A San Francisco apartment fire garnered a lot of attention from the customers about where the water was. Take this misunderstanding and turn it into a list of 'What if..." drills.



An apartment fire in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood became a short video sensation as it captured what appeared to be a delay in getting water onto the seat of the fire. As usual most comments about the firefighting, from civilians and firefighters, focused on their ignorance and our blundering attempt to educate. The fire and similar ones afterward give us a number of subjects to use in this month's training prompt.
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We posed questions on Facebook asking 1. How many reasons can you list of reasons why the interior attack may be delayed? and 2. When was the last time you trained on one of them? Here are some of the replies and other reasons in three simple categories that should give you plenty to work with.

Engine Company
Pump failure
Defective or dead hydrant
Burst length
Stretched short/too much
Inexperienced/excitable driver
Obstructed or defective standpipe riser
Obstruction in the nozzle
Occupants/victims in path of nozzleteam

Ladder Company
Difficulty forcing entry
Multiple doors to force
Scissor gates
Hoarding/Collyer mansion conditions
Booby traps

Fireground Communication
Fire has possession of interior hall and/or stairway
Obvious rescues
Interior collapse
Holes in the floor
Secondary fire or fire in other locations
Understaffed companies
Injured members

How many additional reasons can you think of that would cause a delay in getting water on the fire? Think about the ones that apply to your area and operations and discuss how your members would:
1. Identify the problem
2. Communicate the problem
3. Fix the problem.

Read more of Backstep Firefighter and others at FireEMSBlogs.com.

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I was going to write alot but looking at the vidoe is difficult. Its also embarassing as a firefighter to see 2 engines (?) a Ladder and about 5 ladders against the house. Theres no reason at all not to have water on that fire.

if you laid in and the hydrant is bad there is usually another on the next corner (in most cities) if the pump broke you can pump thru. If you only have tank water, hopefully those engines have at least 500 gallons. with 1000 gallons I would go with a 2.5 and hit it hard and fast. It was only a room and contents before it got out of hand. Easily 10 mins before water was put on the fire. I could see at least 7-10 FFs in the windows standing around so entry wasn't the issue. If they were doing a search and it was negative come out and hump hose. I didn't even see a hose pulled until 9mins into the video so thats probably really 15 mins......

Reading some of the things listed the only one that would stop a company from putting water on the fire might be injuried FF because everything would stop. If you can't make entry then put the hose in the window.

IMHO this might be worse then the Tenn fire. Thier professionals and should be prepared for these situations. If I'm wrong I apologize. I hope someone can say what happened and the reason why.
Thanks Craig.
A member of the San Francisco Fire Department commented that the fire in the video involved a barricade situation at the entry to the fire apartment. Companies were forced to knockdown the fire from the exterior.

The post goes on to share that readers should take a look at the many possible obstacles and difficulties and train on overcoming them now, rather than waiting for the incident to happen and go from there.
"Reading some of the things listed the only one that would stop a company from putting water on the fire might be injuried FF because everything would stop. If you can't make entry then put the hose in the window."
Really, that's the only reason you believe would stop the interior attack?

Bill
Ok that was brutal !!!Icould barely stand to watch it.I was yellin where's the water right along with them.You can't blame it on traffic cause all trucks are there and set up at the start of the video.You have a half dozen FF's on the balcony that do not have a hoseline in their hands so if there is a block outside the door then what was the matter with goin in the window.it could have been knocked down enough to enter through there just like he did after what 9 minutes into the video.
I would love to know what the actual reason is for the delay.it is definatly not shown on the clip but I can't figure out because pump failure isn't possible cause there are what 4 or five trucks there that all have pumps on them so you just switch trucks or like craig said hook in a series from another truck and if it was aburst length then they need more practice unhookin and hookin up hose and i'm guessin that bein from a big city this ain't their first fire maybe the first one that day but come on there is no way it takes 9-10 minutes to put a new length in.
the only part that makes sense is a dead hydrant and i'm not seeing how far away the next one is but if Craig is right about the big city then what does it take to hump it to the next corner.I would be very interested to find someone who ca explain this one.
Craig,
I like your comments about grabbing a 2 1/2" and "hitting it hard and fast." Do you have many 100 year old type 5 multi-residential in your area?

