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  • CaptainGonzo
    replied
    I have had a trio of fires in garden style apartment/condo buildings.

    The potential for hidden fire spread is beyond belief.

    The first: Fire in an apartment, got into the cockloft. The temperatiures were in the single digits and the winds were very blustery. The fire took possession of the cockloft rapidly. The only thing that stopped it from going into an adjoining building was a trench cut and big lines. The first due company reported the fire knocked down, and they were coming out to change bottles. My Engine was 2nd due, I struck the 2nd alarm on arrival. The Deputy pulled in behind us an ordered the 3rd. The LT. on the 1st due engine asked "WTF is going on.. the fire's knocked down..." I told him to look up.. he had a "holy s***" moment. The Chief of Department arrived and struck 4th alarm.

    The second: Reported "electrical" odor in a unit on the 3rd floor of a gadren style condo. We took it on a still, the cops reported seeing smoke from the eaves, the assignement was filled out. On arrival, there was no smoke in the halls or anywhere, but it was coming from the eaves. When we entered the apartment of the resident who reported it, there was smoke puffing out of the outlets in the kitchen area. I sent a few firefighters to check the unit directly below, when they touched the wall to feel for heat it, it caved in and they had heavy fire blowing out. That fire went to 2 alarms. The fire started with a malfunctioning electrical outlet and followed the utilty chases throughout the building.

    The third: 2 in the afternoon on a hot and humid summer day. A resident reported smelling "something burning" outside of her building while she was out walking her dog. Thinking it ws an outside fire, a single engine was dispatched as per our protocol. The LT struck the second alarm on arrival when the window failed and fire was blowing out of the window and into the soffit of the cockloft.

    Fire in a garden apartment: Big lines, hit it hard and fast.

    Most of these building were built under codes in the early 1960's with wonderful things like aluminum wiring, thin walls and hollow core doors.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 12-16-2006, 06:33 PM.

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  • BackstepFF
    replied
    MemphisE34a:
    Looking at the first picture it is difficult to tell a lot about conditions in the stairwell other than no fire being visible. The entire front is glass which appears to be darkened from the inside. If you look carefully at the second photo (wide shot of the front,) you can see the inside of the entrance door and the interior of the stairwell is in fact nicely soot stained.

    In this area, most engine companies arrive before the truck; most carry a hydraulic forcible entry tool like the Rabbit Tool or Hydra-Ram and do their own forcible entry. The doors in these buildings are typically not too formidable. A hydraulic FE tool will make short work of them, even with a couple of locked deadbolts. I have to believe the small investment in time (less than half a minute) is worth having a properly placed hoseline.

    I agree with you that the exterior line directed towards the roof is pointless and that this fire calls for a line on each floor and the attic. Getting a line to the attic quickly is usually the key to keeping the roof from burning off these buildings.

    I also agree with your statement that "you cannot...say that every fire should be tackled the same way", but I do believe that there are some basic principles of firefighting that we should agree on most of the time. These are the basics: Locate, Confine, Extinguish, in that order. We can’t cross our fingers and hope that the stairwell door is closed or uncompromised; we have to place our line to make sure the stairwell is protected. What if this were an apartment in the rear of the building, would we stretch a line around and go through a patio door then too?

    We must also consider that most occupants enter and leave their apartments from the front (stairwell) door. They don’t use the patio doors because these can’t be locked from the outside. Most occupants who are capable of self-evacuation, if overcome, will be found on their way to the door they normally use.

    Hwoods:
    Chief, as you know, the spandrel spaces in these places are often not much more than a few 2X4’s and a half sheet of T111 siding, contributing greatly to our auto exposure problem. I agree that hitting the fire at an oblique angle here is worthwhile.

    Thanks for the responses, it's interesting to hear the different perspectives.

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  • MemphisE34a
    replied
    Originally posted by hwoods View Post
    Memphis - There is no smoke around the Stairwell because the Glass is still in place. Check the difference between the two photos, as the Truckies had opened up the stairwell by the time the second photo was taken.
    Chief,

    I understand, but if there was that much heat and smoke in that common area it would either crack the glass and vent itself or al least push smoke through the cracks around the door.

    Even after it is opened up, there is not very much or any smoke at all visible in the common area of the stairwell.

    My point of the post is not to say who was right or wrong or place blame or even defend the actions taken. Like I said - go to fires, learn your lessons, and apply them where and when you can. You cannot however in my opinion say that every fire should be tackled the same way because its what the book says or how you handled the last one.

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  • needlejockey
    replied
    Thanks. That's pretty much what I had in my mind, just wanted to make sure.

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  • hwoods
    replied
    OK, I'll Try...........

    Originally posted by needlejockey View Post
    Sorry Harve, but I'm having trouble visualizing what you are saying here. Are you talking about applying the stream inside or outside? I'd appreciate a little more on this. I think I know what your getting at, but I'm not 100% sure.

    Thanks.
    Outside.

