Just wanting input on dumpster fires. I have found a few blogs where departments use deck guns instead of handlines. Can you please tell me which tactic your department uses, if you use a combination what is the criteria for using a deck gun over a handline, has your department ever had injuries received from mitigating a dumpster fire. Of course include any other information you feel necessary.

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Experienced a 20 lb Propane Tank Explosion before from inside a big rolloff compactor/dumpster inside a Home Depot. They crush their returns so employees can't pawn the item off to a friend and return the item again for cash or exchange.

I guess the guy thought the unit didn't have a tank inside the cabinet. One of those big units, $600-700 dollar patio gilles/food prep ones with the enclosed lower cabinet that hides the propane tank.

Made one hell of a Kaboom and moved the roll-off container 6".
Using a deck gun does seem the safest and easiest way if you can get the truck in the right place. Why not let the truck do the work for you? If you only have one engine going to the call arrive, hit it hard with the gun then mop it up. Maybe even a water can could be used at that point for mop up. No one ever know what type of crap is in a dumpster no point in making a crew go right up to it they don't have to.
My take on dumpster fires is a little different...

If there are no exposures, let it burn itself out. All dumpster fires are hazmat incidents. You pretty much have to drown them to extinguish them. That creates hundreds of gallons of contaminated runoff that you have to deal with - at least if your department is responsible about not creating unnecessary environmental contamination. If you let it burn out, there's no runoff at all.

If you extinguish the dumpster without completely emptying it, then it's probably going to either rekindle or be torched again by whoever lit it the first time. If you let all of the fuel burn up, that's not a problem, either.

If there is an exposure problem and the dumpster is small, you may be able to fight the fire with a vehicle-mounted winch. Just pull the dumpster away from the building. I actually did this at a high-rise fire once. A dumpster was on fire in the rear of Division 1. Burning trash from a trash chute dropped into it. The dumpster was well-involved upon arrival with fire and smoke extending up the trash chute. I was first due in a rescue with 2 firefighters. We opened the overhead door and pulled the dumpster out, then went to the fire floor, used a hook to drop the rest of the trash to the first floor, and let the engine finish the job with a couple more water cans. We let the dumpster burn itself out in the parking lot. The engine was a little disappointed that I ordered them to let the dumpster burn, but they got over it.

The dumpster companies don't mind - a fresh coat of paint and the dumpster is good as new. The dumpster company isn't on the hook for a big hazmat cleanup, either.

If you can't move the dumpster and have to fight the fire, drown it with the deck pipe. That minimizes firefighter exposure to hazardous chemicals and puts the fire out more quickly, which gets you in service sooner. Why play around with a dumpster all day and generate unnecessary heat stress for your firefighters? You'll have to fill the dumpster up to completely extinguish it, so why not do it quickly?

Full PPE and SCBA for all dumpster fires, too.

Work smarter, not harder.
I've fought hundreds of dumpster fires over the years. One of the more effective ways to do so is by using the deck gun, a few minutes and you're done.

While I agree that letting it burn makes sense, sometimes it just isn't practical... like when it's completely full of whatever and just smoldering. You could be there for hours if you just let it burn. When it's 2am, I'd rather be in bed sleeping!
my engine has a trash line on the front bumper, with is a preconnected 1 3/4" line that is 150' in length. we used it at our last fire in the borough (shed fire. 150' wasn't long enough so we grabbed the high rise pack).

bare minimum, full PPE and air packs but we use a hand line.

we've had our newest engine for 8 years now and we finally used the deck gun for the first time when we were drafting last week for training.
I haven't seen too many smouldering ones - the ones I've fought have mostly been free-burning. I guess there are a few dumpster fires that aren't caused by flammable liquids/arson...just not the ones I've seen when I worked urban areas.

If the dumpster is smouldering, I'd go with Ted's recommendation to use foam. You can use Class A foam through a piercing nozzle if you need penetration power.

