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

Tactical Fire Problem – Large Residential

Large side tail style house, sort of a Victorian style. Lets take a look.

1.) Looking at the smoke from floor two and the window arrangement, where in the structure is that smoke coming from, what room or part?
2.) Based upon the age of the structure what should be anticipated during this fire?
3.) Does the age and type of the structure affect the need for manpower? Of so why?
Look around your response area for dwellings such as these.
If you would like to leave a comment or feedback please do so by emailing or use the send voicemail tab on the side of this page. If you want me to do a building in your response area send me a picture and I will simulate it so you can use it in your department’s training.
Stay safe, and stay thinking!
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Podcast Episode West Texas – Boston – Police Ops – Preventing the Mayday

Listen to This week’s episode HERE.

This week’s episode, 3 single LODDs from earlier this month, and the 11 or 12 LODD from West Texas explosion

Talk about West Texas and preplanning target hazards in your community and learning about Ammonium Nitrate.

Some discussion about the Boston Marathon, operating with police agencies in tactical scenarios and lessons to be learned.

Preventing the mayday and what to teach firefighters, and more.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Boston Marathon response, Police Officers, and Georgia

I am sure that like most Americans I was horrified over what I saw in Boston at the Marathon bombing. I also know that as I re-watched everything time and again, I was reminded of a quote by Mr Rogers the children’s TV show host who always told children watching a tragedy “to look for the helpers”. There were plenty of them.
As a firefighter I empathized with the fire and EMS response and reflected on training which is my passion. We have all been to MCI drills and maybe even handled a few accidents with a couple of mini vans, or a bus, but how many of us have ever been exposed to 170 patients and many, many losses of limbs and critical patients? Sure there have been a few but most responders have never been there.
A lot of America watched this and marveled at the response, as it was truly something to marvel at. What most people do not know is how extensive the planning and preparation is for the marathon. the Boston Athletic Association hosts over 20,000 runners and the plans for handling this over a 26 mile course involves thousands of first responders, civilian volunteers, amateur radio operators, doctors, nurses, private ambulances, public services, police and on and on. The planning and preps paid off, and although I am sure they had discussed things like this, they did not have this outcome first on their mind on a beautiful day in April.
I was also heartened to see so many civilians trying to help one another. Any fire, police or EMS person will tell you it is not hard to work in the face of danger. It is what we do. Instinct, caring, experience and training kick in and you just do it. But for total strangers to jump in, get covered in another’s blood to help save lives, makes me proud to be an American. These responders and civilians also worked in the unknown, wondering if there were more devices left behind.
The police response to the act of terrorism, and monumental crime scene was phenomenal. I have many friends who are police officers, and a few police chiefs, and over the years I have made more than my fair share of cop vs. firemen jokes, but I can say that after watching the combined response of the police in their efforts and handling the incident, and the subsequent investigation and capture of these suspects, I am speechless. I made an analogy about how many EMTs had experienced 170 patients, well how many officers outside of their military experience have had “hundreds of rounds” firefights in their communities? I have done some pretty dangerous things in my time as a firefighter but my respect for these officers digging in and returning fire with determination redefines courage and brings honor to their profession. From the Red side to the Blue side I salute you!
I also wish to express my condolences for the loss of life of an MIT police officer Sean Collier who was executed and an MBTA police officer Richard Donohue who was critically wounded in this firefight.
As I mention our police brothers and blue, I would be remiss if I did not mention the police effort in Gwinnett County Georgia where a tactical team went in and rescued 4 firefighters who had been taken hostage. The training, experience and perception of those officers moving in at the right critical time clearly saved lives.
Even though this is a fire and emergency services blog, I must take time to recognize the doctors and nurses who served both along the marathon route and also back in the hospital feverishly working to save lives and fix broken bodies. I sit and think here this morning of nurses on duty who yesterday cared for victims of the bombing and who now today must put away their feelings and emotions and care for the man who caused all of the pain and suffering they have had to witness. If you see or know a nurse, make sure to acknowledge what they do.
And please remember that as we “celebrate” (if that is even the right word) the capture of bomber # 2, many people have had their lives changed forever. People have lost their lives, have lost limbs, some remain in critical condition, and civilians and responders alike will have mental scars for a very long time. In the spirit of the fire service and America “WE MUST NEVER FORGET”
Be grateful for the things you have, never take today for granted, and say thank you to all of the “helpers” that you know and meet.
I am proud to be an American, I am proud to live in Massachusetts, and I am proud to have served as a firefighter.
Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – House Fire

This week a relatively, uncomplicated residential fire. Take a look.

1.) Where is the fire located within the building?

2.) What does the black smoke along the eave line indicate?

3.) What does smoke color indicate?

4.) What size and how many hose lines are needed?

5.) What is the length of the stretch of the attack line? Take a look in your response district a buildings like this that are set back off the road or driveway. You might waste 1-2 lengths of hose just to make the front door. Look around your response area. Have a plan!

Take the above quiz online and receive feedback, or send comments or questions to Pete@petelamb.comor use the send voicemail tab on the side of the web page.

Thanks, stay safe and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Podcast Information – Firefighting History and Traditions

This post will talk a little bit about using podcast episodes to get the most training benefit for yourself.

Today’s Episode and all previous and future insides can be found, here at this website and blog, you can subscribe in ITunes, on your Blackberry, at Zune and Microsoft, and Stitcher radio.

If you download the app on the appropriate device you will have access to the podcast each week automatically.

Put it on, do some other work and you do not have to be tied to your screen, you can just listen. Stop it rewind it, and get the information you really want.

Today’s episode can be found Here at Stitcher

Or play it below.

Thanks and stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Fire Service History and Traditions – Podcast Episode # 5

Special guests Fire Chief Jim Blanchard (Retired) from Saugus Mass discusses some fire service facts, legends, and lore.

Listen to the podcast. HERE

The Maltese Cross
The Jenks Engine
St Florian
The Helmet
The Civil War and Zouaves
The Bell Cap
The Pompier ladder

…and more!

Send comments and feedback for Chief Blanchard to Pete@petelamb.comor use the send voicemail tab on the side of this page.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

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

"Changing the fire service, one mind at a time"