An assignment was made for an Engine and Truck company to investigate a report of smoke in the area. The first-due engine company arrived at what appears to be a vacant house consisting of a large 2-1/2 story wood frame structure. Upon arrival, there was light smoke evident from the upper eaves on the Charlie side, but nothing pronounced. The officer did not provide a complete radio transmission of arrival conditions, instead choosing to investigate further. A 360 was not conducted. The Engine Co., is a four person staffed engine, with a mix of experienced and newer personnel.

The Truck Company arrived and the Officer transmits for a full structure alarm response. The Engine Company pulled an 1.75 inch attack line and made the decision to go in dry with it, while investigating further. While they are in the structure, the conditions in the upper roof appear to deteriorating with darker smoke, increased intensity and volume.

You are (either) the second-due Engine Company or the first arriving Command Officer. What are you going to do? Command was just being implemented by the Truck Company Officer. The building has all the indication or being vacant or at best “unoccupied”. It appears somewhat run down and has missing windows from what you can see on the Alpha side.

• What are Strategic parameters for this incident?
• Is this an interior or exterior operation?
• What is the projected risk and safety profile of the incident right now? In 10 minute?
• What is the risk to the three person engine crew operating inside?
• Would you initiate a primary search assignment, based upon conditions observed once you have the balance of the alarm assignment on scene?
• How will the build perform under extending fire conditions?
• What do expect to happen shortly in terms of fire behavior and structural stability or fire extension?
• What are the concerns for operations at vacant or unoccupied structures?
• Do you have special policies and procedures for operations at vacant or unoccupied structures?
• Resource needs for this size structure?

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Heavy smoke showing in an old vacant building. That should make you stop an think! What is the value of putting your crews lives on the line for a "Old Vacant Building"? I would insure that all personnel working this incident knew what the plan was for this scene. Too many safety issues whether seen or mentioned lead me to be concerned with having crews too far into this structure. Exterior accessible extinguish operations only!
Hold on consulting with our in-house Safety-ish expert. Now where did he go?
I'm not going to address all the questions right now, but with the amount of smoke from the top floor and lack of smoke/fire showing on the 1st and 2nd and given the alignment of the windows, I would be concerned about a basement fire first.
The broken windows could be a concern it it is possible there may be squatters inside.
Since there is a crew inside, if I was on the second in pump, we would be pulling another line, 2 1/2" most likely, and be backup. It also depends upon the conditions on the first and second floor and the location of the first in crew, IE where they are etc. If conditions are as rapidly deteriorating as stated, the focus would be to backup that first in crew until they can get out and then go defensive.
Concerns about vacants: Are they truly vacant? Stability? Holes, obstacles? Meth lab, drug house?
From the command point of view... the structure is rather large, and being vacant, it should have been placarded and preplanned.

Conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Fire has already come through the roof (look at the glow between the 2nd and 3rd dormers in the area of what appears to be the chimney).

Sound the evacuation signal and tones, get the troops out and go defensive.
A couple of quick observations:

The white Colonial columns on Division 1 to the left of the photo have burn marks facing the doorway. Either this photo was taken in the later stages of a multi-burn training session or there's something bad going on with the fire. If Engine 1 entered with a dry line, then this structure has had a previous fire on Division 1 and the structure is badly weakened.

If we assume that this is not a training burn, then the fire was flashed over and fully vented on Division 1. There is Black Fire venting from at least 6 dormered windows on Division 3/Attic and there is fire showing from the roof peak near the central chimney.

There are sagging Colonial columns on the Division 2 porch in the center of the photo, and part of the railing is missing on the Division 2 porch to the left.

There is lighter smoke showing from at least two windows on Division 2.

This is seconds from becoming a very large fuel-controlled fire, due to the complete lack of ventilation control due to all of the missing windows.

If I'm in command, I'm asking for a second alarm and I'm going defensive as my strategic priorities, followed by getting a 360 from the truck officer.

