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Does the fire service, in general, risk safety too much at commerical fires?

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  • Captain Gonzo
    replied
    Mamaluke...believe it or not, I agree with you. A fire in a taxpayer structure at 2:00 AM, if caught early enough can be fought sucessfully with an interior attack. The flip side is, most taxpayers are older structures, built in the late 1800's to early 1900's, with no adequate fire protection and detection systems. Chances are the fire will already be in the cockloft on arrival. The modern version of the taxpayer, the strip mall, has a fire detection system and may be sprinklered, which gives us quicker notification and may even hold the fire in check until we get there.

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  • mamaluke
    replied
    Capt Gonzo- What Lt 229 said is exactly right...the question you posed is a whole different animal. The tactics called for in your situation are obvious. My previous response was not a blanket statement. It only pertained to the original post, which to me was suggesting that we should risk less by not going inside a building just because it is a commercial building..just because the building is commercial we should fight the fire from the outside because its only property, which isn't worth the risk of an interior attack...because even if conditions look safe for an interior attack, a ceiling could come down at any time, so we should never go inside a commercial building where we know there is no life hazard- even if conditions allow for (and call for) an interior attack...no interior attacks on a building if its commercial- just because its commercial...we judge whether we go in by the type of occupancy, not the conditions at the scene.

    Of course you aren't going to go in on some vacant, rotten, crumbling building with fire blowing out every window. But, if you have fire in the rear of a store in a taxpayer, at 2am with no one inside, you go IN and you put the fire out. You don't stay outside just because its a commercial occupancy. If you do this, what's the point of even having a fire department. The fire will get into the cockloft, spread to the exposures, and destroy the whole structure. Then what are you going to do? Make it look like you didn't f*ck up by squirting water on it from outside. If you're gonna operate like that, save the water and let it burn itself out. Then go home and try and come up with one good reason why your department should be in existence.

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  • Dalmatian90
    replied
    Ok, lets switch gears a little. How does everyone that is against fighting fire in those "disposible" buildings feel about fighting these awesome Wild Fires that are raging out of control out West?

    Those would be the raging fires created by conditions fostered by a century of well-intended but counter productive suppression of all wildfires?

    I think 6 or more have been killed so far. And this is so we can have a nice Park to go to and enjoy our vacations.
    Very little park land involved so far. Much timber, though.

    Should these brothers and sisters be told to pack it up and go home, because nobody cares about a few million trees?
    Well, first the trees unlike a strip store with significant involvement still have economic value. The strip store has already been totalled as far as the insurer cares.

    Second, unlike the strip store, the forest fire will continue to spread to involve a much greater area than if no suppression takes place.

    If you look at incidents like Storm King, this year's incident in Washington, and even arguably given the technology of the time Mann Gulch you have a failure of overhead (management) to get the troops out of the way of a fire in time. In those cases changing weather conditions where making what appeared to be a minor fire ready to blow up.

    Those situations are not unlike the arguements being made here on certain building styles/locations/occupancies -- if there is no life hazard, there is no unique property hazard, and the fire is well advanced enough that you're questioning the intergrity of the building, at what point do you say, enough is enough, the risk is no longer reasonable?

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  • wrongWAY
    replied
    SDS; Structurally Dysfunctional Structures. WHAT NEXT? Trying to keep track of all these acronyms is giving me a headache.

    If my failing but still selective memory is right, Pat Boone Automats were chain food stores, unstaffed, packed with automated vending machines that were operated by the singer Pat Boone; Debbie Boone's dad to you younger people.

    The Automats were glass domes and looked like mini biospheres or the top half of that round building at EPCOT. They were about fifty foot in diameter, twenty-five feet tall - all glass.

    Pat Boone closed them after a while but I think some of the buildings are still around. I think a big chunk of ice slid off one a few winters ago and seriously injured some passerbys.

    Those western wildfires are really something else. I saw the C-SPAN show on Labor Day and those dollar figures were mindboggling. My hat's off to those firefighters busting their butts out there - doesn't look easy.

