Archive for August, 2009

Deceptive Parapet

Chris Dufresne and Mike Freeman from DCFD 13 Truck sent in these photos of an interesting building they came across in DC.

From three sides this building appears to be a two story commercial, however the view from the rear shows something unexpected.

The building is actually a single story with a large parapet wall. The parapet is dressed out to appear to be a full second story, and does not contain parapet drains which would be a dead giveaway. This could come as quite a surprise to the roof team if they approach on one of the parapet sides. The parapet appears to be over ten feet tall, and could pose a slight complication to the members making the roof. It has become an extremely popular trend in building construction to make building appear much more grand then they really are. It’s something we need to be aware of so we don’t get caught off guard.

27 comments

Artistic Board Up

A firefighter from Upstate New York gave us the heads up of something unique happening in Albany. The City of Albany has a new approach to boarding up vacant structures. It’s called Artistic Board Up, the idea is to make the vacants appear less abandoned. It’s something to keep an eye on incase it becomes popular and starts happening elsewhere. Check out this video that describe what they are doing, and what it looks like when they are complete. The video is from Albany News 10 (WTEN.)

[flv]http://www.vententersearch.com/videos/flv/artboardup2.flv[/flv]

Make sure you take a second look before giving that initial on scene report.

26 comments

Follow Us

Not sure if anyone noticed but over in the sidebar (right-hand column) there are a few new ways to stay informed of what’s going on at vententersearch. If none of this stuff means anything to you, don’t worry, were are not changing anything. These are just convenient ways for people to stay updated about new posts. We have had numerous requests to set these options up, so below is a link and short description on what these new options are:

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These new options work if you only want to be notified whenever a new post is put up, however, they don’t update as comments are made. The only way to stay up to date with the comments (educational and humorous) is to come check out the page itself. Thanks again for your continued support!

3 comments

Bowstring without an Arch?

Everyone in the fire service should know and understand the dangers associated with the bowstring truss style of roof construction. Unfortunately the fire service learned this during due to two tragic bowstring truss roof collapse events:

August 2, 1978- Brooklyn (NY) when 6 brothers lost their lives
July 1, 1988- Hackensack (NJ) when 5 brothers lost their lives

It is extremely important to be able to identify when a bowstring truss is present. Hopefully every firefighter should be able to identify a bowstring truss by the tell-tale arched roof. However, in many bowstring truss installations the arch is concealed from street level view by a large parapet wall like shown in our previous posts titled: Opposing Forces and Cover that Bowstring.

Besides the arch, the next most prevalent sign of bowstring is an occupancy that has a large open area, with a limited amount of supporting columns. Some examples include: bowling alleys, supermarkets, and automotive dealers/repair shops. The age of the building may provide another clue: Bowstring trusses were extremely popular prior to 1960’s.

The pictures below show a different way of hiding the bowstring and prove that it’s just as important to know the other signs of a bowstring truss roof.


As you can see from these photos, the arch of the roof may not be noticeable at all from the outside. Upon observation from the inside, the presence of the bowstring becomes obvious. The bowstring is present, but it has been “built up” into a flat roof. This particular building houses an indoor parking area for a rental car company located near the Los Angeles (CA) airport. Since the occupancy required a large open span, with a minimal amount of columns, the bowstring truss was utilized. Actually, to be more accurate, three bowstring trusses were used to make up each row of a truss. Each bowstring spanned a third of the building’s width. The bowstring truss was then built-up to make to roof flat for drainage purposes, totally concealing the arch.

So the most reliable way to tell if a bowstring is present is to make that determination prior to the incident. Like we have preached so many times in the past, get out and pre-plan!

12 comments

Firehouse Ingenuity

Most of the tools used in the fire service today were developed in the firehouse based on the needs of a particular area. Many of these tools have stood up to the test of time and are currently being produced and utilized across our industry. There are many great tools and quality tool manufacturers out there, however, there are also many gimmick tools on the market. These gimmick tools lack true functionality or durability to hold up the abuse found on the fireground and end up being a waste of time and money.

This post is not to bash any company or any tool that is currently on the market, it’s simply a discussion of firehouse ingenuity and its role in our business. Simply put, making or modifying tools to fit your specific needs is a great idea. Here are two examples of what was developed at two different firehouses, to fit their specific needs.

Brian Brush from West Metro (CO) Company 10 sent the photo below of his department’s modification on the roof hook. They wanted a roof hook combined with a rubbish hook on the other end. So they removed the chisel tip from one of their roof hooks, inserted a plug, and fabricated a rubbish hook from 5/8″ round bar. They felt the rubbish hook provided a good footprint for sounding the roof and a large purchase for opening up drywall. It’s their take on a east meets west roof hook.

Robert L. Doucette from Meriden (CT) Engine 4 sent in his fabrication pictured below. He wanted a customized “heavy” rake hook with a chisel tip on the opposite end. His custom hook is fabricated entirely out of steel with forged working ends. The tool’s heavy weight helps it get through the thick plaster and lathe construction found in his area. What makes this tool’s rake end unique is the added scoring spine. The spine assists in getting the initial purchase point needed to open things up. As a final touch, a link was welded on the tool for the floor above vent technique.

These tools may not work for you, but they work for them, and that’s what it’s all about. Make your tools work for you!

47 comments

Mansard Roof Over


Sean Zellers from the Union Hose Company, Annville (PA) sent in these photos of something he came across while passing through Shamokin, PA. The photo shows an older Victorian style home undergoing some renovations, including a roof-over. In this situation the mansard roof is being covered by a hip roof. As shown in the photo below, this creates a significant void space around the perimeter of the third floor. Fortunately, after the renovation is complete there will still be a few indications of the underlining situation. The excessively deep window sills will be apparent from the inside, and the slight bit of the remaining mansard roof (showing in-between the second and third story) will be noticeable from the outside. Comparing structures in the neighborhood is a useful tool when trying to determine the potential of situations like this.

These photos also serve as a reminder that you may have to go and aggressively look for the fire during overhaul. Many departments, incident commanders or crews are reluctant to open things up too much. Sometimes a little bit of damage now will prevent an embarrassing recall or rekindle later on. As with some many other things we’ve discussed on the site before sensible Truck work will make the difference!

17 comments

Notice Anything Else?

Dave Mylum from Henrico County (VA) Division of Fire’s truck 6 sent in these photos of a door he recently found. The door originally appears to have the same locking mechanism we spoke about last week in our post titled: Indentify and Visualize.

However, take a closer look… Click here to see what’s on the other side.

6 comments

Webbing Roll


Hunter Hill from Fitchburg (WI) Fire Department sent in this simple method of storing webbing. Simply roll up the webbing and place it in a medical glove. This keeps the webbing from getting knotted up or hung up on anything in your pocket. These photos show a length of webbing with carabineers on either end, but it would work just as well with webbing that is tied in a continuous loop. Webbing is a versatile tool, and can be used in a number of different ways. Some uses call for a length of webbing, some call for a continuous loop. It’s not a bad idea to carry one of each.

64 comments