You’re responding to a reported structure fire with a report of smoke in the residence. The occupant has reported they have an odor of smoke in the house and can’t locate the source. The occupant stated to the call taker that they first noticed the odor shortly after the heavy thunderstorm passed through the area, about fifteen minutes ago. They looked through the house, but nothing could be found.

As you arrive on scene, the dispatcher tells you that the caller stated the odor is getting much stronger and that there’s a slight “haze” present in the house. Well, after either getting out of your chief’s vehicle or as you are peering out of the officer’s cab window, you observe what could be best described as; “smoke showing” from the roof area. Yes indeed, there is a “haze” present you think…

The residence is sited on a slight hill, and is located in new residential neighborhood of homes built in the last eighteen months. The house appears to be somewhere between 5000-7500 square feet in size and is a two story wood frame (Type V). It has a large layout floor plan and there are three cars in the driveway. The response area is not adequately hydranted. This is predominately an area that the water services have not caught up to the construction growth and expansion. There is a slight breeze that is beginning to kick back up. Another storm front might be pushing in. The balance of the alarm response is coming (the response is what you typically have in your jurisdiction, along with company level staffing).

So... you’re on-scene as either the first-due chief or as the first-due engine, in either case, you are the incident commander.
• What’s your move?
• What are you confronted with?
• SUG: What’s the severity, urgency and growth potential for this incident?
• What are the KEY operational issues that you are confronted with and need to address in quick order as you formulate, develop and implement for your incident action plan (IAP)?
• What are some of the operational considerations that will impact your strategic and tactical objectives?
• Looking at the house; what are the construction, fire load/occupancy load and layout considerations, risk and demands.

Oh, incidentally, as you’re keying the mic to transmit your first communications and assignment, you observe visible fire now present in the roof line…..

If you're the Engine, the first line is being deployed up the Alpha side lawn from the street. If you're the chief, the first-due engine arrived behind you and is stretching a 1.75 inch line up the front now are ready to transmit......
…. Is that thunder I hear in the background?

Views: 224


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

First is life hazard of course, put your eyes on the occupants and then quickly verify the house is clear.
Call for help to sustain a water supply. I have no experience with water on wheels, so whatever we need, that's what I'd call.
1 3/4 is a nice gesture at this point and looks good to the public. A 5-7K ft2 house can easily have rooms well over 600 ft2 and easily over power an 1 3/4. If the ceiling drops you are going to have half the 2nd floor involved and brothers out the windows. As it is you are sitting under a huge collapse hazard and without being on the front lawn to make the call, its hard to say how long I would allow interior to go, but it is on a short leash. Hooks and a 2 1/2 to floor 2 and hope you can take the wind out of it.

This is actually a fairly common scenario for us, although most of the lightning strikes do not result in serious fires.

If you don't have fire on arrival, you need to do a 7-Side Analysis (top/bottom, front/back, left/right and the "In"side) based on a visual sweep, TIC sweeps, listening for crackling, observing for visible smoke pushing out of HVAC vents/penetrations/etc., looking for discolored ceiling paint, etc. As soon as possible, you need to find the attic scuttle/trapdoor and get a visual and TIC sweep of the attic. At the same time, a truck company can ladder the roof and look for lightning impact points, obvious soffit damage, electrical scoring on the shingles, etc. If no fire is found, this is a 1 engine, 1 truck, 1 chief response.

Now on to your scenario...

This was likely a two-engine response, based on the initial information. The first step is to upgrade this to a full response. In our case, this would be upgraded to a Working Incident, which would get an augmented response...
the total would be 3 engines, a quint, a truck, an ALS ambulance (medic) and at least 3 chief officers.

The construction is lightweight, almost certainly non-dimensional lumber, so we need to stop this one fast.
The size is extra-large, and there are likely big open spaces on Division 1 and possibly an atrium ceiling in a great room. If so, this will be to Side C, maybe with a big picture window looking out the back.

The good news is that the fire is small, so if we hit it quickly, we may be able to stop it where it is right now.

The RECEO-VS Profile is...

Rescue/Life Safety - Get the civilians out, and the rescue problem goes away, since the fire is in the attic. Life safety for firefighters is a bigger issue, particularly if the fire starts attacking the gussets...which is likely already underway.

Exposures - None shown to the A, B, and D sides, Charlie exposures unknown. Get a quick 360 to determine this.

Confinement - This is the crux objective right now. The goal is to confine the fire to the involved attic section so we don't burn the roof off the entire house and risk structural collapse due to the trusses coming apart.

