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Reality Training
by Reality Training

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

By Robert Avsec

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?

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Randy Knapp Randy Knapp Tuesday, July 22, 2014 11:28:00 AM I would say go defensive and protect exposures since the fire is showing on roof support beams are weakened and roof could collapse so that is my answer.
Chuck Hoover Chuck Hoover Tuesday, July 22, 2014 1:57:53 PM Need to do 360 but looks like a defensive fire from the get go. Might try and save the Delta side if you can but the rest is gone..
Matt Barwick Matt Barwick Saturday, July 26, 2014 10:32:14 AM As the first due officer on the fire in the video, we made an interior attack about 15 feet in alpha side. Inspection hole in the drop ceiling revealed full involvement in the ceiling so we went defensive at that point. We kept the hand lines in service defensive until the aerial master streams were in place. Water supply also played an important factor here. Closest hydrantsupplied around 900 GPM. Next water source was 2100 feet away.
Jared Rouse Jared Rouse Saturday, July 26, 2014 11:46:50 AM Well as the firefighter on the first arriving engine at that fire I will answer your questions. Yes it was early morning however cooks arrive well before the restaurant opens so we could not 100% rule out the presence of victims. Secondly with just three firefighters we put one 1.75 and a 2.5 smoothbore in operation on the interior immediately upon arrival. Structural collapse was in the forefront of our minds, believe me I have read the LODD reports on restaraunt fires. We made our attack and after pulling ceiling discovered heavy involvement. We placed our streams on the fire in the ceiling but even with the 2.5 no progress was being made, we discussed pulling out and this was reaffirmed by our engine chauffeur radioing to command and advising the roof was sagging. We backed out pulled exterior soffett attempting to spray water into the ceiling but our streams were ineffective, all this while mutual aid aerial devices were being set up and water supply issues worked out. Completely writing this structure off a strictly defensive upon arrival is well in my opinion irresponsible. The family that owns the structure was present almost immediately after our arrival and there were questions of possible occupancy. Once again you don't have the whole picture here so it's strictly conjecture on anyone's part who wasn't there. Thankfully no civilians were injured and all firefighters went home after the shift was over.
Mike Ribbing Mike Ribbing Saturday, July 26, 2014 4:48:00 PM Another thing to think about is insurance will probably write the whole building off, even if structure is saved
Cafsfiresafety Darren Cafsfiresafety Darren Sunday, July 27, 2014 11:23:41 AM After 10 minutes of flowing 900gpm you've added 76,500 pounds of water to the attic..10% of which actually puts fire out..I would be worried about structural collapse too..Nitrogen filled CAFS not only expands your water supplied..but is 30 times more affective at putting the fire 10 times lighter.. Easier to handle(protecting F/F's from injury) effectively covering fire with a wet blanket..causing less damage and preserving fire scene for investigation...just sayin' .. ..Don't fight fires..extinguish them
Jim Kitchens Jim Kitchens Sunday, July 27, 2014 4:35:02 PM no offensive and defensive at the same time please

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