Commercial & Industrial Warehouse Fire Considerations – By Nate DeMarse

This drill was previously posted on our old Online Drills page on January 29th, 2010.  We are gradually bringing our old content to the new blog site.

This photo provides a great overview of operations in a commercial-type warehouse. Several points of discussion are present:

- The roll-down gate was able to be raised without defeating it, most likely with this type of door, it was raised by using the chain inside the building. The door must be secured open in case of failure, and since this is a large door for a vehicle, conventional methods are not useful. Here a ladder company has used a 24? portable ladder to assure that the door does not drop down pinching hose lines and trapping members. This is a very simple solution to an often overlooked and very dangerous issue.

- A heavy fire condition in the building with little or no smoke showing from the doorway. This indicates that vertical ventilation is working well, or that the ceilings are of very high and heat and smoke is building up drastically. Communication with members operating on the roof is paramount.

Members must be EXTREMELY AWARE of this build-up. In the photo, visibility is great, even near the fire area. This “false-sense of security” can lure members into trap-like conditions. Once the ceiling reaches the correct temperature, roll-over will occur and fire will rapidly drop down on the members and overwhelm hose lines (in some cases even 2 1/2? hose lines). The only way to guard against this is by communication and awareness. Use thermal imaging cameras (also in the photo) and 2 1/2? attack lines. The reach and “punch” of the stream will darken fire down well in advance of the nozzle team.

- The 10? hook on the right side of the photo is also a must if ceilings must be pulled down. A member in this building with a 6? hook is all but useless. As a rule, I will drop the 6? hook and take a 10? hook at most commercial fires. This will allow me to pull the multiple ceilings typically found in these old buildings. Don’t stop pulling until you’ve reached the roof boards. Sometimes, the 10? hook can be used as a “thermometer” of sorts in the absence of a thermal imaging camera. You can extend the hook into the smoke above you, then lower it and CAREFULLY feel the head of the hook. This may give you an idea of the conditions above you if you cannot “see” them with a TIC. This will keep you from getting too deep, too fast and getting into trouble.

- A search rope is also present on a few members in this photo. Remember to secure the search rope on the EXTERIOR (parking meter, street light, rig, car, etc…) of the building regardless of conditions inside the building as you enter. Although clear in the building presently, if conditions deteriorate, you want the search line to bring you back to the street, NOT 20? inside the door, which is now banked down to the floor and you have to “guess” the rest of the way.

- Water run-off: In this photo there is a single 2 1/2? attack line flowing 250-300 gallons per minute. The trickle of water coming out of the overhead door is not nearly the amount of water being poured into the building. Perhaps it is going to a harmless point in the building, a drain, the basement, out another door due to the natural slope, etc…

What if it is not running off harmlessly? In this case it was being soaked into all of those pallets filled with antique furniture and other combustible and “sponge-like” items. Those items were stacked floor to ceiling, across TWO FLOORS of this 300×300 warehouse. Simple math: 250gpms at 8lbs per gallon = 2,000lbs (or 1 TON) of water per minute PER HOSE LINE! There were at least 8 attack lines on this fire during the offensive stage. That doesn’t even account for the floor load already present.

ALWAYS watch the water run-off. If it is going in, and not coming out it is going somewhere. This is equally important during exterior operations while utilizing master streams. After the bulk of the fire has been knocked down, the tendency is to enter the building to extinguish stubborn pockets of fire. The video below illustrates why that may not be such a good idea if the building is not allowing the water to run-off.

In the video above in Midtown Manhattan serves as a great purpose for watching water run off. D/C Vincent Dunn had command of this fire, and would not allow members to enter the building to extinguish pockets of fire. At :53 seconds, you will see his reasoning.  The early video of the fire, you see no run-off even though several tower ladders throw TONS of water per minute into the building. If you listen to the video, the building was FILLED FLOOR TO CEILING with shoe boxes (excellent sponges).  They flowed water via master streams for ELEVEN hours.  Listen closely to the audio at 1:50 as well. “Engineers” declared this building “structurally stable” 3hrs before the collapse.

Feel free to jump in with any comments or questions.  I also want to extend a warm welcome to the members of the firehouse that are keeping up with the current events of Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.

Have a Safe & Happy New Year!

Nate DeMarse
Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.


  • Charley Cashen says:

    It can't be stressed enough about the amount of smoke showing from a large building. It will fool even the veteran firefighter. Light smoke from this large box means a significant fire is burning within the walls. The illusion of light smoke conditions inside may lead you into a false sense of security because it lends itself to that of overhaul phase. In overhaul the smoke in a house fire is usually dead smoke where the light smoke in a warehouse is most likely still live smoke. This is a deadly combination if you don't recognize the potential hazard. Thanks Nate

  • Wow this post is so awesome its nice post thanks for providing this informaton

  • firetraining says:

    Nice post i read yours whole Post in this there is a lot of valuable information thanks for this

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