Early View of the Construction Site

Fire Conditions upon Arrival

It’s been a busy week for a couple of departments nationally with major fires at buildings under construction. A multiple alarm fire struck a 5 –story Apartment Complex in Renton, Washington that occupies nearly a full city block on Tuesday June 30th, HERE and HERE for details. On Monday June 29th, a spectacular multiple alarm fire destroyed approximately 55 townhouses that were under construction in Mississauga, Ontario Canada. HERE and HERE for details.

Buildings and construction sites pose unique strategic and tactical operational profiles and are considered high risk incidents to both manage and operate at.

In this scenario, let’s look and discuss some factors and issues affecting these types of incident responses. The scenario will provide the stimulus to talk about not only a given postulated incident, (i.e., the scenario) but allow us to discuss operational and safety issues we may have encountered at similar events in your own jurisdiction.

Ten Minutes in the Street:
 You’ve arrived at a construction complex that consists of Type V, wood frame construction that will ultimately be an apartment complex.
 It’s an afternoon response around 16:30 hours for a report of a fire on an upper floor of the construction site.
 Conflicting Dispatch reports also indicate that there may be compressed gas cylinders ether in the vicinity of the fire OR are on fire.
 There are approximately twenty workers on the construction site.
 Wind and environmental factors are not a concern at the present time.
 You have resources that are typical for YOUR jurisdiction.


Let’s discuss operational, safety, strategies, tactics, risk, concerns, known’s and unknown considerations, resource needs, incident action plan development etc.

 There’s a wealth of discussion points here, so get engaged and let’s hear your comments, thoughts and concerns.
 Also, if you have a past incident to share with insights and lessons learned, please share them. We’re all here to learn.

Other resources HERE, HERE and HERE

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Wow good one Chris I will definately have to come back when it's not so busy at the firehouse and post my thoughts, strategies and tactics on this one.
I can't recall having ever saved a lot in these type of fires. Usually only the foundation. They always go into 'surround and drown' mode very quickly. Civilians have usually evacuated the area. Standpipes and/or sprinklers probably have not been hooked up yet. That means pulling a 2.5 up 5 stories to save plywood. NOT. Establish a water supply, pull the hook for more equipment and try to keep the fire to the original bldg.
These developments are very commonplace now. They suck. If a fire gets a hold, good luck. The picture below is of a similar fire in Conshohocken, PA. A workers torch set off the building under construction. There is nothing, I repeat nothing that can be done in the time frame required to advert multiple building getting involved in a situation like this, too many BTU's. I don't think a New York Super Pumper could stop one of these fires. The logistics are just too much for the resources. Best bet, protect the exposures the best you can and hope it burns down quick.

First and foremost we're going to need to know if all the workers are out safely. i don't want to have to commmit FF to rescue, but that may be a reality. there are 2 many variables about the condition of this building, floors, voids, elevator shafts, and stairwells not protected with barriers. it's basically a death trap for FF's. so we really hope everyone is accounted for. my next major concern would be water. where are my hydrants, and what sizemains service them. we're going to need Big Water. where i am we operate with tankers, so i would call for my first 2 tanker task forces each consisting of five tankers and a fill site engine. I would also call for multiple towers and trucks, setting up a an elevated master stream operation. I would need a representative from the General contractor to give me some knowledge of the site, blueprint. A representative from the Water company (for those of you w/ hydrants...cheaters)...as well as the power company. then i would set up my equipment to protect any exposures, and hope the fire runs out of fuel, before we run out of water LOL
Its our department policy that we do not make an interior attack on buildings under construction.....However my personal belifes are that it depends on how much of the building is constructed and the current fire conditions on wether or not interior attack is going to be made.

This response would recive a 3 and 2 (3 engines 2 special service units) and 1 BC.

While enroute the first due engine would radio there water supply plan to the in coming units sounding something like this "Engine 1 to Engine 2 there is a hydrant at the corner of blank and blank we will be laying out place us in line" The other responding units actions would be dictated by our already established tactical templates.

Once arriving on scene the officer would give his initial report "Engine 1 is on scene we have a medium size multi family dwelling under construction with fire visible this is a working fire engine 1 establishing blank st command" By stating working fire an ambulance another BC, EMS supervisor, and Air Utility would be added to the response.

Once the 360 was complete the officer would give an update with the operational mode we were operating in "Blank st command to radio we will be in the exterior fire attack mode" The strategy and tactics being that we operate in a distance outside the collapse zone with large caliber hand lines, master streams, and aerial master streams.