My first tactical priorities are locating Engine 1 (Division 1, 2, or 3/attic and where did their dry line enter the structure?) and getting them out. A single 1.75 inch line simply doesn't have the water power to handle the volume of fire we'll have as soon as that Black Fire ignites...and that's going to happen very quickly.

Even if the attic/partial Division 3 is stick-built lumber, it's in bad shape due to the volume and the heat.

Hopefully, Engine 1 did a quick primary search so if any squatters were here, we can confirm that they are out.

This one is looking suspiciously like a Born Loser.
Ben beat me to it regarding the smoke/burn marks on the left side of the photo, possibly indicating previous fires at this location. I would be real careful about sending folks in with the possibility of prior fire damage. Personally, I would do what I could to get the truck set up and see what can be done from the 2nd and 3rd division windows and secure a water source to prepare to flow some big water seeing as the fire appears to have self ventilated from the roof. Seeing most of the smoke coming from the attick dormer windows, I would be inclined to believe this may be more an attic fire.
I have to agree. Get Engine 1 out and go defensive.

Around here, we don't have aerials or hydrants, so call mutual aid for tankers, establish water supply and get as many 2 1/2" lines shooting through as many open windows as possible.

Strategic Parameters: 1) Rescue: Building listed as vacant. Unless otherwise prompted, no rescue necessary.
2) Exposures: Can't see any, but I'm sure that there are some. Setup to protect
3) Confinement/extinguish: Self explanitory
4)Ventilation: Already done via the windows.
5) Overhaul: Long way away from that.

This is an exterior operation. In my town. Deck guns and 2.5 hose lines.

The potential risk currently, in my opinion, is people rushing to begin interior attack. That is what we are trained to do as firefighters. However, risk alot save alot applies here. No life safety issue. Vacant building. Let it burn.

The three person engine crew should be removed from the building. If they can safely search on their way out, fine, if not, hall ass.

Once my full alarm is on scene, I would make an assessment based on current fire/smoke conditions to possibly search the lower floors.

The building may deteriorate under extended fire conditions. If this indeed a brick building, the mortar may deteriorate to the point where walls/sections may collapse.

I expect a flashover and full involvement of the roof in less than ten minutes.

Concerns for unoccupied structures are:
1) How did it start. Arson or lightning?
2) People inside? Probably not in my town. But homeless are a concern in bigger towns/cities.


Resource needs.....Every tanker and engine in my surrounding mutual aid. Perhaps an aerial from neighboring paid dept.

I am a new chief. I hope I did a good job on this assessment
I'll add a little twist here. A house like this here most likely has been sub-divided into multiple-family housing. For some reason it maintains a 'historical' designation yet still makes $$$ for the landlord. This makes for a very difficult offensive attack. Exterior balloon construction with curtain interior walls.

We never assumed that abandoned meant unoccupied. In fact, in sunny San Diego just the opposite. Come winter, almost every abandoned bldg is going to be occupied and most likely, using some sort of open flame for heating.
All great comments, my twist would be to have at least two RIC teams ready on this one. As mentioned earlier a lot of these have been cut up over time for multi-occupancy. Keep throwing the ladders, have the tower trucks ready to go, when the primary on the first and second done go defensive and watch the water flow
If you go Defensive, maintain your collapse zones, and have good supervision to prevent candlemoth syndrome, it should remove the need for RIC. RIC is indicated for firefighter rescue from the interior or from collapses that affect the operating area on the exterior. Keep the troops out of those areas, and you remove the need for RIC.
You did a good job Chief...
Chris never points out some of the less obvious problems in his photos/scenarios. The first thing I've learned is to look at the details and not get target fixation on the obvious problems. The firefighting analog to Target Fixation is Candlemoth Syndrome.

In real life, as in Chris's scenarios, it's often the less-obvious details and maintaining situational awareness that are the most critical aspects.

More discussion on Candlemoth Syndrome is at All Hazards Contemplations.

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