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When it comes to vertical ventilation, don’t put the cut ahead of the horse, we have a lot of work to do before we make any carts. Bad joke but important point. A systematic approach to your training will build skills progressively which leads to more sound operations.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with a recruit class of a neighboring department on a ventilation training. After spending the morning in a classroom on ventilation education we had a total of 5 hours for hands on work on a vacant single family dwelling. Being the first day of ventilation training for this academy the program was progressive. We began with a group tool talk, “saw appreciation” (holes with hand tools) and saw familiarization. We then split the balance of the day into 3 areas; peaked roof, flat roof and horizontal ventilation to include taking windows and PPV.

For this short article I wanted to share specifically the skill progression of the peaked roof ventilation session I use in an effort to provide some members of the training community with ways to expand on your drills. If you are viewing this article on a smart phone the attached videos may not display. For full demonstration of discussed skills please open in the desktop view.

I like to begin with chainsaw handling and hand changes while working through a predetermined cut process on a non running saw. With a common cut order for all our operations we help reduce communication, keep operations consistent and improve overall safety. With that being said this is not a requirement as much as it is an option and recommended practice. Our experience shapes our practices and if you have a sound method that keeps you safe, out of cut material and working towards your egress you do not have to change. I do ask that you pre-plan your cuts with your partner so needs can be anticipated and the operation is not delayed. Using the non running saw to first work through the cut process builds comfort with the weight and balance of the saw and changing of hand positions.

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The cut process session is followed up by a rafter rolling session. Having students get the feel of rolling rafters in multiple cut directions with both hand operating positions helps create good technique and hand sensitivity.

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Saw work is then brought together for full size cuts

While saw skills and technique is a huge part of vertical ventilation it isn’t the only part. Sounding firefighter work is given equal attention during both the flat roof and the peaked roof stations. Students were shown the importance of a good roof hook, differences, benefits and disadvantages of various styles. They were also taught the difference between checking decking and true sounding where we read our feet to determine location of structural members.

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With the saw and sounding foundations set it is time to see the students complete an operation as a team. We were fortunate on this structure that even with all the cutting leading up to this each team was able to get two full size holes. I am a firm believer that we set our “gauges” in training and if we aren’t cutting full size holes because we are worried about saving material or space we will inherently under cut in the real world. Cut big when you can even if it reduces your total reps.

To finish off the peaked roof session we reviewed the Milwaukee Cut method using chainsaws. Although more apt for steeper pitches the benefits of the two roof ladder Milwaukee Cut method are still very applicable in our climate during snow seasons on even the shallower pitches.

Ventilating Peaked Roofs: The Milwaukee Method - By David Rickert

With a well planned process and attention to detail even the newest of firefighters can be taken from first introduction to a tool to working effectively as a team in a short period of time. Thanks to the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority Training Division   for the invitation and the great support which translated into an excellent training session. I also have to thank the members of Class 2014 – 1 for their hard work and enthusiasm

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Comment by Charles Olson on April 29, 2014 at 4:33pm

Well done Brian!

Comment by Rob Fisher on April 29, 2014 at 3:22pm

Great work Brian !! This article is an asset for all instructors teaching vertical ventilation. Thank you for sharing with us all.

- Rob Fisher

Comment by Jim Duffy on April 29, 2014 at 2:39pm

Nice job brother,  the training looks like it was awesome. But the article will be a great help to fire instructors out there. Tool familiarization is a must with today's newer firefighters. 


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