Arriving on scene, you find flames blowing out the second floor of a two story commercial, that is part of a longer commercial business area along Main Street. It's a typical Saturday morning, the buildings are occupied and local law enforcement is on scene and in the building....first floor retail, second floor mixed retail, offices and services. The fire building has been renovated five times in the past 30 years, the most recent, 2 years ago. Give the photo and scenario; Here are the questions to ponder and assess;
What factors would you consider related to Building Performance, Structural Stability and Fire Spread, and why? What are your key Strategic Considerations? and why. What are your Tactical Considerations? What are your key Incident Action Plan (IAP) considerations. Given Twenty (20) minutes of operational time, with some progress, BUT with fire extension in two horizontal directions; what are you concerned about and what would you be thinking about? What about Firefighter Safety and Command Management; How, What, When, where?

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First off Christopher thank you for hosting this group. I love checking in on your latest scenarios, testing my own knowledge and preparedness, and learning from everyone who is participating.
well pertaining to building performance and structural stability, knowing that there have been many renovations, i figure there's probably some unconventional framing creating voids, and i'm sure a mix of wood and steel partitions, as well as multiple cielings, and the floor plan layout is probably very diffeerent from what you would expect given your view from the street, (windows may not be where you expect them, and doors ay not lead to anywhere.)it's hard to tell from the picture , but the storefronts to the right look like it may be one or two large spaces where four or more may have once been, how well is the second floor supported?How many columns were removed to make room for seating, or to give it an open feel? All of these conditions lead to possibly poor building integrity, as well as unpredictable fire spread.why is there heavy fire in two windows and not even smoke in any other? Were any fire walls disturbed? not to mention that awning is gonna create tactical problems.
As for strategy and tactics, we need to get inside and put it out. obviously . The building to the right looks to be a seperate building,differing window heights, and roof line. most likely there is no cockloft or common attic spaces between these buildings. let's try and preserve that building. we'll need some crews up on that second floor pulling ciellings and checking for extension. In the main fire building you will need crews to remove people from the first floor businesses, and find those cops, and get himto move his car!, this shouldn't be difficult , but i'm sure the business owners won't be entirely helpful.Getting handlines to the second floor and a truck crew opening up and creating secondary means of egress , the front is not going to be laddered easily, your first in companies should be focused here with your second truck and thrid or(assuming 3rd engine is RIT) fourth engines in the building to the right. with the horizontal movement i'm of course concerned about the whole block.But if we can get in there and get on it get some additional crews further to the left of the main building checking for extension it should be a good outcome.If the first crews report fire up in an attic space or cockloft or like i stated earlier multiple cielings and voids it may be too late and going defensive early may be your best bet.firefighter safety is a big concern in a building of this type and it is crucial that communications of interior conditions are constant. things can and will change quickly.
Great insights and comments. Think more about the bldg. performance; what's the structural make-up, the method of construction and the inherent factors for fire travel, structural compromise and affects on the safety of interior operating companies. Is the structure framed construction, brick and joist, steel, hybrid engineered systems with light ga. metal sub systems, etc?...I'll add more comments and questions as more replies get posted, so as not to say too much. Thanks again for taking the time to helps get everyone to "think!"

First of all, let me say I did not read any responses to this topic so I apologize if there is redundacy in my answers.


What factors would you consider related to Building Performance, Structural Stability and Fire Spread, and why?

The 5 remodels in the last 30 years causes me major concern.  We have no idea of the quality of those remodels and their effect on structural integrity.  Think Vendome Hotel Boston.  Have major structural elements been compromised or removed?  Have walls, including firewalls been removed or modified?  Have doors or windows been added or removed?  Has multiple dropped ceilings been installed?  What are the interior finishes and furnishings and how much do they add to the fire load?  Hopefully these things have been noted in both preplans and fire inspection reports.  If not it really is a crrap shoot as to what we may find.  Furthe remodeling that occurs after preplans have been done make those preplans not only obsolete but potentially deadly for firefighters.


What are your key Strategic Considerations? and why.

Fire attack, evacuation/search and rescue, exposure potection.  The simple fact here is the extinguishment of the fire eliminates the majority of the evacuation and search and rescue issues.  It also cuts the risk of fire spreading into the exposures.  Fire may already be there but at least the main body of fire will not be feeding it anymore. 