This fire was indeed a room and contents when it started, as many fires are. When initial companies stretched to the fire floor (a 200' 1 3/4") they were unable to make access to the unit due to it being barricaded by the ignition source, possibly a large stove. It was not a simple matter of "forcing the door" but an issue of trying to fight a fully involved type 5 without a point of refuge (hallway).

Fighting this fire from the window is the absolute last option, since doing so will push it into the voids and into the rest of the building. It also makes it impossible to sound the floor as they advance, making it very very dangerous.
Was this a textbook fire? Surely no. There are things I can pick out from my comfortable chair as well. I do it to videos all the time, but to compare this to the Tenn fire is irresponsible.

However, you do end your statement by apologizing if you are wrong, something not often seen in these forums anymore.

This was a 4 story type 5 building, built in (I believe) 1915, 6-12 units with a central stairway and skylight. If they fight it from the window and it finds its way into the lightwell in the pocket, the building is gone.
San Francisco is a very unique City in that most of the construction is 100 years old wood and built 1/8" apart. We do things a little differently.

Justin Schorr
SFFD E51
Rich, please see my reply above.
Justin, as a perfect firefighter....okay you know I'm lying when I say that. I understand the construction of a type 5 building and no we don't have them in my area. But the main issue is it took over 10 mins to get something going. How long do you wait. Okay a stove was blocking the doorway but the window was wide open. I also understand about pushing the fire. But how long are you then chasing the fire. It was easily 2 minutes from getting into the upper floors from the window. Had that happen to me once but it was because the fire was going fast.

As Richard wrote it was hard to watch. I wanted to grab a line and put it through the window. From the video it didn't take long to knock down once water was on it. Put the line in the window, knock it down alittle and follow it up. Letting it burn that long you would be chasing it anyway.

As for the last of reasons not to get water on a fire there are at least 2 things you can do to quickly overcome them.
Engine Company
Pump failure - there were 2 engines on scene. if not call for help. We had this happen to use twice. Once on car fire, we called for an engine and during an assist. We disconnected from the hydrant and pumped thru the broken engine. Didn't have to disconnect anything.

Defective or dead hydrant - use tank water until you get another hydrant. 500 gallons gives you 4-5 mins if you go 125 GPM on an 1 3/4, been there done that.

Burst length - How long would it take to pull another line, 1 min..2 at the outside.

Stretched short/too much - Use the tank until you get another sectin hooked up. once't again it takes 4-5 mins to get another section hooked up..been there done that

Inexperienced/excitable driver - Shouldn't happen. Also the officer should be aware of whats going on. The first fire I drove our squrt was a 2 alarm and we were 3rd in and told to set up. I could see the chief officer keeping an eye on me while I did that thing that I do.....Was I nervous...Hell to the yeah. Was I excited..best sex I ever had after that fire. and yes I waited until I got home and someone else was involved smart asses

Obstructed or defective standpipe riser -

Obstruction in the nozzle - open the line before you go in, doesn't work, well this is something that I'm sure we never think about. I'll man up and say most FF would freak out a little at first before they realize what the issue is.

Occupants/victims in path of nozzleteam - If thier in the way or between you and the fire then they would get wet until they were rescued or moved.

This is a situation we all faced..its called a screw up. In 30 plus years I know I have...can't remember because I try to forget the bad...but I know I have. If I asked some of the guys they'll say yeah remember when..and I'll just walk out of the room quietly. I believe the biggest issue was that it took at least 10 mins and probably 15 (from the video) to come up with a solution.