The reasoning is that this building seems to be well involved with fire with nothing to provide compartmentation, suppression, or prevent fire spread. Also there are exposed structural members that the fire has probably already compromised.

Even if workers are in the fire area it is do dangerous to mount a rescue. Any rescue attempt would more than likely end in a LODD, evac the workers you cand protect the exposures, seal off the area, and call whoever brings food to your fire scene cause your probably gonna be late for dinner.
This is really going to suck. The fire is going to get all the oxygen and fuel it needs to grow at a very rapid pace. We know there are workers at the site but are they all out of the building? We know that there are gas cylinders somewhere on the property but what types of utilities are hooked up? Is there gas heat? Is the electricity to this building on?

Wind direction is going to be important due to exposures on the B and D sides. If this fire takes off there will be alot of radiant heat given off. Collapse of the roof would be a big concern as that is where the main fire looks to be.

Upon arrival I would ask the site foreman if everyone is accounted for. If so then I could concentrate on fire suppression. My engine would lay 2 2-1/2 lines from the closest hydrant and drop them off where I want my arial set up. The utilities will be turned off to this building. My ladder (from the dept. north of us) would pull in and hook up to the lines from the hydrant and begin attacking the fire from above. A crew will be sent in to search for extension below the fire. Another crew will search for the gas cylinders and evacuate them from the area. I would call for more manpower from other depts. as well as have EMS send a unit to standby on scene.
I haven't been on FFN in some time but it seems fitting to come back and see one of these posts.

First and foremost ladderpipes and water supply need to be called in/set up. With the lightweight construction and everything being wide open this is going to be a very hot fire in a hurry. I would seek out and confirm the construction workers are all accounted for immediately. This fire will need massive amounts of water through ladderpipes and also deck guns. (your not saving it) With the potential of having unfastened/unfinished flooring or wall systems it is instantly defensive.

Where's that 3rd alarm?
Good discussion. Being from a vol. back ground I would request a 2nd alarm due to time. The dispatch was around 1630 hours which most vol. are still at work. For this fire I would want at least 3-4 trucks, 5-6 wagons, 1 rescue squad. 1 wagon would be RIT. It looks like the top floor is the only one on fire so have first in wagon pull the hydrant( if there is one), and pull hose. fist in truck split the crew and have half search and the others throw ground ladders. 2nd in wagon split crew half go to back up hose and go to work. the other half grab a hydrant on side B. 2nd due truck pull power (if any) ladder the building and go to work with the wagon crew. Rescue do a 2nd sreach then help with truck and wagon duties. Safety problems are a unfinshed building, builders tools and trucks.
One common factor with many of these fires is a large delay in calling 911 due to self-extinguishing attempts by the construction crew. This gives the fire a great head start.
And having worked a few of these fires on a paid dept., they always went to multiple alarms.
To take the best parts(IMO) of all the plans to date, I would err on the side of caution with sending assets into the building. Make as good a head count with information from the General Contractor as possible and park a unit on the farthest corner from the seat of the fire and keep the siren running, there ain't a human alive that won't come see what it's about. Especially construction workers. I grew up in a family construction business and carpenter's(et al) will take a break for ANY reason! So an internal search is out. And the possibility of compressed gas cylinders is a potential threat for sure, but this is a stick house, so no reason for acetylene or such. maybe a portable tank of propane if the plumbers are sweating pipe, but everybody uses pvc nowadays...

But judging by the look of it, something damn hot is burning at the seat of the fire and I would suspect a gas tank on a portable generator or compressor. But the particle board subfloor is already involved and the fire is going to extend to the engineered trusses before the first drop of water falls, if it hasn't already. Looks like most of the partitions on the fire floor are still being held up by temporary braces so a good wind will push them over. And I believe were gonna have a good hot wind in the very near future.

So, in a nutshell, evacuate everybody you can, locate as many water sources you can and call everybody you know that carries a hose bigger than 1.5 inches.(Yes, young'uns, when I started, 1.5 was a pretty popular size...)

But in reality, in our little region, the last time we had a fire that would even come close to what this could turn in to it was a carpet mill and we pulled assets from 6 counties!!!
A few special considerations here...

There isn't a big wind problem right now, but I'd want to know real-time weather conditions.
This fire is on the edge of bad news right now. If it becomes wind-driven, we're talking a conflagration.

