Happy New Year Fire Engineering Family. From our FETC Tactical Training Notebook
Today during some down time between runs I took my company out on a building familiarization tour. The tour included looking at a really large, 4 story lightweight residential dormitory being built in our first due. The tour affords firefighters with the opportunity to get out and mingle with contractors, see new construction materials or techniques and really get to see behind the walls of a specific dwelling before they are covered up. A fire service x-ray of the structural support system(s). Firefighter survival within the modern construction era is the responsibility of progressive fire service leaders. History is played out time and time again within our service. NIOSH reports do not lie and many of us whether we are volunteer, paid-call or career continue to not learn from our "brothers" unfortunate incidents.
Fire sprinklers are designed to provide the occupants of a dwelling the chance to get out when a fire strikes. The protection industry has produced some wonderful results and often the system controls the fire to the point of total fire extinguishment. That said, the fire service must remember that the sprinkler system was not designed to extinguish every fire within that same building. There are many voids within a dwelling that are not protected by the sprinklers. Pipe chases, electrical conduit holes, heating / ventilation duct work, and the structural support materials themselves may afford lateral heat, smoke and fire spread underneath your feet.
We all know that drop ceiling tile construction is loaded with many, many feet of grid wire which can entangle us firefighters. With the advancement of newer fuel efficient forced hot air furnaces (high pressure FHA for example) newer construction contains miles of basically "dryer vent hose" in the walls and ceiling. As the ceiling tiles drop and the plastic burns off the vent hose the wire is exposed. We are now faced with being entrapped in a gigantic slinky. Any of us who owned a slinky can appreciate just how difficult it was to untangle the coils when they became twisted. Imagine being literally trapped inside the coils while wearing our full PPE and SCBA.