No fire attack or building is worth the life of a firefighter

Extend LIMITED Risk to Protect SAVABLE Property. Rules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting.

To cause the incident commander to limit risk exposure to a reasonable, cautious and conservative level when trying to save a building that is believed, following a size-up, to be savable.

LIMITED; the point, edge, or line beyond which something cannot or may not proceed. Confined or restricted within certain limits.

NO GO: If the building cannot be saved, consider an exterior defensive attack.

Narrative Limited is defined as; “the point, edge, or line beyond which something cannot or may not proceed, confined or restricted within certain limits”. In other words there is a limit, or line, beyond which firefighters may not be exposed to unsafe fire conditions.

If a building can be saved, the incident commander should extend limited risk and carefully employ calculated operations which must be continuously monitored to ensure the safety line is not crossed. The key word in this discussion is “savable”. No fire attack or building is worth the life of a firefighter.

If the building can be saved a cautious and conservative operation should be employed. The incident commander must also recognize they cannot always save a building. If conditions worsen and become unsafe during interior operations, crews must be withdrawn from the building in a timely fashion and defensive exterior operations employed. Most buildings that are lost will be rebuilt. Much of our firefighting is conducted in buildings that are deemed savable. Some may refer to these as “bread and butter” or “routine” firefights. However, they do expose the firefighter to risks. Mishandled and they can, and have, killed firefighters. Where the building is deemed savable attack hoselines must be of proper size and number to achieve fire control.

There must be adequate staffing to conduct operations. All hoselines entering a burning building, or compartment, must be charged and operating with the correct pressures. In some cases it may be appropriate to use large caliber apparatus monitored monitor devices to quickly knock down fire before crews enter a building. Recent research by Underwriters Laboratories determined that a fire in a modern home can create a flashover in just 3 minutes and 40 seconds! This rapid flashover time for the modern home reflects today’s typical contents – synthetics and plastics.

Such rapid flashovers quickly reduce the survival profile of any trapped victims as well as increasing risk to firefighters. The research also showed, in many experiments, that if a firefighter is in a room about to reach flashover, the time from onset of untenability to flashover was less than 10 seconds! This DOES NOT allow much of a survival period for the firefighter to exit a building. Interior firefighting operations must be fully supported with adequate resources on scene and risk must be closely and continually assessed. A fire that cannot be controlled quickly may be approaching flashover.

The fire will also continue to eat away at the buildings structural integrity, weakening it, thus, increasing risk. The incident commander should also be aware of the affects of wind on fire development and intensity. Any wind over 10 mph begins to have increasing dangerous affects by dramatically increasing the intensity of fire conditions in a building and rapidly increase risk to any firefighters downwind while in a building.

The higher the wind speed the more intense the fire conditions. Once downwind windows fail or doors are opened, wind will rapidly push the fire onto firefighters almost instantly and minimizing survival time. A smaller example of the effects of wind is positive pressure ventilation. Anyone who has used positive knows there needs to be an exit point in or near the fire area. Where that exists the positive ventilation pushes fire out that window in a blow torch fashion running horizontal for several feet.

If the door the firefighter is entering is downwind from the fire and a significant wind enters the building firefighters will be subject to a much greater blow torch affect than created by positive pressure ventilation. The incident commander must consider the possibility of lightweight construction and early collapse potential. Underwriters Laboratory test determined some lightweight unprotected floor truss systems can collapse in 6.5 minutes after flame impingement – and without warning. This short time frame means collapse could occur as the first crews are entering the building. Abandoned and dilapidated buildings are also a particular risk to firefighters and experience has shown there is very little likelihood that there are any occupants in the building. Should there be any active and growing fire in such a building which cannot be immediately controlled then a defensive strategy must be seriously considered at the outset. Bottom line;

No fire attack or building is worth the life of a firefighter. Risk must be closely and continuously assessed during interior operations. If the fire is about to harm firefighters, go defensive.

Teaching Points

 No fire attack or building is worth the life of a firefighter. If the building can be saved, cautious and conservative operations should be applied.

 The incident commander and fire crews must recognize we cannot always save a building. When buildings are lost, most will be demolished and rebuilt. Limit risk as appropriate.

 Firefighting operations must be fully supported with adequate resources and risk must be closely and continually assessed. If conditions deteriorate and become unsafe, crews must be rapidly withdrawn before firefighters are harmed and defensive operations implemented.

 “Adequate resources” means an adequate numbers of firefighters to effectively engage and control the fire, the proper size and number of hoselines, and a secure (hydrant) water supply.

 Large caliber hose lines provide improved fire control and safety for firefighters where significant fire is encountered. In some cases it would be appropriate to use large caliber apparatus mounted monitor devices to quickly knock down fire before crews enter a building.

 Where hoselines are used for attack, they must be of proper size and number to achieve fire control. All hoselines entering or approaching a burning building or compartment must be charged and operating with the correct pressures.

 A fire that cannot be controlled quickly will continue to eat away at the buildings structural integrity, weakening it and increasing risk. An uncontrolled fire also continues to develop untenable fire conditions and lessens occupant survival.

 Where significant fire has consumed a building the buildings structural integrity must be assessed before fire crews re-enter the building.

 The risk to firefighters continues after fire control. All buildings will be structurally compromised to some degree by fire and a collapse potential may exist for crews conducting overhaul. The roof and floor trusses may be weakened substantially. The atmosphere will remain toxic for some time requiring continued SCBA use.

 Recent research by Underwriters Laboratories determined that a fire in a modern home (contents of plastics and synthetics) can create a flashover in just 3 minutes and 40 seconds! This rapid flashover time for the modern home reflects today’s typical contents – synthetics and plastics. Such rapid flashovers quickly reduce the survival profile of any trapped victims as well as increasing risk to firefighters.

 The research also showed, in many experiments, that if a firefighter is in a room about to reach flashover, the time from onset of untenability to flashover was less than 10 seconds! This DOES NOT allow much of a survival period for the firefighter to exit a building.

 The incident commander must be aware of lightweight construction and early collapse potential – for both the roof and floors, particularly over a basement fire. Underwriters Laboratory test determined some lightweight unprotected truss system can collapse as early as 6.5 minutes after flame impingement – and without warning.

 The incident commander should also be aware of wind driven fires as they can almost instantly create an intense fire once a downwind window fails or a door is opened that can easily roll over firefighters. Where high wings exist, the safest approach is fire crews attack the fire from the upwind side.

 Abandoned and dilapidated buildings are a particular risk to firefighters and experience has shown there is little likelihood of containing any occupants. Where the fire cannot be quickly controlled, serious consideration should be given to a defensive strategy.

 

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Emergency Live

Emergency Live is the only multilingual magazine dedicated to people involved in rescue and emergency. As such, it is the ideal medium in terms of speed and cost for trading companies to reach large numbers of target users; for example, all companies involved in some way in the equipping of specialised means of transport. From vehicle manufacturers to companies involved in equipping those vehicles, to any supplier of life- saving and rescue equipment and aids.

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