually winds up under hanging ceiling between the top floor and the roof. Large volumes of smoke are generated and ventilation should be promptly had for each of the different apartments affected, and the line or lines required should be positioned to suit conditions; men with books should start to strip a stud involved with fire at the top (not at its base) and a stream directed in through such opening as soon as it is made. It may be that you will be compelled to open up the roof directly over the line of studding if you calculate that the fire will reach or has reached that point.
Relative to the use of streams in tenement house fires, companies equipped with 1 1/2-inch hose should use it where the magnitude of the fire warrants its use, and if an error of judgment has been made, be quick to have the 2 1/2-inch line stretched. Under no circumstances use a nozzle greater than 1 1/8 inch in diameter and be quick to give thought to the use of the reducing tips when conditions permit. A delivery at the rate of anywhere from 180 to 250 gallons of water will extinguish fire over a large area in tenement house work, if the officer is on the alert to see that the nozzle is properly directed and manipulated. Where an apartment or hall is fully involved with fire, use the ceiling as a deflector, and a quick shifting of the nozzle from side to side will cause the extinguishment of the fire with a minimum amount of water. Entirely too much damage is caused by the too free use of water and improper and careless handling of streams, for which the officer in charge of the company is entirely responsible. All officers should be on the alert to remedy this condition, as it is to the interest of this department and others that they do so.
Take up the “gas proposition” in cellars of tenements where meters have been damaged as a result of fire. History of the department tells us that on more than one occasion men have lost their lives as a result of this condition and hundreds of men have been carried out of cellars unconscious as a result of the effects of illuminating gas. It is good practice in a cellar fire where any great amount of heat has been generated to send for the emergency crew of the gas company, whether you get the odor of the gas or not. That’s wbat they are there for and it’s our duty to call for them.
When you make a cellar floor and find that the escaping gases have been ignited, which will be the case frequently, and where sometimes as many as a dozen outlets are affected, don’t permit your men to extinguish the gas flame with the stream from the nozzle. A safer condition exists when it is burning and a light spray of water is kept on the ceiling or floor beams overhead until it is shut off properly. Where a meter is shut off by any member of this department, because of its being damaged, or for other reasons, it is wed to uotuy the gas company of such action.
Coining back to cellar fires in tenements (new type excluded), 1 will call attention to a point in the construction that is worthy of note. In a great many of the third type described we have an entrance hall in the center of the building which is reached by a stoop from the street level, i. e., four or five steps. On either side of the entrance hall is a store whose floor is on a level with the sidewalk. This makes the floor of the entrance hall 3½ or 4 feet higher than the store floor, and consequently you have a big void between the cellar ceiling and entrance floor level, to which fire frequently extends and may give some trouble. To extinguish a fire therein, quickly make an opening in the stud partition in the store, a little above the floor level, and direct a stream through it to get results. Get a line on the buildings in your territory or district that have one or two stairways in the rear of the structure, in addition to the front stairway. These rear stairways are intended for the use of servants and require attention from the department in the same manner as the front stairway when the structure is involved with fire. To be ignorant of the fact that a building upon which we are operating is equipped with a rear stairway means that we are overlooking a vertical artery by which the fire is extending or are missing the benefits that might be had from its use in fighting fire in other portions of the building.
Where a fire occurs within the confines of a vent shaft (in hall) in the poorer sections of the city, it is well to be over cautious in finishing up when fire is extinguished, as there are a number of openings at each floor where water and drain pipes extend from the shaft to the apartments on either side thereof, and quick action in examining these studs is very necessary. Look out for a condition that might cause a rekindle of the fire after you have left the premises.
The operation of overhauling in tenements requires that good common sense and judgment be used. Take stud partitions, surbases, trim window sash, frames, ceilings, etc., the presence of a faint sign of heat to the hand, a smoke stain or even a little smoke is not always, and should not be taken as, an indication of fire. Therefore why destroy costly trim, surbases or plastering unless it is absolutely necessary? In the majority of cases if a little of the plaster is shaved off the wall at the doubtful spot and two or three small pieces of lath broken off, the condition of the lath and its appearance will tell you whether you should go any further or not. If you are compelled to break window glass, what is the use of breaking the sash? Why cut out a window frame when the same is uncalled for? Why handle articles of furniture or other household effects, clothing, etc., in such a way that the fire loss is further increased? Why throw articles of furniture or clothing into the street? Work of that kind is not in line with good judgment.
(To be continued.)
From Columbia, Pa., comes information that motorizing the fire department is in contemplation.