Side Alpha Street Side with Fire Location

Aerial View Side Delta

Side Charlie

Side Alpha Initial Arrival Operations

Side Alpha, Smoke Showing

It's a nice and quiet Saturday morning. The sun’s shining, clear skies, slight breeze and very comfortable temperatures.

You’re washing the engine with your crew, and the bells come in. The dispatch is for a report of smoke in the building. The caller states they smell a strong odor in their store. Dispatch also states there are reports by passerby’s in the street that smoke is observed coming from the roof of the occupancy by cars in the intersection.

• The address is for a commercial area with business and older strip store and mall occupancies built in the late 1960’s.
• The location of this alarm is for strip center of stores that was recently renovated.
• The building is thought to be a combination of Type II and V construction. 280 ft. x 60 ft. at the widest end (Side D).
• The immediate area is fully hydranted, the building complex is not sprinkler protected.
• Your alarm response is typical of what you have in your jurisdiction as is your staffing level.
• You have a five minute response time for the first-engine company

There are very unique situations and issues affecting this complex of stores, configuration and construction.

What’s obvious upon your arrival?
• After studying the aerial images of the building and occupancy setting, that are being posted on your computer screen in the engine cab as you respond or are also in your pre-fire planning book that you refer to; What influence on strategic and tactical incident actions will the building have on your assignments?
• What Tactics have you found to work successfully at similar incidents?
• What doesn’t work or should be considered when engaging in combat fire suppression at commercial occupancies of this type?
• Looking at the roof profile and building and occupancy layout; What are you seeing? What are you concerned about? and how will this affect tactical operations?
• What’s the Safety Concerns and Risk Profile?
• All Hands are going to be put to work. What do you need? When do you need them? Where do they need to go? What are you going to do?

Let us know what role and responsibility you're taking for this incident. If you'er assuming a Tactical Role, gives us further insights related to interior or exterior operations....

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The good news is that the occupancies two and three to the right of this one have already burned and been torn down, so we can only lose one more store toward the Delta end before the ready-made firebreak.

What’s obvious upon your arrival? - We have light smoke showing from the front with heavier, darker smoke showing from the roof. This indicates that we may have a truss void fire, or that we have heavier fire somewhere in the store that has autovented through HVAC ductwork, or that the fire had a longer pre-burn time than reported.

• After studying the aerial images of the building and occupancy setting, that are being posted on your computer screen in the engine cab as you respond or are also in your pre-fire planning book that you refer to; What influence on strategic and tactical incident actions will the building have on your assignments? Occupancy, special hazards, interior layout, roof support system construction, are the common walls fire walls or partition walls? In this case, I don't see fire wall penetrations and the roofs are peaked, so with a renovation the walls are probably masonry partition walls and the roof support systems are likely trusses.

• What Tactics have you found to work successfully at similar incidents? For the fire occupancy, find the fire and take the shortest route to it. That may be through Side C. Parallel tactics are to get quickly into the B and D exposures, pop some acoustic tiles and look into the overhead visually and with TICs to see if there is truss void lateral extension. If so, get hoselines into both exposures and confine the fire to the occupancy of origin.

• What doesn’t work or should be considered when engaging in combat fire suppression at commercial occupancies of this type? Leave the preconnects on the engine - they usually are too short to reach fires in strip malls, particularly when the fire originates in an office or storage area in the rear of the store. Use a high-rise pack/leader line or simply take a 2.5 inch line inside, you'll need the reach. If you don't protect above the partition walls, these fires usually leapfrog and destroy the entire strip mall. Stay off the roof - they tend to come down before you can get big enough vent holes to make a difference. If you use PPV, you'll need lots of CFMs...more CFMs than most truck companies carry.

• Looking at the roof profile and building and occupancy layout; What are you seeing? What are you concerned about? and how will this affect tactical operations? I can't determine the business type, but the layout of strip malls is usually a cash register counter somewhere near the front, merchandise (or restaurant tables) in the front 60% to 75 % and storage, restrooms, and a break room (or restaurant kitchen) in the rear. Side C will be armored up like Fort Knox and likely has lots of junk in the way.

• What’s the Safety Concerns and Risk Profile? Safety concerns - truss roof constrction, flammable/combustible contents with potential for rapid flame propagation, engine officer pulling lines too short to get to the fire, heavy HVAC systems on a lightweight roof, truck officer trying a knee-jerk roof vent.

• All Hands are going to be put to work. What do you need? When do you need them? Where do they need to go? What are you going to do?

RECEO-VS profile

Rescue/Life Safety - Check with the business owner to see if they were open for business yet or not. If not, it simplifies things. If they were, even if the owner thinks the employees and customers are all out, we're going to need a primary search. If possible, get the keys to the rear doors from the owner.

Exposures- As stated above - horizontal exposures B and D need attention.

Confinement - As stated above, jointly with horizontal exposure protection

Extinguishment - if the fire is just in the store and no flammables are involved, we may be able to get a quick knock. If the fire is in the overhead, we need lots of water in the overhead quickly. If that doesn't get the fire, write off the occupancy of origin and concentrate on the exposures.

