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FARS vs. Elevators:
The Choice Is Obvious
Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

By Captain Mike Gagliano, Seattle Fire Department
          Any firefighter who has experienced fire in buildings of multiple stories understands the challenges of getting equipment to upper floors. Fire departments devote significant time and resources to developing strategies that can answer the daunting challenges posed by buildings with floors beyond the reach of ladders, and with variables that make time an even greater enemy than it already is at typical fires.
          At every fire, one thing remains the same: firefighters need air and water to affect a successful outcome. Many other tools are important, but these two are essential. All the truckies in the world, with chainsaws revving and halligans swinging, will simply turn the building into a parking lot if water is not quickly and efficiently brought into the firefight. All the water in the world will be no more than a surround and drown if firefighters are not supplied with the necessary air to engage an interior attack   and sustain that effort until the fire is extinguished. We can argue about a lot of things in our profession, but this is not open for debate: We need air and water.
          Getting these two critical elements to upper floors, along with the rest of the stuff we need, has always been a challenge. The problem of water delivery was solved through water standpipes, fire pumps and sprinkler systems. These are in place in most buildings where upper floor access is difficult, and should be mandated in all of them.
          Until recently, fast, reliable, safe air delivery remained a more difficult problem to solve. The development of firefighter air replenishment systems (FARS) provides a solid answer. FARS has even become a part of the 2015 ICC International Fire Code with the addition of Appendix L. These systems should also be mandated in every building that presents challenging access issues, whether due to height or overall size of the structure. These include mid- and high-rise buildings, large "big box" style structures and tunnels.  The reality is that firefighters are going to go into these structures when they catch fire and fulfill their calling to the citizens. That is not an item that is open to serious debate among professional firefighters.  In return, we should expect that those putting these huge structures into our communities provide the necessary systems for us to handle the inevitable emergencies that will occur. FARS is the obvious answer to the problem of delivering air when and where we need it.

High-Rise Challenges: Tips for Determining Floor Layout
By Mike Gagliano
Captain, Seattle Fire Department 

High-rise fires are intense. Everything about them presents a unique set of challenges to firefighters who are not strangers to being challenged. One aspect that gets lost at times is layout of fire floors and how different and confusing they can be; especially when you add in fire, smoke, urgency and challenging access.
Fortunately, there a few things firefighters can do to lessen the impact of fire floor layout in high-rise fires. Some are done well before the fire starts, others during the operation. All are well within your ability to accomplish and would be a great addition to your toolbox and strategic/tactical planning.

Building Inspections
One of the best ways to start the floor layout knowledge base is during one of our least favorite activities. I find the dullness and drudgery of routine building inspections to be far more useful when done as more of a pre-fire than merely casting about for violations. It is very easy to start running through various scenarios with your crews, as you inspect a building, and that includes floorplans and layout. 

Bizarre Jobs and Lessons Learned
By Anthony Avillo
Deputy Chief, North Hudson, NJ Regional Fire & Rescue (ret.)

Sometimes the most bizarre jobs present the best lessons. One fire in particular, which we referred to as "The Dog Bone Fire," was a master class in the challenges of fighting fire in a large warehouse structure. We learned a lot about managing building contents and materials, hazard assessment, cold smoke issues, darkness, air management, ventilation, command and control, and more.

Here's how The Dog Bone Fire unfolded.  We responded to a water flow alarm at about 2:30 a.m. in near zero degree temperatures. The building was located in the industrial section of North Bergen, NJ on the extreme west side of the region. It was a very large footprint one-story Class II non-combustible warehouse. I was a Battalion Chief at the time and first-arriving along with Squad 1. We were met by a lazy but moderately heavy smoke condition issuing from somewhere on the interior of the warehouse section. This warehouse was owned by a corporation that manufactured pet food and products. Using a lifeline and a thermal imaging camera,
FARS Advocate   Ronny J. Coleman On
Closing The Gap In Firefighter Safety

Concerns over firefighter safety are no longer casual conversations. Increasingly, the emphasis on firefighter safety is moving from an afterthought to the forefront of everything from tactical to strategic decision-making processes. It is becoming part of the priority dialogue with fire marshals and fire protection engineers because they are the ones who are creating the environment in which firefighters are being asked to perform. Modern building technology now produces structures that are more complex than ever before and it is incumbent upon us as fire service members to come to consensus on what building technologies and practices are undeniably necessary for the life safety of firefighters in today’s world.

This consideration is altogether timely and appropriate because the death of firefighters at the scene of a fire is an industrial accident in a classical sense of the word. The fire ground is our workplace. As IAFF leader Sean DeCrane has stated publicly, “A fire station is the staging area for us.”
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