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Reality Training
by Reality Training

Truck repair shop: How would you attack this fire?

Factor environmental considerations into planning a defensive attack on a fully involved light industrial structure

By Robert Avsec

This feature is intended to spark the sharing of ideas, information and techniques to make firefighters safer and more effective. The following video and discussion points must not be used to berate, belittle or criticize those firefighters. Rather, in the spirit of near-miss reporting, please use this feature as another teaching tool to help you better do your job. Please leave your comments below and use this material in your own department. I hope you find this Reality Training valuable; stay safe and keep learning.

The arrival of firefighting forces at a well-involved commercial structure fire is a low-frequency, high-risk operation for many departments for several reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Officers and firefighters do not have much experience managing such incidents.
  • Departmental staffing, even when supplemented by mutual-aid companies, is inadequate.
  • The water supply infrastructure may not be capable of delivering adequate water to the scene.
  • Changes in a building's occupancy, fuel load and fuel arrangement occur over time.

Frequently, the incident commander determines that defensive is the appropriate mode of operations based upon their size-up of the building, the fire, and their available resources. This decision also comes with some unique challenges.

  • Personnel lack experience in the safe, effective and efficient implementation of a defensive strategy.
  • Lack of sufficient types of apparatus and equipment may hinder the ability to deliver sufficient fire flows from the necessary attack points.
  • Large volumes of water flow create a significant run-off of contaminated water from the structure that must be managed.

Watch the following video that involved a truck and trailer repair facility. Use the discussion points to review this incident with your personnel to increase their knowledge of such incidents.

Discussion questions

  • What are the risk to firefighters and the civilian population presented by the smoke from this fire?
  • How would you manage those risks?
  • What are the hazard presented by the contaminated water run-off resulting from the large volume of water being delivered to this fire?
  • How would you manage that risk?
  • What are the key operational and safety aspects of conducting a safe, effective and efficient defensive operation for this fire?

What are the pros and cons of: (1) letting the fire burn to reduce the contaminated water run-off hazard — thereby reducing the risk to the environment or public sewer system, or (2) extinguishing the fire to reduce the production of the contaminated smoke — thereby reducing the downwind population to the hazards of the smoke?




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