Monday, July 25, 2011

Firefighter John Nance Remembered

(Photo courtesy of the Hamilton, NJ Fire Department)

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the murder of Columbus fireman John Nance.  I am reposting this in hopes some of you will get out in the bay and practice some ways to get a member up out of a hole, or just simply honor him by discussing the fire that took his life just a short time before he was to retire.  Read the story of that fateful day below.

Think about it. You're dispatched as the engine company, along with a truck company, to a fire alarm in a commercial building at 2:30 am. Upon arrival, you have a decent amount of brown smoke showing from the front of an 110' x 50' single story, old, brick building that is currently being used as office and storage space for an auto parts manufacturer. After notifying your dispatcher to "fill the box" for a working fire, the truck forces entry and your crew starts to advance a line through the front door to investigate and locate the fire. Visibility is almost zero as you make your way down the hall, and you can feel a good amount of heat coming from below your feet. Just then, without warning, a member of the truck crew falls through the floor into a basement. You can still barely see him through the smoke, but can't reach him.

What are your immediate actions as the engine boss?

What building construction features should you have noticed/been looking for during your initial size up/360 that may have prevented this scenario from happening?

Is there anything you can do with the staffing/equipment on scene, or will you have to wait for additional companies?

What method(s) would you use to rescue a member who has fallen through the floor?

Have you (and your crew) ever trained for this type of scenario? (Columbus Drill)


Friday, July 22, 2011

Think about it!

Post courtesy of D. Lee Warner, Battalion 4/A, Fairfax County Fire
(Repost from 2007)

Recently comapnies participated in a battalion level drill at one of the above ground parking garages at one of the malls here in Fairfax County simulating a vehicle fire on an upper floor. This garage, like most open parking garages, contains a manual dry standpipe system (i.e., only supported by FDC). The purpose of the drill was to test a few different methods of attack to determine which was most effective, primarily measured by the time necessary to place a handline in service.
On each scenario a crew member was located on the 5th floor, but the exact location would vary slightly on the floor so the incoming crew would not have prior knowledge of the exact location. This is what we found out...

Scenario #1- Using the Dry Standpipe

The engine driver spotted the hydrant and pulled lines to supply the standpipe system. The crew exited the vehicle with the standpipe pack and made there way to the 5th floor. Once the location was determined (obvious upon arrival at the 5th floor), the crew connected the to the closest standpipe, opened the valve, and awaited water. From the time the crew began up the stairs until water flow was achieved was 25 minutes, and even then the pressure was minimal. Leaks were found in the system, and on one of the floors an additional valve was open, which is typical of these types of dry systems.
Multiple 3" lines had been stretched to the connection, so it wasn't a supply end issue. I have seen this before, but wanted the entire crew to witness this for themselves. The bottom line is that these systems are not reliable for fire operations. In 25 minutes you wouldn't have just one car still on fire, which although is more fun for us, and is what we are paid to do. Plus, think of people watching you holding that line for all that time waiting on water. Not fun.

Scenario #2 - Flying Standpipe w/Ladder Company

For our second go the engine crew stopped adjacent to one of the stairwells and allowed the crew to ascend with their standpipe pack again (and yes, we did rotate crew members, except for the rookie. He was allowed to play each time!). Again, once on the 5th floor they determined the fire location, and radioed the information. The line was stretched while one member stood at the closest outside wall to direct the truck. The truck arrived, set up, and laddered the 5th floor. The standpipe pack was connected to the pre-piped waterway, and the engine supplied the truck with water. Water was flowing in this operation in 11 minutes. This was a significant improvement. A couple of possible problems would be a truck without a pre-piped waterway (reserve trucks for us), and truck access.

Scenario #3 - Rope Hoist

Prior to trying this, my preferred method of dealing with these was to bring up the standpipe pack, locate the fire, determine the closest location, and lower over the the hose for direct connection to the engine. Although that is effective and fast, it doesn't allow as much flexibility as this would.
The engine again stopped at a stairwell and climbed to the 5th floor, but this time without the standpipe pack. They brought up utility rope instead. Most of our rigs carry a 200' utility / search line. Once they determined the fire location they called the engine driver and lowered the rope from the best location on the 5th floor. The driver positioned, tied the rope to the leader line, and the crew hoisted and stretched the line. Once enough line was up it was tied off at the top and the engine driver was called for water. In this case there was plenty of hose, so part of the 2 1/2 was broken down and connected directly to another outlet to avoid extra hose on the ground. Water was flowing to the location (center of the garage) in 5 minutes. The bottom line is that this is the way to go.
Very fast deployment.
Plenty of available hose if longer lines are needed.
Less fatigue on the crew (and greater speed) since there is no need to carry the standpipe packs up the stairs.

Potential for someone to lock up when asked to tie a rope to the hoseline (or anything). Practice your knots and attach carabiners to your ropes.

Other general thoughts / issues:

Everything is case dependent, but in most of the open parking garages in Fairfax County, this should work well. Below grade is another story, as are garages attached to buildings. These may or may not be covered by dry pipe sprinkler systems. If so, they will limit the fire spread, but not put it out. They also can add to your smoke problem by cooling it and pushing it down. Enclosed garages (usually below grade) should also have large ventilation fans, which is the only way you will get the smoke out.

As for the standpipes in enclosed and attached garages, they are usually a part of a combination dry-pipe system, which provides them with a water supply once a sprinkler head goes. This makes them usable for us without so much delay as they may be equipped with exhausters and accelerators to assist in purging the air from the system.

Always bring a dry chemical extinguisher up anyway. Most of the companies running these structures will have a truck company with them, so you should be going up with two crews, for a total of five people. Ensure that all units going up bring some basic tools and a dry chemical extinguisher. They can buy you some time until the line is in service, if not put the fire out. They also work great if you have fuel on the ground burning, but watch out if it starts running into the drains!

Make sure you are able to identify your location at all times. Side-A isn't so clear, and neither is "east", etc. Best to use a landmark.

Know your buildings, and understand how the different FDC systems work.

Reposted by Keith Bresnahan on 7/22/11 at 7:00 PM.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Truck Crew | Flat Roof Vent 2

This second video about flat roof ventilation touches on trench cuts and upper floor horizontal ventilation.

Have you ever had the oportunity to make an actual trench cut?

What tools and manpower issues, if any, did you run into?

What tricks of the trade could make these types of evolutions easier?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Truck Crew | Flat Roof Vent 1

Part one of two (starts around the 1:00 mark).  Great points to think about while operating on a flat roof.

What are some things your company / department do differently while operating on these types of roofs?

What are some of the basic tools that you bring with you?

Are you even able to complete a flat roof cut with the manpower you have?

Part two to follow...