Basement fires in both residential and commercial occupancies are one of the most challenging tactical operations that present numerous risk factors requiring the highest degree of situational awareness, training skill sets and continuous incident monitoring and assessment to gauge building structural integrity, fire behavior and fire dynamics and corresponding crew integrity and performance.
The predictability of performance in buildings on fire in residential occupancies varies based on building vintage (age), methods and materials of constructions and structural support components, assemblies and systems that when under duress by fire within the basement compartment create definable risks, limited operational time periods and the need for well coordinate tactical deployments managed under incident and command time compressions that are concurrently impacted by degrading building and systems resiliency and declining material integrity- which lead directly to compromise and collapse conditions.
The recent events at a residential fire in Macon, Georgia that involved a basement fire and subsequent floor collapse, numerous fire fighter injuries and reports of a firefighter line-of-duty death continues to bring to light the operational challenges and risks facing companies in safely assessing and conducting fire suppression and support deployments at similar residential occupancies and structures.
Preliminary information coming forth from Georgia and a review of county tax –building records indicates the single story residential building with a ranch design and configuration was constructed in 1962 of Type V Conventional Wood frame construction with approximately 1460 SF of area.
SFD Residential- Macon
The full basement measured 56 feet x 25 feet and is presumed to of had a typical center line support beam running from the bravo-delta divisions, with the floor joists spanning perpendicular (Alpha-Charlie) with a plywood floor deck system. It is highly probable that the floor joists were solid dimensioned lumber and not engineered componenets.
The fire was reported approximately at 17:51 hours. During the conduct of fire suppression operations near the front entry area on the Alpha division, published reports indicated numerous firefighters fell into the basement following a catastrophic floor assembly collapse at approximately 18:43 hours.
Published Information from the US Fire Administration related to the incident and those fire personnel injured stated the following:
Lieutenant Randy Parker, a 20 year veteran of the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department died in the line of duty and at least five other firefighters were injured after a structural collapse occurred while fire crews were operating inside of a burning residential structure. According to media reports, the Bibb County coroner said Lieutenant Parker died from burns and smoke inhalation. Three of the injured firefighters are being treated at the Augusta Burn Center; one of the three was in critical condition and airlifted to the Center. The fire incident is under investigation by local and state authorities including the ATF. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers to Lt. Parker’s family and the entire Macon-Bibb County Fire Department and community and a speedy recovery to the other injured firefighters.
Lt. Randy Parker
We will post additional insights as accurate information is officially released.
An adverse trend in the areas of basement fires and line of duty deaths is apparent over the immediate past number of months. Two LODD occurred in December 2014 during firefighting operations at basement fires in residential occupancies. Investigative information on both of these fires is on-going, however all of these fires as well as other NIOSH LODD reports shall common causal factors and incident commonalities that have robust recommendations and insights to support learnings and continuous improvement opportunities for all personnel, agencies and departments.
Take the time to identify any incidents, building types or occupancy risks that have applicability ot your company, department or community and recognize any areas for immediate improvement that will support a learning organization and support just in time operating experience learnings. A review of a number of reports will support similar incident parameters that include fire conditions, operational posititioning of companies and personnel at or near the front entrance of vestibule. There are lessons to be learned and applied and can be used as a table top, back step or kitchen table discussion.
December 9, 2014 Residential Basement Fire, West Oak Lane section Philadelphia (PA)
FF Joyce Craig-Lewis LODD Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department
At approximately 02:49 hrs., Firefighter Craig-Lewis was one of several firefighters that were first to respond to a residential fire in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. Upon arrival at 0253hrs, the firefighters advanced a hose into the basement of the house to fight the fire. As reinforcement arrived, a change in tactics was ordered and the first group of firefighters started to withdraw from the basement. During this time, Firefighter Craig-Lewis became trapped. Investigation into the incident and cause of death continues. Firefighter Craig-Lewis is Philadelphia’s first female firefighter to die while on duty.
December 19, 2014 Single Family Residential Basement Fire, Woodmere (NY) Long Island
FF Joseph Sanford – LODD, Inwood (NY) Fire Department
Past Chief Sanford, a father and husband, was one of several Inwood firefighters who joined efforts to search the home in teams during the early morning fire in the basement of a single family residential occupancy. He was discovered in the debris-strewn basement after the first floor collapsed, according to published reports.
