Friday, March 16, 2012

San Jose Firefighter Survives Roof Collapse

Truck 14 firefighter pulls himself from the hole in the roof
A San Jose Firefighter is undergoing treatment for burns to his hands and waist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center today after falling through a hole in the roof while conducting topside ventilation at a 4th alarm fire in an occupied 2 story apartment complex on March 15th.

The firefighter fell through the roof and hung up on the ceiling joists keeping him from falling all the way through to the apartment below.  A fellow firefighter was able to assist him safely from the roof.

Take the time to discuss ventilation operations in light of this near miss. 

Some things to ponder:

Topside ventilation is one of the most dangerous operations on the fire ground.  There are a number of possible disadvantages of vertical ventilation:
  • Structural collapse, disorientation, and falls from the roof
  • Topside ventilation takes time to perform and is sometimes impractical based upon response capabilities - not everybody has a truck company in the barn with them 
  • Some roofs are difficult to breach
  • Vertical ventilation is personnel intensive
  • Topside ventilation must be carefully coordinated with fire suppression efforts 

The injured firefighter is assisted to an aerial ladder by a fellow firefighter

Prior to making any opening in a fire involved structure, the IC or firefighter must consider the following:
  • Burn time - be skeptical before going up - favor a longer burn time as opposed to shorter
  • What are we accomplishing by venting - do we need to vent here?
  • What is the location of the fire?
  • Where are the victims located?
  • Where are interior crews operating?

Have pre-designated escape routes
LCES for roof operations:
  • L - Lookouts
  • C - Communication
  • E - Escape routes
  • S - Safety zones

Stay safe by staying informed.  Firefighting is an art that we are required to perform without adequate preparation or practice, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, failures, and botches, that are essential to training and developing our skill set.  The fate we discover is often dictated by our level of engagement and preparation.

"It was truly a life threatening situation," San Jose Fire Battalion Chief Robert Sapien said.  He stated that crews who battled the blaze "feel very fortunate" that the firefighter was not more severely injured.

Observe the present and learn from the past.  It all matters.

Additional links:
See garden style apartment fire considerations video from "A Firefighter's Own Worst Enemy."

Fire Engineering podcast on light weight truss construction by John Mittendorf

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