First let me apologize for the lack of activity the past few weeks, I have just been VERY VERY busy.
For those of you that follow along on twitter you already know that I have been assigned to a new firehouse, one that I am VERY excited about working in. I am now assigned to Engine Company #3 in the Highland Springs section of the East Henrico. 3 Engine is a place that every fireman should have to pull duty in. It is lower-income older residential, coupled with a ton of government subsidized multi family dwelling complexes, with some commercial properties thrown in there for good measure. When you ride down the main drag of the district it scream “Main Street USA”. It also borders some other busy districts.
Bottom line is this engine is BUSY! I have just pulled my 2nd shift there and I have been busy getting to know the guys, and refamiliarizing myself with that part of the world. Yesterday we did every thing we even had a small commercial fire as a result of some welders getting a little overzealous. The first engine had smoke on arrival and they stretched from the stand pipe to the fire site. It wa sa small fire that took more overhaul than anything but it’s not every day your making the stand pipe stretch so it was a great day.
On top of that we had mandatory cardiac monitor training (we are getting new monitors), and several Smoke Detector installs to do in the district. Like most fire departments we offer free smoke detectors and batteries to those who can not afford them. One of the installs was in a Mobile Home Community (or trailer park for the less politically correct), which led me to think about all of the dangers of Mobile Home (trailer) fires.
I have been to several fires in this community before when I was at 6 Engine and 6 Truck but I have not been on the property in several years, and there is NONE of these in the district I was in out in the West End.
To be honest folks (and most of you know this) there is not a lot to Mobile Homes. They are sturdy enough to “live in” but provide little else in the way of sever weather and fire resistance. I remember one fire in particular in this Mobile Home Community were occupants were reported trapped and search was initiated interior well after the first engine (who stretched a line as well) tried to enter and fell through the floor 3 times they decided to back out and go defensive until the fire could be brought under control.
This is one of those fires were we have to be extremely aggressive in our actions if we want any chance of making a rescue, as the building fails quite early even under minimal fire conditions. I know I talk about masking up in the rig a lot, and while some do and some don’t this is one where it is a MUST. You literally have no time to be doing anything but an initial walk around and then getting inside. If you waste any time other than that you can typically write off interior attack.
Take a look at the video below and think about your department when viewing it. The biggest thing to consider or to notice is that this fire is started with ordinary combustibles, which as we know is rare with home furnishings today, if you do not belive me go to your local Aarons, or Rent A Center and see for yourself (a lot of people in these type of homes lease or rent furniture). So the fire behavior and intensity could be greatly increased. In the video the smoke detector activates at about 1: 20 and look at the fire intensity already. The occupant would then have to get out of bed, evacuate, and then call 911. So lets add another minute to that. Then the dispatcher has to process the call, dispatch it, and you have to get dressed , and get out the door. So lets add 2 more minutes. The you have to get there which depending on your response area could be anywhere from 5-20 (or longer). By the time you arrive what kind of conditions are you going to have? What if it was the middle fo the night? What if it was day time? What if you were depending on water shuttle, or mutual aid?
The facts are that unless we can make a rapid attack in the early stages of the fire the building itself may keep us out of this one. In order to combat this we must become very familiar with our Mobile Home Communities, the available water supply, and our initial operations to them. So get out there and take a ride through your Mobile Home Communities, and do not waste fire alarms, or EMS runs to these places. Take a look around and get a general lay out of the place. If you find one that’s really bad put a hazard message on your CAD system, or mark it in the map book and let the other shifts know.
Do not forget to follow along on twitter @averagejakeff
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!