Photo: CJ Naum/Buildingsonfire.com
The following are a series of considerations in no special order to think about;
Safety Considerations related to Residential Occupancies (non-inclusive)
• Conduct a thorough fire size-up and communicate the findings to all personnel on-scene before entering the building.
• Conduct an assessment of the Building Profile (building construction type, structural assembly systems and features and age) and assess fire behavior and intensity levels.
• Identify probable Predictability of Building Performance based on assumed basement compartment size and volume, primary types of structural support systems, presence of alternate support systems (i.e. steel beams, engineered wood components etc.) Inclusion of possible occupancy hazards or inherent building features and presence or absence of inlet and outlet openings.
• For large basement compartments (square foot and volume): consider connectivity of rooms and access stairway points and layout complexities.
• Conduct a 360 degree perimeter assessment when feasible to determine access and egress points, fire location and travel and other mission critical operational parameters.
• Ensure an adequate Risk Assessment is conducted and operational factors are determined
• Maintain situational awareness throughout the tactical deployment of crews within the interior of the structure.
• Incident commanders and company officers should be trained and experienced in structure fire size up to avoid putting fire fighters at unneeded risk of working above fire-damaged floors.
• Consider discretionary tactical options for fire suppression for direct, indirect and remote suppression /flow points
• Do not enter a structure, room, or area when fire is suspected to be directly beneath the floor or area where fire fighters would be operating, or if the location of the fire is unknown.
• Never assume structural safety of any floor (regardless of the construction) having a significant fire under it.
• Conduct pre-incident planning inspections during the construction phase to identify the type of floor construction.
• If pre-planning is not conducted, assume residential buildings and occupancies built since the late 1990s have a high probability of having engineered structural systems (ESS) as floor assemblies with those built after 2000 with a variation of ESS, larger spans and integral wood and steel support assemblies, components and systems that are highly interdependent and prone to catastrophic failures and collapse versus isolated compromise.
• Report construction deficiencies noted during preplanning to local building code officials. For example, engineered wood floor joists should only be modified per manufacturer specifications usually limited to cutting to length and removing precut knockouts for utility access. Report damaged or cut chords or webs to building officials.
• Develop, enforce, and follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how to size up and combat fires safely in buildings of all construction types. Rapid intervention teams (RIT) should include a portable ladder with their RIT equipment when deployed at incidents involving basement fires.
• Ensure Time Compression is considered: Ensure Command has the ability to monitor progress or elapsed incident time and adjusts strategic and tactical plans accordingly and in a time effective manner.
• Provide training on identifying structural floor systems and the corresponding indications of weakened or compromised floor systems
• Ensure fire fighters are aware that all floor types can fail with little or no warning and that tactical deployments and task operations require fluid reassessment during the conduct of operations
• Consider the effects of flow paths, ventilation, projected fireload package, building anatomy and company level (personnel) experience and capabilities when determining tactical deployment and engagement
• Use a thermal imaging camera to help locate fires burning below or within floor systems, but recognize that the camera cannot be relied upon to assess the strength or safety of the floor. (Refer to the UL Test Data and Operational Safety Considerations Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions” available at http://www.uluniversity.us/
• Fire fighters should be trained on the use of thermal imaging cameras, including limitations and difficulties in detecting fire burning below floor systems. (See reference to UL above)
• Immediately evacuate and, if possible, use alternate exit routes when floor systems directly beneath the floor where fire fighters would be operating are weakened by fire.
• Use defensive overhaul procedures after fire extinguishment in structures containing fire-damaged floor systems of all types.
• Ensure that a rapid intervention team (RIT) is on the scene as part of the first alarm and in position to provide immediate assistance prior to crews entering a hazardous environment.
• Ensure RIT personnel area staged and have complete a site assessment of the building and occupancy upon their arrival and set-up.
• Identify and apply the Lessons from the Fireground from case studies, near-miss reporting and line of duty death report recommendations that may be applicable to your department, agency, community risk profile and buildings and occupancies.
