There are three ways in which a masonry exterior building wall may collapse. The wall may fall straight out in a monolithic piece at a 90-degree angle, in a manner similar to a falling tree; the wall may crumble straight down in a so-called "curtain" fall collapse; or the wall may collapse in an inward / outward fashion, with the top falling inward and the bottom outward.
At fires where the officer in command suspects an explosion or other factor to cause a wall to collapse out into the street for a distance greater than the
height of the wall, a chief or fire officer should keep his men away from the front wall of the fire building altogether, positioning heavy-caliber streams in a
flanking position: that is, on either side of the front wall beyond the outer perimeter of the building's width.
If it is absolutely necessary to operate a master stream inside a collapse zone, and the wall appears unsafe, the portable deluge nozzle or aerial stream should
be secured to direct the stream effectively and safely, and then left unattended.
Vincent Dunn is a retired FDNY Deputy Chief. For more tactical advice and tips, go to Vincentdunn.com. For lecture information, call 1-800-231-3388.
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