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-Abandon buildings, fires and firefighters. What is injuring us, the fact that the building is abandon/unoccupied or poor tactics?
-Take a look at this blog. http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/display/9407237913/ar...
-My thoughts are posted on the blog site but I will reiterate them here as far too many firefighters think that the building type will indicate the occupancy load, the Rescue Profile and therefor dictate their actions.
-It is true that far to many firefighters have been injured while operating at a fire in an abandon structure. However, the heart of the matter is that it is NOT because the structure is abandon that firefighters were injured. The more likely cause is a poor strategy supported by sloppy tactics coupled with poor/no supervision and/or clear leadership.
-The simple, inescapable fact of the matter is that abandon structures do not set themselves on fire. That means, short of a lightning strike or mice playing with matches, the fire was started by human intervention either by accident or design. Someone was inside and caused the fire folks and they still may be inside!!!! That fact, in and of itself necessitates an interior search. Moreover, in these trying economic times, the reality of people living in abandon structures is a reality that must be addressed.
-An interior search and interior fire operations must be based on wether firefighter suspect someone of being in the structure or not. These decisions are not based on wether the building is abandon or run down or even that no one SHOULD be inside. The decision is correctly and properly based on wether firefighters believe/suspect someone is inside.
-Abandon structures are also homes for the homeless, drug dens for the addicted and playgrounds for unsupervised children. Abandon structures are everywhere and these buildings DO NOT SET THEMSELVES ON FIRE!!!!
-Therefor, proper firefighting strategy and tactics must be in place and adhered to so as to avoid foolish injuries that can occur regardless of wether the structure is obviously occupied, empty looking or appearing to be abandon. Strategy should not be based on the type of people inside or the type of structure but wether someone is possibly inside. And this information is gathered and evaluated from information available to the dispatcher, and on scene indicators.
-The Rescue Profile is determined by available information to the first arriving company coupled with fire conditions, available manpower, crew experience and finally our mantra.
1. Risk EVERYTHING to save a human LIFE.
2. Risk a little for property
3. Risk nothing for that which is already beyond saving

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Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on September 29, 2010 at 12:27pm
-A year after this blog was started I find the same discussion taking place involving new voices that are reiterating the same comments.
-I have reread the article liked in the blog. I have reread the comments to the blog and the linked article and I have come to the conclusion that the aforementioned article is a dedicated testament to fear, poor tactics and cowardice.
-This subject of not searching abandoned structures is now the subject of another blog called, When did it become ok to say NO. The comments are enlightening.
-Regarding the article, Are You Brave Enough?, I believe that AJ Bonnet's post here has addressed the article very succinctly as well as representing many firefighter's thoughts.
Comment by Brad Hoff on January 11, 2010 at 9:28pm
I can only reply to the article from my knowledge and experience over the years and that is not much compared to actually being there and going through it when someone writes an article about an actual incident. I hope we can all take away some good from the Lt.s article and use it for ours and in training others.


Pertaining to the article linked above: We see the tin can fires a lot up here. I understand the Lt's thoughts about pulling out because there was concern because of the advanced time it took to get to the fire and it's conditions upon arrival and then after entering the trailer. To the Lt. it seemed that the smoke conditions and directions given and navagating the piles of debris were too exhausting and futile at the time. Maybe they could have reached it from a different angle or asked the truck co. to cut a whole in the exterior to gain better access to the seat of the fire. Did the truck do a complete search of the trailer? Maybe a truckee could have gone in with them to show them the location? Like AJ said in his comment...was there no venting of windows to improve visibility? Didn't look like it from the photos.

We enter a majority of our trailer fires 6 to 10 minutes after the tone out with our combi dept. Often times the trailer is well involved, we base our decsions on location of fire and invlolvement which determines the method of attack. A primary search is always a priority and our aim usually consists of doing a coordinated attack and vent. Sometimes we may decide to use the piercing nozzle or cut a h*** in the trailer to knock it down. Then we go in and attack the fire from the interior and conduct the search along with the interior attack or done from outside from the bedroom sides by cutting holes in the trailer or going and knocking out windows. Like I said it all depends on location of the heaviest fire upon arrival. If this fire had taken place in the winter like the majority of ours, the concern would be the snow load on the roof because of the 2x2 roof supports which makes for some intersting fires! Many of ours have what we call wannagans which is a secondary roof over the trailer supported be external supports and often the space is filled with spray foam. This takes the snow load off the trailer roof but doesn't alleviate the potential for a roof collapse on the primary or secondary roof if fire has penetrated it. There is no roof venting on these fires at all! But seeing how the fire in the article was in the summer, it probably would have been made with an aggressive interio attack.


Like Bric said about bad tactics and decisions on any fire has the potential for disaster for someone getting hurt. Sound tactics and instinct will usually prevail and that is what we need to instill in our younger firefighters. Providing these will allow the necessary safety factors to be already in place.

I'm all for going home alive and I think Ray McCormack hit the nail on the head at FDIC with his comments about how too much safety is keeping us from doing our job.

Thank God for people like Chief Brunacini: "risk a lot to save a lot, risk little to save little and risk nothing for that which has already been lost"!
Comment by Aj Bonnett on January 10, 2010 at 7:49pm
AS posted on original article:

Ok judging by your photos, your definition of "advanced fire conditions" is different than mine. If fire was venting out multiple sides of a large residential occupancy involving the majority of the structure, I might understand your trepidation. But this is a single wide trailer! A couch fire would vent out two sides of a single wide. I see a contents fire in a mobile home that left most of the PLASTIC intact. It also appears that the majority of the windows are intact. Again by the photos, it does not appear to be an exceptionally large or hot fire. And Even if it was too hot to enter, how did the truck crew make entry and find the seat of the fire? And these other companies had to give directions to find the seat of this well advanced fire? If the visibility was so severe, how about your truckies breaking some windows and vent the tin can?
I disagree with the notion of not searching vacant, abandoned or just empty structures because some neighbor has "confirmed(?)" the structure to be empty. Who is this neighbor? Is this neighbor sober? Does he know the interior layout? You realize you may be risking someone’s life on what this person in the street is telling you? Or the fact that last week you knew this structure to be empty. It sounds like there were some clothes piles in that home that might have given you an indication that someone might have been living there. Fire Departments all over the country including my own have found “Good Samaritans” during overhaul; someone who rushed in to check on the occupants or to try to extinguish the fire themselves. Would you be writing this article if that had been the case?
I understand firefighters have died in vacant structures. Firefighters have died in occupied structures. We should learn from those who came before us and especially those who have given the supreme sacrifice. But, firefighters have also died in traffic while rendering care at vehicle collisions. Am I to believe that you are "brave enough" to not enter these hot zones as well?
Pink smoke? Is pink smoke a tell tale sign of a meth lab? As far as I know there is no color of smoke to indicate a meth lab. All structures are to be searched if at all possible; it is why we as firefighters exist. Its not macho culture, it your job! Yes, sometimes we risk everything. And, sometimes we do our best to control our environment and risk as little as possible. We have all been a new officer and I applaud your attempts to size up your fire and make a call. I would suggest in the future that you also size up your structure.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on January 10, 2010 at 5:20pm
Lots of interesting comments on the link page.

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