Thursday, January 29, 2009

It doesn't have to be lightweight to kill you

In his excellent tactical series on Firefighter Nation, Christopher Naum hammers home the dangers of lightweight construction. He stresses knowing the buildings in your district and understanding the construction methods that were used both before and after lightweight construction became prevelant. I recently attended a safety seminar that he did at the South Carolina Fire Academy, where he did an excellent presentation on how lightweight construction doesn't have the mass, the fire resistance, or the workmanship that older structures made from dimensional lumber have.

Chris's most recent scenario really got me thinking and delving into a fire from my past.

Back in 1979, one of my best friends, Steward Gandy was involved in fighting a fire in one of the more solid homes I've ever seen. The home was actually a Type III building - masonry walls, dimensional lumber rafters and joists, and dimensional lumber partition walls that were more solid than some of the load-bearing walls I've seen in modern lightweight construction. The home burned one night. Steward was searching it when a deep-seated attic fire collapsed the center of the house. Steward didn't die immediately - he was trapped and ran out of air.

The moral of the story - even solidly constructed buildings can kill you.

I only had four years of experience at the time. I was one of Steward's pallbearers, when I was 21. I still remember the funeral like it was yesterday.

Unfortunately, I've been to all-t00-many LODD funerals since then, and I'm heartily sick of them. Listen to Chris, and maybe we can stop going to LODD funerals.
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