Archive for the 'Building Construction' Category

Look Close

Every day is a training day, and every call is a pre-fire plan… Captain Shawn Royall from Charlotte (NC) Ladder Company 23 sent in theses photos that prove this lesson. Have you gone to a medical call or public assist at a building like this in your first due? Did you just take care of the patient and leave, or did you take advantage of the time you were there? Did you position the rig like you wouls if the building was on fire? Did you at least discuss where and why you’d position like that on a fire call? Did you take the time to walk around the structure? If you did, this is what you’d find…

From the street entrance, what do you observe from your initial size up?

lookclose1

Two floors, apartment building, pitched lightweight truss roof, daytime and cars in parking lot, ordinary construction, unimpeded access to the building and roof.

As you walk closer to the building down the right side, unseen from the street….

lookclose2

You have three floors, with one being below grade….

And then things start to really develop as you walk to the rear….

lookclose3

Now its 4 floors, a rear parking area with more cars, multiple units, and balcony’s with no egress and a business that could possibly have multiple occupants.

And finally….

lookclose4

Access problems for apparatus due to grade incline and power lines.

As you can tell, this building is much more than it originally appeared. Discovering this for the first time on the fireground is not a situation we should ever find ourselves in. Nothing will ever replace the knowledge that pre-planning and knowing your first due will provide.

1 comment

Know When to Say When

Dan Rinaldi from Providence Fire Department sent in this door he recently had the pleasure of forcing on a run. Upon initial inspection, it appears to be a normal outward swinging metal door with no external hardware. Initially the door forced easy toward the top, but met some resistance down low.

knowwhentosaywhen1

Upon closer inspection, the bottom edge of the door can be seen covered up to the hinge in asphalt. This obviously was preventing the door from swinging open. At this point, there are two main options, taking the hinge side, or finding another door. A quick peek inside made it clear which option they should choose. In this case, another door was located and forced without a problem. Like any good firefighter who is truly into the craft of firefighting, Dan had to go inspect the door closer after the call was complete. What he found inside validated that finding another entry point in this case was certainly the best option.

knowwhentosaywhen2

From the inside it became clear why it didn’t matter to the building owner that the asphalt was preventing the door from swinging open; They obviously did not want this door to be used as an entry point. They welded a frame of one-inch rebar to the building behind the door.

knowwhentosaywhen3

knowwhentosaywhen4

knowwhentosaywhen7

Sometimes the best decision we could make when forcing a door is to make the decision to stop forcing the door we are currently working on and finding a better option. This decision is extremely hard for many of us because we don’t want to let the first door “beat us.” We have to constantly keep our objective in mind. The objective is to gain entry in the fastest method possible. It is without a doubt that given enough time, we should be able to get through every door we ever come across. The truly disciplined firefighter knows when to say when, and abandon the first door and find a better option.

No comments

Problem with that Pitch

Engineer Caleb Eiriksson from Fort Walton Beach (FL) Truck Co. 6 sent in some photos of how he and the Truck 6 crew recently spent an afternoon out in their first due. They wanted to come up with options of how they could utilize a roof ladder on a large steep pitched roof. Obviously, being able to get the truck into position would eliminate the need for these options, but they wanted to see what other options they could find.

problemwiththatpitch1

problemwiththatpitch5

The first thing they tried was using a 24’ extension ladder and conjunction with a 16’ roof ladder. Which is traditionally their go-to option when dealing with most residential roofs in their area. Due to the pitch and height of the roof, this option was not able to reach the peak. This roof was too steep to walk on, and there were no valleys present to aide in the assent to the peak.

problemwiththatpitch4

The next option they tested was using the same 24′ extension and 16′ roof combo. This time they matched the angle of the roof pitch with the 24 footer and then made a transition to the 16’ roof ladder. As you can see from the photos, this option got them closer, but still came up short of the peak. This option would certainly work on a shorted height roof with this same pitch. It’s worth mentioning that the bed section of the ladder is facing out (up) and the fly section is lying flat on the roof. Using the ladder is this fashion eliminates the ladder bouncing as you ascend the ladder.

problemwiththatpitch6

The next option they tested ended up being the winner for this particular roof: a 35’ extension and a 16’ roof ladder. By matching the angle of the roof, they essentially made the individual ladders into one long ladder. This combination proved to be a very stable working platform. Again, as mentioned earlier, the bed section of the ladder is facing in (resting on the roof) and the fly section is facing out to minimize the ladder bounce. They found the best way to get the ladder in place was to rest the beam on the roof, extend the ladder, then rotate into the bed down position on the roof. Once the 35′ is in position, simply ascend the 35′, and place the 16′ to the peak to get the job done.