Extinguishment - We need to do that right after we confine the fire.

Overhaul - Will be a time-consuming pain, probably involving aerial ladders and lots of chainsaw work, with repeated TIC sweeps to confirm complete extinguishment.

Ventilation - This one is autovented. Once we confine the fire, we need to horizontally ventilate Division 2 to limit smoke damage.

Salvage - This will be extensive, and may actually require an additional alarm. We'll have to move lots of furniture, throw lots of covers, and direct a lot of water and steam condensate from the attic to the exterior. Catch basin construction is a strong possibility.

Here's the tactical distribution;

Engine 1 - Lays 5-inch supply line up the long driveway, positions short of the A-B corner. Officer reports the Working Incident, asks for the alarm upgrade, establishes Command, does the 360 and hopefully tells us we have no Charlie exposure, then establishes Command on Side A. The nozzleman pulls an attack line and enters the Alpha door and climbs the interior stairs. The hydrantman ensures that the supply line is laid, then assists the nozzleman.

Truck 1 - Officer and Irons take a TIC, hooks, irons, a folding ladder, and a water can and got to Division 2 with Engine 1's support team. Once at the top of the stairs, they open the ceiling and ladder it. If the fire is past the hole toward Side D, we have a big problem. If it's just smoke there, Engine 1 cuts off the fire with an indirect fog attack. The landing at the top of the stairs is generally an primo cut-off point for attic fires moving laterally.

Meanwhile, Truck 1's driver and tillerman pull around Engine 1, spot the aerial at the A-B corner, and set it up for roof access.

Engine 2 - Picks up Engine 1's supply line and completes the split lay to the closest hydrant. That hydrant may be the only one, so we need to maximize the water we get from it. The hookup will be a 5-inch pony section or soft sleeve, with gate valves on the 2-1/2 fittings so we can add more hoses later if needed.

Engine 2's crew goes to the Alpha side, pulls a second attack line from Engine 1, and goes inside. Their nozzle will be a second fog line if the attic fire if needed for confinement. If the fire has gotten past Engine 1's line, they take their line toward Side D, switch to a piercing nozzle, and poke the ceiling for fire attack. Engine 2's officer assumes Division 2, since Truck 1's officer will have to help with the TIC and hook work.

If the two lines can't kill the fire, we're going to consider going defensive, but we're not there yet.

Engine 3 arrives, Their job is to take a handline up Truck 1's aerial and hit the visible fire with a solid stream. Their goal is to stop the fire from running the shingles.

Battalion 1 - briefed by Engine 1's officer, then assumes Command. Engine 1's officer reassigned as Division C.

Engine 4 arrives, and is assigned to split the crew. The driver and hydrantman work on secondary water supply - if there is another hydrant within reach. The officer and nozzleman take extension ladders from Truck 1 and throw them around Division 2 for secondary egress.

Quint 1 arrives and is assigned to RIC. They gather the RIC cache and set up in the front yard.

Battalion 2 arrives and is assigned to Safety. Two major considerations here...the structural and operational conditions are one, and the weather is the other. Safety will have Dispatch give frequent weather reports, will have an emergency weather radio with him to get real-time NOAA weather alerts, and will have to keep one eye on the sky.

Battalion 3 arrives and is assigned to accountability.

Deputy 1 arrives and takes Liaison. He starts by getting a neighbor to shelter the family from the weather!
He also has the utility companies get control of the utilities. The electrical is key - the home's electrical system is likely damaged from the lightning strike.

Command watches the time hacks and fire attack progress. This one should be pretty obvious - either the indirect attack steams the fire out or it doesn't. If we see lots of steam production from the attic, the visible flame dies, and the smoke production goes away, we're OK. If not, we're going to seriously think about going defensive. If another lightning storm is close, we're going to go defensive, change all three attack lines to piercing nozzles, take them to the roof at the leading edge of the fire, hammer them through the roof, and put all personnel inside the apparatus until the storm passes. We may create additional water damage, but we'll protect the firefighters from the lightning and we still have a good chance of stopping the fire.
Chief, having worked in an area of the country where lightning is not a factor in structural firefighting operations, what is the impact of lightning on roof ops?
The most important factor is safety. Cloud-to-ground lightning strikes the highest exposed point, which is why multistory homes get more than their share of lightning strikes. If firefighters are operating on the roof, they become the highest point, and can become part of the electrical circuit if more lightning hits.

