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Just a question.

Members of my department are being taught to fight garden style aparment fires by entering through the patio/balcony doors .

This occupancy is also a Senior complex with 2 hour rated walls and doors. This building is sprinklered and has fire doors.

Is it a proper tactic to fight the fire from the outside in?

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If you don't mind, could you share the rationale as to why this is being taught to them?

Without knowing anymore details then this, the only other question I could pose is, "Does the tactic being taught give any trapped occupants the greatest chance of survival?" If it is, then the tactic has merit, but if it doesn't, the tactic is flawed.
This is a senior apartment complex with one wing dedicated to assisted living and one to alzheimers care. Many of the potential victims would need actual rescue not just assistance escaping.

Our daily manpower is between 4 and 9

the building has dedicated fire doors, sprinklers, alarm system , etc

Why it is being taught I dont know, as one of the officers of the department it is not one I would choose to do.
I agree this method sounds extremely unorthodox and can definetly get you in some trouble. Lines goes through the front door,vent opposite the fire and attack from the unburned side. The initial line needs to be placed in a fashion that protects the rest of the structure from fire extension. This tactic sound like it would push the fire through the structure. Unless you have more specific building charictaristics that you can share with us.
First off I wish people would get off of the "you are gonna push fire" argument. You only push fire if you are using a fog pattern straight or solid streams do not push fire!!!!

I would have to say that this is unusual and I have never heard of it. It does go against protecting the normal means of egress (stair well in this case). People usually try and get out they way they always do which is through there front door and down the stairs to the parking lot. Also this tactic would make it difficult to move the lines to upper floors if you have upward extension.

Here is how we do it not saying its right but it works for us.
We typically deply a leader line (3 inch hose) to the bottom of the stair and attach our 1 3/4 high rise pack to it. This is for multiple reasons. First we park away from the structure to give the truck company side A of the building. Thsi way they can utilize there ladder and ground ladders to effect rescues. Plus they can deploy fans and cord reels easier. We also deploy the leaderline to build the incident for the future. Our leader line has a water thief attached to it (2 1 1/2 discharges and 1 3 inch discharge) This way the second in engine can attach to the leader line for our second line and we can even add a third line of equal or greater length and size if needed.

I have found that you need to build something that can access all floors of the occupancy. No fire should be a 1 line fire becuase you should always have a back up line in play if you have 1 line operating and these apartment fires ar typically 2 to 3 line fires even if placed and charged just for investigative purposes.

If we are met with significant fire upon arrival (fire venting from the balcony window, or venting out multipl windows) we will blitz it with the prepiped deck gun on the engine of the 2 1/2 inch smoothbore. This will put a big knock on the fire and allow you time to deploy your smaller handlines. This will also increase the survivability of victims in the adjacent occupancies by quickly checking the fire and slowing down its progression and production of fire gasses and smoke. Remember that we typically have no class A fires in todays time of synthetic material, fires burn hotter, faster, and have toxic smoke. Couple this with lightweight construction that typically can only withstand fire unchecked for 16-20 mins (Ref an NIST study perfromed in Phoenix Arizona) and you have to take this fire out quick and fast.

With your current man power situation you should call for mutual aide early and often and go with your biggest gun that you have you don't have the people to make up for picking to small of a hand line. Trian on the 2 and 1 person deployments of the 2 1/2 and tip them with smooth bores. If you send me your email I can send you the trials we have performed with it. Plus there is lots of Information from Dave Mcgrail (Denver FD) Jhon Newell (FDNY) and the City of CHarlotte NC Fire Dept.

