Original post found at: http://www.firehouse.com/news/12092639/firehouse-expo-attendees-get-lessons-in-basement-fires
Firefighters learned about one of the deadliest fireground environments during hands-on training at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Right now basement fires are a big concern in the fire service,” lead instructor John Lewis said as students entered a burn building as smoke poured from windows and doors.
Lewis, who recently retired as fire lieutenant in New Jersey, said that since 1994 over a dozen firefighters have been killed during basement fires. Sometimes crews at those scenes were unaware of the blazes burning below them.
“Trying to access the basement fire may not be recognizable and it can be burning out of control,” Lewis said. “It’s impacting the structural integrity of the building and that could lead to the floor collapsing…and it (the list) just goes on and on and on, with the problems associated with basement fires.”
The firefighters were entering the burn building from the second floor as instructors stoked a fire on the first floor, which simulatedthe basement.
“They can experience the heat from below and experience the feeling of the heat when they go down into the basement to the fire while the heat is coming up past them.”
“It’s a lot of new information and ideas and we are getting good repetitions in training,” said student Cody Rash, a fire captain with Harrington Fire Company in Delaware. Rash is also a career firefighter in Anne Arundel County, Md.
“It’s a very hands-on class with the things we’re dealing with at basement fires,” Rash said. His companies have responded to a number of basement fires in recent years.
“During a size-up you learn how to identify these fires…and how that’s going to different than an upstairs fire in a dwelling,” said Kirby Mills, a three-year member of the Stafford, Va., Fire Company.
“When you’re on top of the fire without water, it’s not where you want to be,” Rash added.
Students also learned how to open ceilings above a simulated first floor area. The ideas was to show students that they can determine the type of flooring that they are working on over the fire.
Lewis said that he and his co-instructor, Robert Moran, developed the program after Moran, who was the fire chief in Englewood, NJ., almost lost firefighters in basement fires.
“He almost lost two of his firefighters at two separate fires in a short time. That’s when we started researching a topic that had not been looked at in years,” Lewis said.
Mills e said he was leaving Firehouse Expo with a solid understanding of the tell-tale signs of a basement fire and a better idea of how to attack the fires.
“It’s a lot of people coming together here from up and down the East Coast sharing what they know and how they handle these fires,” Rash said of the hands-on training.