Company Discussion: Vacant Building

Vacant or not vacant: To go or not to go?

Vacant or not vacant: To go or not to go?

Recent discussions about vacant buildings and how we should handle them led me to post this scenario.

I have my own opinion on vacant buildings which I will post later.  But, the discussion can get heated, depending on who you are talking with.

It seems most chiefs are of the opinion that vacant buildings are write-offs and company officers and firefighters want to aggressively attack these buildings and perform search and rescue if conditions permit.

Without further delay, let’s move on to the scenario.

You have arrived on the scene of this fire and it has been reported vacant.  It is winter and cold outside.  It is just outside of town, about 2 minutes from the city limits.

There are no hydrants but you have adequate personnel and apparatus to begin operations with approximately 4000 gallons on the initial response.

What are your initial actions and how do you approach a vacant house?  Why do you what you choose and what conditions were considered?

Remember, everyone has an opinion and we can all learn valuable lessons from everyone.  Also, this was an actual fire I was on.  So, I can fill you in on how we did in a few days.

Let’s hear it all and stay safe.


  • I understand both sides of the argument. I think it greatly depends on the building. It’s something that the company officer is going to have to “read” at every single fire. From the photo that you posted with this post I’d say go in on this one.

  • Truckie says:

    I agree with firefighter/paramedic, do quick search for vagrants if safe to, look for holes in floor, meth labs. small fire go in, anything bigger then a quick knock down pull out & go defensive. NO vacant house is worth a LODD.

  • Boldy says:

    Greatings, Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.

  • JD says:

    No building is vacant until the FD says it is vacant.You cant trust PD,neighbors,bystanders and sometimes not even the home owners themselves.My reasoning is that well meaning good samaritans and/or firefighters might be nearby.Say, for example ,me being a FF,come upon a neighbors houseon fire,I know they have kids or are elderly etc.The family might have made it out the front door,and told PD everyone is out, but I may have tried to help and come in the back door for a search and became overcome by smoke.If a practical search isnt done no one will find a body until overhaul is complete.Pass this idea around.

  • saç ekimi says:

    This can also be done with a TFT blitzfire or another deck gun using 2 and a half or 3 inch for defensive or unmanned monitors with relative ease.

  • Yes I have knowledge about this subject but I think the information is not fully updated with current information about you enlighten us if you have friends

  • JS says:

    No house is worth an LODD. Vacant or Not! It’s the people that are potentially inside that are worth the risk for an LODD.  Property can be replaced, lives cannot. Using sensible fire ground tactics and knowledge will increase the chances of everybody going home and the end of the call.  Accountability is key in all fires.  Johnny the cowboy fireman has no place on the scene of a fire. If there is someone in your department who would enter the rear of a structure on his own to do a search before the initial company arrives this person needs to sit down for a long talking to.  This is a simple rule that needs to be followed by everybody. Vacant structures pose much risk to us as firefights. There is a difference between Vacant and unoccupied.  A structure can only be considered unoccupied after it had be cleared with a primary and secondary search.  If conditions and information warrant a quick search then do so. However if the structure is comprised or heavy fire is showing on the arrival then companies should act accordingly.  As firefighters our job is to protect life and property we do this day in and day out with keeping out safety in mind fire.  Fire’s primary job is to destroy everything that gets in its way. Fire is constantly growing and converting solid and liquids to gas to reach its full potential.  It travels with many friends all of which are deadly to us.  Having the big picture of what’s going on at a "vacant building" and using the training and experience you have as a firefighter will help you make smart fire ground decisions just like you may make on a "standard" house fire. Competence and confident fire ground officers will made sound decision giving the edge on something that has already taking the lead on us. Incompetent and unconfident fire ground officers will fall behind and play catch up for the next 5 hours of the call increasing the risk of killing their self or a fellow firefighter.  Know your district and know you’re cliental. Avoid blanket policies. Every incident is different and requires different actions. Stay Safe and Keep Training!

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