Commercial Building Fires – Some Thoughts

For the purposes of this weeks review we will define this topic as any of the following: mercantile, business, industrial buildings. Supermarkets, department stores, shopping centers, doctor’s offices, business offices, factories and manufacturing.

Things to consider:

Firefighter Safety

In addition to all normal considerations of safety, the size and area will pose greater accountability problems as well as greater fire volume problems. Access and entry points should be monitored closely. There should be multiple rapid intervention companies available on different sides of the building, but certainly the point of attack and any area that may give alternative access. Sprinklers operating will deteriorate visibility considerably. High rack storage poses a possibility of collapse and entrapment. Extremely high interior ceiling heights can mask the extreme heat buildup of flashover.

Search & Rescue

Search and rescue in these buildings will be extremely labor intensive and problematic. This is not like searching a residential occupancy. People that are in these structures tend to enter by the entrance they usually use. This can be of some assistance to firefighters searching. Time of day is also significant as occupancy may be low or non-exisitant.

Exposure Protection

In strip malls and downtown areas exposure protection can be a real challenge. Downtown business districts have buildings with apartments above (internal exposures) and close buildings (external exposures). In strip malls common ceiling attic or basements areas can lead to very serious fire spread horizontally.


Use large volumes of water and the needed rate of application. 7 1 3/4 ” lines is not always equal to an appropriate number of well placed 2 1/2″ lines or master streams. Large volumes of stock piled material will add a significant fuel load. Also consider standpipes if avaialbe and do not fail to supply the existing sprinkler system.


While commercial buildings tend to have a lot of roof openings opening up can be difficult. Consider the use of positive pressure ventilation if you have the ability and the training to do so.There has been a lot of talk about trench cutting roofs. Trench cutting is a valuable tactic for preventing horizontal spread but it does take manpower and resources and a little bit of time to achieve.


Overhaul in commercial fires can be very dangerous and time consuming. After fire has been knocked down, you should consider letting the building drain for a brief period particularly if large caliber streams have been used. Rotate crews often, keep ventilation going to prevent smoldering buid up of carbon monoxide and other toxins.


Commercial occupancies present the greatest potential for salvage if you have the manpower and resources to do it. Any valuable stock or products that can be saved from fire water and smoke damage will be greatly appreciated. I am not saying now, and will never say risk your life for property, but if you can operate in an area remote from the fire, or floor below than you should make an attempt to safely do what you can WITHOUT RISK TO PERSONNEL.

Take these pointers, review them with your troops and go and preplan one of your own buildings in your community all the time thinking about these points listed above.

Also contact someone to obtain a good Firefighting Tactics and Strategy Book such as the one published by Delmar Publishing or John Norman’s Handbook of Tactics.

Thanks and stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Bakery Fire

This week a look at a commercial bakery fire.

1.) Where should the first line go?
2.) What types of additional hazards can be expected with a bakery fire?
3.) What are your best ventilation options for this scenario?
4.) How much hose would it take to reach a rear second floor apartment?
5.) Where in the building is the most likely source of this fire?
If you want feedback on your answered take the above quiz HERE.
Send any questions or feedback to
Feel free to use the send voicemail tab at the side of the page.
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Two LODD Reports

It is a sad Sunday when there are two LODD to report.

Binghamton NY

On Saturday FF/paramedic John Janos was found dead in the station. There had been a call earlier and he stated he did not feel well after that call.

Philadelphia PA

Captain Michael Goodwin was killed during a collapse at a third alarm fire in a fabric store. One other firefighter was injured during the rescue attempt.

Please follow statter911 or for the updates and current information about the fire.

“Never Forget”

•Never forget the members we lost.
•Never forget their families.
•Never forget what they taught you.
•Never forget the circumstances of how they died.
•Never forget to personally do something about it.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Firefighter Training Podcast – Episode 4 – Tactical Rules

Listen to this episode HERE

This week:

Some Current Events

(2) LODD Binghamton NY and Philadelphia

Hidden Dangers of garage fires

Baltimore Mayor vs Union

Dallas Helmet Cam Video issue

Renewed sifting of debris from 9/11
FDNY EMS vs. PD in ambulance

Md. Engine taking wrong turn to a fatal fire.

Training segment:

Tactical Rules for the Fireground

Please take a moment to go over to ITunes and rate if you would.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

“Assuming Command”

E2 Has Command…

If you are a fire officer, or have been in the fire service for any length of time you have heard this phrase or similar phrases I am sure. Today I am going to point out that “command” starts way before an incident, and in some cases there is a fallacy of believing you are in command when you are managing an incident scene.

Many years ago we were taught that size up begins much earlier than upon arrival and the giving of a brief incident report, it really begins as you drive to work and observe the buildings and happenings in your response district as you arrive. This very same premise applies to command believe it or not.

While you give orders and directives upon arrival, how are those directives being carried out by your personnel. Are personnel routinely operating outside of SOPs and guidelines and it becomes acceptable. Are your SOPS there for legality sake or do they really get adhered to and enforced during routine emergencies. Of course we all want independent thinking officers who are not ham strung by rigid inflexible procedures, but we also want everyone using the same playbook.

You see to be in “command” you have to start way back with day to day operations and training. This can be very difficult and you can be accused of micromanagement and forcing attention to detail, but when you arrive on a scene you can then have some assurance that objectives are going to be met the way that you expect them to get achieved.

Officers have to instill discipline and attention to detail every day, every shift and every emergency response. Failure to do so could result in a breakdown of “command” at the big job when you really need it.

When individual companies make decisions that are not expected by the commander, situations can arise. These could be as simple as using the stairs instead of an aerial or vice versa, or laying a single feeder line, not ready to pump a hydrant on a long lay, or venting or not venting a roof depending upon circumstances. Any of the things mentioned could have different and disastrous results for the person out in front who assumed command!

The message this week is easy, if you are an officer or a senior man, pay attention to detail and procedures everyday, so that when you have the “big one”, ( A high risk, low frequency event) you will support the team and there will be no surprises for the person out in front, assuming command.

Be diligent, be focused, and be persistent even between alarms so your performance will reflect your training and preparation.

(Does anybody else get the irony of the term assuming command?) (ass/u/me)

Send your comments, thoughts to

Thanks, stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Leaking Tanker

This week a leaking tanker on the highway.

1.) A pressurized tanker with a “bucket box” at the rear. What form or state of matter is the material carried inside?
2.) What could be the potential products that might be inside?
3.) Using the scenario you see here and using the NAERG Book, what guide number would you follow?
4.) Is your department equipped to handle this emergency as presented? If not, what are your closest local resources?
5.) This tanker could have a red or a green placard. You cannot see it because of the angle and the leak. What is the simplest way of confirming what product is on board?

Take this quiz HERE. or
send your responses to if you want feedback or use the Send Voicemail tab at the side of the web page. All responses receive replies
Thanks and stay safe, and stay thinking!
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Podcast Correction

During Episode 3 of the Firefighter Training Podcast yesterday I mistakenly confused two stories and gave some incorrect information.

The NJ wildland firefighter that was struck was struck by a woman, and not another volunteer firefighter. I confused two stories I was researching at the time.

The podcast has been edited to reflect the change and I apologize for any confusion that it may have created.