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  • Billy Mott
    replied
    Ok, lets switch gears a little. How does everyone that is against fighting fire in those "disposible" buildings feel about fighting these awesome Wild Fires that are raging out of control out West? I think 6 or more have been killed so far. And this is so we can have a nice Park to go to and enjoy our vacations. Sure every so often a few buildings get in the way, and in most cases these home owners have been evacuated long ago, but the Firefighters are still doing everything they can to protect these structures. Should these brothers and sisters be told to pack it up and go home, because nobody cares about a few million trees? Me thinks I just opened Pandora's box

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  • mongofire_99
    replied
    I still believe that ultimately we are not responsible for somebody else not building to code or using LW trusses and generally just doing other crap that means their building will burn down.

    That being said, if it can be done safely, get in and put it out. There are too many variables involved to say that we will never. Leave that decision to the company officer, let him/her make the decision based on their experience.

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  • E229Lt
    replied
    Gonzo, if I may field this question:

    //You have an abandoned building...it is a marked building for exterior firefighting ops only, due to safety hazards..structural integrity compromised by holes in the floor, lack of maintenance, etc.//

    This is a whole different animal. A building that we have marked a hazardous is most likely a lost building. Our first priority is the exposures, barring a known life hazard within the fire building. The first two handlines are stretched to the immediate exposures # 2 and 4, assuming they are attached or reasonably close. At the same time elevated and master streams are set up to drown the derilict building.

    NO, I would not risk a hair on any mans head for this building. I would, however, assure I had enough GPM dispatched to bury this building once and for all.

    We have had our share of squatters in such buildings and without a clear sign of their presence, a primary search of the building would be foolish, if not criminal.

    The jist I am getting from the majority of responses to this question seems to be, if there is no life hazard, don't take a risk.

    I don't agree. As I said before, snuffing a fire quickly and early, protects all that surrounds the building. Be it life or property, we are sworn to protect both. Unless they have changed the oath of office, we must take risks for both.

    My mitigating a fire in a worthless, abandoned building, protects all that surround it. If I can do it from within and get it done quickly and in a reasonably safe manner, that's my choice.

    And back to the original question...
    Do we risk too much...?
    Yup, every day, feels good, don't it?

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  • Captain Gonzo
    replied
    Mamaluke...hypothetical question...

    You have an abandoned building...it is a marked building for exterior firefighting ops only, due to safety hazards..structural integrity compromised by holes in the floor, lack of maintenance, etc.

    You are the company officer and get dispatched to a report of a fire in this building..as you pull up you see the mark on the exterior that indicates an unsafe building...it is about 1/4 involved and spreading rapidly...would you disregard the warnings and go inside to fight it? The very fact that the building has been abandoned by its owners means they don't give a fat rat's rump about it. In the case of an abandoned building, protect the exposures, put the fire out from the outside and live to fight another day.

    As a firefighter...I do have pride in what I do and I love to go INSIDE the f*cking building and put the fire out! As a company officer, it is my job to watch out for my personnel. I am not willing to sacrifice the lives of the personnel under my command for something that is going to be a total loss. Some buildings are built to burn...others are allowed to decay to that point. My Department does aggressive interior fire attack...but there comes a point where you have to weigh the options, think outside of the box, shift gears and go defensive.

    Every fire is different, every method of fire attack will be different..the one thing that remains constant is the possibility of death and injury on the fireground...and I want to make sure that my shift ends with the same number of personnel going home as I started with!

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  • diabolical
    replied
    Here's what happened today:

    diabolical: "Chief, we got any 'disposable buildings' here?"

    Chief: "Uh, Go ask Public Relations."

    PR: "No, we have 'SDSs' Structurally Dysfunctional Structures."

    Leave a comment:


  • Dalmatian90
    replied
    Number one, you never know for sure if there is absolutely no life hazard.

    Bull****.

