Taking command: Fast-food restaurant fire

Given their head start and building construction style, fast-food restaurant fires are dangerous; here are six firefighter safety questions


Fires in fast-food restaurants have been the setting for too many firefighter deaths and injuries over the years. Fire officers and firefighters alike need to be well versed in the building construction characteristics and fire behavior common to these occupancies.

In many cases, fires in these types of occupancies have several common factors that can contribute to an increased risk to firefighters during suppression operations.

These fires often originate after normal business hours and after staff has left the building, typically between midnight and 4 a.m. The fires are frequently reported by passers-by. Both of these factors contribute to an extended burn time proceeding firefighters' arrival.

These occupancies are constructed with lightweight trusses that span large areas (the dining area) and which are prone to early failure from fire impingement. These lightweight trusses are no longer solely constructed using metal; many of these structures now have lightweight wood trusses holding up the roof.

Those lightweight trusses are supporting not only the weight of the roof assembly, but also heavy HVAC units and commercial ventilator fans that service the kitchen. False parapet walls shield this equipment from the public's and the responding firefighters' veiw (particularly in the poor light of the early morning hours).

Discussion questions

  • What are the risks to firefighters presented by the fire in the occupancy and how you would manage them?
  • What would be your mode of operation for the scenario in the video?
  • What factors in your size-up led you to make that decision?
  • How you would use the incident command system to manage this operation?
  • Observe the firefighters who continue to operate small-caliber hoselines from the exterior even as several elevated master streams are put into operation. Would their actions be congruent with your mode of operation and how would you manage that risk?
  • Do you see any unmanaged firefighter safety risks, and if so, what would you do about it?
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