Here is a video that I filmed about a year ago on a 3 alarm apartment fire, it was a long process but I was finally able to get approval to release it publicly. This is footage from the perspective of the first due Truck Co’s outside team. It was made into a training video that was used for a department wide training and discussion video to talk about the good and the bad from my actions. By no means do I think this is a perfect performance, but I do think it is valuable and provides good footage of a fire that was almost a textbook example of when VES can be utilized. Take a look and see what you think. It is filmed in HD, so if you watch it on YouTube you can make it full screen.
The fire was very close to our firehouse, less than a 2 minute response. We had no signs of a header on the way to the complex and besides the multiple caller updates from dispatch, we had nothing indicating that this fire was so far ahead of us. Dispatch updated us that we had reports of a party trapped on the first floor.(Verbally told on scene that people were in the 2nd floor) Engine 8 and Truck 8 arrived together. Engine 8 made the decsion to bypass the plug on the way in because of the density of this driveway and complex, along with the fact that is was across the street and would have shutdown all incoming units. This was due to walking this complex numerous times and having a plan ahead of time, Engine 7 also arrives very quickly into this area and only delays a good water supply for a short amount of time. The red 3″ you see being pulled off of E8 is a from a static bed and is what we use for apartment lays, they attached a 2 1/2 shoulder load to the end of this 3″ supply. Truck 8 backed into the complex to give us better access with the aerial if needed, there’s a large amount of overhead lines in this area of the complex.
Truck 8 is a crew of 4 and splits into two person teams, and Irons team and a Ladders teams. Irons handled the front side utilizing conventional searches through the front door of the most threatened units. 6 units were involved on the front side and had completely burned away the stairs on the front. After taking a look at the front side while my driver packed up, we determined Vent Enter Search from the backside would get us inside searching the quickest. The T8 ladders team is who went to the backside to perform this. A few reasons I think VES applies to a fire like this.
- We had numerous reports over the radio and verbally on scene that people were trapped in the fire units
-This fire was at 7pm, for a fire to grow this rapidly during a very busy time around this complex and be that far ahead of us when we are only two minutes away indicated to me that this fire spread very rapidly and cut off the main egress for 6 units.
-Fire attack will be slightly delayed. Searches in the fire units could not be done without a good knockdown, the engine had to perform an apartment lay and put a 2 1/2 into operation. Searches from the front would have been extremely delayed.
-Fire involvement and damage to the stairs. Most of the stairs had been burnt out which also would have delayed searches from the front.
-Occupants will go opposite of the fire. If people were in these units then our best chance would be to find them hanging out of windows on the backside, or unconscious in the back rooms where they were trying to shelter themselves from the fire.
-Heavy attic involvement. We had a large amount of fire extending through the attic. VES gave us short quick searches and kept us close to egress points if something was to change.
We made the move to the backside and determined the upper floor end three units were the most threatened. We started our searches there, the first window had the door closed and was only smoky. This room was cleared fairly quickly. We then broke the window on the first floor below and we could see the room was clear of occupants underneath the smoke. The next window on the second floor was charged heavily with smoke and had the door open. My driver was able to make it in and close the door, then continue his search. This was a children’s room that had a bunk bed and signs of maybe up to three kids living in this room. The third room also had the door open, it was smoky and hot, the door was open and had some rollover extending from the living room. Door was controlled and the room was searched, this was the adults bedroom of the same unit. This room had a playschool car inside that was being used as a childs crib for a infant. No occupants were found in this fire.
The Good points:
- We were able to give the citizens their best chance by utilizing VES on the side of the building with the most survivable space.
- The engine made a great knockdown by choosing the appropriate line. This protected the VES crew, prevented us from burning the attic off, and prevented the second building from becoming completely involved.
- Aggressive forcible entry and search allowed the Irons team to search 8 apartments in a very short amount of time
-Vertical ventilation by Truck 1 was done ahead of the fire units and was well placed to prevent extension through the common attic.
-Using the 24′ extension ladder when doing multiple windows helps you adjust to the changing grade of the backside.
The Bad Points
- When the first window was broken I should have been ready to immediately make entry. My thought process was to evaluate if we could even make entry due to the amount of fire involvement and attic involvement. I still should have been ready and I could have been faster.
- We broke the next window and searched it visually. This was to save time and move to the next most threatened upper floor unit. We should have taken the extra 20 seconds to jump into that window and control the door to prevent the fire from continuing that way underneath us.
-Blinds should always be torn down before you make entry, in the last window the blinds were melted and soft. They got tangled on my neck and roof hook which delayed me almost a minute inside the zero visibility. This could have been totally prevented.
Overall the video turned out pretty good and I think the first due companies made pretty aggressive good work of this fire. I don’t mind putting myself out there and releasing videos like this because I think they hold a great amount of value to be able to sit down and talk about different things to consider, especially when utilizing a tactic like VES which I truly believe is valuable. VES, Vent Enter Search, VEIS (which is what we are calling it now), whatever your department calls it does not matter. What matters is that you have trained on it realistically, trained on when and where it applies, and have made it an option in your departments tactics. It is highly effective at giving the citizens their best chance for survival. I am always open for discussion and if you have any questions just comment below or email us.