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  • mamaluke
    replied
    Number one, you never know for sure if there is absolutely no life hazard. Number two, I still believe in protecting lives AND property. The value that property may have to people should not be underestimated. It could mean the whole world to them. It could be all they have. It could be their livelihood. I take pride in protecting this for them. Who wants to be on a department that surrounds and drowns just because its a commercial occupancy? Sure as hell not me. You're not a fireman if you actually want to be on a department like this. There is no justification for the existence of such a department. It doesn't take paid, professional firemen to stand outside and squirt water on the fire. What a waste...of money...of skill...of a noble profession. If you don't mind the fire building becoming a total loss because you're afraid to go in, why not just let the thing burn until it goes out itself? Why not just let the citizens squirt water on it with garden hoses? What a joke. Have some pride in what you do, go INSIDE the f*cking building and put the fire out.

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  • Captain Gonzo
    replied
    Excellent point, Diabolical! There are a lot of people Who think that because they watch "This Old House" or "Hometime" and buy a few of Bob Vila's books that they are qualified to make home repairs. Most are done without the necessary permits, and while there are some homeowners who know what they are doing, there are many who don't.

    The difference between a residential occupancy and a commercial one is that in a residential structure fire at 03:00, there's an excellent chance that the occupants will be home, will be trapped and will need to be rescued. Even then, firefighters will have to make difficult decisions if the building is well involved... and I hope I will never have to make that decision on the fireground.

    [ 09-04-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]

    [ 09-04-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]

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  • 70701224
    replied
    The question of interior attack at a commercial fire is a difficult one. I think it depends on training, staffing, pre-fire planning, and experience. My agency is a public safety department, so, we only have one on the truck with three more cross-trained fire fighter/cops on the road. At a significant fire, we will only have four personnel until we can either get mutual aid or start calling in other shifts. In addition, we do not have many experienced fire fighters to work or even size up a significant fire. I would be VERY wary about sending in a crew with minimal back up and experience. I'm in this business to save lives and property, but, not by taking unnecessary risks. If I don't think we can get out alive, we're not going in. Period.
    Stay safe

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  • diabolical
    replied
    Good topic .... tip of the leather to RRR.

    There aren't too many "firefighter friendly" structures in my town .... too much new lightweight construction .... too many old bowstring truss roofs .... and I hope we never get anything going good in the old 'Pat Boone Auto Mat' (anyone remember them?) building.

    I might sound like a big chicken ... but the fire I hate and fear most is in those old two and a half story balloon construction homes that 'Handyman Hank Homeowner' has had a couple of years to turn into a death trap.

    Mr. Hanky cuts collar ties and prurlins out of his roof system, uses two and three quarter inch hole saws to run half inch pipe through the floor, wacks floor joists in half to run drain pipe, knocks down bearing walls, screws a new ceiling into the sagging old one, does his own electrical work, and has a basement full of paint cans, gasoline, propane, and Lord knows what else.

    I prefer running a line into Micky D's than Mr. Hanky's anytime.

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  • RRR
    replied
    Dalmation90 and Captain Gonzo--great points about the basically cheap and unsafe construction of the type of buildings we are talking about. The owners don't give a flying *$^! about the possible consequences of this type of building construction, it's all about putting up the building as fast and cheaply as possible.

    That's not to say that I think we should stand back and watch it go down or not do an interior attack. The bottom line of what I've been saying and why I started this topic is I think at these type of structures, whether it is a small locally owned company or a giant, the line we draw between not going in or going in should be moved back atleast a little towards the side of more caution and safety.

    I know your own experience and that of your officers is a huge thing, but as far as training goes, and I could be wrong, but when you read an article by Vincent Dunn about fires in these type of structures, he seems to side with more caution and safety needed than some of the contents of this discussion.

    And once again, yes I know every situation is different and you should proceed as conditions dictate but I still think we should be more cautious with these type of structures.

    There have been several deaths in the last year or so that have made me think about these types of fires more than anytime since I first became a f/f. I'm not getting soft and I will still do an agressive interior attack at a commerical or residential structure, but I think lives are risked a little too much at times for these types of structures and *even more* caution should be given.

    Sorry for being repetitive on this----maybe my last comment on it.

    Leave a comment:

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