Firefighter safety: Restaurant fire attack

Modern ordinary construction presents several risks to firefighters; find the teachable moments in this video and join the discussion


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.

Fires in commercial occupancies in ordinary construction present unique firefighting challenges, mainly because the bread-and-butter fire for most departments is a single- or multi-family dwelling in wood-frame construction.

Ordinary construction used to be pretty straightforward: masonry walls supporting a tar and gravel over steel bar joist roof. In 2014, ordinary construction is anything but ordinary. Today, firefighters can expect to see those same masonry walls supporting:

  • Lightweight, open-web metal roof trusses.
  • Parallel cord wood roof trusses.
  • Plywood I-beam roof supports.
  • Metal-clad facades and false parapet walls that conceal from street-level view the massive HVAC units that are located on the roof.

These building features make it more difficult to access fires from the exterior and present a significant roof-collapse risk after only a short period of fire exposure to roof system components.

Discussion questions

  1. What would your incident action plan entail for this fire according to your size-up? 
  2. How do the tactical actions of the fire officers and firefighters in the video compare to your plan and what corrective actions, if any, would you take as the incident commander?
  3. You've been appointed as the safety officer for this incident. What safety issues would your assessment reveal?
  4. Do you see any tactical actions that are so unsafe as to warrant a "stop action immediately" order from you, the safety officer? 
  5. What recommendations would you make to the incident commander for the resolution of the safety issues you've identified?

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