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  • Property Conservation

    Our department is in an upperclass suburban neighaborhood. I think too much importance is put on property conservation in our firefighting tactics. For instance breaking windows during a ventilation opperation is a practice that is avoided in our department due to the fact that it is damaging someone's property. I have started noticing things like this lately where property conservation is becoming a higher priority than doing the job right. I was wondering if anyone had any comments on property conservation vs doing our job. In other words avoiding breaking a window but end up loosing the house.

  • #2
    There are extremes here. For example, one FD in my county was ventilating the windows at a working house fire by opening the windows and taking off the storm windows (for salvage purposes). One member than promptly through the storm windows off the porch roof, breaking them all.

    The truth of the matter is that in many xases, the insurance co. is going to eplace those windows anyway (Would you want fire damaged windows in your house?). If there is heavy smoke in the room where the windows are located, take them out. The insurance co. will be happier that you broke a couple of windows, than lost an entire house.

    The same goes for holes n the roof and walls. What does a piece of sheetrock cost, $10?. If the sheetrock has been exposed to heat, heavy smoke or fire, it is most likely getting replaced anyway. Open up the wall the avoid the rekindle that will take out the whole second floor.

    Please bear in mind, I'm only talking about doing this when it is necessary, not at a food on the stove call or a light ballast call.


    • #3
      Well I'm all for doing what it takes to put the fire out in the quickest and safest fashion. We do try as much preservation as possible. To me this is part of our job. Have you had your house burn before? I have not and I am probably not the most sentimental person in the world. But I do believe my wife would be devistated with many family heirlooms and personal collectable through the entire house.
      Leaving windows intact makes it much easier to secure the home and provide a little protection for what is left. A little compassion can go a long way. While overhauling we attempt to not destroy or throw out anything that appears it may have value to the family.

      So in conclusion I am not saying by any means to not do our job. If it needs ventilation do it. If it needs torn out for overhaul tear it out. Just do'nt go wild. We had a Chief that loved busting windows. It did not matter rather it was single room and contents or the whole thing. Every window got knocked out. This is a little excessive.
      Just my .02 cents


      • #4
        The way we look at it is windows are cheaper than roofs or wall or whatever else your gonna need to cut instead of breaking the window!

        Lets never forget the events of 9-11

        If you sent us to HELL, WE'D PUT IT OUT!!

        **And of course these are only my opinion and only mine. Don't take it out on anyone else but me.**


        • #5
          After putting in vinyl replacement windows on the backside of my house, I will *never* hesitate to break a window again.

          Took myself and my uncle an hour to figure out how to do the first. The others took 10 minutes a piece once we learned how.

          If you can open it, open it. If you can't open it quickly and it needs to be open, break it.

          The building and damage to it is of ZERO siginfigance -- that's why they have insurance, and anything exposed to smoke or water better be getting torn out and replaced or myself, my insurance adjuster, and my attorney are going to be having a meeting.

          The value to a "good stop" is to occupants (if any), and to their intangible property insurance simply can't replace. Like Grandfather's roll top desk or your family photos -- and to protect those you need to engage in (gasp) Salvage. Start throwing them covers as soon as you can.
          IACOJ Canine Officer


          • #6
            Not much property to conserve if you can't put the fire out in time.

            A captain from a CT department put it best for me..."Which would YOU rather have in your basement...water damage, or your first and second floor?

            Granted, I don't go busting up with whatever tool I have (i.e I "try before I pry"...but only once!). I've seen fires go from "its gonna get bad!" to "OH S#!t" in less than 10 seconds. So I'd rather go in and go hard than to dink with an expensive bay window.

            And, personally, my house DID catch on fire (less than a year after we moved in). Water damage, lost some prize possessions. But we're all safe, we were able to rebuild, and we're okay (and my dog lives like a king because he saved our lives.)
            We're all in this together. FDNY 9-11-01


            • #7
              Initial response and first line into an interior fire with heavy smoke throughout ... of course, ventilate using whatever means necessary. However, during overhaul, breaking windows in areas not exposed to fire simply so that you can remove a light haze from the room is negligence. Also, if you need a large opening to remove smoldering debris, it takes only about 3-4 minutes to un-install a vinyl replacement window and have that much greater an opening.

