Firefighting

HIDDEN HAZARDS OF HOUSE FIRES

Issue 11 and Volume 156.

BY JERRY KNAPP AND WILLIAM LEE We tend to think of homes as safe places, and they generally are until a serious fire develops in them. Then, even the safest home can become a deathtrap for firefighters. Construction characteristics—balloon, lightweight, or truss—have built-in hazards with which we are all familiar. The electricity, gas, fuel oil, or propane used to heat the homes pose obvious hazards. Hazardous materials, gasoline for lawn mowers, propane for the gas grill, powder for sporting firearms—things we use safely every day—become firefighter killers in the basement and garage under a fire load. A house may not contain the large quantities of hazardous materials or large-scale hazards an industrial occupancy may have, but a routine house fire usually pre-sents more than enough smaller-scale hazards that can injure or kill firefighters. At industrial occupancies, we have a mindset that expects high hazards, so we prepare for them. We…

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