14. September 2012 08:25
Your company responds to a fire in a one story, single family residential structure. It is a ranch style structure. The time is 6:00 am on a Sunday morning. While responding, you hear the first arriving officer report that there is fire coming from a bedroom window on the B-C corner of the house with smoke also coming from the open front door.
When you arrive, the incident commander directs your officer to perform a primary search of the structure. Other companies have been directed to ventilate the structure and to do an interior attack on the fire.
What other operations, if any, must be coordinated with your primary search?
Answer: There are several other operations that must be conducted nearly simultaneously with the beginning of the primary search. Of course, it may be necessary to force entry into the structure. In this case it appears the front door is open and that is the most appropriate point to enter the structure. Also, ventilation must occur prior to entering the structure to reduce the heat and improve visibility. Finally, fire attack will also begin immediately following ventilation. Your search team may actually follow the attack team into the structure.
What fire conditions can be expected inside the structure?
Answer: It is apparent from the conditions observed outside of the structure that at least the bedroom is involved in fire. Smoke is moving throughout the structure as evidenced by the smoke coming from the open front door. The quantity of fire and smoke indicates that the fire is intense which means it is going to be hot. Also, the fire may have extended to other rooms and areas. In this type of scenario it is crucial that you maintain situational awareness - both individually and as a team. Even after ventilation has been completed fire conditions may remain extreme until the fire is extinguished. Flashover may be possible in other rooms until the hot smoke and gases have been ventilated and the fire is extinguished.
How should the primary search be conducted?
Answer: The primary search is a rapid but thorough search of the house. The search should begin in an area most likely to have someone needing rescue. At this time of day that would be the bedroom area. The search would start with the bedrooms closest to the room of origin and then work away from the fire area. If the fire is controlled quickly, the primary search may actually begin in that room. During the search common hiding places should be checked. As a room is searched the door should be marked indicating the primary search has been completed. When the primary search has been completed the officer will give an 'All Clear' to the incident commander.
By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer