Get the roof…


…then get the hell off the roof!

How many people does it take?

picture courtesy of


12 Comments so far

  1. Jimm May 3rd, 2006 11:27 am

    I’m all about getting the roof. Trust me I am. But it looks like they are trying every tactic possible. What’s that hoseline for? You just know they opened it up into the vent hole. Talk about pushing fire! -Jimm-

  2. 52capt. September 25th, 2006 2:51 pm

    SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY, How many does one need to open the roof? Just an accident waiting to happen. I’m sure that some of those brother’s could br used to do other functions on the fireground. Where’s the Safety officer?

  3. acklan February 22nd, 2008 11:55 am

    I know this is almost 2 1\2 year old post but I could not resist.
    The problem is not the overly aggressive fire fighters on the roof, it is the underly assertive Chief standing in the fore ground. He should have limited the task to the company officer and his fire fighters (limit to two).
    To address the line on the roof, I have been there. We have houses similar to that one all over my district (City). Low pitch roofs with limited or no access from below. On several occasions I have attacked the fire from a 6’x6′ on the roof instead of working from limited space below. Works for me. Doing this we have been able to limit smoke and water damage on many structures, but as you point out it does look bad out of context.
    Even if that were the case you should only need 4 FFs total on the roof, one extra to handle the line.

  4. facetothefloor February 22nd, 2008 6:10 pm

    Only time a hand line should go to the roof is when a trench cut is being performed. Otherwise as “jimm” states you push fire throughout the attic space and gravely endanger the troops deployed inside.

    At PD’s we can eliminate roof ops and perform ventilation via gabled ends of structure to further our time on the green side of the grass.

    The more I look at that picture, the more I wonder if anyone reads anymore. Or, they are an exterior firefighting department and this is all in a days work for them. Notice no door or window is taken yet there is a hole in the roof.
    Scary photo.

  5. acklan February 22nd, 2008 6:43 pm

    Only time a hand line should go to the roof is when a trench cut is being performed. Otherwise as “jimm” states you push fire throughout the attic space and gravely endanger the troops deployed inside.

    There are no “only”s in the fire service. Event the red book will defer to your instructor on what is proper for your department.
    In almost 30 years on a pumper I have found exceptions to “No hand line on the roof”. Every situation differs and nothing can be ruled out.
    While I do not use this tactic on most fire I can assure you that I have never endangers a fire fighter and never “pushed fire” and caused more damage. I have on several occasions opened a roof and put out fire and in doing so reduced the amount of damage done to the structure and contents.
    For an inexperienced company officer the book may well be the absolute guide to fighting fire, but at some point you need to tailor you tactics to your local fire department and even individual station and companies.
    To each his own but NO department follows the book 100% of the time and should not.
    By the way the door not being open only indicates they did not enter from that end of he structure. They could have easily have entered the front and the fire is out. There are two lines going to the roof by the way and the smoke being white, not black brown or tan, would lead me to believe they already have water on the fire.
    It is hard to have absolutes on a fire none of us have been on.

  6. facetothefloor February 23rd, 2008 11:37 am

    So you are telling me that “never” shouldn’t be used in this business then go on to say that you “never pushed fire” in 30 years??? My “only” refers to fire that involves the attic/ cockloft space. Have been to membrane / torchdown roof, compactor, chimney, and scaffold fires that had a line going “to the roof”.
    NEVER in 22 years have I seen a line go to a roof of an occupied building to extinguish main bodies of fire as the primary means of attack.

    And you don’t find it at all strange that all the windows are intact, door closed and there are 2 lines going to the roof???

    And in regard to “white smoke”, see BC Dave Dodson’s Art Of Reading Smoke and this may change your feelings.

    And, no I am not a by the book “only”. Have NEVER seen a fire attacked from this vantage point, being above without addressing it from below first.

  7. acklan February 23rd, 2008 1:48 pm

    I had one in January. We had an exposer that the fire was isolated to the attic. We rip a 4×6 hole in the roof and put the fire out. We had no smoke in the main house and by attacking the fire in this way no water or smoke damage was done to the living area of the house. The fire was isolated to the paper backing of the bat insulation. If I would have ALWAYS attacked from the bottom I would have pulled the sheet rock and original bearded pine ceiling and resulting in $10k+ property damage for no reason.
    If the fire is contained to the attic in this incident there is no reason to open up the down stairs. Unless you enjoy destroying property for no reason. We were not there (at least I was not) and to some extent I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that there attack was proper. The issue I had was some many fire fighters on the roof and ladders.
    As far as finding it strange that all the windows were intact and the doors were closed. No, not if there was no smoke or fire in the living areas. Once again I was not at that fire and since you did not claim to be I assume you were not either.
    This is again where it differs from department to department. I have seen footage of fire fighters breaking out windows and even removing entire casings without any smoke much less fire present. In my department we do not do that unless the reason is clear for it. Without knowing the procedures and all of the details of the fire it just appear they are needlessly destroying property. More than likely that assumption would be wrong.
    In my department we rely on PPV try to keep the windows intact were practical so that were can channel the smoke were possible. Some time we have to break glass to accomplish our goals.
    I did not say we did not “address it from below”, I was referring to our willingness to adjust to accomplish our golds while at the same time attempting to reduce the amount of property damage we may cause.
    You understood me correctly. I have never push a fire through an attic by choosing to attack it by opening the roof and going in, verses unnecessarily pulling a ceiling and doing far more damage.
    Strictly going by what you see in that single photo, what in Mr. Dodson’s book would indicate anything more than steam and a light amount of actual smoke? It appears to me they have water on the fire and it is all but out. Depending on the ambient temperature steam may rise up from that opening for 30 or more after the fire is out.
    How many techniques are we using now that at some point considered wrong? Yep I stand by my first statement there are no absolutes.

  8. Evan Swartz February 24th, 2008 2:14 am

    I’m speechless…..they MUST be engine guys.

  9. 4 Roof February 24th, 2008 8:59 am

    Another great topic for discussion. While it does look like there is the potential here for ‘too many cooks in the soup’, these guys definitely seem to be operating with adequate personnel at this incident. We should take as positives that there are at least three ground ladders up at this incident (an often neglected task almost everywhere) and that the need for vertical ventilation has been recognized and addressed (also hit or miss in a lot of places).

    One thought that I read over the course of the comments had to do with the lack of need to open the roof of private dwellings. That may very well be the case in many areas of the country (I don’t know), but in the context of operations here in New England, the type of building construction we often work in, coupled with its inherent large void spaces and age pretty much requires aggressive vertical ventilation on a regular basis. This tactic, performed early on in an incident, ‘properly’ (i.e., as large a hole as is practically possible) and in conjunction with horizontal ventilation and fire attack contributes significantly to our ability to perform searches, make a push on the fire and to slow or stop the extension (especially throughout a cockloft/attic) of fire.

    This, in turn, generally leaves us with more structural integrity of the building in general and the roof in particular, under which members are operating.

    As I said, this is a pretty standard ‘fact of life’ for New England, but this is my only frame of reference as it’s the only area I’ve ever worked in. I’m interested to hear more about ventilation, particularly vertical, tactics in other areas, including pulling the vents.

    Be safe.

  10. acklan February 24th, 2008 10:18 am

    I believe the key to this discussion is “Differences”.
    Down here our “bread and butter” fires are 1000 to 2500 sq ft wood frame, sometime with brick veneer, with most being shingle and wood deck gable end roofs. We do have about 1 in 5 that are roofed with corrugated tin. From what I have read and seen in videos the building are far more substantial up north verses the lighter weight construction down here. More times than not these structures have self vented prior to arrival and are free burning, involving 25% of the structure. This is not aways but does represent a far amount of our fires.
    This does not include lighting strikes that only lit a few rafters in the attic (the low end) or the 50,000 sq ft furniture store that was a defensive from the start (Upper end).
    That is why I said in my previous post that there are no absolutes. Every event should be evaluated and attack on it’s own given set of condition, not a one size fits all approach. I do not take my job lightly and do not believe anyone who has post does either.
    Every department has different condition that dictate how they approach their fire and how they set up their trucks.
    I guess I am being pretty vague but if you have direct question about our\my tactics I would enjoy sharing. It would just take too my to just ramble on (Like I have been doing).
    facetothefloor I would like to say if I came off as dismissive or insulting that was not my intention. I try to keep an open mind and try new tactics I learn from Brothers and Sisters from around the country. If I insulted you or offended you I apologize.

  11. facetothefloor February 24th, 2008 1:00 pm

    Did not take it that way at all. Actually glad you gave another example of attic fire attack.

    Love this site and the contibutions from all over the country. This subject had me thinking about it for quite a while yesterday and do agree that the play must fit the game.

    Was rewinding through the PD attic fires I’ve been to and how they were attacked. Also witihin the last few years started subscribing to the consideration of not putting manpower on peaked roofs and addressing them from gabled ends instead as an option.

    Stay safe brother.

  12. acklan February 24th, 2008 2:58 pm

    I am glad to hear it. To me the most effective way to learn it through example. There are so many options open to our job that you can never learn all of them. The best we can hope for is to learn that “last thing” and retire in one piece as we leave the last call of our service.

    Be safe Brother.

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