What are your Tactical Considerations?

Assuming adequate staffing for the first alarm I would commit one company to fire attack, one company to search near the fire, one company to checking the exposure.  I would utilize the police on scene to evacuate the first floor occupancies.  I would upon arrival call for a box and as the companies arrived I would assign a second company to fire attack, a second company for evacuation/search and rescue, and a second company to exposures.  I don't believe venting of the roof is necessary here UNLESS we find the fire traveling the void space above the ceiling.  Then venting may help control the fire spread.

Depending on manpower on the initial response I may do an initial quick hit with a deck gun through the windows where fire was showing, then follow it up with an interior attack.  If there are any victims in the fire rooms it would be easily surmised that they are deceased because of the advanced state of the fire.  The only contraindication for that type of hit would be survivable victims in the fire area that would be adversely affected by that hit.


What are your key Incident Action Plan (IAP) considerations.

Evacuation/search and rescue, fire attack, and exposure protection.  Primarily, as always, making sure that all victims are removed and all able bodied people in the building are evacuated is the primary concern.  Extinguishing the main body of fire eliminates the major fire building problems, as well as benefitting search, but the fact that we may have fire running in the overhead void spaces and into the exposures both interally and extenally may make this a much more complicated and extensive operation.


Given Twenty (20) minutes of operational time, with some progress, BUT with fire extension in two horizontal directions; what are you concerned about and what would you be thinking about?

I would be calling additional resources, expand the evacuations of exposures, and set up heavy streams for defensive operations.  My concerns would be the fire running the block and perhaps farther.


What about Firefighter Safety and Command Management; How, What, When, where?

Sector officers to keep command within the span of control.  Perhaps, to include division officers for all interior operations.  Safety officers at a minimum in the front and rear of the structure.  Not only to keep track of the firefighters but to keep in contact with each other about the structure.


As in all fire ground tactics discussions your opinion may vary and frankly, and I have been wrong before! 

Sir, I'm going to have to thank you for these type of posts. This is an awesome learning experience for myself, being only 5 years in. The 2 responses to your question's seem well thought out. The building construction with the many remodels become a HUGE factor in this incident. Without proper notification of major remodels to a fire department, we could walk into something completely different then what we think. I would imagine being on main street, with what appears to be a fairly large building, there may be pre-plans in effect, although with the most recent remodel in the last 2 years, has this been updated?

I suppose I have to ask more questions about this incident then I can answer. Being your average fireman on a truck company, I'm wondering from a command point of view, would a trench cut be in order to attempt to save at least half of the building in the event the main attack team cannot put it out? I know we had a fire in a strip mall type building such as this, and arriving on scene as a 2nd due truck company, we were assigned to the roof to prepare ourselves for a possible trench cut. Its a huge undertaking for a understaffed volly company, but it can be done. Is this building not large enough to think that way? 

To me, along with life safety first, and fire attack being second, checking for extension in this situation is a huge issue. I would certainly be worried about the fire spreading to the rear of the building, which may not be as renovated as the front. possibly used as storage or something of that sort. The building owner would have to be found as soon as possible if at all, so that he can give insight to renovations and construction, floor plans, etc. I may be talking on a very elementary scale, but I'm learning... 


A little necroposting, but it's good to see some interest in these popping up again.


Here's my basic take on this one...


Building Performance - in a word, "Iffy".  With 5 sets of renovations, the structure has likely lost a lot of structural strength since its original construction.  The upstairs is probably pretty cut up, and the additional partition walls add some additional weight.   If the previous roof was rotten or had previous damage, the older dimensional lumber rafters may have been replaced by lightweight trusses.


Structural Stability - probably OK for the first few minutes, unless the interior finish is missing or damaged to allow the fire to immediately attack the structural components, especially the roof support structure.  If that's the case, there's not a big window of opportunity to either extinguish the fire or search the 2nd floor.