We may not be able to get apparatus close to this fire due to the massive amounts of construction materials and debris around the structure. Add the big 360-degree mudhole if it's been raining, and we'll be lucky to get water on this fire in less than 20 to 30 minutes. By then, we're massively defensive on this one.

The building isn't just Type V, it's an incomplete, massive Type V with at least three special hazards...

1) The truss void ends are open, so fire can enter even more easily than in finished structures.

2) The exposed OSB can quickly delaminate when exposed to fire, giving us essentially a vertical sawdust/wood chip fire.

3) Part of the structure has attached scaffolding. If fire burns out the building where the scaffolding is attached, we could have a scaffolding collapse in addition to our other problems.

Doing a 36-degree size-up will be almost impossible initially, due to the structure size, complexity, and lack of close access.

RECEO-VS Profile

Rescue - unknown, but likely. Firefighters in this structure will add a tremendous life safety problem, be difficult to track, and if they get into trouble, RIT will likely be useless. We don't have the 1st alarm manpower to staff RIT on this one anyay. Our best bet is to have the construction foreman get a PAR of their people and hope they're all outside and accounted for. Our second-best rescue bet is to commit every initial resource except the chief and the medic to fire suppression and hope we can get a knock before the fire grows. Sometimes the best rescue is to extinguish the fire.

Exposures - we have to decide between rescue and exposures initially - we don't have the manpower to do both. If I'm committing to rescue, can't get a knock, and the fire spreads, exposures are going to be everything within a block in all directions.

Confinement - Either it's extinguished by the first alarm or we're talking conflagration/group fire.

Extinguishment - if we have good aerial ladder access near the fire, we might get lucky. If not, today is going to be memorable.

Overhaul - are you kidding me?

Ventilation - just guessing, but I don't think we need to worry about venting this fire.

Salvage - really, you're kidding me, aren't you?

Safety - 17 Safety Officers won't be enough on this fire, and we don't have the manpower for even one right now.

This fire would get 3 engines, 1 truck, 1 quint, 1 medic, and 1 B/C in my town.

I'm going to say that we got lucky and have an aerial ladder spot near the fire.

Engine 1 - Establish command, call for 2nd and 3rd alarm, call for a Defensive Blitz attack, reverse lay 5-inch LDH and set up to supply the truck.

Truck 1 - position as close to the fire as possible but far enough out to be out of the immediate collapse zone potential. Raise the aerial and hit the fire with everything Engine 1 can give me, from just outside the edge of the fire, if positioning allows.

Engine 2 - reverse lay 5-inch LDH and set up to supply the quint.

Quint 5 - Copy Truck 1's actions at the other edge of the fire.

Engine 3 - recon the back side of the fire and keep away from the ladder pipe's way.
Account for construction workers who may have bailed on the back side.

Engine 4 - Set up water supply and deck pipe to protect the most exposed building part the deck pipe can reach.

Medic 1 - Set up Rehab down the block in a position to help observe the fire from a perspective non of the engines can see.

Battalion 1 - Recieve briefing from Engine 1's officer, assume Command, and see who is winning the firefight. If we're winning, ensure that the excess ladder pipe water is running off and not risking structure collapse. If the fire is winning, set up the 2nd and 3rd alarms to protect exposures, get the troops away from the fire and the structure, pull the committed engines and aerials out, and start thinking about more alarms, more water, more support, and how to keep the entire downtown from going up in smoke.

Surviving construction workers can pull their vehicles and any obvious hazmat like oxy-acetyline torches our of the area...under fire department supervision.

This one tells me that either we win big - and quickly - or we lose big.
If we take the time to stretch hand lines up to this one, it's going in the loss column.
Lumber yard fire with vertical stock!

Establish a water supply, however you do it in your department, and assign a water supply officer as this will be a major factor. You will need to work with the construction foremen to help with worker accountability. Collapse hazards, and flying brands with remote extensions are all part of your concerns. Sector your command, as this is a large-area incident, which will require evacuations of immediate exposures. This fire will grow quickly, and burn extremely hot with radiant heat, and convection a serious concern.

Heavy master streams...pull anything less than a 2.5" and ye shall be sent for remedial training.

This is a job for tower ladder/ladder towers/ladder pipes, and restricted access looks to be obvious, so proper water supply, with adequate pressures are vital. Establish collpase zones, or course.

Although this looks to be an upper floor/top floor job, "drop down" fire due to unfinished, unportected shaftways all will help to ensure the fire will spread in ALL directions.

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