Sprinklered Basement Fire – By: Kevin Legacy

I recently responded to a fire as a later arriving company. As we entered the block, the first due companies reported that most of the visible fire had been knocked down by a sprinkler.  Units were mopping up with the line, and reported no extension.  Since we arrived late in the game, we were thinking that there was probably “nothing for us to do here, lets take up”.  The fire was in the basement (laundry room) of a 3 story attached multiple dwelling.  The next report from units in the basement included, “searches will be delayed due to poor visibility”.  The basement laundry room had only one way in and out, via the interior stairs. There were no windows.  Even though the fire was relatively minor, the smoke, steam, and heat were not lifting due to the poor ventilation.  When the IC learned of the conditions, he reminded all members to remain on air until they exited the structure due to high carbon monoxide levels.  When companies reported via radio that the primary search in the basement was negative the IC heard a low air alarm going off in the background.  At this time the IC ordered the first due units out of the structure, and provided a relief unit to replace them to finish up.  The fire concluded without incident.

Even though the above fire was a very small and controlled by the sprinkler system, CO levels remained very high until proper mechanical ventilation was used.

Later arriving units, especially RIT/FAST units, should be prepared for the following:

  • Members going down from removing their face piece too soon due to extremely high CO levels present.
  • Exhausted members: due to the continuing high heat levels from lack of ventilation.
  • Limited access to members operating in the basement.(one way in /out of the basement). Keep the stairs clear.
  • Once the charged hose line is in place and the fire is controlled shut down the sprinkler. The operating sprinkler head will hamper the ventilation process.  



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