Fire Spread - This depends on three factors, two of which are unknown.  The first - ventilation is obvious.  This fire has autovented and has all of the oxygen a fire could want.  The second - how cut up the 2nd floor is - is unknown unless our fire inpectors have been closely monitoring this structure or if the owner is unusually receptive to company-level inspections.  If it's cut up, that will limit the fire spread for a while.  If it's open, this one will take off quickly.  The third factor is the fuel loading.  I'm betting on modern hydrocarbon-based furniture and fabrics.  If this is the case, this will quickly become a very hot, rapid-spreading fire.  I'm betting this is the case.


Strategy and Tactics, based on my department's response:




Transitional attack to slow the fire spread and make the upstairs more tenable in the short term. 

Search the upstairs, concentrating on the interior B and C exposures and working from near the fire to the exterior walls and rescue all who need it.

Account for all civilians.

Treat and transport the injured.

Confine the fire, then extinguish it.

Ensure structural stability.

Provide additional ventilation if needed.

Control utilities, especially gas and electric.

Overhaul and salvage will be delayed.

Obtain additional resources.

Find shelter for any civilians who are uninjured but unable to leave due to their vehicles being blocked in by us.

Law enforcement - isolate streets for at least 1 block in all directions, crowd control, and traffic control.

Water supply - one established, establish at leastone more water source.

Provide RIC

Provide Rehab


Tactical Assignments


Engine 1 - 2nd Alarm on arrival - occupied commercial with a well-involved fire.  Lay in, position well back from the structure.  While hydrant FF charges the supply  line, the driver and nozzleman give the fire a quick Transititional hit with the deck pipe.  As soon as the flashover is knocked, the deck pipe is shut down.  The officer establishes Command at the engine.


Engine 2 - Officer and 2 firefighters, stretch a leader line off Engine 1, run a 1-3/4 handline from the wye, advances to the closest stairwell that terminates near the fire, goes upstairs, locates any remaining fire with the TIC, and continues to extinguish.


Engine 3 - Splits into two teams.  Team 1 (Officer and nozzleman) take a second 1-3/4 handline off the wye, advance, and assist Engine 2 with upstairs extinguishment.


Truck 1 - Officer and Irons search the upstairs, concentrating on the interior exposures to the B and C sides of the fire.


Medic 1 - set up at front of parking lot, maintain egress, and start treating any injured civilians.


Battalion 1 - set up near A-B corner, Engine 1's officer transfers Command, and then is assigned to Recon - i.e. complete the 360-degree size-up.


Engine 4 - RIC #1, ladders 2nd floor, Side A.


Engine 5 - RIC #2, ladders Side C.  Forces doors on Side C if an interior crew can't open them.  If no operational need for the 2nd RIC at this point, they can return to Side A and become a staged On Deck unit.


Engine 6 - Lays in for 2nd source of water supply.  Officer and Nozzleman search the attached Side D occupancy and ensure that it is evacuated.  Check the masonry dividing wall for structural damage and fire/smoke penetration into the exposure.


Truck 2 - Officer and Irons enter 1st floor, go to the rear, and open doors from the interior, then go upstairs to assist with searches.  Driver and Tillerman raise the aerial ladder to roof, inspects it for fire and structural issues, but likely won't need to vent unless this becomes a prolonged firefight.


Medic 2 - assists Medic 1 with patients.

Medic 3 - in conjunction with the Air/Rehab unit, establishes Rehab


Battalion 2 - RIC Group Supervisor

Battalion 3 - Division C Supervisor

Deputy Chief 1 - Safety

Deputy Chief 2 - Firefighter Accountability

Staff Captain - Rehab/Medical Group Supervisor

Emergency Manager - Liaison (property management, store manager, Red Cross, public utilities, etc.)

Police Supervisor - Law Enforcement duties


If the 2nd floor searches turn up unresponsive/incapacitated/critical victims, this goes to a 3rd alarm plus additional ambulances.  If the weather is hot/humid, this still goes to a 3rd alarm, but minus the extra ambulances if they are not needed.


If there are critical injuries or burns, then we get into hospital notification, trauma center or burn center destination guidelines, medivac helicopters, etc.


This isn't complete and my IAP is not necessarily in the order it would be completed, but it's been a loooooong day.

