Archive for September, 2009

Sliding Fire Door

Clayton Moorman & Grant Walker, firefighters from NIST Fire Department in Gaithersburg (MD) sent in these photos of a sliding fire door they found on the NIST campus. Sliding fire doors are much more popular than you may think, the problem is you never realize they are present. Many times when the door is open, it is hidden between two walls. The picture below shows the door (in the open position) on the right side of the opening mostly hidden in the wall. The sliding fire door has a pull handle and is painted the same color as the wall (not the grey door.) Also visible is the angled track above the opening, and the receiving “guide” on the right side of the opening.

The purpose of the door is to provide fire and smoke separation in fire rated walls and corridors (hallways.) These doors reside on an angled track that allows gravity to close the door automatically. The doors are held open either by a fusible link (as shown in the picture below), or electromagnetic fire alarm interface. When heat builds up or the fire alarm activates these doors close pretty quickly, we would say that they slam shut but we’re sure someone would correct us on that. These doors are typically quite heavy and take some effort to open back up. Remember they are weighted so gravity closes them…

Obviously the problem is that these doors could close behind us and cut off our primary means of egress. They could also slam shut and kink or possibly even sever the engine company’s umbilical cord (hose line) …Lighten up fellas, just kidding about the umbilical cord thing. We have plans to shoot some video of one of these doors in operation and will post a follow-up in the somewhat near future.

As with everything else in the fire service there is an NFPA standard (NFPA 80) that covers the installation, inspection, and everything else concerning these doors. So they are definitely allowable by code. One specific purpose these doors are used for is to provide fire separation in openings greater than 8 feet wide. Not the case in this particular installation. Eight feet is the magic number that can no longer be protected by standard set of double swinging fire doors. Fortunately some of the larger sliding doors may actually have a smaller egress door present to allow someone to pass through the larger door once it slides into place. It won’t help with the hose line issue, but at least it may allow us to get out easier. However this egress option is not very common.

A quick discussion with the inspectors in your fire prevention bureau may be very helpful in locating these doors in your area. Odds are they know where most of them are. However don’t be fooled if they don’t know of any off hand, they may still be out there. The inspectors may not originally think much about our concerns in operating in building that contain these doors. Take the time to explain to they why it’s important for us to know about them, and you’d be surprised with how quickly they alert you to them in the future.

On a related note, many firefighters know of the import role that the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) has in the fire service. They do an amazing amount of research to make our jobs safer and more efficient. However, most probably didn’t know (we didn’t) that NIST actually has their own fire department that covers the NIST campus. We thought it was worth mentioning.


Compartmentalized Ladder

We have featured a few posts with different methods to store a hook on a ladder in our Tips from the Bucket section. The first was titled Hook & Ladder sent in by EVD Dean Denning from Baltimore City Truck Company 5, and the second one DCFD Hook & Ladder sent in by Joe Brown from DCFD Truck Company 17. Both of these methods work well for the ladders mounted on the exterior of the rig, but does not work on ladders stored in a ladder compartment.
Technician Larry Lippincott from Loudoun County (VA) Tower Ladder 611 sent in this method for compartment stored ladders. This solution uses a simple clip and some heavy duty Velcro. The clip is simply attached to the rung using the Velcro.
This allows the clip to swivel out of the way when the ladder is stored in the compartment. When needed, the clip can be swiveled back into position allowing it to hold the hook securely in place. The clip is secure enough that it holds the tool while throwing the ladder allowing the tool to be released with a good pull. Check out the Tips from the Bucket section for some close-up pictures of the clip in both positions. It is worth mentioning that this method utilizes the side of the hook with the 45 degree angle to help keep the hook secured to the rung.


Service Drop
Bryan Martin from Redmond (WA) Truck 16 sent in these pictures of an interesting service drop into a structure. These power lines run from the pole mounted transformer across the roof into a weather head mounted in the middle of the structure. The lines are only about 3-4 feet off of the roof. In the first picture, the lines are extremely difficult to see. The second picture was taken with a flash from the same spot as the first, simply looking toward the right. In looking at the pictures, it appears that the roof that they were taken from may have been an addition to the original taller structure located toward the top of the picture. The contractor simply left the existing service drop in place creating the hazard. We posted a somewhat similar set-up over a year ago in a post titled No Overhead Obstructions. Either way, it’s something to look out for, and another reason to carry a good working flashlight with you at all times. Just something else the roof team needs to keep in mind.


…And This Over There

Shortly after publishing our most recent post titled Mount That Right Here, the electrician was fired due to his shoddy workmanship. Fortunately for him, he was quickly able to find a new job as a pipe fitter for a local gas company. We recently caught up with him on his first installation of a commercial gas meter…

None of the above is true; it just seemed like a fun way to introduce this similarly disturbing set-up. FADO Scott Taylor from Anne Arundel County (MD) sent in this photo of a gas meter he spotted at a local shopping center. In this situation, the door was no longer required (or marked as) a fire exit but was still visible from the inside. It just goes to show you that never know what you will find out there.


Mount That Right Here…
Captain Michael Janson from Sunrise (FL) sent in this photo that was taken by Lt K. Neumann. They found this set-up during some routine area familiarization. The door was screwed shut with some tap-cons and electrical conduit was run across it. Once they found it, they notified their Fire Marshalls office to look into it. While it may be very possible that this exit was no longer needed by code (for some unthinkable reason), if its visible from the inside, it may cause a situation for crews operating inside. Without being 100% sure of which way the power is fed makes removing this a little dicey for the outside team. After the main power to the building is cut is one thing, but what’s to say this was even tied into that? It’s probably safe to say that this was not installed by a real electrician. If it was, they certainly didn’t have much attention to detail, and perhaps their work should not be trusted.

Anytime you are the crew are out, or on your way back to quarters, take the opportunity to go behind one of your strip malls. Interesting finds like this, and other supplemental locks are all over the place. It’s a great training opportunity for you and the rest of the crew. When interesting situations are found be sure to pass it on to the other crews, and send a picture to your favorite truck company website!


Cutting Hinges

We recently found some videos we shot over a year and a half ago, and we decided to knock the dust off of them and finally start to post them. The first video is a simple demonstration of cutting hinges for making entry. Obviously for this particular door, the window would be the easier option, but the skill was performed simply for demonstration purposes. When discussing cutting hinges a few questions come to mind: What order do you cut the hinges? Do you have a standard order? Why or why not? Does it even matter? Well, as shown in this video, our method is to start with the top hinge, then attacking the bottom hinge, and finishing with the middle hinge. This order allows you to make the most difficult cut (top hinge) first. Then the bottom hinge, while the door is still retained by the middle hinge. Finally, finishing off with the middle hinge allows you to be standing up in a neutral position when the door if finally released from the jamb. Another simple tip is to stand on the building side of the door, instead of right in front of the door itself. Again just in case to door lets loose before it’s expected to. It may be totally insignificant, but this technique works quite well.


Artistic Board Up Fire

EVD Brian Minutoli from Baltimore City Fire Department sent in these photos as a follow up to our recent post titled Artistic Board Up. The pictures are of a working fire in Baltimore City a few years ago in a building that had windows similar to the ones featured in our post. We forgot to ask Brian the details of the fire, so if anyone knows anything about it, please give us some of the details.