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Fire attack: Multi-use commercial facility

The one responding rig stood little chance of getting this fire under control; how would you attack this fire?

By Robert Avsec

Editor's note: 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.

This fire incident took place in a combination retail and warehouse occupancy, most likely a farm supply type of business. In reviewing the video you'll notice that the warehouse facility — located on the D Side has already been completely destroyed. 

The first 5 minutes or so of the video is an excellent example of how fire makes progress in taking control of an ordinary construction, that is, masonry walls supporting a roof structure that's likely built with lightweight trusses of steel or wood.

Discussion questions

  • What tactical challenges are presented to the first-alarm personnel on scene?
  • What would be your size-up of the incident? 
  • What information would you communicate with your size-up radio report to your other responding resources?
  • What would be your incident action plan?
  • What are the environmental conservation measures that should be considered under the Incident Priority of Property Conservation?

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.
Kathy Ann Gallagher Kathy Ann Gallagher Sunday, January 26, 2014 10:26:44 AM Defensive is the way to go! Why wasn't mutual aid called? Definitely a surround and drown if you had the water supply. Couldn't find anything in the bio on water supply.
William Roe William Roe Sunday, January 26, 2014 11:04:15 AM Did they have a water supply? , Two hose lines is all I saw putting any kind of water on that fire. How about a ladder truck. Lots of un answered questions.
Roger Look Roger Look Sunday, January 26, 2014 11:07:55 AM this is looking more like a winner roast. with only one truck, a metal building and things blowing up inside and the fumes from the products this is not a good fire to work. people down wind should be moved out of area. there should have been more truck there sooner.
Roger Ringer Roger Ringer Sunday, January 26, 2014 11:39:22 AM Totally defensive. the integrity of the building is zip.
David Everett David Everett Sunday, January 26, 2014 11:39:34 AM Is there any stations close for additional personnel and equipment? Surround and drown, that's about all you could do. If you have a limited water supply, just try to protect surrounding structures if possible....,
Corey Kanable Corey Kanable Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:18:09 PM I'm surprised that a defensive attack was not used. I think the fire may have been able to be cut off with proper sized attack lines, and appliances. Looked like some confusion on what to do also. Not sure when, if any, mutual aid was called, but it didn't look like they were. What type of roof did it have? Maybe ventilation could have helped control the spread, then again, not sure how many ff's were on scene.
Shaun Dumont Shaun Dumont Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:30:55 PM based upon the involvement already, the apparent lack of resources, and the volatile nature of materials inside, they made the best call. If there are no other apparent structures threatened which I do not see, then this isn't even a surround and drown. Its a back away, keep the crowd back, and let it burn. Again they made the right call here to me.
Tony Lohrman Tony Lohrman Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:34:33 PM Based on watching the entire video, you can't second guess the one engine on scene and the tactics used by command. It looks like the entire warehouse had burned and collapsed prior to the video. If mutual aid was available it no doubt was called but had a long response time. I assume there was no sprinkler system to support or else it would have been supported. The main challenges are downwind protection from any fumes and staying out of the collapse zones. No lines smaller than 2 1/2" need to be deployed and if the water can't reach the seat of the fire, the best bet is to let it burn until it collapses and then extinguish it when you can get water on the fire. No sense wasting water on flames and not the actual material burning. We don't have a 360 view but I assume from seeing just the A and D sides that there are no other exposures so I would just stay defensive the entire time and concentrate on damming, diking, and diverting any hazardous runoff from the scene. There are concerns with fertilizer and other toxic substances commonly found in this type of structure. Had this occurred in my area I would have set up several master streams and aerial devices but with the single engine response that this town had, I think they did things correct and not put their personnel in any harm to an already dangerous situation.
