Residential or Commercial Alarm?

Residential or commercial?

Even in this downturn in the economy, there are still very large homes being built.  In many cases these homes are over 5,000 square feet of total living area.

This creates a significant problem for many fire departments, especially smaller, more rural ones, in regards to tactics.

We are fighting these fires with traditional methods and resources. In many cases it just isn’t enough.  Add to the those issues that these are all built using light-weight construction, we have a recipe for disaster, as we have seen across our country.

Firefighters are falling through floors immediately after entering.  Roofs are collapsing much earlier than before.  Contents are causing fires to burn faster and reach untenable temperatures much earlier in the fire.  The larger area requires the firefighters to search longer and further into a building than in the past.

We need to look at these structures a little differently when confronted with a working fire in them.  Here are some considerations that should not be overlooked on these fires:

1. Your going to need more water, get it rolling fast.

2. A 360 is a must. You don’t know what you might have on the back side. 4 stories, victims hanging out windows, location of the fire, etc.

3. A larger line. It may be very prudent to pull a 2 1/2 as your first line of attack.

4. More manpower may be needed due to the multiple functions needed because of the size.  You may treat this alarm like a commercial alarm.

5. Search lines. In these very large homes, it is not out of the question to use a search line.

These are the primary items that you can’t discount. You may need to think differently on these larger home fires to have a positive outcome. I have seen departments burn these houses down because they were using tactics for an 1100 square foot building on a 5500 square foot house.

With the open floor plans and the light weight building materials, fire develops very fast in these homes. Anticipate that and plan for it. Adjust and have back up plans.  Never be afraid to regroup to get it right.

Feel free to add to the concerns, I encourage you to contribute. After all, that is what makes this so much fun.

Stay safe and stay low. Don’t forget to hydrate all day in this heat. Carry around some water and sip on it all day.


  • Larry Jenkins, Captain Retired says:

    I have been on several of these and here is what I found.Heavy HV/AC units in the large open attics above. If the fire is in the attic, don’t enter through the front door. This is a large open area ready to collapse. Enter through the upper floor windows by ground ladders. There is better compartmentation, which will lessen the collapse. If the fire is large don’t enter at all. I would be hesitant to pull a 2 1/2″ line. It is very difficult to manuver. Two 1 3/4″ deliver more than gpm that a single 2 1/2″. Use a leaderline, pull to the front door and leave the gated wye at the doorway. The next company can hook into it there. These houses have more than one stairway leading to upper floors. There may be one in the kitchen leading to servents quarters. I have found swimming pools in the basement. Use a marking system on interior doors when searching, many rooms lead to another and can get confusing. These houses may have commeriacl utilities. I have seen two seperate electric services entering the structure. They will have multible panel boxes. Expect large number of occupants. The 1st one I ran we have fire in three rooms. The house was hosting a wedding and I had several hundred occupants trying to get in their cars to leave as we were trying to get in. they blocked the hydrant with cars. The street was narrow. I also had about 20 occupants in the house trying to remove items. Accountibility is not easy and with numerous entryways it is difficult in keeping occupants out. Good luck and stay safe.

    • dc802 says:

      Thanks for the valuable input. You make some very important points that we all can learn from. Thanks for visiting and for commenting.
      Take care,

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Treat this a commercial structure. Extra alarms and go big with the line, get the help quick, this is a problem child from start to finish!

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