Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tabletop Training for the Weekend: “Rubbish Fire-Fill the Box”

This special weekend edition of Ten Minutes in the Street TM is being offered on and is taking advantage of a training video produced by the LAFD in 2009 that involved a basis initial dispatch to a report of a rubbish fire that escalates into two structure fires and resulted in multiple alarm operations.

Take the opportunity to view the video clip and stop at various hold points to discuss and dialog operational considerations and issues affecting strategic command level management as well as tactical company level operational and safety issues.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

NIOSH Report addresses Operational Issues at Metal Recycling Facility Fire

NIOSH Report Issue: Seven Career Fire Fighters Injured at a Metal Recycling Facility Fire - California

NIOSH Exective Summary

On July 13, 2010, seven career fire fighters were injured while fighting a fire at a large commercial structure containing recyclable combustible metals. At 2345 hours, 3 engines, 2 trucks, 2 rescue ambulances, an emergency medical service (EMS) officer and a battalion chief responded to a large commercial structure with heavy fire showing. Within minutes, a division chief, 2 battalion chiefs, 3 engines, 3 trucks, 4 rescue ambulances, 2 EMS officers and an urban search and rescue team were also dispatched.

An offensive fire attack was initially implemented but because of rapidly deteriorating conditions, operations switched to a defensive attack after about 12 minutes on scene. Ladder pipe operations were established on the 3 street accessible sides of the structure. Approximately 40 minutes into the incident, a large explosion propelled burning shrapnel into the air, causing small fires north and south of structure, injuring 7 fire fighters, and damaging apparatus and equipment. Realizing that combustible metals may be present, the incident commander ordered fire fighters to fight the fire with unmanned ladder pipes while directing the water away from burning metals. Approximately 2 ½ hours later, two small concentrated areas remained burning and a second explosion occurred when water contacted the burning combustible metals. This time no fire fighters were injured.

Contributing Factors

  • Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
  • Unknown building contents
  • Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
  • Use of traditional fire suppression tactics
  • Darkness

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that pre-incident plans are updated and available to responding fire crews
  • Ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in combustible metal fire recognition and tactics
  • Ensure that policies are updated for the proper handling of fires involving combustible metals
  • Ensure that first arriving personnel and fire officers look for occupancy hazard placards on commercial structures during size-up
  • Ensure that all fire fighters communicate fireground observations to incident command
  • Ensure that fire fighters wear all personal protective equipment when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health environment
  • Ensure that an Incident Safety Officer is dispatched on the first alarm of commercial structure fires
  • Ensure that collapse/hazards zones are established on the fireground.
The fire department had a comprehensive list of SOGs and policies. However, the policy for the extinguishment of combustible metal fires was out dated. This policy called for copious amounts of water to be put on the combustible metal fire. The SOG for pre-incident planning was followed at this incident. However, due to the constantly changing business environment, the company had submitted a business plan that identified hazards to the city but this information did not get updated in the computer-aided dispatching (CAD) database for the fire department or dispatch.

 A month prior to this incident on June 11, 2010, at 11:00 a.m., the same business owner's metal processing facility located diagonally across the street from this incident, had several small explosions and fire. This incident required 36 fire department companies, 16 rescue ambulances, 1 USAR team, 2 hazardous material teams, 7 BCs, 1 DC, and a DDC, totaling 248 fire department personnel, in addition to mutual aid. Approximately 2 ½ hours of fire suppression operations with water brought the fire under control, which encompassed a 150' x 100' area of combustible metal shavings.

The company had metal –X (a brand of combustible metal fire extinguishing agent) available, but not enough of it to be effective. No fire fighters were injured. However, a civilian worker was critically injured and a police officer received minor injuries.

  • NIOSH REPORT 2010-30 Direct Link HERE
  • Fom the LAFD Press Release on July 15, 2010
On Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 11:43 PM, 41 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 21 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 3 Arson Units, 1 Urban Search and Rescue Unit, 1 Rehab Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 3 EMS Battalion Captains, 8 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams, 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team and 2 Bulldozers under the direction of Deputy Chief Mario Rueda responded to a Major Emergency Structure Fire at 761 East Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles (CA).

