Fire attack: Commercial roof with heavy load

A restaurant with open space, long-span roof supports and a heavy roof load requires different tactics and strategies; how would you tackle this fire?

By Robert Avsec

Fires involving business occupancies serving customers during normal business hours can present several unique challenges to responding firefighters and officers. For one, the exposed population (employees and customers) fluctuates during the day and managers might only have a count for their employees.

Restaurants, in particular, tend to have large open dining areas with roof support structures that have long spans with or without supporting columns. Those occupancies also tend to have heavy loads above those roof-support structures, housing HVAC units, ventilation fans and cooking system exhaust fans. These may be hidden from street-level view by parapet walls, or more commonly today, wood-framed and metal-clad facades.

In this video the occupancy is a cafeteria-style restaurant and the fire has originated during business hours. The weather conditions are as they appear in the video.

Discussion questions

  • Using the seven fundamental steps of firefighting, describe your strategies and tactics for size up, call for help, rescue, exposures, locate and confine the fire, extinguish the fire, overhaul, ventilation, and salvage.
  • What is your evaluation of the tactical operations taking place in the video?
  • What adjustments, if any, would you make if you were assuming command of this incident?
  • What does the roof profile look like for this structure?
  • Are there special tactical considerations necessary based on the roof profile?

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