Joshua Tichenor Joshua Tichenor Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:39:41 PM Defensive attack doesn't mean not to be aggressive, deck guns and ground monitor could do a lot of Fire fighting thru the Alpha side, if the building that we see is all that is involved, I would love to see the fire from the time the first unit arrived. Deffiently a Hazmat, and water runoff should be contained from getting into water ways to protect what's left of the environment. This would be atleast a 3 alarm fire in my dept. Big fire Big water.
Richard Speakman Richard Speakman Sunday, January 26, 2014 2:19:17 PM First off engine is to close fire tactics is risk management save lifes protect property, they can attack this from the other side thats other risk whats burning the color of the smoke is not good
Richard Speakman Richard Speakman Sunday, January 26, 2014 2:20:10 PM Set up the monitor try cooling the fire
Barry V Keaveny Barry V Keaveny Sunday, January 26, 2014 2:42:52 PM that there should have bee 3 alarm with master streams. How long has it been burning before the first unit showed up?
Keith Kohring Keith Kohring Sunday, January 26, 2014 5:43:57 PM Defensive attack as they did. Obviously it was self-ventilated by the time they had arrived. Two small hand-lines was all I saw... I would have probably set up two larger hand-lines and maybe a master stream of some sort - depends on the capacity of the water supply. At best, try some transitional attack tactics in some windows to try to control spread a little, but obviously personnel was a big issue. They did well with what they had.
Catherine Hamilton Catherine Hamilton Sunday, January 26, 2014 8:44:59 PM tyvm but pls less commentary pls. lol but yeh very sad when it's family business. so ok and did ''FLASH OVER '' occur??
Gary Hove Gary Hove Sunday, January 26, 2014 10:16:53 PM Tony, you hit the nail right on the head. I am the white hat you see with the SCBA slung over my shoulder and incident commander. Thought I would chime in on the conversation to give you all some insight on this fire. This video is probably over an hour into the fight. The building was over 90 ft wide and 400 ft long, half was a warehouse that stored everything you could imagine including drums of oil located close to the fire wall that exploded and launched as we attempted to stop the fire at the fire wall. This site has a service garage just off the B side that the wind was pushing hot smoke over it, the C side was a highway that had to be controlled, the D side had fuel pumps and a large bulk fuel site, the A side had a large lumber storage building almost as big as the building you see in the video, also on the AD corner there is a huge fertilizer and chemical storage/distribution facility. This is all one business, one site. On scene there are over 100 spectators that either want to help or just get as close as possible. As part of the first responding units I called for three other departments while on route as I saw the huge smoke column rise. The closes aid is approximately 40-45 minutes away, we are 30 minutes away from this location. On scene for the first 30 minutes there are 8 of us, 2 engine, 2 tankers. To make a bad situation worse one of the engines suffers a major breakdown and is out, I mean is totally dead. On scene there is one hydrant but it will not supply enough water to run the 1000 gpm deck gun. On route from mutual aid is 1 engine and 3 tankers, 2 EMS units, and police on route, I also have a private water hauler coming and that's all available help. As I arrived on scene flames are over 100 ft high and the warehouse is totally involved and self venting out of the roof, there is a fire wall in the middle of the building that separates the store from the warehouse, that has a large crack running the entire length about 10 ft up, there is a man door on one side and a large overhead door on the other side. Fire has spread to the store side in the upper offices, the only way to access is go in the store that is wide open, travel approximately 150 ft to a set of stairs that are 15 ft high then back towards the fire wall another 120 ft to the offices on fire. I know I was in the building to size it up. Or use the upper window accessible from the outside. So, what did I do?? Defensive operation, The engine set lines to start cooling the fire wall 2.5 inch lines, a hand line through a upper window puts out the upper office fire spread, one tanker sets up lines to protect the garage station because if I don't it's gone very soon as well. Portable water