TENEMENT, FLAT AND APARTMENT HOUSE FIRES

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.

TENEMENT, FLAT AND APARTMENT HOUSE FIRES

0

TENEMENT, FLAT AND APARTMENT HOUSE FIRES

NEW YORK FIRE COLLEGE COURSE

Thos. J. Dougherty, Deputy Chief, Lecturer on Fire Streams, Apparatus, Tenement House Fires, Ventilation, etc. New York Fire College.

(Continued from page 147.)

The first officer arriving at the scene of a fire is, by the rules and regulations of the department, directed to assume command and direct the operations of his own and other companies until such time as he shall be relieved by an officer of superior rank. This rule is only in very rare cases complied with by any of the officers below the rank of chief of battalion, or an officer designated as an acting chief of battalion, and as a result of such methods, there being no directing head present, a “go as you please” condition exists, and confusion and poor work are, as a rule, the natural result.

When you are first to arrive at a fire it is your duty to assume command, the responsibility for the proper direction of the force in extinguishing the fire devolves upon you and hereafter you are expected to and shall obey the rule implicitly. Special attention is called to one method that all officers in charge at fires should follow at all times, and that is in the event of being unable to extinguish a fire quickly, to be on the alert to cover those points which will permit of its extension, or if, upon arrival of the first companies, it is found that the fire has such headway that it is about to extend to other parts of the structure, the first lines should be positioned to confine the fire to its point of origin, until second lines are stretched or an additional force called, as extent of the fire requires; to be brief, make every effort to confine the fire to as small an area as possible.

In fire extinguishing operations it is necessary and essential for all fire department officers to have a thorough knowledge of the construction and layout of the different types of buildings that they may come in contact with, as better results at fires are obtained when the officers possess this knowledge. Neglect on the part of any officer to make proper effort from time to time to obtain this knowledge makes him a useless adjunct in connection with the operation of the department at fires.

A description of the various types of tenements is necessary at this stage so that you will be able to grasp the points that are made as to what are considered the best methods to use in fighting fires in buildings of this class.

The first type of tenement is a three to six story brick structure, with a frontage of 25 to 20 feet and a depth from 50 to 80 feet; non-fireproof in every part except its exterior walls; entrance to cellar under staircase in hall; stairway to upper floors non-fireproof in every respect; exit to roof, as a general rule, by way of a vertical ladder through a small scuttle opening, but in some cases this type is provided with the stairway and bulkhead construction to roof; no dumbwaiter or interior light or air shaft excepting, in some instances, where alterations have been made to include toilets in halls on each floor a vent shaft has been provided extending from first floor to roof. This type of tenement is usually occupied by one to four families on a floor and is equipped with fire escapes on front and rear, as the law requires.

The second type of tenement is of similar area; height, five and six stories; two to four families on a floor; nonfireproof throughout except exterior walls; is provided with dumbwaiter, light, air and vent shafts, all of which are lined with lath and plaster construction, creating a serious hazard to life and permitting the rapid spread of fire through all of the vertical shafts. All of these extend vertically through the interior of the building, and ordinary weak window glass and sash arc the only preventatives to keep fire from entering the apartments on each floor along the line of the shaft. The hazard to life in both of the types just described is further increased by official direction which compels the installation of glass panels in the doors leading to each of the apartments from stairhall.

Fig. 148. Illustration shows not only cock loft, but also result of fire getting into it and late ventilation. If opened promptly, all heat and hot gases would have been drawn over and there would have been no spreading.

The third type is a fiveor six-story structure, non-fireproof; two or three families on a floor. It has no interior shafts, excepting a dumbwaiter shaft, which is enclosed in brick walls. In lieu of interior shafts this construction is provided with front, inner, or rear exterior courts. The windows to each apartment, which are in a line with the courts, open upon windows in buildings of similar construction adjoining.

The fourth type, known as the New Law tenement, is readily distinguished from the first three types by its wider frontage, varying from 33 to 50 feet, and is a superior structure in every way, in so far as the hazard to life from fire is concerned. It affords greater security to its occupants than does the multi-millionaire’s mansion on Fifth avenue. The points that make it a superior structure are:

First: The first floor or cellar ceiling is of fireproof construction, and entrance to the cellar is only had by an exterior entrance. The absence of an interior entrance to cellar eliminates one of the most dangerous fire conditions in tenement houses.

•Copyright, 1916, by Fred Shepperd.

Second: Above the first floor, although five to seven families are on each floor, the stairway is of fireproof construction, enclosed in brick walls, with no openings in such wall except a window to outer air and the doorway to each apartment. The door to such opening is of kalamein or other fire-resisting construction.

Third: Each and every room in an apartment has a window opening to the outer air, and the occupants have access to an exterior fire escape on front, rear or side of building from each apartment.

There is another type of structure which, according to law, is nothing but a tenement house, but ordinarily is called an apartment house, and of which there are a great number throughout the city. The area in a great many cases is as much as 100×90 feet, and six or seven stories in height: non-fireproof in every respect except its exterior walls; has interior vertical shafts, such as open elevator shafts, interior light and air shafts, open stairway near elevator shaft, and an additional rear, and sometimes two, stairways extending from cellar to roof for use of servants. This type of structure is found in the better localities, and every officer in the fire department who has one or more of these structures located within his district should make it the subject of his special attention and study, so that he may become familiar with its layout, thereby fitting himself to carry on a superior operation when an actual fire occurs therein.

It is an extremely hard proposition for any officer to make even an attempt to tell you in full detail what should be done to cover every situation that may confront you. An officer in charge of a fire should be cool and collected, and think and act quickly, no matter what the conditions may be that confront him. If you have made a study of your profession, nothing will feaze you, no matter how big the job may be. Do the best you can. You can do no more. Some officers, because of the responsibilities imposed upon them when in charge of a fire of even the average extent, develop a condition of mind bordering on frenzy. They are not in a condition to control their own actions properly, let alone the actions of their subordinates, or issue proper directions to officers or other companies reporting to them. Still we find a few officers in the department of another type, the kind who are always avoiding responsibility, even the minor details of their work, and waiting for someone else to come along and issue this or that order or direction that it was their duty to do. You do not have to be of the types described if you give thought and study to your work, for you will develop that ability and self-control that are so essential in fire department operations.

Another point along this line that I will refer to is the laxity on the part of a great many officers to take the initiative at fires in doing this or that particular thing on their own responsibility. They want an order from a superior before they will act, no matter how simple the thing may be. Don’t get into a rut of this kind! Be observant and quick to act on anything your own common sense and judgment tell you should be done.

An officer in charge of a fire in a tencment house should act promptly in sending in a call for an additional force when the magnitude of the fire requires it, as his experience, sound judgment and common sense dictate. But he should not overlook the fact that where three engines and two hook and ladder trucks respond on the first alarm, that five streams are immediately available, and six if companies are well supplied with men, and when those lines are promptly and correctly placed and properly operated, they are generally sufficient to extinguish a fire in a tenement, except in a few instances where an unusual hazard might prevail regarding its extension to an adjoining structure.

(To be continued.)