Concealed space and void space fires

This week just some random thoughts so that you can create a drill or sit around the firehouse and discuss and expand upon the topic of fires in walls and ceiling areas as well as other concealed spaces.

* Generally difficult to fight and in many cases lead to large loss fires.

* If you enter a structure fire without any visible flame your first thoughts might indicate basement fire or fire in the walls.If smoke is throughout the building it is more likely a cellar fire.

If there is little or no smoke on floor 1 and 2 and large volumes of smoke on upper floors and attic then the fire is more likely to be in the walls and partitions.

* While the use of a thermal imager is warranted here early on, the older signs and conditions of a fire in the walls should still be taken into consideration: These include, browning wall paper and paint in older structures, smoke from wall outlet openings around baseboards, moldings and door trims an frames.

* Get lines in position on all floors and get a line to the topmost floor as soon as possible.

* Consider rooftop ventilation early if the fire has reached the attic area and prevent it from banking down and mushrooming across the entire building.

* Do not delay or hesitate in opening up very agressively these interior wall areas. The damage from the fire will certaainly be worse than the damge caused by you opening up.

* Pull ceilings very agressively. This will take manpower as it is a very exhausting job. Try to hold up as long as possible from applying hose streams in the room where the ceiling is being pulled. This will maintain good visibility and better conditions in the room. The line should be operated when all the ceiling area has been exposed and the working crews have backed out slightly. The line must also be operated at any point where the operating crew might be in any danger. There is a tendency for a crew with less experience to want to spray water as soon as the first pulls expose fire. An experienced officer may guide them to held back a little longer.

* Although it is somewhat rare there have been cases where there could be the possibility of a backdraft happening when a concealed ceiling space is opened.

* Consider fire spread in all pipe chases and electrical openings and raceways.

* After the source of the fire and fire spread has been dealt with, overhaul the building slowly and methodically to prevent any hidden fire from redeveloping later. Use the thermal imager in any and all areas that you have questions about.

Stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013