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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To me the real issue is size-up. 

If the fire has not escaped the compartment(room) through the ceiling or the walls we still should fight it like any other room and contents fire.  In other words, go in and get it before it does spread outside the compartment.


On the other had if we arrive and find fire or black smoke under pressure coming from the attic area the fire has left the compartment, or originated in that attic space, and we must knock down that fire before entry is even considered. The only exception to that may be to affect a rescue if possible in the living area.  Fire in that attic space may rapidly lead to collapse or partial collapse of the roof from the trusses being attacked.


I guess my major point here is fire in a lightweight constructed building does NOT necessarily make that a surround and drown fire IF the fire is not attacking structural members.

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