To answer the question 1: knowing the bldg is old, renovated multiple times, occupied with what appears to be flashover of one or two rooms on arrival; the fire spread potential thru void spaces is great as is the potential for some interior collapse.
2. Strategy of containing the fire to the 2nd floor and not spreading into the adjacent bldg with simultaneous evac of the bldg understanding rescue may cause resources and priorities to change. 3. Tactical use of hand lines for interior attack combined with roof top ventilation, primary search, and exposure protection of the adjoining bldg 2nd floor. 4. IAP = strategy, tactics, SITSTAT, communications, time limits & trigger points, structural integrity, RIC/Safety, EMS/rehab.5. At 20 min a 2nd alarm should have already been ordered. Struc integrity/collapse and changing to defensive tactics given the knowledge of the bldg and no signs of success.

Hallmark looks like it may be a seperate building. I'm basing that on appearance from front and the grade that this street is on. Therefore I am treating the Hallmark as an exposure w/o extension. Of course it will be checked and report from rear could change that. You have a line operating in the back. Where exactly? Is it operating opposite that first line? Sure hope not. I'm putting first line thru whichever door on first floor gets me easiest access to those 2 rooms in front of 2nd floor with all the fire. Any delay caused by ascertaining which door this is would be well worth it. I want more info if possible about roof construction before putting guys on it to cut. If Hallmark is same building, cutting roof will likely just pull fire to that point. 

Considering (as is always the case) that everyone responds with different resources; stations, apparatus, staffing, alarm sequence such as "box", multi-station etc. I am going to leave the local jusrisdiction terminology and particular response assignments out of my answers.  Obviously the place is open for business and being a saturday I will consider the second floor offices and services to be occupied as well. Most likely LE is making the attempt to eveacuate the building. Given the life hazard, fire extent, size of the building, occupancy and exposures additional "alarms" are indicated if consider the average 2-3 and 2 initial response for fire in such a location. Engines will bring LDH supply coming in (I do not favor the concept of depending upon another engine for supply, especially in this situation) First-in engine will position for deck gun coverage with expectation of fire to continue traveling to the left with respect to "reflex time". First-in truck to position to scrub fire building and exposure to right (D).  Truck crew will locate stairwell for engine and location of fire relative to lay-out while making primary of second floor. Engine will begin a 2.5" stretch inside to stairs. Second engine will locate to cover D side with staff assisting with the first stretch. Looking for supression systems I will assume none exist? Otherwise obviously tactics change...and with some codes the renovations would indicate such systems would exist. In absence of...I am considering the renovations to include lightweight materials and construction with structural involvement obvious. Truss members, voids, ductwork, plenty of avenues for fire spread. The second truck company needs to get in the exposure as well as the roof to make a better size-up. The first hand-line in place, considering the report from the interior, they must make progress immediately or they are being pulled out. The second line will back up the first, the third to the exposure. A transitional attack is not out of the question either. So much depends upon the view from the top, the 360, and the priority of rescue that will dictate the fire attack. Overhead fire extension, auto-exposure into the exposeure D, and response time are critical. 20 minutes with SOME progress is NOT favorable. (I just re-read the scenario) Fire extension in two horizontal directions obviously means we do not have containment or control. With all due respect to property,..I'm pulling them out. The building is NOT stable, the fire is spreading, and is likely to collpase. Set collapse zones, master streams, accountability and PAR's after calling the evac, Positioning in the exposure with handlines and opening up, maintaining the roof of the exposed (after ensuring the roof is NOT common to the fire building) building. Command management from the beginning includes IC, Ops, Safety, Accountability, Fire attack divisions, search divisions, exposure divisions, of course RIT, water supply, and sector commands, staging, medical command,  Incident Action Plan initially is to evacuate, search, locate, confine, control fire spread while varifying construction type and controlling the exposure. I would like to say "salvage" is among them but with the reality of staffing...As for the initial attack, I quick hit with a deck gun looks better when you consider the time to stretch a line, locate the best route, get the line in place and get water. I am oppossed to the all too common inch and three quarter line for everything mentality that is so common today. Proper training by experienced firefighters has proven the "big line" can be stretched just as quickly with minimal personnel IF they are practiced and skilled. Once charged, it CAN be advanced with as little as 3 firefighters, but even operating stationary, with a "hit and run" type tactic, where the stream reach is used, the GPM's USED, and the line shut down, moved forward, etc. is more effective than battleing it out with too little gpm that can't slow fire spread.

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