Attacking the McMansion fire

Single-family houses the size of small hotels require their own set of operating procedures


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 "McMansion." You know, the multi-story, single-family dwelling that looks more like a New England bed and breakfast than it does a home for a husband, wife, two children and a dog. 

In addition to a greater total square footage than their smaller cousins, these mega-homes also have these traits.

  • They are often custom designed, which means firefighters can encounter any type of individual floor layout.
  • They are often built in outlying areas and have long driveways that can present access challenges for apparatus operators.
  • There's usually not much room around the house once apparatus makes it down the drive.
  • They have more fuel loading in both the structure and its contents.

Fires involving a "McMansion" present some unique tactical challenges for responding firefighters and officers. Department leaders would be wise to develop a standard operating guide to address this type of occupancy because this is not your father’s house fire — tactically speaking, of course.

This video starts approximately 30 minutes into the event where lightning has struck the dwelling and ignited a fire in the attic.

Discussion questions

  • How would you describe the initial conditions that faced the first arriving fire company? 
  • What were the initial and ongoing scene-safety risks that required management by the incident commanders?
  • How would you characterize the efficiency and effectiveness of the fire steam application? 
  • What fire stream improvements, if any, would you make as the incident commander?
  • What is the fire flow necessary to extinguish this fire?
  • How would you characterize the ability to deliver such a fire flow through rural water supply operations?
  • As incident commander, what is your incident action plan for mitigating this fire, and what resources will be needed to implement your plan?

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