Take the time to review the Lessons Learned from this Near-Miss event from 2010
July 28, 2010 Single Family Residential Basement Fire, Fairdale, Kentucky
Captain Michael Long: Near-Miss Close Call, Camp Taylor (KY) Fire Protection District
• Podcast on Taking it to the Streets with Chris Naum & Captain Long and Guests (March 16, 2011) http://www.firefighternetcast.com/archives/1108
Near-Miss Close Call
Another pertinent LODD report that all officers and commanders should study:
April 11, 2006 Single Family Residential Basement Fire 1008 SF: Franklin Township-Somerset County, New Jersey FF Kevin Apuzzio LODD East Franklin (NJ) Fire Department
Here are some resources and case studies resulting from operations at floor collapses;
- NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters Working Above Fire-Damaged Floors
- UL University CBT: “Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions”
- Eleven Minutes to Mayday; What You Need to Know, Here
- NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2008-09| CDC/NIOSH July, 2009, Report HERE
- Buffalo, NY Three Alarm Fire and Double LODD Report
- Remembering Brackenridge 1991 Floor Collapse and LODD
- Brackenridge-USFA Report; HERE
- Brackenridge-NFPA Summary; HERE
- Maintaining Situational Awareness
UL Knowledge Services:The main objective of this study was to improve firefighter safety by increasing the level of knowledge on the response of residential flooring systems to fire.
New Dynamics of Basement Fires. Basement fires are among the most dangerous. UL plays a critical role in examining the hazards associated with various types of residential flooring systems to better understand this risk.
Basement Fire Computer Modeling; Demonstrates how modeling can help predict fire growth and spread within a variety of residential basement scenarios that all feature unprotected wood ceilings.
Improving Fire Safety by Understanding the Fire Performance of Engineered Floor Systems
We’ll post some additional information and insight related to basement fires and safety and operational considerations in the following days.
NIOSH FIRE FIGHTER FATALITY INVESTIGATION AND PREVENTION PROGRAM- Select Collapse Reports
|Report No.||Incident Date||Title|
|F2013-02||Jan 22, 2013||Volunteer captain dies after floor collapse traps him in basement – New York.|
|F2009-23||Aug 24, 2009||Career lieutenant dies following floor collapse into basement fire and a career fire fighter dies attempting to rescue the career lieutenant – New York.|
|F2008-26||Jul 22, 2008||A volunteer mutual aid fire fighter dies in a floor collapse in a residential basement fire – Illinois.|
|F2008-09||Apr 08, 2008||A career captain and a part-time fire fighter die in a residential floor collapse – Ohio.|
|F2007-07||Nov 16, 2007||Volunteer fire fighter dies after falling through floor supported by engineered wooden-I beams at residential structure fire – Tennessee.|
|F2006-26||Aug 13, 2006||Career engineer dies and fire fighter injured after falling through floor while conducting a primary search at a residential structure fire – Wisconsin.|
|F2006-24||Jun 25, 2006||Volunteer deputy fire chief dies after falling through floor hole in residential structure during fire attack – Indiana.|
|F2004-05||Jan 09, 2004||Residential basement fire claims the life of career lieutenant – Pennsylvania.|
|F2002-11||Mar 04, 2002||One career fire fighter dies and a captain is hospitalized after floor collapses in residential fire – North Carolina.|
|F2002-06||Mar 07, 2002||First-floor collapse during residential basement fire claims the life of two fire fighters (career and volunteer) and injures a career fire fighter captain – New York.|
|F2001-27||Jun 16, 2001||Career fire fighter dies after single-family-residence house fire – South Carolina.|
|F2001-16||Mar 08, 2001||Career fire fighter dies after falling through the floor fighting a structure fire at a local residence – Ohio.|
|F2001-15||Mar 18, 2001||Residential fire claims the lives of two volunteer fire fighters and seriously injures an assistant chief – Missouri.|
|99-F03||Jan 10, 1999||Floor collapse claims the life of one fire fighter and injures two – California.|
|98-F17||Jun 05, 1998||Sudden floor collapse claims the lives of two fire fighters and four are hospitalized with serious burns in a five-alarm fire – New York.|
|97-04||Feb 17, 1997||Floor collapse in a single family dwelling fire claims the life of one fire fighter and injures another – Kentucky.|
We’ll post some additional information and insight related to basement fires and safety and operational considerations in the following days.
– See more at: http://www.firegroundleadership.com/2015/02/12/operational-considerations-for-residential-basement-fires/#sthash.z11EALQB.dpuf