JAN 2017

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A4 l Firehouse l AIR MANAGEMENT AIR MANAGEMENT A ny current or future fire service profes- sional should passion- ately study our history and take measures to learn from it. If we ignore the tragedies in history, we will be destined to repeat them and, unfortunately, we already have, over and over again. That statement is challenging for me to write, but pragmatism is unquestion- ably a trait many people in the fire ser- vice share. We survive by finding simple solutions to complex situations and are known for having a "can-do" culture, sometimes even against all the odds. The concepts of fire service culture and learning from our past are impor- tant when considering our response to large horizontal structures, also known as "big box" fires. In the case of inno- vative solutions to surviving predict- able outcomes, our can-do culture is extremely beneficial, particularly when combined with technology that makes our jobs easier—and safer. To illustrate some of the challenges we face on the fireground, as well as the impact of technological innovations, we need to review two important cases where firefighters were tragically lost in big box incidents. Why focus on big box incidents? Big box occupancies can be found in nearly every small and large community in the United States. The structures are routinely Type II construction where the walls and roofs are commonly con- structed of non-combustible materi- als. The structural walls are typically reinforced masonry or tilt-wall, and the roofs are flat with metal structural members and many different types of decking, such as foam, membrane or even solid lightweight concrete slab. Because big box stores are a con- temporary building type, most are con- structed with requirements that man- date fire suppression systems and other life safety requirements for the public. Fire codes are often designed to protect the public and the firefighter, but in the case of firefighter safety and big box fires, we can do much better. We know that placing firefighters on the roofs of these buildings is inher- ently dangerous due to the premature failure of metal roofs when exposed to heat. Moreover, the vast spans of big box roofing systems are designed for Air Management in Big Box Structures The size of the big box stores lends itself to be likely the most difficult search for any firefighter. Photo (this page) by Tod Sudmeier; Cover photo by Glenn Duda By Brian Schaeffer

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