One of my favorite things to do when we are second due to a really good fire is going to the floor above. The floor above is one of the most dangerous places to be at a job. It has the chances of being very hot and be total lights out. But it’s an extremely important position to have a crew at.
If it’s the most dangerous for us, it’s even worse for the civilians. We need to be there for them.
Because of the danger involved, certain things need to be done to lessen any potential problems. An engine company with a line should be with you. Hidden extension has caused numerous LODD’s with Black Sunday being a very public one. Before going to the floor above, it’s also important to let the truck company below you know you’re going up; good communication with the first due units is key. Once above, it’s pivotal to know your escape routes. Whether its out windows to ground ladders or fire escapes, or forcing numerous doors into other apartments to have a place of refuge. If there is a situation where you get in before an engine company to stretch a line with you, you can still be above the fire. Just know you need to make a more purposeful search. You might not want to go as deep and keep close to the interior stairs. Of course, on reports of people trapped, this goes out the window and we do everything possible to get to them.
When above, its also important to start checking for any extension as soon as possible. Obviously, it’s smart to start in the room directly above the fire. Pull baseboards and check the ceiling to make sure the fire isn’t in the walls or above you. If fire is found and there is no line with you, you must stop and wait for a line before you open up too much more. Opening up without a line can have the potential to cause the fire to blow down on you, especially if fire is found in the ceiling or cockloft above you. With knowing where to open up on a wall, it’s sometimes as simple as feeling the wall with your hands. If the walls feel warm, except for residual heat, then open it up. Chances are fire is there. Of course a thermal imaging camera can aid in this.
The floor above is dangerous. It is hot, smokey, and chances are it’s going to kick your ass a bit. It’s everything we wanted to be in when we signed up for this job. Be smart about your movements and actions, and the danger drops significantly. Excellent communication between the first due units and your members is imperative to keep the threat in check. If you can’t be first due and get a piece of that, sometimes the floor above proves to be better, and you could get even better fire than the first due units.
– Authored by an anonymous Lieutenant in a Big City.