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Lessons Learned

Well we had a fire yesterday!!!!!!!!!! (2nd one of the cycle). For the first one I was on the nozzle, but this one I was the acting officer in charge of the Engine Co.

First a little background: We were just finishing lunch when the FRAP (Fire Rescue Alerting Procedure) went off. The next sound “beep beep” indicating a multi company response so everyone jumped up from the table and began to make their way to the apparatus floor, then the dispatcher started in “Engine 6, Engine 3, Engine 18, Truck 6, Truck 10, and Battalion Chief 2 Respond for the commercial fire at the intersection of Laburnum Ave, and Williamsburg Rd”. My first thoughts were ok that’s a big intersection with a lot of “commercial occuapncies”. I marked en route and then viewed the MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) for any additional information. The MDT read that the believed the fire was coming from the Goodyear Tire dealership. Then the location changed to “Cigarette World”. Now while these occupancies are in the same vicinity they are on opposite sides of the 4 lane Williamsburg rd. So devising a water supply plan was difficult to say the least.

As we approach the intersection I noticed a large column of smoke over to my right. My driver noticed it as well and made the turn onto Williamsburg without me having to say so. As we approached I then saw the occupancy that was on fire a (what I thought had been shut down) Chinese restaurant now known as “Asian Buffet”. The building is a single story strip mall with exposure occupancies on sides B and D. At this point with the time of day and occupancy type I requested a 2nd alarm.

As we continued to approach I instructed my driver to grab the hydrant at the corner of Williamsburg and Finlay. I notified the 2nd engine (Engine 3) to pick up our line and due to the length of our lay and the occupancy type to “pump to us”. I instructed the driver to lay the supply line to the rear. I did this for a couple of reasons. 1. The strip mall occupancy had a common cockloft and I have seen in the past what happens when fires get into these common spaces and start to run. Typically the only thing that puts them out is a large-caliber master stream from a ladder company, seeing fire coming from the rear roof area on approach I didn’t want to take up any space in the front and leave it all for the ladder company. 2. The occupancy has an overhang and a parapet, and I don’t like stretching lines under those. There have been a lot of documented cases of close calls and collapses especially when fire is already in the roof structure. Again seeing fire coming from the rear roof area I thought stretching under these hazards would be to much of a risk with very little reward.

As we layed to the rear and got a closer look I could see that fire and smoke was coming out of what appread to be “vents” from the roof. I marked on scene with ” Radio Engine 6 is on scene with a large commercial occupancy with fire showing from the roof, establishing Williamsburg Rd Command”. I instructed the firefighter to stretch a 2 1/2 inch hand line while I performed a more in-depth size up. The occupants advised that the “wok was on fire”. As I looked up again I though there was more than a “wok” on fire.

The Ladder company crew radioed to me that they were evacuating all of the adjacent occupancies and reported minimal smoke conditions in the adjacent occupancies. The Fire Medic crew then came up to me and I had them begin forcible entry on the fire occupancy and the adjacent occupancies, while this was going on I had the firefighter from my engine hit the visible fire from the exterior, and had Engine 3’s crew set up an RIT (Rapid Intervention Team). I also advised the 2nd alarm companies to take up a staging location across Williamsburg rd. and have the first officer take control of staging. Once the door was forced the firefighter and I advanced the 2 1/2 interior and were met with very little smoke, minimal fire in and above the hood system, and a very very slippery floor. If not for a very well placed food preparation station a lot of us would surely have fallen. The firefighter began working the line and we were joined by the truck crew who began to check for extension. Finally the Battalion Chief arrived and assumed command (The department was hosting a leadership seminar and a lot of units were far away or out of service). I advised him of what we had and what our progress was and that we needed to get a company to the roof to assess extension above the metal roof decking which was in tact but charred.

Sure enough when companies went to the roof they found the foam insulation in between the metal roof decking and the membrane had been burned and was extremely hot. This is where the real work fo the fire was for about the next hour and a half and engine, and 2 truck companies opened up this roof with saws, hooks, and axes to remove the foam insulation. While they were doing this I was in rehab giving my account to the FMO (Fire Marshals Office) units about what I saw and were so that they could do their investigation. At this point several Chiefs, Captains, etc. were coming up to me telling me “good job”. Then my Battalion turned command back over to me for the overhaul and take up process.

So while things went well I think there is always things we can take away from every fire that can make us better.

Lessons Learned: 1. I didn’t call a “Working Fire”. While I think 2nd alarm and “Fire through the roof” speak for themselves, it is still our policy to declare a fire “working” or not. This definitely met the criteria and I didn’t do it.

2. I missed some bench marks. Granted the occupancies were mostly evacuated and the Truck Company took care of those who were not but no one radioed that the primary was complete and what the status of it was.

3. I didn’t get companies into the adjacent occupancies fast enough. I am a big proponent of “flank and flood” tactics when it comes to strip malls. This requires companies getting lines into the adjacent occupancies and companies assessing the cock loft effectively cutting the fire spread off. Granted I didn’t have the companies on scene at the time to do it, and command was taken from me before I had the chance to do it, and the truck company had reported conditions from the other occupancies, if the fire had gotten past us it would have been bad and companies would have been needed or aerial master stream. On a positive note my driver knew I was thinking this and he set up 2 leader lines one at each occupancy door ready for when we did have companies to hook up to them and stretch in.

4. It takes a lot of finesse and know how to know when to pull the trigger for an additional alarm. I have still been debating with myself on whether or not I called it to early. A lot of my peer feedback thinks it was appropriate given the occupancy, type of day, and the out of service companies. I knew once I saw what we had we had 2 alarms worth of work to do, but not 2 alarms worth of fire to fight, so that’s why I elected to put those companies in staging. I didn’t want them to impregnate my scene while I was still setting it up, or as my Captain says “you don’t want to call artillery on yourself”.

http://www.mapquest.com/maps?name=Asian+Buffet&city=Richmond&state=VA&address=4734+Finlay+St&zipcode=23231&country=US&latitude=37.519174&longitude=-77.352305&geocode=ADDRESS&id=2873193 Here is the map of were the fire was if you look at the star its the blue roof buildings to the right. If you scroll up the map you will see how close the fire station is to the call. I hope this enhances your reading and learning.

Well that’s it, all in all it was a great day to be a fireman. I do want to say thanks to Bony, Lights Out, Rude Boy, B-Rad, El Guapo, Rampage, Newman, and all the other fireman and companies who came to the fire. The reason it was a success was because of them. Bohdi (that’s me) loves all of you guys.

Remember to make everyday a training day, and to get out in your district and get in the buildings in your district. Along with a great crew this was another key to success at this fire.

What are some lessons learned at your recent fires, or calls in general? Share them in the comments section and as always spread the word about the blog to your friends.

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