              I like the theory of "that's what they have insurance for." So, I guess if a few of the owner's little knickknacks end up in someones pocket, well, "that's what their insurance if for." Don't forget that many people who are renting, or even homeowners, do not have insurance. That room and contents fire that you put out, and then broke the windows during overhaul, can cost them plenty when the cold air is blowing through their home around the sheet of plywood you are patting yourself on the back for installing for them.

              I have been very disappointed to see the lack of interest on the part of the fire service (with some exceptions) concerning use of salvage covers, and other property conservation techniques.

              So, pull/break/remove-with-violence those windows in the room of origin if needed allow hoselines to advance to the seat of the fire. But, why break everything else in the house? Makes you wonder what these guys would do for a food on the stove at an apartment building.

              [ 09-09-2001: Message edited by: FP&LS Guy ]
              The Fire Service ... where there is a right way, a wrong way, the Chief's way, the Deputy's way, the Captain's way, the Lieutenant's way ....


              • #8

                I have seen what you are describing also. However, I think there is a balance. And often if you look at a bunch of different FD's the scale tends to lean towards one side or the other. I do want to say that I am very pro-customer service and also for property conservation. But there is a balance. There is a difference between taking out a window of the fire room, then busting all of the 1st floor when the fire is on the second. Or putting down tarps in front of a fireplace at a chimney fire so you can at least not try to stain a carpet. I've seen depts. who overstress conservation, and I've seen some who salvage is a word they can't pronounce. Nothing like seeing tarps thrown over a couch that already has water pouring out of the fabric. A lot of it comes down to leadership and attitude. I work in a community that is middle class, but also has a large lower class community. What they have they might not be able to replace. So we try the best we can. I also vollied in a dept that most of our funding came from donations. So with them it was all about customer service and conservation for a good name.

                The above is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept/agency I work for, deal with, or am a member of.


                • #9
                  Property conservation is important...that's one of ther reasons why we go in to fight the fire! If there is a light haze, open the windows, set up the PPV and let it clear the air. If it's a fire situation where the lack of ventilation is impedeing fire attack, go to town and take out the windows, open the roof and save what's left of the house and the person's possesions.

                  On the matter of renter's not having insurance, I can't imagine why they would not inquire about it. Most poeple who rent a house or apartment are under the impression that the landlord's insurance will cover their stuff. Wrong! A landlord's insurance covers his building and his possesions if it is owner occupied...not the tenants.
                  Renter's insurance is cheap as little as $200 a year. At the 4 alarm condo fire we had earlier this year, I was amazed at the number of people who said they could not afford renter's insurance...while they had big screen and High Definition TVs, computers, high end stereo systems and the like.
                  ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                  Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


                  • #10
                    I like the theory of "that's what they have insurance for." So, I guess if a few of the owner's little knickknacks end up in someones pocket, well, "that's what their insurance if for."

                    Um, I thought we where talking about breaking out windows or doing other damage to the building to control the fire...not stealing.

                    Which of course gets us back to proper salvage operations -- since most people don't have accurate inventories of those knickknacks to get them replaced by insurance. Unlike a window which the adjuster can see afterwards.

                    Don't forget that many people who are renting, or even homeowners, do not have insurance.

                    Um, the windows will be replaced by the owner's insurance...not the renters. Very few homeowners don't have fire insurance (it is required if you have a mortgage after all.)
                    IACOJ Canine Officer


                    • #11
                      Many communities have families who have been in their homes for 30-40 years, or even generations. Mortgages were paid off long ago.

                      When we cause damage to a property, many times it is justified. But things like cutting a vent hole in the roof for a room and contents fire is not always justified. Like one I witnesses where the fire was declared under control by the IC, and overhaul was taking place in the room, and the crew was still on the roof cutting ventilation openings. DUH!!

                      Let's just use common sense.
                      The Fire Service ... where there is a right way, a wrong way, the Chief's way, the Deputy's way, the Captain's way, the Lieutenant's way ....


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