This video is an oldie but a goody, and unless you have been under a rock somewhere I am sure you have seen it.
As anyone who has ever been in a rip snorting attic fire (especially on the nozzle) you know that a hole in the roof, or venting of the gable ends of the house can offer a lot of relief and allow you to stick it out longer and put a hit on a fire that could cause a house to become a total loss.
However as this video shows operating above the fire (either the floor above, or on the roof) can be extremely dangerous and precautions need to be taken in order to allow for relative safe, efficient, and effective fire ground operations. Here are some things to consider when thinking about going to the roof.
1. Size up: This is a no brainer, every firefighter on every scene needs to be constantly looking at the building and the fire conditions. These are the factors that allow us to do out job. It does not matter if 1,000 people are trapped, if the building is compromised, or the fire is to advanced we can not make entry, and as the old story goes if you’re not going to put firemen in it, you should not put them ON IT!
2. What are you venting?: Roof ventilation in a lot of areas has become a thing of the past (well unless you are in LA). The reason for this is 2 things Staffing, and attic construction. First a lot of companies are running with 3 person rigs. The time it takes for the driver to ladder the building, start the saw, climb up, and get the hole cut will not be fats enough to assist the engine in making the push. I argue that I can gain more by having that driver horizontally vent (windows or gable ends if we are talking attic fires) and have a more coordinated effort with the engine rather than waiting for the driver to go to the roof. Secondly, going to the roof to vent more than an attic space has become virtually impossible. Think about your attic, I know mine is PACKED full of old toys, clothes, decorations, etc. not to mention the solid floors that allow me to store all of that. I am sure my attic is not much different from most others out there. The point is there is no way you can vent the room below the attic through all of that, so unless you are venting the attic itself its better to take the windows.
3. PPE: Some will argue that you do not need to be on air while venting a roof, I look at this video of an example of why you not only need all of you gear but SCBA on air as well. 1 breath in that fully involved attic and your done. Fire is unpredictable, sure we always try to make the best decisions based on our experience and training, but bottom line is we really do not know what fire is going to do, that’s why we must always maintain our MAXIMUM protection level when operating in and above the fire. Do not sacrifice your safety for your comfort!
One last thing to consider, if you still feel that venting the roof is the way you want to go, then I suggest the aerial ladder vent. This can be done from the tip, or bucket/basket/platform of either a straight stick or tower. While this may take a little longer it will keep you off of the roof structure and allow for less fatigue (if it’s a tower you can ride and it will ride your tools up as well). If you get good enough with it I have seen firemen just run the saw up to max RPM, put it in the roofing material and let the guy running the basket controls move the basket to make the cuts.
Leave some feedback in the comments section about what you are doing in your department when it comes to venting roofs. As always thanks for reading, spread the word about the blog, and STAY SAFE!