Thursday, May 14

15 — 16:45 

The occupied vacant

Fires in vacant buildings are dangerous jobs that have resulted in the death and serious injuries of many firefighters across the country. Vacant buildings were always thought of as an inner-city problem, but we are now seeing many vacant and abandoned residential and commercial properties in suburban and metropolitan areas.

Many of these buildings are abandoned, derelict, dilapidated or the scene of prior burns with occupancy and interior conditions unknown. Fire spread, collapse indicators, perimeter dangers, and the damaging effects of thermal exposure and urban mining must be analyzed when reading the building.

Some major concerns when arriving to a burning vacant structure are life hazards, exposures, collapse, and forcible entry of security barriers

Many vacant buildings are illegally occupied with squatters, vagrants, drug users and vandals. Fires with entrapment in these dangerous buildings will require some unorthodox tactics to increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Accomplishing that while ensuring firefighter safety, gaining entry to fortified properties, and locating any victims inside will be a major challenge.

First arriving officers must make it a priority to note the major on-approach size-up indicators that the building is giving you to help with critical decision making. If there’s entrapment, there’s very limited time if any to attempt a rescue. A proactive RIT/FAST should be ready to go as soon as entry is made.

Signs of illegal occupancy, stability of the structure, fire conditions, access, and identifying survivable areas of the building will influence decision making and initial actions.

If the building is illegally occupied with credible evidence of entrapment on arrival a rescue attempt must take place whether it’s a methodic cautious attempt in a structurally sound single-family home or a creative unorthodox attempt in a dilapidated commercial building. Accomplishing that while ensuring firefighter safety, gaining entry to fortified properties, and locating any victims inside will be a major challenge. In addition, lack of resources or manpower and unknown hazards waiting inside will add difficulty to the task.  

Some major concerns when arriving to a burning vacant structure are life hazards, exposures, collapse, and forcible entry of security barriers. There are many unknown interior dangers waiting inside for advancing firefighters such as holes in the floors, drug needles, hoarding conditions, blocked secondary egress routes, and vertical fire spread to name a few. Firefighters must be prepared and aware of the difficult challenges when arriving to a fire with entrapment in these buildings. There is no “one size fits all” strategy for these jobs and critical decision making must be made quickly.  

First arriving officers must make it a priority to note the major on-approach size-up indicators that the building is giving you to help with urgent critical decision making. Most derelict structures have long reflex times and if there’s entrapment, there’s very limited time if any to attempt a rescue. A proactive RIT/FAST should be ready to go as soon as entry is made.

There are many signs of illegal occupancy present when arriving to a burning vacant. This information will influence decision making and strategy and tactics.

Firefighters must understand the effects of thermal exposure, urban mining, neglect, and its impact on vacant and abandoned structures. This cannot be ignored as it contributes to fire spread, accelerated collapse, open vertical shafts, and other interior dangers. 

Conducting relevant size-ups, operating multiple saws, quick CHASE (collapse hazard and stability evaluation) reports and recognition of interior dangers combined with aggressive and safe searches for trapped illegal occupants are keys to successful operations.

Cost: Free

INSTRUCTOR:  Brian Butler is a 23-year veteran of the fire service and is a captain for the Trenton (N.J.) Fire Department. He works on Engine 16 and ladder 7. He speaks at numerous state and local conferences, seminars, NJ WhatExit FOOLS, creator or the Transportation Machinery program,  FDIC (Rapid Transit Emergencies) MAFFC 2019, Makin the Stretch, Fire Rescue Conf South Carolina, Southside Fire Conference VA, Firehouse Expo, Firehouse World, NJ Fire Conference, creator of #AfiremanWalksIntoAbar series.

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