TOP-FLOOR FIRES

Continued from page 102. fire stumbling up the bulkhead stairs and staring into the faces of two company officers, each extremely clean and getting in each other’s way. I said, “I’m here to invite you to participate in the firefight down below; my two guys are on the way to the ambulance!”

Extra tools. Any “truckee” entering the building at top-floor fires should carry a hook —in addition to his or her assigned tools —for example, forcible entry tools and a hook, or an extinguisher and two hooks. Why? Once the fire is determined to be in the attic or cockloft, almost all of the ceilings will have to come down to expose the tricky cockloft space— and fast. Forcible entry done, the primary search complete, ceilings are next —help! If the engine knocks down the red stuff, they can help, but only if there is an extra hook for them to use and it’s already on the floor.

How do you pull those ceilings?

“What?” most are saying now. There are so many square feet to pull, and there are some tricks to prevent you from becoming quickly exhausted.

  • Which way do the rafter bays run? Usually parallel with the front of the building. Get to one side of the room (if the option is open) and pull from w all to wall, jumping in and out of two or three bays as the opening allows.
  • Getting the hook into the ceiling can be exhausting. Don’t stand there and “push” it up and in. Lay the hook on the floor, look left and right, and throw it in the ceiling. Success is assured the first time, you arms won’t get as weary, and you won’t get those palm bruises from higher ceilings.
  • Once it’s in, leave it up there. Get along the rafter and use short, tight tugs. A great “yank” w ill make a little hole and you’ll have to raise your hook again from the ground; if you’re lucky you’ll find the hole you just left or be forced to make yet another purchase.
  • Tin ceilings? Get over to the cove
  • molding and slide the hook up the wall, under it. and get it off. Nowprobe for the firing strip that holds the two-foot-wide pieces and hammer them down, furred section after furred section.
  • Plasterboard is the most frustrating of all. Most hooks and pike poles are designed for lath and plaster. These hooks make holes in plasterboard only as big as the hook! Here is where Boston’s and Chicago’s trash hooks come in handy. There are also wide-faced hooks on the market designed just for plasterboad, but the best and lightest (important) tool I’ve ever seen for plasterboard is a common mortar or garden hoe. Try it

Top-floor fires are fast moving, ami the key to success is fast-moving firefighters. Basics, you say but fun, I say. Be safe.

Please take a few minutes and drop me a line on your thoughts about this or any other matter: I’om Brennan, P.O. Box 90 t, Sayville, NY 11782. I assure you that it won’t go unanswered!

TOP-FLOOR FIRES

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Just what is a top-floor fire? Well, in multistory buildings, you guessed it! But remember, any remarks about top-floor fires also pertain to onestory buildings. Fires in this location are different because side (or horizontal) internal exposures become very important. There are no occupied floors or exposures above this fire, so we shift or add to our priorities on the fire floor. For fires below the top floor, it is the fire occupancy, the occupancy directly above it, and then the top floor; the adjacent occupancies are accounted for later.

Another difference is that with a top-floor fire a large interior hallway to upper floors is not available to “store” the volumes of combustion product above you—giving you time. You are on the top floor. Smoke, heat, anti the rest of the painful stuff from building combustion bank down quicker—penetrating, seeping, pushing. pressurizing, extending; it has nowhere to go.

Ventilation and more ventilation. Ventilation procedures in these operations are more committed and require more time and more openings. At lower-floor fires, vertical ventilation is complete (unless the fire spreads to the top floor) after the team has opened all the vertical “flues” provided by the building itself— the skylight, the scuttle, the bulkhead door and its skylight, roof cowls, and rain protectors to vents. The roof team then should be off the roof and concerned with the second and third objectives.

At a top-floor fire, however, the roof team almost never gets done! This is the fire where the roof must be cut, the ceilings pushed down, the hole expanded, the cockloft (or attic space) monitored, and the skylight and scuttle returns (the framing enclosing the cockloft or attic space) trimmed or overhauled.

Horizontal ventilation. At topfloor fires this also is a more extended operation. The roof team can sure help here, especially on flat-roof construction— at multiple-dwelling fires. Once the roof is vented (not cut yet!), the team will more easily identify the quadrant or sector in which the fire most likely is located. With training, communication, and experience, a roof team member can vent the windows of the fire apartment starting with the most serious-appearing. Simply tie your halligan (What? No halligan on the roof?) to your 25 feet of utility rope that you always carry. Low er it to the center of the window’ located below you to get the right length. Now, standing on the rope, pull the tool back up and simply toss it into space, and the pendulum action will “take” most, if not all, of the window’s storm and sash.

Now you have your measurement: It’s where you stood on the rope the first time. Move to the location of the next window and repeat the steps in that direction until you run out of smoke condition, and then go back and start in the other direction. All the adjoining occupancies (apartments) at top-floor fires should receive the same horizontal ventilation treatment. Sure, coordinate with the interior if you have to. but w ith experience you’ll know, and they’ll expect it.

If any of you are still lying on the roof, hanging your upper torso over the edge while you swing a six-foot hook or pike pole at the window, change your tactic. If you can’t see the difference by now, drop me a line; I’ll be glad to give you the reasons we don’t have space here to explain.

Back inside. The punishment to firefighters inside the structure at topfloor fires is different and worse. “Cockloft smoke” is uglier, hotter, and everywhere. Smoke explosions can occur anywhere. Roofs should be cut at the same time as or before ceilings are pulled. A well-trained, aggressive department should hear the saws starting as the tools are banging into the door on the floor to force entry.

A real mistake at these fires is too many firefighters on the roof. Two saws are more than enough. More saws will put more holes in ineffective places, causing injuries on the roof and below’ (unnatural fire extension). Add a firefighter for each saw’ in use for safety reasons, communication, and tool assistance and perhaps one extra —enough! Being downstairs is brutal. The photos of 10 or more firefighters on a roof (at least a fire that you can still win at) means that more than half of them are not doing their jobs.

New York City adopted a policy (out of nowhere) that the secondarriving truck company, usually six firefighters and an officer (I know, I know ), was ordered to the roof at all top-floor fires. That left six to eight apartments on the top floor to be taken care of by an officer and two other firefighters. ‘Hie experienced and aggressive trucks opposed the policy, but others loved the rule. The roof is a nice place to be —especially at top-floor fires. I remember at one Continued on page 99.

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