With the recent posts about the anniversary of the Colerain-Township LODD from 2008, I thought I would provide some thoughts about basements and some of the things we can do to better prepare.

In recent years it seems we hear a lot about firefighters being killed and injured in residential fires where the basement was involved.  There are a few reasons for this including changing building construction as in the use of engineered i-joists and the heavy fire loads that we have in basements.  In addition, most houses with basements don't just use them for storage anymore. Basements are used as active living spaces increasing activity, heating and electrical demands that were not always present in the past.

One thing that we can do to help prevent some of these issues is to know what we are dealing with.  Probably one of the most important tasks a fire officer can do when arriving on the scene of a residential fire is to complete a 360 walk around of that building.  This gives us information we cannot obtain by darting for the front door.

By seeing all four sides of the fire building we can see if the seat of the fire is in the basement and may allow us a more direct attack from the same level as the fire reducing the chances of floor failure.  We are also able to see hazards that impede our egress if a quick escape is necessary.  It gives us an idea of our options for ventilation and fire control.

The pictures show some of the hazards that we can find and keep mind of during our 360.  Exterior stair wells are altered and secured causing us difficulty making an egress.  This is a perfect time for the first due officer to relay these findings to the next due or the RIT crew.  These other units should cut locks, open bulk heads and make sure the egress points of the basement are accessible.

Additionally, we need to know the characteristics of the buildings in our still area.  This is a picture of a house that is approximately 50 years old and the stairs to the basement are in the garage.  Not knowing this could put our initial attack team at risk by searching the main level while fire is burning under them increasing the chances of a failure.  Some of these homes have no outside exit and we must protect the stairs for the basement crew just like we would for a crew that ascend to a floor above us.

Take some time to look around your area and discuss these issues with your crew.  Prepare your newer members for that thermal layer as you descend the stairs into a basement.  We all know what that first experience is like.  Train hard and don't forget to do that 360, it may just save your life.

Train hard and stay safe,



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Good points once again.

Some other points to remember is that building materials have changed and there are considerations to think about as well. If you are going in sound the floor, but be wary of those homes with in floor heating or tiled flooring etc. The sound you get may sound as though the floor is solid but it really isn't. This was a factor in our own LODD Aug, 2006.

Another point is to familiarize homes, typically most older homes have one basement access, but more newer ones can have multiple. In many cases there is a basement access through a garage, which could serve as a better access point for an attack than going in the first floor looking for access.

Rit teams should also look for a second access point or even some larger egress windows, but also to train on different ways to remove a downed FF from a basement. This could be using a ground ladder, ropes, hose, etc.

Also, while basic, one should go down stairs backwards to sound the stairs as descending.
I hesitate to say anything further as obviously two very knowledgable profesionals have covered this well .I will just stress some points already covered such as this will likely be a very hot fire so wear your PPE correctly. check YOUR SCBA,make sure it is full there are no leaks inthe mask seal and personal alarms are armed. Again no bare skin you will be going down a stair case that may turn into a chimney for the hot gasses trapped in the basement. Likely this could auto ignite and over whelm the hose crew. Lastly expect ventilation problems windows may be small and few in number. Thats my two cents ,if it's even worth that.
This thread has a good powerpoint on Basement Firefighting.

One thing our dept and few others carry is a celler nozzle or sprinkler. The thing looks like a ball with different angled ports which when water flows through makes it rotate.
If we have a basement fire we will cut a hole in the floor and put the nozzle on the end of a hose and drop it down in the hole and charge the line.
We have had a few firefighters burned trying to charge down the stair with a charged line in our county. This has resulted in rulings by the county fire chief on basement or celler fires.
One of things inherent in new, lightweight construction is that I-Joists tend NOT to get bouncy prior to failure. Failure of dimensional lumber floors was a chronic thing, occurring over time and there was some bounce and give as the joists lost some of their mass. I-Joists and trusses tend to fail acutely; suddenly and without warning.
Years ago a few stations in our county had hi expansion foam units which they used for such types of fires by flooding the confined space with foam. I haven't seen the units in a while.
Another station went and bought a device called Jet Ax which was a box with a shaped explosive. It could be used to blow a hole in a wall or floor to make a rescue, vent a fire or allow a hose line attack.
The item didn't stay long.
Thanks to everyone for the great comments. A great deal of information provided by you all and it is very much appreciated. It makes a difference. It is nice to have such good friends in this forum.
Thanks again,
Good topics to bring up Jason, thanks for doing so.
Attack: Do it aggressively and quickly, get down the stairs and into the basement, don't pussy foot around. The stairwell(s) act as a chimney, and you will get cooked the longer you wait around.

Ventilation: Aside from taking out the smaller and less in number windows, you can also ventilate through the first floor. Locate a window on the first floor nearest the fire below you in the basement, open it. Approximately 1-2 feet from the wall with said window, cut a whole in the floor. Make sure everyone on the fire ground is aware you are doing this type of ventilation, and it's location. It does not have to be the standard size you would cut in a roof when doing that type of vertical ventilation, but it does have to be large enough to allow the smoke and gases to escape at a good rate.
I've fallen into a basement before..not fun. It was an older home like you described with stairs leading into the basement. It was in the garage no railing no markings that the floor just disappears. I was doing an interior attack through the garage mind you, full of smoke couldn't see hand in front of the mask, Made the turn towards the house to try and enter and put my hand down in front of me and there was nothing, newer partner behind me didn't feel me stop and bumped into me hard enough for me to fall down into the stairwell. Lucky nothing was hurt other than my pride.
I have found the occasional hole burned through the floor but never went through one.

Another thing that works pretty good is a hay-bale spike, Basically is a steel tipped nozzle that we drive into the round hay-bale when they catch on fire. It works good for fires below you. You drive it through the floor and it then works like a sprinkler head.
hay-bale spike; aka, a piercing nozzle.

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