Question: I work for a medium-to-large department on the East Coast. Im relatively new to this department but not new to the fire service and its tactics. Our department is considered to be an aggressive interior-attack department as most should be. But in the short time that Ive worked here, Ive learned that as a general rule, we dont put people on the roof. What! When I ask when was the last time they vertically ventilated at a fire, I heard, Oh, about two years ago, but that was only because the building had no windows. The feedback that I hear is that fire venting from a window is equally effective and much less dangerous than cutting a hole in the roof. I also hear that its much easier to just take the beating and put the fire out rather than wait for crews to open up. Mr. Brennan, am I crazy in thinking that this kind of mindset is flawed and can result in injuries to firefighters and trapped civilians (maybe even more so than the act of putting firefighters on the roof) . . . not to mention fire spread when dealing with common attics and cocklofts? What happened to the importance of Venting for Fire and Venting for Life? Do I work for a department that needs to be influenced to change or am I completely wrong in my own opinions? Im still relatively young in the fire service (five years) but take advantage of nearly every day and try to learn something new by reading books and articles from the heavy hitters from this industry (yourself included). Im a firm believer that, even though I havent yet experienced all there is to experience on the job, there is a wealth of information that can be learned by listening to those who have already had these experiences. Thank you for sharing with us what youve learned over the years. I look forward to hearing from you.
Answer: I don't know why there should be any dilemma in your department over the vertical-ventilation issue. You are in a department that has been in "business" for a long time, for sure, and is in one of the largest cities in the state. If the facts as you relate them are true, then your department members and its direction are dead wrong! Except for peak-roof platform construction, private dwelling vertical ventilation is a must for any interior firefight within a building in which there is a significant and spreading fire condition. (That is as clinical as I can put it). Open any peak roof with a skylight in it. Open any Victorian or Queen Anne roof at the highest peak. Open any flat roof. Cut any roof that has fire just below it (in one-story buildings and top-floor fires). Tell all those who think contrary that they should leave the flue of the fireplace at home in a shut position and just open the front door of their home for air after they start a fire in the firebox. That is just as dumb as not opening a roof assembly of a building on fire. What happens to all the occupancies in a four-story apartment house with four apartments per floor and fire in the first floor and out the door into the stair shaft? Have fun with that one at drill. It is my experience that when you find an attitude like the one you expound or any other equally as strange, it is out of the mouth of those that don't go to fires or expect to burn down all that they respond to. I remember someone in your state saying that he was proud to run a department with the record for the least glass breakage per structure fire. Whew!
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Write if you agree or dont agree or on anything. Tbrennan@firenuggets.com