tanks are set up and water shuttle starts hauling with 1 tanker for now. Block the road and protect people on site. We did go in and take out the main computer in the initial attack for the manager. During the fight the wind would shift blowing the wind back and forth to the A, B and C side. Mutual aid was on site at the time of the video and did a great job helping with the effort, the fire wall had collapsed on the A side of the building and the fire raged into the store side and with the wood constructed walls and trusses it was quickly consumed and collapsed. The hand lines you see we're used to try to fight the fire in the store through windows but were pulled back to safe zones in case of collapse. In the video the truck is being repositioned to be out of any danger of collapse and was a better location with the wind changing. The only building lost was the main store all other building were saved, in total there were 22 firefighters involved including myself and no injuries. I am not here to defend the effort, those there know what went down and the risks we faced that day. My hope is give you information to take back and discuss. Thanks brothers and sisters for commenting and stay safe.
Wayne E. Hendrix Wayne E. Hendrix Monday, January 27, 2014 5:50:49 AM DISCLAIMER - This statement is made based on my particular county and response SOP's and Time of response for mutual aid. We are a small community volunteer fire dept with county hazmat support and since we have a bordering county Mutual aid agreement with the next county. Primary Tactical Challenges - Hazmat, ammunition and the fact it's fully involved and collapsing. Size up - fully involved hazmat and collapsing EXTERIOR ATTACK ONLY. Arrival Radio Report - E-2 on scene fully involved metal commercial structure with flames showing in all windows facade and through the roof and the building is partially collapsed. Respond second alarm, HAZ-MAT team and 2 additional tankers for exterior attack only. also alert all responding crews this is and exterior attack only NO ONE IS AUTHORIZED TO ENTER THE BUILDING. Action Plan - Surround and drown, stay clear of the downwind side protect exposures and control the run off for hazmat containment. Environment consideration - Contain run off for oil and hydrocarbon spills, ammunition, Pesticides and fertilizers, etc. Surround and drown and save as much as possible for the investigators and hazmat team to work with and investigate. I would also set up and run a co-command with the hazmat commander to make sure we are not hampering his operations related to the hazmat.
Scott Green Scott Green Monday, January 27, 2014 1:31:59 PM thanks gary well said was thinking the same things a day to remeber no one hurt and we all went home safe at some point
Joey Shadrick Joey Shadrick Friday, May 23, 2014 3:15:01 PM Let it burn and protect any exposures. Big sign on the front says Co-op and that means possible chemicals. The runoff from that could be more damaging than just losing an insured building.
Larry Gunter Larry Gunter Friday, May 23, 2014 3:41:13 PM I have been out of the fire service since 1979, after watching this I wish that I was still in BUT I still carrier the title of FIREFIGHTER in my soul.
Tony Lohrman Tony Lohrman Friday, May 23, 2014 4:00:13 PM Gary basic firefighting should not matter no matter where your located. You identify the critical factors and strategy then just perform the tactics you have available to you to carry out that strategy
Sean Lowry Sean Lowry Friday, May 23, 2014 5:58:13 PM I would start with a fire ground pace...
Barry Lentin Barry Lentin Friday, May 23, 2014 11:33:20 PM excuses excuses dont shift the blame to other factors
Dan Lucak Dan Lucak Saturday, May 24, 2014 4:05:27 AM Evacuate down wind and let it go, easier clean up and no runoff of chemicals. If there is no life hazard, and no exposure, what are you saving by putting water on it.
Andrew Jordan Andrew Jordan Saturday, May 24, 2014 9:24:17 AM i am unfamiliar with this type of company so id have to do a little research on it and find out what this company is and what they manufacture before acting on this fire until i got that information it would be strictly exterior operations and more than likley id have a deck gun set up on side a) front of the building and one 2/12 on side c and another on side d
Angel Alonso Jr. Angel Alonso Jr. Saturday, May 24, 2014 12:20:18 PM first engine company - set lines and open front. ladle truck set up and hit roof asap. 2-engine enter on b side to attack the fire if possible...don't waste time water cannon to front windows. or like shown let it burn and not save it.....

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