Term Paper: Fire Hazards of Trusses: Sample

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[. . .] The remaining crews helped to release them from under the debris. It took them a while to realize that somebody had been trapped. Both were excavated at third degree burning. It took more than 20 minutes to finally rescue them both that the victims were suffering heavy burns and seemed to lost protection from their fire costumes.

Another church fire happened in Arkansas on December 28, 2001, injured four firefighters in the similar entrapment case, according to the report of The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). At 7.28 in early morning, the team arrived at the scene. The Chief followed the incident command, as he began calling the hydrant position and requesting the center for backup.

Two minutes afterwards, a firefighter started to head a preconnect from Engine 4 then moved to the double doors. The incident command ordered an active suppression action towards the fire; however, the team was not required to move too far into the building. Backup came not long afterwards, at 7:34 A.M. with Engine 5.

Three personnel joined the team, along with the captain and another firefighter from previous Air Service Unit. One move was made. All of them started to break into the classroom, without realizing the crackling structure had arisen further than expected.

A powerful combustion had eaten the halfway of the ceiling of the classroom, destroying the northeast corner. When the four crews had made their way through, the whole ceiling of the classroom finally collapsed, enveloping them inside the gulfing fire, blocking their way out.

Shocked and suddenly injured, the firefighters moved away, working hard to find another escape. One firefighter happened to lie beside a wall. He sensed a diverse part of the wall and then covered in helmet, knocked the wall with his head, trying to make a passage to the next room. The other fellows were trying to clear up the room. Hit after hit, he finally located a window. The injured captain helped the other three to move out through the window. The other one had successfully found a door, and followed his friends out of the building.

Possible Attempts for Under-Trusses Firefighting

The most common situation found on the trusses collapse cases are the firefighters entrapped under the debris, causing respiratory damage and significant burns on their body. This is a logical situation, when firefighters are trapped under heavy smoke and burning rubble, their condition devastates rapidly. While they are trying to find the way out, often the inappropriate face piece and costumes, aggravated by the smoke put them down.

Brannigan (2001) suggested the importance to treat attic or roof fire with different approach. Tower ladder might help, only when they are directed exactly to the fire after passage made through the windows or when "roof is open." In other situation, it may only reach the floor, where movement is forced to the roof without knowing the level of fire. Sometimes it is better to just let the roof go.

NIOSH then established the rules that require firefighters to identify the location, whether from preliminary examination or through eyewitness accounts. Suppression under trusses roof is certainly a high-risk operation, therefore firefighters should be able to determine the material and structure of the trusses, as well as the time it has been exposed to fire. NIOSH also advised that standard operation should be encouraged to avoid any similar accident in the fire case. Some relevant issues that NIOSH had encouraged include:

Fire command with close accountability for all personnel at the scene

Incident command should conduct an initial evaluation of the building before starting fire suppression operation; and such evaluation should continue to measure the risk during the fire-fighting process.

Standard operation manual is a must for every member of the crew. This means that firefighters understand how to examine the fire level of lightweight trusses, and wear any trustworthy protection like heat proof costumes, proper helmet and face piece, which would not break under heavy hit, or at least keep them from injuries.

A solid teamwork would ascertain the safety of the whole team. The Incident Command, as the head of the operation should be able to manage the team, and of course, has the capability in reading the situation and recommend the safest way for the team to perform the suppression. A rapid search-and-rescue must be available to prevent sudden collapse. It is required that firefighters retreat from the location as soon as roof begins to burn, and the Incident Command needs to be aware to expect when it would do so.

Poor radio communication and incident command management could delay the evacuation process where seconds could mean a life for the victims. NIOSH suggested that the radios used are made from fire resistant materials, which do not melt away in the heat, or cause transmission interference.


A&R Truss Company. Mar 2001. Frequently Asked Questions About Roof Trusses. A&R Truss Company. November 20, 2002. http://www.artruss.com/faqroof.htm

Brannigan, Francis. Brannigan on Building Construction. Dec, 2001. Know Your Enemy #17. Firehouse.com. November 20, 2002. http://www.firehouse.com/brannigan/2001/0712.html

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Blueprint for Safety Glossary. 2001. Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. November 20, 2002. http://www.blueprintforsafety.org/bluepages/glossary.html.

National Fire Protection Association. 2002. Truss Collapse. NFPA Homepage. November 20, 2002. http://www.nfpa.org/Research/FireInvestigation/AlertBulletins/TrussCollapse/TrussCollapse.asp

Parow, Jack. Jun 2002. Reinforced theories. Fire Chief. November 20, 2002. http://firechief.com/ar/firefighting_reinforced_theories/

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Dec 2001. Roof Collapse Injures Four Career Fire Fighters at a Church Fire-Arkansas. November 20, 2002. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/firehome.html.

United States Fire Administration. Wood Truss Roof Collapse Claims Two Firefighters Memphis, Tennessee. 1992. Technical Report Series. Federal Emergency Management Agency United States Fire Administration National Fire Data Center. November 20, 2002. http://www.interfire.org/res_file/pdf/Tr-069.pdf

Other chief officers who understood the message managed to pass on the information to the incident commander. Direct communication failed.

National Fire Protection Association. 2002. Truss Collapse. http://www.nfpa.org/Research/FireInvestigation/AlertBulletins/TrussCollapse/TrussCollapse.asp burglar was suspected to start the fire after breaking in, and using flammable liquid to intensify the burn.

United States Fire Administration. Technical Report Series. 1992. http://www.interfire.org/res_file/pdf/Tr-069.pdf

Also reported in the Memphis Fire (United States Fire Administration, 1992).

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (2001).

Both Chesapeake and Memphis cases underwent this situation when incident command failed to recognize critical condition when parts of the crews disappeared and happened to be trapped under the collapse. They relied on the radio communication, which possibly damaged in the heat. [END OF PREVIEW]

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