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Video: Limited-access building poses threat to fire crews

In buildings with additional fortification, it’s critical for crews to utilize forcible entry skills to establish sufficient entry and exit points

Securing our homes, places of business and private facilities is critical to our safety. But some commercial, industrial or mercantile-style buildings have significant fortification to detract potential intruders. Any structure of this type will pose a danger when responding to a fire due to the nature of the building, the construction methods and materials, and the contents inside.

In today’s video, crews respond to a fire in one of these types of buildings with limited access. With the fire raging on the inside of the building, it needs to be extinguished from the inside, which presents a major issue for all responding crews.

Gaining and creating access/egress points

With most interior attacks, gaining access to a structure can be accomplished fairly quickly, allowing attack lines/crews to make entry, locate and extinguish the fire. However, in buildings with limited access, gaining entry to the building is going to occupy a fair bit of time. Often only one or two openings are available for crews to enter, and getting out of the structure becomes a major issue. Essentially, crews entering are stuck/dedicated to the same way they came in, to get out.

Limited access and egress points can lead to a not-so-desirable outcome and crews should work to open the building so that there are several ways to enter and exit. These multiple access points are not only for the interior crews to enter the building, but also for the RIT crews, should they be called upon.

Skill prep for limited access structures

Firefighters should also be familiar with the techniques and skills needed to force entry and create openings in this type of building. The fortification of doors, windows, gates and fencing are commonly associated with these structures and will require different tools and skills to gain access and/or defeat the fortification device.

Prepanning will not be possible with these types of buildings due to the nature of the occupancy, leaving crews in the dark ahead of an incident. Unfortunately, the building’s contents will be a surprise, as will the fuel load, the amount of fuel, the fuel’s location, the segmenting of the building interior, and other factors.

Training time

After watching this video and reading this news story with your company, prepare for these types of structures by taking these training steps:

1. Tour your response district and make note of any buildings of this type, along with any fortification that can be seen from the outside

2. Review and train on the skills and techniques needed to gain access into these types of buildings.

Stay safe!

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.