Saturday, March 24, 2012


Intense search training keeps us incident ready.
So much of what we're willing to extend (risk) depends upon how much we are willing to put into our training (effort) in the form of sweat equity and mental preparation.  Brian Brush (The Fire Service Warrior) authors a nice article "You Will Search" on the responsibility we bear to perform a prompt and thorough search to fulfill our obligation to the public and - equally important - to each other. 

Hard work and preparation allows us to normalize risk.  Search is a top fire ground priority, not a luxury.

Think about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

San Jose Firefighter Update

Knowing how to remove heated turnout gear is essential to limiting injuries
A San Jose firefighter who fell through a roof last week during vertical ventilation operations was injured more severely than initially reported.  Early reports were that the firefighter received burns to his hands and would not require surgery. It was determined late last week that he will require skin grafts to repair the damage to his hands.  The firefighter also sustained burns to his abdomen.

On Sunday two Modesto firefighters (members of The Firefighter’s Burn Institute) who survived of a roof collapse spent time with the injured firefighter at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The Modesto firefighters were in the area for a presentation for local firefighters on the near-miss that they experienced while conducting top-side ventilation on a single family dwelling in January, 2010.  

In addition to reviewing safety for top-side ventilation, this incident illustrates the importance of knowing how to remove heated turnout gear from an injured firefighter. Remember the following steps when attempting to remove super-heated structural turnout gear from an injured firefighter. This is just one method, the goal is careful removal of the turnout gear without compression or water application:
  1. Loosen SCBA shoulder straps and unbuckle the waist strap.
  2. Open the storm flap and unclasp hooks.
  3. Open the coat, rolling it and the SCBA over the shoulders and off the arms.
  4. Remove gloves and finish removing the coat.
  5. Unclasp the pants, remove the suspenders allowing the pants to fall.
  6. Roll the pants over the boots and assist in removal.
* If the firefighter is unconscious the goal is the same, though it will be more difficult to perform the skill.  Practice methods for both conscious and unconscious firefighters. Be sure to practice this skill while wearing structure gloves as the injured firefighter's heated gear - especially metal clasps and buckles - can cause burn injuries to those trying to help. 

We wish the injured San Jose firefighter a speedy recovery.

See: Firefighter Burn Injuries - Fire Engineering; April, 2010

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