problemwiththatpitch9problemwiththatpitch8

While this might not be an everyday roof tactic, it got the crews out into their first due, and they worked trough a challenge together. They worked through the challenge in a non-emergency situation, and would now be better prepared to deploy it for real if the need arose.

problemwiththatpitch7

A special thanks to Engineer Eiriksson and the Truck 6 crew (Captain Mosley, Firefighter Corrigan, Firefighter Dowd, and Firefighter Shalduha) for thinking out of the box and taking the time to share what they found.

1 comment

Climate Controlled “Storage”

Lt. Todd Hime from Marion County (FL) Station 18 sent in this interesting find they came across while out testing hydrants.

IMG953233-960x600

From the outside, it appears to be a straightforward townhome building with a total of 5 two-story units. At the top of the stairs you will find an interesting opening about two to three feet high. As you can see from the photos below, this leads to a 3rd floor “climate controlled storage.” Climate controlled storage is the term the builder used when describing this set-up to the inquisitive crew. However we could certainty see it being used for a child’s play room or even worse case scenario, a child’s bedroom.

IMG_20160204_102352173

Upon closer inspection of the rest of the buildings being completed in this complex the crew found that one of the buildings at least had windows located in the gable of the two end units that may tip us off to the presence of this potential “third floor.” Two of the buildings in this complex (including the one shown here) do not have any windows in the gable.

Apparently, the building code allows for this “climate controlled storage” as long as it does not have permanent steps leading to the floor or include doors to close them off. Since these are townhomes and not apartment buildings, the occupants are free to alter the insides of the units however they like. We wouldn’t put it past a homeowner to retrofit a door to cover this opening once they take ownership of the property. Once a door is covering this opening, it may look like a simple air handler closet.

IMG_20160204_102332574

As we mentioned earlier, this opening is right at the top of the stairs. Any fire or smoke conditions on either floor would quickly fill this space with smoke and heat.

IMG_20160204_102307641

Below are the floor plans from the builders website, with no indication of the “climate controlled storage”.

Floor Plan

A quick aggressive and effective search is essential to increase/ensure the safety/survivability of the occupants in a building experiencing smoke and fire conditions. Unfortunately for us, sometimes building construction and poor choices of the occupants work against us. We must constantly be learning about trends in building construction, and learning the buildings in our first due in order to remain successful on the fireground.

4 comments

Connex Castle

Senior Captain T. Paget from Houston (TX) Ladder 46 sent in these photos of a new style construction they recently found in their first due area. Like any great crew should do, they stopped and walked through the structure to check out the unique style of construction.

As you can see from the photos these are intermodal box (connex box) containers used as housing. These are the same containers commonly used in flashover simulators and other live fire training structures.

connexcastle1

This particular example is a residential duplex with one family upstairs and one family downstairs. The structure is made up of a total of four boxes. Two boxes are stacked on top of each other on the bravo side of the building, and two are stacked on the delta side. They leave a space in between the two stacks of boxes that is later built out with conventional building materials to make up the main living area and kitchen. The bedrooms and bathrooms are located in the actual connex boxes. There are no windows on the B or D sides and only one small window on the C side. The only way in and out is on the A side. The upper unit does have an attic access and a corrugated metal roof.

connexcastle3

Fortunately most of us have a great deal of experience fighting fires in these structures. We know from experience that they can hold in a tremendous amount for fire, and retain a lot of heat. As a result, fire extension via convention between the floors should not be the primary concern. Keep in mind that the bathroom areas would still be an area of concern of vertical extension via convection due to plumbing chases. Fire extension via conduction is however a greater possibility then we would typically find in conventional construction materials. These boxes could easily conduct heat from two different areas of the building (ie: the front bedroom to the back bedroom.)

connexcastle2

While you may not have seen this style of constitution in your first due, don’t be surprised it if pops up. It possesses two of the most desirable characteristics in the construction industry; quick and cheap. When speaking with the builder, the crew from Ladder 46 found that there will be as many as 18 of these structures being built in the area within the next 3 months. So be on the lookout for these connex castles.

