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What defines a vacant house?

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  • What defines a vacant house?

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    Apparently looks can be deceiving...
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

  • #2
    I would opine that in general usage, a vacant house is one without regular residents. Squatters and trespassers may occupy a vacant house, but not as homeowners or renters.

    We discussed this type of thing a while back, during a thread on search, as I recall.

    The photos are definitely misleading, as noted, a real problem for us. And I, too, have seen well maintained vacant houses, and some real dumps that had families living in them. Even out here in the sticks.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Post Sandy, a house with plywood covering many openings has become fairly routine. No way of knowing whether anyone is still living there without a search. We have houses where the electric power has been cut at the pole, but still people living there.
      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

      Comment


      • #4
        If someone is occupying a house, whether they are the "legal" resident or not, the house is no longer vacant. Thus the quandary that I am revisiting. You can't tell by an exterior only look at whether a building is occupied, by squatters, or the legal residents. There are in the rural around where I live that anyone not knowing the area would swear are abandoned and vacant.

        So where are we and what do we do? We have to assume occupancy, it really boils down to that.
        Crazy, but that's how it goes
        Millions of people living as foes
        Maybe it's not too late
        To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

        Comment


        • #5
          We cannot treat any building as empty/unoccupied/vacant until we can verify it. That being said, we also cannot treat a boarded up structure the same as a standard home/building either. We must recognize there are inherent dangers when a building has been boarded up, recognize that it could mean unprotected openings, lack of fire barriers, structural damage, and a host of other hazards, thus a more calculated approach. Tactics must be adjusted for the building and fire conditions.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by RFDACM02 View Post
            We cannot treat any building as empty/unoccupied/vacant until we can verify it. That being said, we also cannot treat a boarded up structure the same as a standard home/building either. We must recognize there are inherent dangers when a building has been boarded up, recognize that it could mean unprotected openings, lack of fire barriers, structural damage, and a host of other hazards, thus a more calculated approach. Tactics must be adjusted for the building and fire conditions.
            For us, a key part of the definition of "vacant" is that the owner(s) has abandoned the property and is making no attempt at maintaining the property. Therefore, it is expected that stairs, roof, floors will be structurally compromised to some degree. So tactics must be adjusted accordingly. Local knowledge is a key factor. As is size-up. We try to keep an eye on the "vacants" so we know what's going on. This is not always possible though.

            "Vacants" are often occupied by squatters, druggies, etc. Local knowledge again comes in to play. We also sometimes see electrical lines coming from lightpoles to illegally provide power to the building. There may be a door in the rear where plywood had been removed to provide access. People may be seen coming and going. Most of this is unique to urban areas with full time fire departments. Regardless, it is usually a bad assumption that the building is actually empty of any occupants.

            They still need to be searched. But they should be searched differently than known occupied buildings.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by captnjak View Post
              They still need to be searched. But they should be searched differently than known occupied buildings.
              Agreed. Local terminology or official designations can indicate specific assignments or tactics, but I assume many of us do not have specific SOG's for these buildings. The outcome or tactics shouldn't be much different whether they're predesignated or Command driven "on-the'fly", we need to adjust our tactics to the risks, understanding that abandoned/vacant/board-ups should immediately indicate even greater hazard potential.

              It's not only in urban settings, our little "city" (governing body choice, not an indication of population) is pretty much rural (maybe sub-urban if there was an urban area nearby). Nonetheless, we have numerous vacant and abandoned properties, many of which we have homeless squatting in, some shooting galleries, some kids play in. Thankfully with the small number the city often takes them for back taxes and re-sells them. But that process isn't quick, so the problem exists. Also have seen the same in even more rural areas around us, where there's fewer people to even notice the squatters.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by RFDACM02 View Post
                Agreed. Local terminology or official designations can indicate specific assignments or tactics, but I assume many of us do not have specific SOG's for these buildings. The outcome or tactics shouldn't be much different whether they're predesignated or Command driven "on-the'fly", we need to adjust our tactics to the risks, understanding that abandoned/vacant/board-ups should immediately indicate even greater hazard potential.

                It's not only in urban settings, our little "city" (governing body choice, not an indication of population) is pretty much rural (maybe sub-urban if there was an urban area nearby). Nonetheless, we have numerous vacant and abandoned properties, many of which we have homeless squatting in, some shooting galleries, some kids play in. Thankfully with the small number the city often takes them for back taxes and re-sells them. But that process isn't quick, so the problem exists. Also have seen the same in even more rural areas around us, where there's fewer people to even notice the squatters.
                Didn't mean to say that vacants are unique to urban areas. The signs of occupancy are more likely to be noticed by full time departments in urban areas. The level of deterioration is also more likely to be known. The big urban departments are 24-7 and can look at these places during down time and inspection periods. Familiarization drills can be held at the worst of them and can be attended by multiple units.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Boy, it would be neat to be able to search and fight fire at the same time.

                  The only chance these people have in a "vacant" building is us putting out the fire, or knocking it back long enough.
                  The fire service is about service to our fellow man.
                  There is a trust that must not be broken and we are the keepers of that trust.
                  Captain Dave LeBlanc

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My last post was not meant to be a troll post or anything.

                    Just whining a bit about having three people at a fire. Vacant or not, we dont have enough people.
                    The fire service is about service to our fellow man.
                    There is a trust that must not be broken and we are the keepers of that trust.
                    Captain Dave LeBlanc

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by conrad427 View Post
                      My last post was not meant to be a troll post or anything.

                      Just whining a bit about having three people at a fire. Vacant or not, we dont have enough people.
                      It's a problem we all face. And it doesn't seem to be getting any better.
                      Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                      Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We generally define vacant as not currently occupied. Squatting is not a significant issue in any of the 3 districts in which I work or volunteer.
                        Train to fight the fires you fight.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well this thread brings back MANY memories from half a decade ago!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Any structure that has not had a search.
                            "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
                              If someone is occupying a house, whether they are the "legal" resident or not, the house is no longer vacant. Thus the quandary that I am revisiting. You can't tell by an exterior only look at whether a building is occupied, by squatters, or the legal residents. There are in the rural around where I live that anyone not knowing the area would swear are abandoned and vacant.

                              So where are we and what do we do? We have to assume occupancy, it really boils down to that.
                              And that means you take calculated risks. Light to moderate smoke generally means an offensive attack. Extremely heavy smoke or full involvement generally will be a defensive attack.
                              BTW, I'd say it's on the occupant if they're living in a structure that looks abandoned. It's not the FD fault for assuming a structure is vacant if all the signs are there. We have a right to go home at the end of the day.

                              Comment

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