I am trying to visualize the building; I picture a medium sized, dual wing, one story, sprinklered with fire doors, assisted living structure with patio entrances to every unit. Is this correct?.......If so, then this particular tactic you have descibed would be against "standard" practices as everyone else has mentioned on this forum.
The one peice of information that I noticed was your manpower number. It is my opinion that your responding numbers is the foundation of this tactic. Depending on the size, length, width, etc. of the structure you may use all 4-9 responding members just to move the first line into place and operate. Then who will be doing the rescueing? It sounds to me that your department may be teaching this to better utilize the manpower. Example: 2 guys moving the handline, 4 interior guys, 1-2 pump operators, and 1 for IC. Sounds like a plan to me.....You always have to work within your capabilities and prioritize the operation. In this case, attack, search/rescue must be performed at the same time, the other stuff can follow. The key here is to make sure communication with the interior guys is clear, and that the inside door of the fire unit is shut when the attack is underway.
As for your "standard" tactics; I have read alot of this front door stuff, in this forum, regarding this question. I do agree with this 100% for residential tactics, but in this case it may be acceptable to attack from the nearest "outside to inside" door (as long as interior support is inplace) Remember, the main reason for attacking through front door is to cover the main path of egress (I do feel that the front doors here would still be the main path....How do they practice fire evacuation?). The main path of egress may be the patio door of the fire unit in this case. To me, as long as communication with interior crews is inplace, and the inside door is shut, and the interior rescuers have taken an inside defensive stance while the attack is being made, then this could work. The key here is train on what you would practice. If this is what you department is teaching, then drill on it to make it as smooth as possible in the real deal.
Alot of what I have typed here greatly depends on extent of the fire. A single unit fire could be dealt with the above mentioned tactic, but multiple units, or 50% invovled would call for a different approach. Just my opinions...........
Sorry........I did not realize you specified a two story structure, so to add to my previous idea; I can see the single story patio entrance attack to a point, but an intial line from a balcony???? I don't know about that. I guess it would depend on the apartment style with open interior stairs and inside entrances to every unit, or garden style with open exterior stairs and outside entrances to every unit? I just do not know. The first example I gave in my previous reply is about as far as I would take that particular tactical decision. Once again, your tactics is against the standard practices, but it is what ever works for you. If you guys can drill, perfect, and accomplish the above with out any additional effect on the life hazards on the scene, then do what you have to opinion here is based on the limited information you have given, with my department, on a fire like this, we would have around 40 personnel on scene in 10-12 minutes with the first box assignment. With our manpower I would stick with the correct tactical standards and decisions.
Hose line placement concepts have been evolving over many years, ( lessons learned and myth busting about pushing fire issues- fog versus smooth bore etc) exterior knock for fast moving fires- direct and indirect etc., however the guiding principle should be occupant and egress protection, i.e- stairwells and hallway protection. First line to the hallway to check fire spread and interior exposures, fire search from basement to roof, and most importantly for search and rescue with fire attack and then finally extinguishment. A lot of agencies suggest that multiple hose lines going in the same ingress is NOT a good thing, especially multi story buildings. Taking second and third lines via ladders to upper floors as a secondary line is a good practice to reduce hose line confusion, advancement and for keeping the stairs open for easement of removing occupants and getting us in. Ladder placement with hose lines also provides additional escape routes for emergency situations. The other tactical consideration is the type of fire situation, contents versus structure. Ladder companies have for years made quick entry via ladders and extinguishment of contents fires with water cans ( can-man) to the disappointment of the engine company. The bigger problem with garden apt and 4 + story lumber yards as well as senior assisted living and retirement homes is the large unprotected attic space along with new style construction methods placing the HVAC systems up in the attic. Make sure the engine company has a 3' or better piercing nozzle for checking the fire in large area attic spaces ( LA-A fires) first- or hose line penciling of the roof line vents and window headers between vertical exposures and the roof line. You will have just a few minutes to make a difference in a partially contained attic space for steam conversion and knock down before the roof is vented by fire and the HVAC drops down on you. Note: Spk systems are great but most communities do not require by code to have dry piped sprinklers in void spaces, so bring your own sprinkler system with you. Secondary Issue: I believe the codes should be changed to ensure that any building that has a spk system also has a system placed in any area you can stand up in. Some large area attic spaces have 5'- 12' or more, clearances. Example of space: garden and senior apt building 250x75 x6' attic is about 9,000 cubic feet,- the top floor of the same building is about 12,000 cf- that close enough for another complete floor and the very area fire likes to travel to. Be safe and go home after every call !
We have a senior complex like that without sprinklers. I have said for years if we have anything going in one of them that we should enter on both sides of the burning apt . My theory about it is this. If the first 2 engines and first truck knock the fire the mutual companies coming have clear hall ways to remove the old folks with out having to worry about hose lines in the way so the occupants dont tripon them also this is wood truss construction. We also will have a limited response during the day time
We have a retirement community just like this.

Have your driver supply the sprinkler to contain the fire and keep it from spreading.
Shelter in place
Attack fire from the apartment door in hallway to push it out and coordinate ventilation from the patio/balcony.

If the fire has vented itself out the patio/balcony watch for it jumping floors on you!

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