Overhaul - later.

Ventilation - not an immediate priority - there is good visibility right now. It may need to be addressed with PPV if things deteriorate.

Salvage - not an immediate priority, unless the owner is a jeweler or some other high-value occupancy. If it's a high-value occupancy, we may need to make salvage a higher priority.

1st Alarm - 3 engines, 1 truck, 1 medic, 1 battalion chief. 2nd alarm on arrival for 2 more engines and a second truck or a rescue, 3 more chiefs, and 1 additional medic.

Engine 1 - establish water supply with LDH, lay to safe area on Side A, and attack offensively. Do a "poke and peek" in the overhead upon entry, tell Command if there is fire and/or smoke in the overhead,how much, where it's going, and what it looks like visually and with the imager. Confirm truss roof construction running B to D.

Engine 2 - Second attack line from Engine 1, confinement/extinguishment Side B.

Engine 3 - Third attack line from Engine 1, confinement/extinguishment Side D.

Truck 1 - Split into two teams. Officer/Irons take search rope, tools, TIC, and water can and search the fire occupancy. Driver/Tiller take Side C and open up.

Engine 4 - Side C, and if Truck 1 has it open, offensively attack through the rear, ensuring no opposing lines with Engine 1.

Engine 5 - backup line to either Side A or Side C, depending upon which is a better attack route.

Truck 2/Rescue 1 - RIC.

Medic 1 - Medical/Rehab a safe distance away in the Side A parking lot.

Command - Set up with good view of Side A, fixed CP.

2nd Chief - Division C

3rd Chief - Safety

4th Chief - Accountability

Medic 2 - primary transport unit, assist Medic 1 with Rehab set-up.

Command and Safety need to monitor time hacks. If no victims are found in the fire occupancy, but the 3 lines can't control the fire, go Defensive, add a 3rd alarm, and move the attack lines into exposures B and D to protect the top of the partition walls. If we don't let the fire leapfrog the partition walls, we may have water damage in the esposures, but we can safe them and the rest of the strip mall.

I'd really like to know what the businesses in the fire occupancy and B and D exposures are. In a real situation, we'd know.
I'm not sure if the signs of previous fire are actually that, or from the firefighting efforts from this fire problem. If it IS from previous fire, that would change the scenario, so I'm going with it being from the result of THIS operation instead.

We're looking at a job in a strip mall that's located along a what looks to be a somewhat major hiway. We know that traffic will be an early problem with apparatus arrival, placement, and supply lines that may be stretched from various points in the vacinity. The fire's location hasn't been located, but we can suspect that smoke may have been traveling throughout truss voids and concealed spaces/common cocklofts for awhile possible before being detected. This may mean we have more involvement, and structural compromise than it may first appear. HVAC on the roof = collapse complication and danger.

Is the black smoke resulting from roof ventilation? I'm going to assume, or say not at this time, because that would also change my take on the size-up. It's coming from vent point, scuttle, or otherwise fire has broken through the roof. The point of origin for the smoke issuing from the roof has to be located. Regardless of that, we have a fire located within the store involving stock/merchandise and structural componanats, no doubt. The awning roofline poses not only a collapse hazard, but should the fire flash or backdraft out the front show windows, it will travel along under there due to the build up of gases that will become hot enough to ignite, which will also cause fire spread laterally.

OK, so...we find this upon arrival. Potential shows me of course we need a second and a third, for all practical purposes. Command can be located across the street in what looks like a parking lot on the A side. Priority to evacuate all stores, and coonfer with a manager of the fire store involved, as well as the two immediate exposures to determine accountability of employees and customers, as well as investigate occupancy type and possible location of fire's origin. Along with the second and third, the provisions for RIT/RIC will be established, and an expanded RIC/RIT assignment will be needed due to type of construction and occupancy, and the immediate need for primary searches with potential being great for overhead fire spread, and collapse.

Engine companies will secure water supplies, with 2.5" handlines strecthed in preperation for entry. All crews assigned for any interior operations will work off of search lines. Trucks need to force all doors front and rear, immediately on fire building, and immediate lateral exposures. Two engines and a truck will be initially assigned to the C side, water supplies secured, and preperations made for exposre coverag and mheavy stream use due to proximity of exposed dwellings in rear C side. Initial fire attack will begin from front, after show windows are removed, and C side has been opened up. Engine company crews will be doubled to advance "big line" through front, with back-up line charged and in position. Exposure lines may be stretched with 1.75" hoselines, however 2.5" will stretched as back-ups.
Although the potential for basement/cellar fire does exist, the smoke spread and conditions appear to indicate fire located closer to front of building, likely on the ground floor. Grand opening signs are an indication of newly renovated property, which may hide many potential tell-tale details on construction otherwise obvious. (though I missed that, huh?)
Of course utility ontrol is paramount and will be assigned. Bench marks for time will be critical. If the fire has not been located, confined, and controled within the first 10 minutes, and crews have not located source of fire, evacuation signals and procedures will begin, and all personal accountability procedures followed.

