Close proximity house
By Jared B. Goff
A new construction fad on the east coast
is a concept called “cluster homes” or homes that are built within arms
reach of each other. The purpose of this is due to a shortage of
land and the fact that they have a huge selling rate. This has proven
to be quite a challenge for firefighters which has resulted in large property
||The first step in being prepared for these
incidents is preplanning. This is usually accomplished by driving
your district and looking at construction sites or talking with the job
foreman. Questions like, what is being built here, what type of construction
are you using and are they sprinklered might be good questions to ask.
|If the homes are already built, you really
can’t miss the cluster home concept. This picture is a sample of
some of the construction features and how they present major exposure problems
both vertically and horizontally. Notice the windows facing the home
on the left. These homes were zoned to be townhouses, yet, they are
sold as single family homes. They are still considered to be town
homes because they are actually connected through a wooden breezeway.
These homes are three stories, not sprinklered and are 5 feet apart.
Hopefully, you won’t have to experience
the wrath of 4-5 houses fully involved. But if you do, here are a
few critical points gathered from lessons learned:
Not establishing a water supply is not an
option! The point of this is to ensure that the first due engine-company
knows that the water is coming in order to effect your first blitz.
If a house is well involved, the first line(s)
must be concentrated on the exposures. This can be accomplished through
one line on each side of the house. This is one of the most difficult
tasks for firefighters. This is essentially asking firefighters to
write of the building. Keeping in mind our basic priorities “RECEO”,
we may determine that no life can be saved.
The third “line” can be the deck gun to “darken”
down the fire in the house of origin. Once the house is darkened
down, the two lines can take over for a defensive or offensive attack.
This is why the water supply is vital!
Additional water supplies need to be established
and proper Tower Ladder placement is imperative in case the rest of the
One very effective tactic that you could use
in this instance is a forward blitz attack. This is where the first
due engine stops in front of the house, one firefighter pulls the supply
line and the other firefighter pulls the 2 ½ inch hose and disconnects
it from the unit. The engine driver will then drive to the closest
hydrant, start water and hook up to a hydrant. The firefighters,
in the mean time, will hook the supply line and the attack line together
and call for water. This gives you a handheld master stream which
can be converted to a ground monitor once other companies arrive.
The second due engine should lay out from the hydrant prior to the house,
leaving room for the Tower Ladder.
Close proximity structures have haunted our
Country for hundreds of years. Even though they burned, most of them
were constructed using brick, concrete and steel. Homes today are
built using lightweight wood, glue, and aluminum which has killed firefighters.
It is important to recognize this growing trend and train for the worse.
Our job as firefighters isn’t getting any easier, knowing how to combat
fires in strange buildings such as these can make the difference between
being called a hero or a zero.
Assigning crews to evacuate the exposures
must be a priority. If your staffing allows this, it should be done
on the initial arrival of the first due company.
Assign crews to check those same houses for
any extension into the exposure house from the house of origin.
Be cognizant of collapse! We have one
community where the houses were being built with metal wall studs for a
load bearing wall.
Assign a RIT or RIC even for exterior operations.
If the houses are under construction and there
is no life hazard, consider placing large caliber lines in service first
to affect the greatest knock-down.
More information on cluster homes via Powerpoint
can be sent to you by emailing me at JGOFF@DCVFD.ORG .
Jared B. Goff,
a firefighter since 1992, serves currently as a career firefighter with
a large Fire & Rescue Department in Northern Virginia.
Mr. Goff is a 2003 graduate from the Northern Virginia Community College
with an AA in Fire Science Administration and he is currently working on
his Bachelors at the University of Maryland.
In addition to his career
job he also serves as a Chief Officer with the Dale City Volunteer Fire
Department located just south of Fairfax County. Jared has been with
his volunteer department for just over 10 years where he has served in
capacities that include recruitment, special operations manager and the
Training Division. Mr. Goff is a current member of the RIT committee
which establishes policy, budget and training efforts.
Jared has taught locally
over the years on topics such as incident command, strategy and tactics,
engine and truck operations, technical rescue, communications, rapid intervention
and firefighter survival, health and safety, and lower end management techniques.
He spends a lot of time reading and learning from firefighter fatalities
and developing new techniques.