3 comments

Blocked Door

 

blockeddoor3

Seeing these signs on the rear of a commercial occupancy can tell you a few important things. The most obvious is that the door may actually be blocked. But how blocked is it? Is there an actual wall on the other side of the door? Is it fully blocked by high rack storage? Or is it just partially blocked by something less significant like a partial or rolling rack storage?

blockeddoor1

What else can this sign tell us? It more than likely indicates that one large business occupies multiple tenant build out spaces. When the building was designed they simply built a shell, with no particular tenant in mind. This is becoming a more popular construction method because it keeps the developers options open in regards to potential tenants.

As you can see from the Alpha side this is one large occupancy that occupies multiple tenant build out spaces.

blockeddoor4

On the Charlie side, you can see that three of the doors are blocked, leaving only one potentially clear. We say potentially because these rear storage areas are often overloaded and doors quickly become blocked with merchandise. This is particularly a problem during the holidays when stores are overstocking to keep up with demand.

blockeddoor2

When operating at the rear of a commercial occupancy it would be important to transmit this finding over the radio. It may help command appreciate the size of the occupancy if it not already obvious, and it may help interior crews understand that they may not have easily accessible secondary means of egress. From a RIT perspective, the RIT team should certainly make their way to the Charlie side to evaluate these doors themselves. Their presence may make the RIT team re-evaluate their potential rescue plan in case things go bad. Depending on time, and conditions, it may be worth forcing the door anyway to truly evaluate how blocked it is, and how it may be used to support operations.

2 comments

AFA’s and Aerial’s

In some of our recent posts we have been discussing a handful of important aspects of 360’s. The first one about not being able to complete a 360 can be found here and the second one about 360’s on Automatic Fire Alarms can be found here. We started discussing the importance of utilizing the aerial during AFA’s. So now we have to ask: Do you bother using your aerial device during AFA’s?  If not, you may be missing out on a valuable street training opportunity.

afaerial6

As we mentioned, one of the greatest benefits found when using aerial devices during automatic fire alarms is the tremendous training it provides crews (when staffing and time permits). It is much better to practice during “insignificant calls” when adrenaline is not clouding our minds. The most important training opportunity this provides is aerial placement and set up. A majority of the time, the AFA’s from commercial buildings are unintentionally set off during normal business hours. The cause of the alarm is frequently due to brunt food in the break room or HVAC malfunctions. These AFA’s during business hours allow for us to practice positioning the ladder truck in crowded and tight streets or parking areas. Once the alarm has been handled, and the occupants allowed to return to the building is when the real training opportunity begins. The entire crew can meet back up at the rig (which is left set up) to discuss placement, reaches, scrub areas, victim rescues, etc. It can also be a great time to discuss apparatus placement with the Engine company crew as well.

afaaerial5

We all know that outriggers can be one of the biggest challenges we run into when setting the truck up on crowded or small streets and parking lots. If you are assigned to a ladder truck that allows for short jacking, you may have a few options to overcome these challenges. For example, the truck shown here allows for short jacking. When setting up on a narrow street the tractor operator pulls to the opposite side of the street adjacent to the incident building. The tractor operator will exit the truck and place the short outrigger, often called the off side, straight down. This leaves room for the opposite outrigger, often called the working side, to be fully extended. The truck is now fully stabilized (on the building side) and ready to have the aerial placed in service. Doing this over and over creates good muscle memory for the “real emergency” when ladder placement is crucial and must be done right the first time.

afaaerial2

afaaerial3

Another benefit found when utilizing aerials during AFA’s is simply practicing getting off and back on the tip of aerial. Unfortunately there have been many LODD’s due to firefighters falling while getting off or on a roof from an aerial. Since AFA’s are low emergency calls, is a great time to build muscle memory at a slower pace to practice safe access to real roofs from aerials.

afaaerial4

So whether it be during AFA’s or just drilling, get those ladder trucks out of the bay and set them up in your first due! You’ll never know the capabilities and limitations of your rig unless you use it. You may even surprise yourself on what you can learn from a non-emergency call like an AFA. Every call is a training opportunity.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens, www.dennissphotography.com

3 comments

AFA’s and 360’s

In our last post we discussed situations when a 360 of the fire building may be delayed or unable to be completed at all. That post can be found by clicking here.