    Nozzleman is standing to the left or right of the window that the Fire is venting from, AND standing immediately beside the wall, but back about 20-30 feet along the wall. He/She ( gotta be P.C.here ) directs the stream up the wall so that it wets the area over the window that the Fire is venting from, WITHOUT PUTTING WATER IN THE WINDOW, or interfering with the Vent process.

    In the opening photo on this thread, the Nozzleperson (how's that for P.C. ) would be standing against the wall at the point where some latticework is propped against the brick portion of the wall. The stream would be applied to the exterior wall area above the Flames. Hope that helps.

    Memphis - There is no smoke around the Stairwell because the Glass is still in place. Check the difference between the two photos, as the Truckies had opened up the stairwell by the time the second photo was taken.
    Last edited by hwoods; 12-16-2006, 03:43 PM.

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  • hwoods
    replied
    Uh Huh.......

    Originally posted by ChicagoFF View Post
    These things are always hard to tell from pictures, but I'd have to agree with Memphis. If the common stairwell is uninvolved due to a closed door in the fire apartment, I'm going to leave it that way, at least initially. If that is the only common stairwell for that particular group of units, then once you open that door you are comprimising the evac. stairwell for everyone else. Also, why go around and force enty on another door if you have a wide open one already? Like I said, hard to decide from pics, but that's how I see it.
    Chicago, your assessment is correct. These buildings have a single stairwell for anywhere from 8 to as many as 16 units.

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  • ChicagoFF
    replied
    These things are always hard to tell from pictures, but I'd have to agree with Memphis. If the common stairwell is uninvolved due to a closed door in the fire apartment, I'm going to leave it that way, at least initially. If that is the only common stairwell for that particular group of units, then once you open that door you are comprimising the evac. stairwell for everyone else. Also, why go around and force enty on another door if you have a wide open one already? Like I said, hard to decide from pics, but that's how I see it.

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  • MemphisE34a
    replied
    Originally posted by BackstepFF View Post
    hwoods, thanks Chief. The points you mentioned are all 100% accurate and pertinent to this situation.
    IMO, the first photo shows a classic example of how not to fight fire in this type of building. Hoseline placement should support a strategy of maintaining the interior stairway and confining the fire to the apartment of origin. The initial attack hoseline should have been stretched through the main entrance and attacked from the fire apartment’s “front door”, the stairwell entrance.
    I have seen many occasions where the door from the fire apartment to the stairwell was left open. Attacking from a patio door such as we saw here can push fire out into the stairs and cook any occupants who are trying to make their way down, as well as the brothers who will be making their way to the upper floors. I would also strongly question their use of a wide fog pattern. Massive air movement is being introduced into the apartment with this stream as well as copious steam production that would be lethal to anyone still inside.
    I guess what bothers me is this is a bread and butter fire. This department has dozens of similar apartment complexes, they should simply and honestly know better. Garden apartment fires are challenging even when we do everything right. They are full of vertical voids and we often end up chasing the fire through the void spaces and into the attic/cockloft. It has been said that there is no such thing as a “room and contents” fire in a garden apartment because it is almost certain that the fire has already extended.
    Any officer in my department who attacked this fire from the point shown in the photo would, at the very least, get some intensive high-decibel remedial training if not outright disciplinary action.
    Although I agree with most of what you said and agree that you can apply lessons learned from similar previous events, you still have to treat every incident as a singular event.

    In this fire the door from the apartment to the common interior hall was most likely not left open. This is evident by the fact that there is NO smoke what-so-ever coming from the area leading to the interior stairs. If it was not left open, then it was most likely also left locked and dead-bolted which would increase the amount of time it would take to ultimately get water on the fire. Whether planned or not, entering where they did with a closed door did in fact protect the common interior stairs by extinguishing the fire in the apartment and preventing the fire from extending through into the common area. Again this is evident in the photo where after knocking down the fire on the first floor, they did in fact return to the common stairs and I assume proceed upstairs. Even at this point there is no smoke in the common area. I would assume they never opened the apartment door. In this situation, going through the common area and entering through the apartment door would have most certainly made matters worse in that common area.

    Had there been heavy smoke or fire in the common area, then I agree your tactic would be the only way to go.

    As far as the exterior stream directed at the fire in the attic, they are accomplishing nothing. We typically deploy 2-3 lines on these types of fires in order to extinguish the main body and cut off extension in the attic.

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  • needlejockey
    replied
    Originally posted by hwoods View Post
    In this case, application of water from a hose stream that is directed PARALLEL to the exterior wall, and a floor above the point where the Fire is venting, will provide a "Water Curtain" effect, without compromising ventilation.
    Sorry Harve, but I'm having trouble visualizing what you are saying here. Are you talking about applying the stream inside or outside? I'd appreciate a little more on this. I think I know what your getting at, but I'm not 100% sure.

    Thanks.

    Leave a comment:


  • hwoods
    replied
    We Agree...........

    BCarey - Dean Drive?? Been There, Deck Gunned That.....