The second issue is operational cohesion. If you need to protect your firefighters from an approaching lightning storm, your operations will either be hampered or stop completely. You need some advance warning that this is a possibility, and you may need to alter your IAP to accomodate the ops you want to complete before the storm arrives, and you may need to request or stage more help because you'll be behind the curve when ops resume after the storm passes.

The third issue is that you may need to establish an Area Command. We've had several incidents where Command had multiple units responding to multiple lightning hits in the same area. When you have three or four homes in a subdivision filled with single family monster homes, three engines and a truck are going to be spread thin, even if there is no visible fire. Even one fire complicates things. Imagine - try to keep five or six engines, a couple of trucks, a rescue, a couple of medic units, and another chief assigned and accounted for when you are leapfrogging them around to different homes in the same area.

The fourth issue is access. If you have two or more related incidents going in the same street, it gets a little crowded. If you need to lay LDH supply line and/or use aerial ladders, it gets even more complicated.

The fifth issue is accountability. When the crews move from house to house, it can be difficult to track them, even with a good accountability system.

The sixth issue is related weather. Lightning storms can be accompanies by torrential rain that makes apparatus response more dangerous, hides ground-level hazards, and limits visibility either when driving or when at the scene. Rain that heavy tends to make the smoke cling to ground level, further worsening visibility. The other weather problem associated with lightning storms is high wind. Wind-driven fires have been associated with firefighter fatalities. If the lightning storm is at night, your firefighters night vision will be wrecked before they get to the scene, making even walking around the scene more hazardous than at normal night fires.

Obviously, the safety issues trump all of the others.

Lighting can indeed strike in the same place more than once.
Ben, did you run this past brandon first, just to get his input and approval?
Nope, and I forgot to bring my propane extinguisher, too. Did you see that if I use Brandon's math, I have as much experience as a firefighter who has been on the job for 300 years?
Ted, Early piercing nozzles can prevent late master stream use in these...not every time, but often enough to make it worth it.
Thanks Chief. As always, a very thorough answer. Worse weather we ever had was some very, very heavy rains. I think we ran 35 calls that day. Open cab Crown Sqirt with a post production roof. Shorted out the siren and radio that day. Made a nice stop on a council persons home that day. Wires down got the roof going. My arse is still wet from that day.
It's been a long time since I ran in open-cab apparatus.

One of my old volly departments converted a 1970's-era C-Model Mack pumper to a pumper-tanker. It had an open cab with a roll-on convertible roof.

No one wanted to drive that tanker and shuttle water in the winter or in the rain, but it was popular during good weather.
Ben, based on the picture why do you feel the fire is small?
We run a fair amount of these, and the fires are almost always small due to a) receiving the call from the lightning strike prior to any real fire getting started, b) short response times, and c) a lot of the fire is exterior - running the asphalt shingles.

There is light smoke except for two concentrated areas of black smoke. One is at the soffit - the likely lightning entrance into the house. The other is a lot smaller than what I'd expect from a heavily involved attic fire, and the light smoke on the leftmost dormer helps confirm this.

Another item is the unusual (zig-zag) flame pattern on the roof. (The pattern that starts at the top of the gable over the brick wall, down the edge, then lateral along a shingle line, then down to the largest visible flame.) It's not what I'd expect from an attic burn-through of the roofing materials, but it is consistant with fire along a lightning score from the peak, down the roof (conducted by water and roofing nails) to a metal soffit vent.

Lastly, compared to this single-family castle being fully involved, even if the attic fire is well-involved, it is comparatively small.
I would be arriving on an engine. First line would enter on the A side and make their way upstairs to get to the fire. I would also have 2 tankers comming in behind first engine. 1st tanker would drop a dump tank in front of attack engine, dump water, and head to draft site or closest hydrant to refill. Second tanker would dump once water level is low enough in dump tank and once empty head to fill up. As this is going on. Any passengers in the tankers would pack up and get residents out of the house. Dispatch would be notified to call for tankers and manpower from 3 neighboring depts. as well as contact utilities to have them shut off. Once manpower arrives on scene, first incomming unit would be assigned S&R, second would be assigned R.I.T. and the third with manpower would start pulling ceilings upstairs to search for extension. This fire appears to have taken a pretty good hold on the attic space so I would have to call for a progress report very often from interior crews. I would also keep an eye on the sky and get weather updates often from dispatch as well.

Reply to Discussion


Find Members Fast

Or Name, Dept, Keyword
Invite Your Friends
Not a Member? Join Now

© 2024   Created by Firefighter Nation WebChief.   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact Firefighter Nation  |  Terms of Service