We got maybe 10 minutes. Collapse zones established, there is a parapit running the length of this entire structure.

This whole thing smells bad to me. Without a real quick hit with a big line, and signs of fire extending overhead, it's gonna be a general, 5th, or multi-agency surround and drown that will require numerous master streams, lots and lots of water, and not one damn small line pulled for anything other than cooling down any apparatus that happens to be parked too close.
Oh and I personally beleiev that the PPV fans will remain where they belong, on the apparatus for the initial attack here, especially with suspected voids due to truss work and concealed cocklofts and stuff. Sorry, but I just feel that is a sure-fire way for fire to spread throughout the place.
I agree with Ben and Jeff's assessments. If lines have to be pulled, they better be deuce and a half with smooth bores for better penetration.
Jeff, The "signs of a previous fire" are the two missing buildings - two occupancies to the right (toward Delta) of the current fire. There is a blank front wall with temporary flying raker shores in that area. That didn't happen from this fire. The Side Charlie photo shows it best.

PPV can be effective in ventilating large structures, but you have to be careful to avoid the "wind tunnel" effect which will spread fire in the overhead. I wouldn't use PPA (positive pressure attack) on this fire, but after knockdown, PPV will help clean out the smoke pretty rapidly. You will need to open the ceiling in selected spots before PPV - you don't want to blindly pressurize the overhead. If you get a quick knockdown, I'd reconsider vertical ventilation. If you identify the point directly over the seat of the fire, ensure the roof is sound for the vent crew, then vent the roof and acoustic tile ceiling, you can actually use the vertical vent hole as a PPV exhaust. It's quite effective and eliminated the "wind tunnel" problem in the overhead. If it's not done properly, you'll drive the fire throughout void spaces, as Jeff says.
There are risks to this tactic, but like everything else, everything we do is about managing risk.

Here's a better view of the "Lost Occupancy" As Chief Waller pointed out, this has an influencing factor on the IAP. Also look closer at the roof profiles of the individual occupancy spaces and the rehab "front" and parapets.... The issue with deployment of sized handlines is very valid for fire load, penetration and suppression capabilities.. Let me ask this..what if the fire is in the upper void space versus within the compartment of the occupancy? Something to think about..
So far, you guys have done an excellent job of insights and dialog.....But, there must be plenty of other FFN opinions...

I'd have the fire attack crews use smoothbores for fires in the occupancy, unless the occupancy was a dry cleaners or auto parts store with Class B fuels, or something similar.

For the B and D exposure protection lines, I'd prefer fog nozzles, as they'll do a better job of a) restricting fire movement in the truss void and b) steam penetration to hidden fire in the void spaces, regardless of the location of the original fire.

If the seat of the fire is in the void space, I'd still prefer smoothbores. I wouldn't pull the ceilings - that's a guaranteed way to entangle firefighters. 2.5 inch lines with smoothbore streams will blow the ceiling tiles out of the way and still give us the reach, penetration, and GPMs we'll need to get the fire in the overhead. If not, time to go Defensive and start the surround and drown party.
Another issue - the very poor access to Side C of the fire occupancy.

The close-up is a little fuzzy, but it shows the vehicles, dumpster, construction debris, and other obstacles to the Side Charlie door.

Here's a similar photo I took during a recent vacation...the Charlie side of commercial occupancies are notorious for being armored and obstructed.

This photo is included in the All Hazards Contemplations blog Getting Familiar with Unfamiliar Dirt.
Two fires in one strip mall raise my suspicion levels to red. Perhaps I'm reading too much into that.
I don't like the dead-end alley on C side. Not knowing the current codes, I wonder if the car lot at D has illegally fenced and blocked the fire lane.
My guess is that there is a firestop between the involved unit and the B side but only a sub-divided wall on D.
Jay, I see no evidence of a fire wall penetrating the roof divider between the involved occupancy and the B exposure. The roofline looks exactly like the involved occupancy and the D exposure to me.

If I'm missing something, or if you have seen something on a similar strip mall that would give us more information, please share it. I'm always looking for exceptions to the rule, whether they help us or hurt us.
Good point on the open construction. I thought about it - we have some new construction here that looks like seperate strip mall occupancies but is actually a big box, single occupancy. This one looks as if it has masonry dividing walls, but you're right, some of them could have been removed and replaced with big door openings or even lolly columns.

That's a symptom of being in a place that doesn't have lots of older forget how much this kind of stuff gets modified when it's remodeled.

The lack of Side C doors may just mean that this one was built with no rear access - like giant motel rooms. Some old strip malls were built this way before people realized that rear deliveries don't interfere as much with business.

Good catch, Ted.
Probably not a masonry fire wall as it doesn't extend thru the roof. But what I see is 1 door on C side per 2 units. The difference in store length and the burnt out unit(s) lead me to believe that there is an increase in the fire rating wall between the unit involved and the B side but not the D side. I'm just guessing about this particular bldg though.
It could be - I'm with you, we just don't have enough information.
Maybe Chris needs to come up with some interior photos so we can do a pre-plan. :-)

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