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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For our fire dept. this situation is a ladder monkeys dream come true. Confine the fire to area,room or building of origin. Rescue or remove occupants, workers and rubber necks outside of the colapse zone and fire dept. work area.Treat pt's as needed, protect exposures or keep the fire from extending to other structures with big water(2.5 hand lines and master streams). Be prepared to write off all or parts of the involved structure, establish your IAP with clear communication, sectorization and sector officers. Use pre-plans and known information on known hazards and prepare for unknown surprise events with adequate resources staged outside the hot zone. Updates from dispatch on weather conditions, mainly wind direction and speed, as these buildings with wind will change how you attack them. Firefighter safety is paramount, post someone with eyes on the structure as others work to notify sector officers of any changes both positive and negative. Access around these under construction buildings will always be a major factor and concern. Ladder placement and key supply pumpers with good water supply is also a major factor. Contacting the water dept. can most often help in rerouting non essential water supplies to your operational area, help ensure uninterrupted supply. Hose wagons, if you have them, are nice to have in staging if you need them, rehab units, a logistics unit, and the cantine rig, because we need to eat, this will be a campaign fire if for nothing more than an extended overhaul operation. That's my quick analysis I'm sure you guys and gals can add to it, looking forward to reading what else comes out of this exercise, thanks, be safe, Fraternally, Rick
You guys pre-plan this kind of structure while it's incomplete? If so, how do you account for changes in the ongoing construction since this building literally changes every day while its under construction?
I would put my main focus on life safety. ( workers and FF´s) Rescue operations only when R.I.T is ready for action. No interior attack. Defense mode. And we still have that gas cylinder problem. Maybe we ve to evacuate the neighborhood...
Perhaps pre-plan was not a correct phrase in this case. But, yes we do walk through under construction buildings in our first due. Getting familiar with the layout, construction features that may later be hidden that could pose a threat to building or occupant survival. We will make notes of these features that will later be added to the premis alerts in our computer system, if dispatched for a fire at that address, these notes as well as building drawings and many other aspects will be available to the units responding. It is sometimes helpful to see the buildings features before it is complete, this helps us account for the changes that can longer be seen and hopefully with a good coordinated attack, make a stop.
Fraternally, Rick
If I am the first unit on scene or the first commanding officer on scene upon my arrival I would notify dispatch that I have a 5 story building under construction, Type V Construction, and the fire is on division 5. I would then make sure all workers are out of the building and then do a 360 degree walk around of the building (which will also include walking into the what looks to be a pool area to check out the conditions of the structure).

If the all workers are out of the building then I would call dispatch to advice all units that this would be a defensive operation and I would mostly utilize elevated master streams. The reason for me switching so fast to a defensive operations is that the structural system has no fire protection what so ever and it is lightweight wood construction with a truss floor system. If no lives are in danger, then there is no need to put firefighters lives in danger, we don't know how long the fire has been burning or the condition of the structural system on division 5. The building can be replaced (That is why the owner has construction insurance). Let the truck companies provide elevated master streams to knock the fire down from a safe distance away from the collapse zone, so that everyone goes home safe. The problem is how many trucks are going to be able to utilize? The picture showing the fire I am assuming is the "C" side of the structure. We might be able to use four. It depends if a 100 ft or 110 ft stick would get the water from the "A" side to the fire, we might not want to tie up a resource especially if we are a volunteer or paid department with other truck companies tied up on other calls or low staffed. I would diffently put two truck companies at the "B" & "D" sides before the masonry shearwalls (It might not work on the "D" side since there is a parking structure right there and might not be out of the collapse zone, this would have to be looked at when you do your 360). To get a good knock on the fire. The third truck would go on the "C" side of the structure.

If there is workers on the fire floor or floors below the fire depending on the extent of fire damage to the structural system we might have to not attempt a rescue it all depends on the structural system to be honest in my personal opinion. Firefighters would still be exposed to a collapse situation. If a rescue operation is going to happen then use truck companies and engine companies to complete this task. Use the engine companies for fire protection or as a search team. Once the rescues have been made switch to defensive operations immediately.

Note: I am assuming the engines are there and have established the water supply to the structure. If Water supply is a issue then I would be calling for tankers immediately upon arrival.


Chris R.
Nice analysis and IAP....thanks for the contribution...
Let's see if this Rejuvenates this posting.....
Hey Chris!

Thank you and your welcome.

Chris R.

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