What Do You See?

I am a big fan of companies getting out and scoping out their response area. Just when you think you have seen it all, something catches your eye that you missed the other 100 times you passed it by.  We all know what I am talking about.

Look at the picture above. As a fire service leader, what do you see?  What have you learned from your years of experience and training about these types of buildings?

What is of significance?

What is of significance that you see right away but the new guy might not have a clue about?

As an officer that will be making the initial decisions on this building you have a great responsibility to know as much about this structure as you can.  It will certainly help you to make the best possible decision about your tactics.

Take the time to sit with your crews and look at the features of this building. What type of construction is it?  What type of occupancy is it?  Why are both so important?  It just might mean the difference of saving the occupants and yourself.

Stay safe and be careful.


  • Ron Ayotte says:

    At this stage.. it is a “vertical lumberyard”.

    I see a lightweight wood frame multi-family apartment or condominium building. Hopefully, the local codes and/or orinances will require residential sprinklers and a master box fire alarm system

  • Nate Q. says:

    Vertical lumberyard…nice 🙂

    I like to call it teenage kindling.

    I agree and also see a lightweight wood MFD. In my area, they attempt to build these as cheaply as possible, while still looking nice when finished. Most likely sheathed roof/walls with OSB, LW wood roof trusses, limited access/egress to 2nd floor, and poorly insulated/protected void spaces. Some of the units in the complex may or may not be sprinkled, and although there will likely be an alarm system, many of the residents will disable the smoke alarms (various reasons).

  • Jason says:

    Just to give some thoughts about where I was going with this; the stairs and landings are wood and will remain wood. Unless a local jurisdiction amends the building code, there are no requirements for non-combustible materials. The same goes for the decks, which are at floor level on the second floor.

    What you need to consider is that if a fire happens, each unit only has one exit and the second floor combustible landing is the only exit for the upstairs. So, your first course of action may need to be to throw some ladders and check for trapped occupants before you every pull a line. Of course, this is all incumbent upon the first arriving officer knowing the area, the building, and making the “first” right decision.

    Everybody is right with the comments and everybody sees different things. The fire barriers are important and the attic is draft protected. FYI, per the IBC any attic area 3000 square feet for over must have draft stopping or spinkler, most draft stop if the rest of the building is not sprinklered. Hope this helps.

  • Marques Bush says:

    Not familiar with codes so I guess I better get with it.

  • Pete M says:

    I see a 2 story residential complex with common wall and roof void. Full timber constrcuction wrapped in themal insulation foil. Stud framed walls are braced by plywood sheets. Single point of unprotected access/egress stair to each upeer level accommodation. Stairs are exposed to affect of fire from underneath. The stairs may be painted with oil based preservative treatment, adding fuel??? From the photos I can’t make out (indentify) any thermal break or fire compartmentation to seperate the occupancies, horizontilly or vertically. Access to the front may be suitable but the length of the structure raises questions about access to the rear to protect exposures and contain during operations.

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