Now I'm going to watch the Rangers kick the Yankees behind and the Phillies beat the Giants tomorrow and Sunday..sorry San Fran...just not you week...;o}
The question was "Where's the water" an I didn't see any applied and lettin a room or house get more involved while you are trying to break down a barracade to me seems very foolsh.I will admit I'm not familiar with type 5 houses maybe I am but you guys may just use a different term than us canucks but I do know that you could enter that window and use short bursts of the hose and not push the fire and the steam that you create will help put the fire out and cool the room off considerably and quickly without the worry of pushing the fire anywhere you don't want it to go espescially if they would have did this right at the strt of the video and not 10 minutes in.
I'm not trying to beat a dead horse or a live fire department. When I train new driver I emphasis the 2.5 as a supply line. One person can handle it in an emergency. Many times I pulled a 2.5 when I was suppling another engine. We carry 1000 gallons. If I laid in I would pull that and give him my tank water until I was hooked up, why because pulling another 100 feet of 5 inch is harder then pulling 50 feet of 2.5.
When I pull up I might have a 20 foot section left in the bed or need to pull 100 just to hook up. I know I have at least 5-8 minutes before I run out of tank water. We used to train on using 2 1 3/4 as supply lines.

I was talking to one of the guy and he reminded me of the time we went over to Jersey. Had a house fire with a bars across the inside of the door. Took the window and went in that way. I had completly forgot about it.

Oh yeah, congrats to the Giants...the best team won...this time...
Well... I'm willing to bet the critics are from small town vfd's

Point is.. The SFFD was there... you were not. I've been to SanFran a few times.. those brothers and sisters deal with exposure problems and some very steep hills with narrow streets.

Lobbing water through a window my be a tactic you use do to manpower limitations, but it also pushes fire to the unburned sections as well a compromises any rescue of potential victims as well as endangering the firefighters already inside.

By the way Craig.. if you have wood framed houses in your community.. you have type 5 construction... perhaps a building construction class is in order...
Ron if SFFD was there and I was not then why was this thread started.Again the question was asked "Where's the water" and what would cause the delay of getting it.We answered them to the best of our ability as per the video provided and any possibilities were looked at and debunked from our stand point.
We all have had technical difficulties on the fire ground and have fixed them on the go but from where I watched I give you my two cents to the questions posed.I truly believe that from the video that there was no rescue effort from the fire that was in this video it was a recovery from that apartment so I still stand by my theory that the window with short quick bursts would knock the fire down not push it further to areas not affected.We all know how quick fire progresses and the time frame that elapsed before water was applied to me was not worth trying to bust down a barracaded door when there was a window right there to step into from a balcony.
Until we have a FF from this department debunk our theories I stand by them!!
Ron if SFFD was there and I was not then why was this thread started.Again the question was asked "Where's the water" and what would cause the delay of getting it.We answered them to the best of our ability as per the video provided and any possibilities were looked at and debunked from our stand point........................Until we have a FF from this department debunk our theories I stand by them!!


How many additional reasons can you think of that would cause a delay in getting water on the fire? Think about the ones that apply to your area and operations and discuss how your members would:
1. Identify the problem
2. Communicate the problem
3. Fix the problem.



I don't see the topic of this thread about critiquing the video as the video was to bring the topic up, due to the comments heard in the video. As with any video or picyure on the web, it is easy to sit back and critique, but there are also views we are NOT seeing. We do not see the "B", "C", or even a good look at the "D" side......we don't know what other functions were going on from these other views. Point is fire attack could have been taking place from the rear of the structure and from our brother in the SFFD, we now understand there was access problems getting in.

So really, the focus here isn't so much the video itself, but what to look at the issues of a water delay and how you would handle it within your own dept.
Hitting the fire from a window is an idea, but if you have guys inside trying to enter from the unburned side, you need let them do that. Remember, while this was a happening, the boys were trying to figure out what was going on. The teams on the balcony were probably waiting for the hose team to hit it from inside and were hesitant to put themselves in a position where they would either have the fire pushed into them, or they would push it onto the entry team. I can see it taking a few minutes to sort out that plan A was not working and move on to plan B.

I am kind of surprised they didn't' have a line in the apartment above, or at least put some water on the exterior to limit the fire jumping floors. Whatever. Not their finest moment, but also not the worst thing I've seen.

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