    BackstepFF - Your remarks on hoseline placement are in line with my views. I would not totally rule out going thru the patio door IF the door to the common stairway was closed and not compromised AND a covering line was in place to protect evacuation efforts. In the first photo in your post, another area of pressing concern is the Fire venting from the bedroom window and going up the side of the building. "Leapfrogging" is a common means of Fire spread in these structures, and must be dealt with in a decisive manner. In this case, application of water from a hose stream that is directed PARALLEL to the exterior wall, and a floor above the point where the Fire is venting, will provide a "Water Curtain" effect, without compromising ventilation. With an aggressive attack in the Fire apartment, the "Water Curtain" stream would not be needed more than a few minutes. Additional lines above the Fire should be placed as quick as resources allow, and aggressive Truckies should be opening everything as fast as possible consistent with safety. Any exterior areas that were subject to flame impingement (wall over that window) must also be opened from the outside as well as inside.

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  • BackstepFF
    replied
    Originally posted by dday05 View Post
    BackstepFF

    Looks like a nice job!!!!! How was your water supply, do you have hydrants or do you run a water shuttle ? And or both? Are you from West virginia?
    This fire wasn't in my jurisdiction, it's a nearby town, but I know that they have a good hydrant system on adequate water mains. West Virginia? No, but I went canoeing there once, I don't talk about it much. Pretty country and those fellas sure can pick a banjo!

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  • BackstepFF
    replied
    hwoods, thanks Chief. The points you mentioned are all 100% accurate and pertinent to this situation.
    IMO, the first photo shows a classic example of how not to fight fire in this type of building. Hoseline placement should support a strategy of maintaining the interior stairway and confining the fire to the apartment of origin. The initial attack hoseline should have been stretched through the main entrance and attacked from the fire apartment’s “front door”, the stairwell entrance.
    I have seen many occasions where the door from the fire apartment to the stairwell was left open. Attacking from a patio door such as we saw here can push fire out into the stairs and cook any occupants who are trying to make their way down, as well as the brothers who will be making their way to the upper floors. I would also strongly question their use of a wide fog pattern. Massive air movement is being introduced into the apartment with this stream as well as copious steam production that would be lethal to anyone still inside.
    I guess what bothers me is this is a bread and butter fire. This department has dozens of similar apartment complexes, they should simply and honestly know better. Garden apartment fires are challenging even when we do everything right. They are full of vertical voids and we often end up chasing the fire through the void spaces and into the attic/cockloft. It has been said that there is no such thing as a “room and contents” fire in a garden apartment because it is almost certain that the fire has already extended.
    Any officer in my department who attacked this fire from the point shown in the photo would, at the very least, get some intensive high-decibel remedial training if not outright disciplinary action.

    Leave a comment:


  • bcarey
    replied
    adding on to hwoods...

    ...don't forget, all floors might not be accessed off the same stairwell either.
    Attached Files

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  • hwoods
    replied
    And............

    BackStepFF - Hi neighbor. Let me add a couple of things, first for those of you beyond the Mid-Atlantic area, these are the prime example of what we call Garden Apartments. They were calling them Garden Apartments when I joined the department back in 1958, so it's nothing new. They were built to the code of the times, way before sprinklers were required. The example that Backstep shows here is located in an area where Adequate Water is not a concern, since Hydrants are spaced on 300 to 500 ft spacing, and water mains are 10 - 12 inch, with larger distribution mains a few blocks away. Before anyone asks, this is not my district, but I've worked several jobs there over the years (Mutual Aid). For those of you with an interest in this subject, there is a book on Firefighting in Garden Apartments, authored by Chief Glenn Gaines (ret.) Fairfax County Va. I'm not sure where to find it though.

    Now, back to work - Tactical Considerations -

    Fire Spread - A common pipe chase feeds utility lines (Gas, Water, Electric, Phone) into each Apartment unit at the kitchen wall. ANY sign of Fire in the Kitchen means a mandatory opening of the Chase to THOROUGHLY examine the area for Fire Spread.
    Life Safety - With many of these developments being Rental Properties, There are often people asleep in midday as well as at night. A "Fine Tooth Comb" search is necessary.
    Structural Stability - Some of these Apartment Developments were built before 1960, most were completed before 1985. Age translates into deterioration, in most cases. I was on a High Angle Rescue Today (See FH.Com Home Page) where the injured person had put his foot thru the roof. This was possibly due to deterioration of the plywood sheeting. As with almost everything else, some Apartments are properly maintained, while others fall into varing states of disrepair.
    Fire (Fuel) Load - Like single family dwellings, apartments are sometimes occupied by packrats. In turn, this is a problem for us from several directions, such as tight spaces to move about, increased difficulty advancing lines and searching, and most important, increased Floor loading. Contents such as Piled newspaper and clothing will absorb lots of water, increasing the floor loading even more.
    Access for Apparatus - A common belief here is that every tenant owns at least 3 cars . Parking areas range from congested to impossible.

    For now, that should give y'all some things to think about. Stay Safe.
    Last edited by hwoods; 12-15-2006, 10:29 PM.

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  • dday05
    replied
    BackstepFF

    Looks like a nice job!!!!! How was your water supply, do you have hydrants or do you run a water shuttle ? And or both? Are you from West virginia?

    Leave a comment:

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