Firehouse

JAN 2017

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AIR MANAGEMENT l Firehouse l A5 AIR MANAGEMENT essential loads—not water, firefighters or heavy snow. We also know that the size of the buildings lends itself to be likely the most difficult search for any firefighter, incident commander (IC) and even the largest fire department. These buildings are routinely occupied 24 hours a day and may have hundreds of employees or shoppers who can quickly become victims. These structures should be in every agency's preplans, their training plans and especially their response plans, because when the incident occurs, the challenges can be incredibly difficult to overcome. Successfully extinguishing a fire in a big box structure will take an enormous amount of resources. One critical piece to the success of an offensive operation with a big box structure is the ability to sustain fire- fighters' air within the work cycle—a feat that is challenging to accomplish when the majority of air is expended during travel time into the vast struc- ture. To change the incident's outcome in favor of a safe and successful out- come, we must have SCBA air available to firefighters close to the work and available in the case of a disaster. Fire- fighters running out of air in big box structure fires are a predictable event as history demonstrates. With this in mind, let's review two big box incidents so as to never repeat these tragedies again. Southwest Supermarket Fire — Phoenix, AZ LODD: Firefighter Bret Tarver On March 14, 2001, the Phoenix Fire Department (PFD) received a call for a debris fire behind a hardware store. The fire was small, so the second clos- est neighborhood fire company was sent initially, as the closest was com- mitted to another call. A nearby battal- ion chief noticed a growing amount of smoke from the area of the dispatched address, and based on intuition, placed himself in the incident and added three additional companies to assist. The closest engine (Engine 14) ended up clearing the previous call and added itself to the incident. The battal- ion chief ordered Engine 14's company to enter the businesses that backed up to the growing debris fire. They were directed to evacuate occupants and determine if fire had spread to the inside of these businesses, specifically a large big box structure known as the Southwest Supermarket. When Engine 14 entered the super- market, they reported light smoke at the ceiling of the large building. The smoke was misleading and coaxed them farther into the vast maze of the super- market. As they moved through the building, they found heavier heat and smoke near a storage area. Eventually, a hoseline was extended to the storage area, and water was applied to the fire. As time on air by the company increased, visibility in the building was rapidly deteriorating and described as being near zero. PFD Engine 14 Fire- fighter Bret Tarver told his supervisor that he was running low on air and needed to exit. The crew subsequently gathered together and began to follow the hoseline out to the exterior. During the process of following the hoseline, Firefighter Tarver became dis- oriented and separated from his crew. He called for assistance as the fire was viewed from the exterior as rapidly increasing in the supermarket. Mul- tiple layers of leadership heard Tarver's requests for help, and RICs were sent with extra breathing air equipment to search for Firefighter Tarver. The attempts were unsuccessful, and the supermarket became fully involved. Firefighters re-entered the struc- ture from a different location, locating Tarver and painstakingly moving him into the main storage room. The engi- neer and senior firefighter from Engine 6 repositioned Firefighter Tarver and were able to remove him from the main storage room. They were relieved by a series of other crews that moved Fire- fighter Tarver, with great difficulty, to the south exit of the supermarket stor- age room. Tarver was transported to the hos- pital where he was pronounced dead. On March 14, 2001, Phoenix Firefighter Bret Tarver died while battling a fire at the Southwest Supermarket. Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Fire Department

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