Now we will ask some additional questions: Do you even bother to perform a 360? If so, what types of calls do you perform them on?

afa3601

Most people would probably lean toward doing them more often than not, but those were really just the primer questions. The real question is this: Do you take the time to perform a 360 on “nothing showing” or “automatic fire alarms?”

afa3602

If your staffing situations allow, it should be a part of your SOG’s to have a 360 done on these seemingly insignificant calls as well. For example, Winter Park has the Outside Truck crew perform a 360 on all automatic fire alarm activations. It is signified as being complete by a simple radio transition: “Outside Truck to Command, 360 all clear, standing by utilities.” It’s a great training opportunity for everyone, not just the ones tasked with completing it, but for everyone listening as well. It’s a simple way to keep the 360 on everyone’s mind.

afaaerial1

It is important to mention that the 360 on these seemingly “insignificant calls” may be abandoned (or modified) if other tasks are required of the Outside Truck crew. For example, most buildings in Winter Park require the aerial ladder to be extended to access and investigate roof top air conditioning units (which are often to blame for our Fire Alarm activations.) Often times in this situation the 2 man Outside Team will split up, The Tractor Operator will set-up and extend the aerial for roof access, while the Tillerman performs the 360. After the 360 is complete (and announced on the radio) the Tillerman will join up with the Tractor Operator and access the roof.

afaaerial2

Again, these recent discussions of the importance of 360’s are not being shared to delay initial operations. We are simply trying to demonstrate their importance and increase understanding of times when they should, and times when they shouldn’t (or can’t) be completed. Taking the time to standardize how and when they are completed will help set you up for success on the fireground. Also, taking the time to practice them on “insignificant calls” will help them become standard practice and part of everyone expectations.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens, DennissPhotography.com

No comments

Unable to Complete 360

A 360 of the involved structure can provide some very important information while operating on the fireground. However sometimes the 360 may not be possible. We must remember that the simple fact that you cannot complete a 360 may be just as important as what you’d see if you could. There may be any number of reasons that the 360 might not be achievable, some more prevalent ones may be:

Size of structure
Exposures
Block wall fences
Water
Immediate need for rescue (ie: victims in windows)

unabletocomplete360 3

unabletocomplete360 2

The simple radio transmission “Unable to Complete 360” tells the other incoming units an important fact. It lets everyone know that we may be forced to operate without potentially valuable information. Depending the amount of radio traffic, you could even state the reason why the 360 was not able to be completed: “due to size of structure” “due to water on the Charlie and Delta sides” “due to obstructions.”

unabletocomplete360 1

Just because the first arriving unit cannot complete the initial 360, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be completed at all. The second arriving Chief Officer, or Safety Officer may need to be detailed complete the delayed 360. Of course, whenever possible, the RIT team should complete their own 360 to come up with the rescue plan.

The 360 can provide us with extremely valuable information. We must have a plan in place for how and when the initial 360 will be completed and announced, and more importantly, have a plan for when it can’t be done.

3 comments

Faux Dormers

Are dormers a prevalent component of building construction in your area? If they are, are they real dormers or faux-dormers? Knowing the answer to this question is critical because they act very differently during fire situations and have totally different tactical priorities.

fauxdormers1

The presence of real dormers indicates a potentially occupied area of the structure. This area absolutely needs to be searched for potential victims. This upper floor of the structure will typically contain bedrooms, which should be very high on your search priority list. The other question that needs to be answered in this scenario is whether or not the structure is balloon frame construction as well. That certainly adds to the need to search this area immediately with an effort to open it up looking for fire that has traveled to the top floor. Finally, real dormers frequently have knee walls that can hide a tremendous amount of fire that can catch us off guard if we are not extremely familiar with the intricacies of this construction style.

fauxdormers4

Faux dormers have a totally different set of tactical concerns. Faux dormers are installed on homes to make the roof line more “interesting” and make the house look more grand. Frequently these faux dormers are built on top of the actual roof and have sheeting underneath and don’t even open into the actual attic space.

fauxdormers2

Know your area! Take the time to look around and be familiar with the construction styles found in your first due. Look for the tell tale signs of real dormers: steep roof pitch and windows in the gable ends. Smoke issuing from a real dormer potentially indicates a fire in an occupied area of the building that typically contains bedrooms. This situation requires an immediate search for life. Smoke issuing from a faux dormer potentially indicates an fire in an unoccupied area of the structure, the attic. This presents a much different situation, but it requires an immediate search for fire.

fauxdormers3

Building construction can have a dramatic impact on fire and smoke travel in a structure. We must know how two things that look so similar can behave so differently during fire conditions.

1 comment

Next Page »