More than 200 Los Angeles Firefighters were requested over the course of the incident to help battle blaze at a large two-story commercial structure that encompassed six occupancies over an entire city block. Firefighters quickly arrived at United Alloys and Metals to find heavy fire at an industrial facility known for processing titanium and super alloy scrap.

The 73 year-old structures between Paloma Avenue and Mckinley Avenue, were quickly engulfed in flames and forced firefighters into a defensive attack early during this huge fire fight. Shortly after midnight the decision was made to pull all Firefighters out of the structure and attack the flames from the exterior.

Approximately 20 minutes following this decision a partial wall collapse, roof collapse, and a total of three explosions took place. These massive blasts rained down debris of concrete and titanium on Firefighters and even shattered windows of emergency vehicles.

From this point forward it became a heavy stream operation with ladder pipes and portable monitors that provided huge volumes of water against the intense flames. Despite the challenges of extinguishing burning titanium and the devastating explosions, the blaze was controlled in just five hours. Exhausted Firefighters were relieved the next morning by their colleagues who continued the extended overhaul and detailed salvage procedure. Link HERE
Operational and Training Questions:
  • What training and education have you attained on combustible metals fire? Are you prepared to handle the first-due or initial command?
  • How prepared are your Company Officers and Incident Commanders in addressing Strategic and Tactical operations at incidents involving combustible metals?
  • Does your fire department, company or jurisdiction have the resources to command, control and mitigate such an event?
  • Are you aware of properties, occupancies and structures in your jurisdiction that contain, process, store or have primary or ancillary combustible metals risk, hazards or expsoure concerns?
  • Are they pre-fire planned, are those plans up to-day?
  • Are you and your organization prepared?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Defining Operations on the First-Due

First-due company operations are influenced by a number of parameters and factors; some deliberate and dictated, others prescribed and prearranged and yet others subjective, biased, predisposed or at times accidental, casual and emotional. For many of you riding the seat or arriving assuming command; you understand the connotations and implications I'm making here.

Here’s an excellent discussion and debate point to bring up, when time permits today or this evening with your company or personnel; one that leads to a multitude of viewpoints, opinions and divisions.

On the first-due; what are the three or four key parameters when confronted with arrival indications of a fire within a structure that define your deployment and transition into operations?

Now, before everyone gets worked up; we all realize there are numerous variables affecting key decision-points that must be recognized, imputed, synthesized , analyzed and decisions made, assignments formulated and the task deployed; this list can be long - very long.

However, giving a building and occupancy with indications of a fire within, what has your experience provided you with the KEY influencing parameters? Are there key factors, or are there "lists" of factors based upon yet another "list" of conditions. The question is rhetorical the answeres are not.

Is it occupancy type, occupancy risk, fire behavior or fire dynamics, time, risk, communicated information, past performance factors (experience), presumed or known life hazards, predicated building or system performance, crew KSA sets or other factors, etc? Does naturalistic or RPDM decision-making influence; is the deployment tactically driven or predisposed by SOP, SOG or personal attributes and biases? Safety Conscious or aggressively driven? You get the picture.....

Try to distill them down to three or four mission critical key issues (if you can). This is a great exercise to see what everyone else considers the key factors to be or should be when deploying and going into operations; sometimes it’s more complex than just “pulling the line” or getting in….

Take the time to talk about the determinations made, question the rational and use some critical thinking and don’t be subjective….think about the responses and ask why?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Building Knowledge = Fire Fighter Safety

"Modern incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past requiring incident commanders and commanding officers to have increased technical knowledge of building construction with a heightened sensitivity to fire behavior, a focus on operational structural stability and considerations related to occupancy risk versus the occupancy type."

"Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk, not occupancy type, and must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and tactical patience orchestrated in a manner that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy profile and accounts for presumptive fire behavior."