A couple of years ago, we did some piercing nozzle tests with Class A foam on a Type IV metal structure, and it worked amazingly well on room-and-contents fires. I'd guess it would work very similarly on dumpster fires.
dumpsters, 40 yard rolloffs as well as 30 and 40 yard enclosed compactor recepticals are always interesting .. I like the idea of being able to let them burn astated above, but unfortunately we see insecticides and other hazardous materials propane, gasoline , paint thinners, and god onlyknows what.. while run off is an issue, so ispoisonous products of combustion and in the inner city setting letting it burn would create numeerous health hazards as we;; as potential long term issues.. either way its bad.. I have had situations back in the old days where My Company was sent regularly to a specific Bodega and It was a pain to know that after knocking down a dumpster fullof cardboard and store trash, ( and whatever else) and returning to quarters being sent out again to the same location andupon approach finding the same dumpster heavily envolved again and visable Over the elevated train viaduct.. At the time as an acting Company officer I requested and was denied a firemarshall response ( overtime refusal) so the very next chance I had to speak with the # 2 FM I explained the situation , They went down in force and sequestered trash removal records from each of the stores in the strip ( 5 Buisnesses) each were allowed to use the Bodega's dumpsters anyway in short time we went from most likley 250 to 300 less runs a year because The company hadnt picked up trash in two years prior... we had one engine that had a turret as an CFR rigand they used to pull up and Fill the dumpster I have also pulled up and occasionally found a 40 yard rolloff going and used our preconnected deck gun due to security issues .. propane bottles fireworks , ammo, spray cans, insecticides, etc etc.. butane paint tires gasoline cans you name it, I'll tell you if you have a compactor especially inside a garage setting , your going
want to disconnect the hopper , ans as ben waller said drag it outside..many hirise residences as well as stores use these..
I agree that dumpsters can be full of pesticides and other toxins, but the rule of thumb is that fire does a much better job of destroying toxins than does water. Letting it burn does a couple of positive things for the fire department. One is that we didn't cause the fire, so we're not responsible for hazmat problems caused by the fire. We are responsible for hazmat problems caused by contaminated runoff that we cause if we attempt to extinguish.

The second thing is that the National Fire Academy teaches to let pesticide fires burn unless you can stop them when they are very small with minimal contaminated runoff. The Hazardous Materials: Pesticide Challenge class has taught that concept for well over two decades. http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/nfa/handoff/index.shtm

I agree that there may be cases where fighting a dumpster fire is necessary, but fire simply puts fewer toxins into the environment.

Regardless, I'm not a proponent of fighting dumpster fires with hand lines - it simply puts firefighters at too much unnecessary risk.

The fire department in Halfway, MD (suburb of Hagerstown) used to have a home-made J-pipe that was essentially an inverted J-shape open butt that attached to a 2.5-inch hoseline and hung on the dumpster's top hatch. If they couldn't get an apparatus close to a dumpster fire, they'd run a line with no nozzle on the dumpster and let the water just fill the dumpster up. That is a "fire and forget" technique that doesn't require a firefighter to man a nozzle to fight the fire.

There are some pretty inventive people in our business.
I would like to thank everyone who replied to this discussion. Your comments have assisted greatly in a presentation for class this week. Thank you very much and hope you all have a great and safe day.....
My 2 cents. These tactics all depend on location, size of fire and acessability. I like using the deck gun from a distance and lobbing the water in. My next choice is, depending on the size of the fire, using a rear discharge off the rear of the engine. Back the engine up to within a safe distance and shoot the water out the back. It is usually tall enough to reach into the dumpster. My 3rd choice is using a handline. There MUST be use of full PPE and SCBA when using a handline. The old days of trying to fight a dumpster fire w/o it is just plain STUPID. You only have 1 set of lungs and it only takes a small amout of the right toxin(s) to severly damage them or worse, KILL you. Think about your family.
We had a a few weeks ago started by fireworks (go figure) at a business. The fire was small and it was next to the loading dock and under a metal overhang. There was no extension. I suggested that we use a deckgun and maybe some of the FAMOUS F500 (We have it, but it costs sooo much that we are supposed to ask for permission from a Batt. Chief to use it. Another story!) Anyway, my officer and my crew mates have NEVER done that before so my suggestion was shot down. Instead, I packed up, pulled a 100' preconnected 1 3/4" attack line from our front bumper and extinguished the fire. The hose got all nice and dirty from the water and dirt/gravel parking lot. We loaded up the mud caked hose and went back home. Then we had to pull it back out of the tray, clean it and the tray and repack it. It would have been soooo much easier to use the deckgun!
On our truck we have a dump chute for emptying the tank into droptanks. I extended the chute out all the way and backed up just enough to the dumpster to empty about 1250 gallons out in about 30 seconds. Totally extinguishing the fire. Never had to activate the pump or drag a line. Used a 10ft pike pole to submerge any smoldering debris. I was on scene for a total of about 1o min. Of course I was in full PPE and I did a quick size up of the dumpster before filling it with water. May not be the safest or the most environmentally correct way to do it, but it was fast. Of course each dumpster fire is different and its like a box of chocolates ya never know what you'll get. Alot depends on your depts. SOP's and LOP's for handling dumpster fires.

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