I just sat in a seminar class about light weight construction. The class was excellent and I will tell you this, we need to rethink how we are going to fight residential structure fires. The way the new truss-style construction is made, it is not safe to go on a roof or into the building any more.

It’s been demonstrated that the new construction material is burning through at a much faster rate and so by the time we get to the scene there is a danger of collapse, if it hasn’t happened already. Also, in many cases, due to this faster fire development, the buildings are more heavily involved in fire when we arrive on scene than with more conventional construction.

This bothers me, because we still fight these fires like we would with the older homes. There is a huge difference in the amount of time that we have to do a search; the ten minutes we used to spend on an interior search in older homes is not feasible in the new buildings. We really need to start thinking more when we get on the scene of a structure fire about whether we really need to be on the roof and whether we really need to go into the structure.

Ok, what do you all think, am I overreacting to what I learned in class? I don’t think so.

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Firefighter Ed: Kim did mention trusses, but lightweight construction also makes use of engineerd materials, i.e. wooden I beams and OSB floor sheathing.

I don't know if you followed the link to my posting in another group, if not you should read it. I'll re-post the link: http://www.firefighternation.com/group/buildingconstructionfirefigh...

Here's the short course: small fire in basement, floor weakened, firefighter falls through, extinguished with about 150 gallons, great "save" BUT the house had to be torn down because the damage could not be repaired otherwise. A close call to save a house that was already beyond saving, even with minimal fire burn area.
Well, we always need to be rethinking how we fight fires, tyring to find the safest and most effective way to do so. I will say this however; I'm not going to a fire so I can stand around and wait till it gets big enough to make a defensive attack just because I'm afraid those gusset plates might give out. Now of course, if the structure is obviously looks like its going to collapse, I'm not going in and I wouldnt expect one of my officers to tell me to do so. But like I said, I'm makin entry unless there is some serious signs of collapse. No one said fighting fire is safe. No matter how many strides are made to make it safer, it will always be dangerous

We need to change our culture from "we always go in unless we have an obvious reason not to" to a safety culture that says "we don't go without a good reason to enter". Until that culture changes, we're going to keep on going to too many of those spectacular funerals that we give so well, from long and bitter practice.

No one is advocating waiting to enter until the fire gets bigger. What is being advocated is staying out of structures that have a track record of quickly coming apart with minimal exposure of the structural components to the fire. You said "But like I said, I'm makin entry unless there is some serious signs of collapse.". The problem with much lightweight construction is that when the structural components are attacked directly by the fire, they can collapse without ANY warning of the impending collapse.

Well-involved structures built from lightweight construction are Born Losers, and we need to stay the hell out of them!

If we keep entering structures on automatic pilot, we're going to keep going to funerals on automatic pilot.
Dustin, that is the problem though, it doesn't look like it is unsafe or is about to collapse. The floor is the same way. The floor gave out and the firefighters that fell through thought it was and even did the norm of checking it first. That is how fast this new material burns compared to the material that use to be used. I am not saying don't fight the fire, but the comment you just made scares me for you. That attitude is either going to get you seriously hurt or you will be another LODD. We just need to think and decide if what we are trying to save is worth the overall risk of life. Our first priority is our safety and that is the only thing that comes first. Sorry if it sounds harsh but, we are killing ourselves and it has to stop, especially if there is no reason to be in a burning building.
Wow Ted,

We all enjoy capitalism, some more then others. In the mean time this forum made me think of this situation and could save my life and others with me. FFN is a great thing. Thanks and TCSS.
we have gone to a confirmed entrapment plan, before any new construction, we are fortunate where we live the new construction isnt hard and heavy yet notice i said yet, there is nothing here any more to draw peeps here so we have alot of older homes, however, these have to be careful to because balloon construction and to save taxes they strip out the inside and redo the insides, but with new construction no interior unless confirmed entrapment
Residential Sprinklers in all new lightweight construction is the answer. It will provide a huge life safety factor and correct me if I am wrong but it is the number one reason the fire service exists but many here feel threatened by the residential sprinkler code. It will also keep the fires smaller and we should not see the same fast moving, unchecked fire development in which causes early collapse in a lightweight wood frame.

My response on "Am I Overreacting": Strategy and Tactics for a response to these fires are definately not the same for any FFN member because every department is different. Some bigger, aggressive, fulltime departments that CAN arrive in 4 minutes of less with 20-30 guys from time of notification, may intervene on a much smaller incipent stage fire (1 or 2 rooms) as compared to a rural setting with a 10, 15, or 20 minute response and the actual structural components are now involved on a lightweight residential structure.

Before we blow the all out horn on arrival, let's evaluate our organization's capabilities and train the leadership to make sure we operate safely in a lightweight wood frame, otherwise you are writing off the customer who is trapped in the upstairs bedroom before he/she calls 911.

Have wondered about not just residential use but what about commerical structures that could be using light weight materials.

I watch for weeks a four story building go up using wood material and then found out its a hotel.

I know the building will have sprinklers and stand pipes but I would hope the fire rating will keep the fire in check before any fire company reaches the fire floor and the room involved if there is a fire.

Great discussion, also as pointed out earlier, renovations to older homes, you can have a combination of old and new construction methods, and also the hidden hazard of Asbestos ( "Cement Sheet") used in construction up until the 80's. We have a lot of lightweight construction down here, and as a volunteer department/brigade it takes us extra time to turn out if we are not at the fire station when the alarm is raised. So these types of construction are usually very close to fully involved when we arrive on scene and so an external attack is possibly the only way to manage the incident. If there are no persons reported, then why risk your crew?

Fairfax County, VA has a terrific program on lightweight ENGINEERED construction firefighting, and they've done some significant strategy improvements on how they fight them.  I was fortunate to have a class at the National Fire Academy with one of their captains, Dave Barlow, earlier this year.  He has an excellent training program on trusses, glue-lam trusses, OSB I-beams, tilt-slab particle board, and other new-school construction elements and how they burn. 


I had a pretty good idea of how the combination of flimsier structures and hotter fuels changed the equation for us. but Dave's program has some excellent specifics that were great to take home.


I highly recommend it for anyone who has construction that is NOT 30 years or more old.


Any data/studies/PPT you can share or references you can cite? 

When you say glue-lam trusses, are they now laminating the truss material itself, as opposed to the typical 2x3 spruce chord/web construction? 

Also, the tilt-slap particle board, is this tilt-slab concrete or more like SIP construction?

I think that everyone is right that we need to approach things differently than in the past and look more towards safety. My biggest concern now is that we are going to far the other way, We are not being Firefighters if we allow a bed fire to burn a house to the ground. There are safe ways to still be aggressive Firefighters. It is a Fact that we are now losing more houses than ever in the service due to leaning towards safety but has the number of LODD's declined at the same rate? NO

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