Christopher Naum, SFPE

Building Knowledge = Fire Fighter Safety...Where do YOU fit into this equation?
….where do you fit into this equation

Friday, August 5, 2011

NIOSH LODD Report Released on Fire and Collapse Which Killed Two Chicago Firefighters

NIOSH LODD Report Released on Fire and Collapse Which Killed Two Chicago Firefighters

F2010-38 Two Career Fire Fighters Die and 19 Injured in Roof Collapse during Rubbish Fire at an Abandoned Commercial Structure – Illinois

NIOSH Executive Summary
On December 22, 2010, a 47-year-old male (Victim # 1) and a 34-year old male (Victim # 2), both career fire fighters, died when the roof collapsed during suppression operations at a rubbish fire in an abandoned and unsecured commercial structure. The bowstring truss roof collapsed at the rear of the 84-year old structure approximately 16 minutes after the initial companies arrived on-scene and within minutes after the Incident Commander reported that the fire was under control.

The structure, the former site of a commercial laundry, had been abandoned for over 5 years and city officials had previously cited the building owners for the deteriorated condition of the structure and ordered the owner to either repair or demolish the structure. The victims were members of the first alarm assignment and were working inside the structure. A total of 19 other fire fighters were hurt during the collapse.

Contributing Factors

  • Lack of a vacant / hazardous building marking program within the city
  • Vacant / hazardous building information not part of automatic dispatch system
  • Dilapidated condition of the structure
  • Dispatch occurred during shift change resulting in fragmented crews
  • Weather conditions including snow accumulation on roof and frozen water hydrants
  • Not all fire fighters equipped with radios.

Key Recommendations

  • Identify and mark buildings that present hazards to fire fighters and the public
  • Use risk management principles at all structure fires and especially abandoned or vacant unsecured structures
  • Train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates
  • Provide battalion chiefs with a staff assistant or chief's aide to help manage information and communication
  • Provide all fire fighters with radios and train them on their proper use
  • Develop, train on, and enforce the use of standard operating procedures that specifically address operations in abandoned and vacant structures
NIOSH Recommendations

  • Recommendation #1: Fire departments and city building departments should work together to identify and mark buildings that present hazards to fire fighters and the public.
  • Recommendation #2: Fire departments should use risk management principles at all structure fires and especially abandoned or vacant unsecured structures.
  • Recommendation # 3: Fire departments should train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates.
  • Recommendation # 4: Fire departments should consider providing battalion chiefs with a staff assistant or chief's aide to help manage information and communication.
  • Recommendation # 5: Fire departments should provide all fire fighters with radios and train them on their proper use.
  • Recommendation # 6: Fire departments should develop, train on and enforce the use of standard operating procedures that specifically address operations in abandoned and vacant structures.
  • Recommendation # 7: Fire departments should develop, implement and enforce a detailed Mayday Doctrine to ensure that fire fighters can effectively declare a Mayday.
  • Recommendation # 8: Fire departments should ensure that the Incident Commander maintains close accountability for all personnel operating on the fireground
  • Recommendation # 9: Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are trained in fireground survival procedures.
  • Recommendation #10: Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters are trained in and understand the hazards associated with bowstring truss construction.

The tragic events in the City of Chicago on Wednesday December 22, 2010, when Chicago Firefighter Edward J. Stringer – Engine Co.63 and Firefighter/EMT Corey D. Ankum, Truck Co.34 were killed in the line of duty while operating at a structure fire in an abandoned one-story brick building in the 1700 block of East 75th Street on the City’s South side, exemplifies the demands, challenges and sacrifice that come with responsibilities, duty and sworn obligation that distinguishes the honorable profession of being a firefighter.

The fire was first reported at about 06:48 hours during the night and day tour shift change, with companies arriving at 06:52 hours reporting moderate fire in the buildings northeast corner. The single story commercial structure was vacant, however it was readily known that squatters were known to seek shelter in the abandoned structure especially give the harsh weather being experienced in the city. The fire was quickly contained at approximately 07:00 hours according to published reports, and radio communications, with coordinated suppression, search and rescue and ventilation operations being conduction by companied both within the interior and on the roof.
  • For a comprehensive look at this incident, the report and further details on Bowstring Truss Construction, go to the HERE

Some additional Insight Materials for discussion from and


  • National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System Operational Safety Considerations at Ordinary and Heavy Timber Constructed Occupancies PowerPoint Program developed by Christopher Naum, HERE
  • Informational Support Narrative download, HERE
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