Reading the Fire 12

As discussed in prior Reading the Fire posts and the ongoing series examining fire behavior indicators (FBI), using the B-SAHF (Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame) organizing scheme, developing proficiency requires practice. This post provides an opportunity to exercise your skills using three video segments shot during an apartment fire.

Apartment Fire

At 2235 hours on November 19th the Bethlehem, PA fire department dispatched Engines 6, 9, 7, Ladder 2 & Chief 205 for an apartment fire with persons reported at 1992 Gatewood Lane. On arrival Engine 6 reported a working fire in an end-of-row unit. Tower Ladder (TL) 2 made two vertical ventilation (exhaust( openings in the roof above the fire. Chief 205 requested a second and then third alarm as the fire extended rapidly into the trussloft.

Download and the B-SAHF Worksheet.

The video segment was shot after TL 2 opened the roof.  First, describe what you observe in terms of the Building, Smoke, Air Track, Heat, and Flame Indicators; then answer the following five standard questions?

  1. What additional information would you like to have? How could you obtain it?
  2. What stage(s) of development is the fire likely to be in (incipient, growth, fully developed, or decay)?
  3. What burning regime is the fire in (fuel controlled or ventilation controlled)?
  4. What conditions would you expect to find inside this building (on floor 2 and in the attic)?
  5. How would you expect the fire to develop over the next two to three minutes

Crews use a combination of exterior attack (from the tower ladder and the roof) and interior attack from the second floor to control the fire.

  1. Did fire conditions progress as you anticipated?
  2. What concerns would you have about working on the top floor or roof in the involved area?
  3. How did vertical ventilation influence the fire in the trussloft (think about positives and negatives)?
  4. What alternatives to vertical ventilation of this lightweight roof system could be used to control the fire and prevent extension over uninvolved units?

While this incident had a positive outcome, it is important to recognize the potential for collapse of lightweight, engineered structural systems such as truss roof assemblies. Tactical success in one incident is not necessarily a predictor of future success should conditions be different (e.g., duration of fire impingement on structural members prior to arrival, burning regime, changes to the ventilation profile, etc.).

Master Your Craft

Remember the Past

Line of duty deaths involving extreme fire behavior has a significant impact on the family of the firefighter or firefighters involved as well as their department. Department investigative reports and NIOSH Death in the Line of Duty reports point out lessons learned from these tragic events. However, as time passes, these events fade from the memory of those not intimately connected with the individuals involved. It is important that we remember the lessons of the past as we continue our study of fire behavior and work to improve firefighter safety and effectiveness on the fireground.

November 23, 2006
Firefighter Steven Mitchell Solomon
Atlanta Fire Department, Georgia

Firefighter Solomon was working a 24-hour shift on Thanksgiving Day. Shortly after 2000hrs, Atlanta Fire-Rescue dispatched a full first-alarm assignment for a reported fire in an abandoned house. On arrival, companies encountered heavy smoke showing from a boarded-up single-story brick structure. As other crews removed plywood window coverings and forced entry through the front door, the crew of Engine 16 prepared to advance a 1-3/4inch attack line into the house. Firefighter Solomon was on the nozzle as the line was advanced inside. The attack team immediately encountered high temperature and zero-visibility conditions. Within seconds after they entered, the battalion chief arrived, assumed command, and ordered the companies to operate in a defensive strategy. Before the line could be backed out, the interior became enveloped in flames and the 3 firefighters from Engine 16 lost track of each other. Two of the firefighters managed to escape through the front door. Firefighters who were outside saw the silhouette of a firefighter, enveloped in flames, running past the front door and moving toward the rear of the house. The fire was quickly knocked down and crews made entry from both the front and rear to conduct a search. Firefighter Solomon was located almost immediately by a member who was using a thermal imaging camera and several firefighters quickly removed him from the dwelling. He was unconscious and critically burned. When he was found, Firefighter Solomon had removed his helmet, hood, and SCBA facepiece. One boot was also missing. Although he received immediate treatment from firefighter/paramedics on the scene and was transported within minutes to a level-one trauma center and regional burn unit, Firefighter Solomon died 6 days later without regaining consciousness.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

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2 Responses to “Reading the Fire 12”

  1. Giancarlo P. Says:

    A few questions here…. Being structural collapse a major issue, Is it adviceable to put crews on the roof for ventilation and inside for a interior attack? . With the TL working the fire from outside ,isnt it dangerous for the crews to be inside due to the risks posed by the effects of the stream in the smoke and termal balance inside the structure?.
    Where antiventilation a valid tactic in this scenario or the possibility of unplanned ventilation by window failure or roof collapse made it unviable?

  2. Matt Leech Says:

    As a general rule our department uses the thought “if we are worried about putting F/F on the roof, then we won’t put F/F under the roof”. Only seeing a small portion of the fire, it appeared to be a good fire for an piercing nozzle, which can be done from the aerial ladder. I noticed the siding was melted on the A/B corner, was this a second floor fire and verticle ventilation raised the gas lay? It appears to be an attic fire from where the video starts.

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