Prince George's County, Maryland firefighters responded to a warehouse fire where access to Side Charlie was limited due to cars parked up against the building,

Dozens of taxi cabs were parked right up against the rear of the building on fire.(Mark Brady, PGFD PIO photo)

More photos: Maryland Warehouse Fire

What locations in your response area have limited access to Side Charlie - or other sides - and how does your department plan to work with these structures?

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I do like such questions that make people think about things for their own districts, etc. When it comes to such discussion threads though, the question is rhetorical as opposed to suggestive. Asking the question in regards to this picture and situation really only accounts for what one would do in their district or how they would handle it. Problem with that is the question is only answered by the individual, unless they ask a follow up question as to how another dept of FFs would tackle the problem.


In this thread the cars parked by the building is one thing, but for the most part is a problem that may not always be present. Fences are a pretty common obstacle that many residential fires need to account for.....what are the suggestions there?



narrow alley?

long setbacks?

drop-offs or significant grade?

proximity to electrical transformers/etc?

All of the commercial buildings I can think of (especially in my first due) have good access to sides, although I can think of a couple with a narrow access drive on the charlie side that could be blocked by one vehicle.  However these are marked no parking but we know how that works out.

Where the issue (not necessarily a problem) arises, is residential.  I can't think of any that we have access to the charlie side.  Oddly enough, we have these ladder thingys on the engine that we throw.  However, the front curb and driveway are always saved for the ladder truck so in reality we always have access to the roof.  Trees close to the house are a typical problem, side and rear decks can actually be a help.

Most of the residentials are not a problem but there are a few that have a rather significant grade drop off.  Still, there are none that I can think of that are inaccessible, troublesome perhaps but not impossible.

Key here is knowing your area and having pre-plans. Flexibility and thinking outside the box can help in those rare instances when a problem does arise.

I have this issue in my district but with houses.  Some of the "Charlie" sides are located away from the driveways, have shear drop-offs and or trees/foliage.  Some are blocked by fences, and yes, we have the ever present redneck population with the dozens of "demo derby" cars littering their side and rear yards, with repair garages, barns, utility sheds, farm name it and we have it blocking our access.

One of the things we do when we get manpower is to take saws and make access, set up portable lighting towers in the back and throw ladders.  Its difficult in the winter months for us when we get large amounts of snow and the back yards have 2-3 feet of snow, sometimes blocked by 6 foot piles of snow that the plows/snowblowers have created and they block the access to rear yards.

Spring time...MUD MUD MUD.

Its unique to see all the issues we all face in our respective districts and how we all handle them.


This is a common problem for strip malls, multi-residentials, and some of the larger commercials in my area.  As a barrier island with beaches and large salt marsh/tidal creek areas, many buildings back up to places where no apparatus placement is available - ever.


This would be a huge problem if not for our very aggressive local fire sprinkler code that makes large fires in big buildings a rarity.


When we do need Side C access, it requires long handline stretches, carrying additiona thel high-rise hose packs and tools to the rear, and additional coordination, usually through assigning a chief officer as the Division C supervisor.



Actually the majority of our buildings have limited access. In DC we are a row home city. We had some tiny streets and rows of houses are in the middle of a block that make even side A hard to access. A large portion of row homes are tough to reach side C. Having tiller trucks as opposed to straight trucks does help tremendously though as far as gaining access.

We have a shopping center in our first due that has limited access on side 3. No apparatus except maybe a 4x4 pickup could make it back there. The lot behind it belongs to another owner and wooded. The length of the structure is almost a football field long  and 50 foot wide. It is made up of carryout eateries, auto parts store, dollar store, a large beauty store which was a major video rental store and a few other specialty stores..

To work side 3 you would have to walk in ladders or lay a supply line and run attack lines off that or force entry through stores on either side and run lines through them if its a a store in the middle of shopping center. 

The parking lot and access ways are very narrow to the point its hard for two cars to pass.

A free standing bank on the corner has a narrow drive through for two lanes and exit and the parking area is part of the this, so getting in and out if there is a line for the drive through is a mess. Only part of the shopping center that is workable is the other end with a free standing auto repair shop and chicken eatery with better access for them.

We have one place in are area. The senior citizen home. We can get one truck in the parking lot that then will be blocking in all the tenants cars. We have planned to come in threw the back by going into a yard off the next street down and then driving across the field behind this place with the other truck. Will work in the summer months but winter not so well. This is the one place we have 4 departments on automatic mutual aid. We know we will be dropping our LDH at the edge of the road on the way in and everything else will need to be carried in. 

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