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  • Police Response To Structure Fires

    Hey all,

    First of all, *please* don't let this turn into a debate about whether or not police should be entering structure fires. This thread isn't about a police officer's decision to enter a building building, its about what to do after that decision is made.

    Tonight I responded to a structure fire. City PD, 3 story building, 2 apartments per floor. Decision was made by myself and 2 other police officers to enter the building prior to fire dept arrival and to clear the building of possible trapped occupants.

    What can we do to mitigate risk when we decide, as police officers and first on scene, to enter a working building fire?

    Things we did right tonight:
    -No one went in alone We went in as a group of 3.
    -Telling police dispatch that there may still be someone trapped inside the building.
    -Communicate with each other. No one gets left alone.
    -Immediately exit the building upon fire department arrival. Brief FD with intelligence you have.
    -Don't go above the lowest point of the fire.
    -We all stayed low and kept our heads out of the smoke.

    Things I will be doing in the future:
    -Advise police dispatch that specific officers will be checking the building.
    -Closing doors behind us.

    We initially checked the first floor and then moved to the second floors. All apartments were unoccupied. Little smoke on first floor, only about a foot of smoke on the second floor ceiling, Went to check the third floor, smoke coming from underneath door, door is locked, and we turned back. FD arrived about 4 minutes later, pulled a 30 yoa male out of said apartment. Last I knew he was still alive but the doctors don't expect him to survive the night. 3rd degree burns on top half of body with full arrest on scene.

    Looking back, I know I did everything I could, but I still wonder if we could have [relatively] safely checked the third floor and possibly performed a rescue. The bedroom was where the fire was contained to, he was found on the kitchen floor.

    Questions I have:
    -Is there any reading / online training on the dangers of fire?
    -Should we start at the level of the fire and work down, or should we start at the bottom floor and work our way up?
    -When do you stop and turn around? I get that fire is hot and smoke is bad, but is there any specific dangers to watch out for? Is there a good guideline on when it is significantly more dangerous and we should turn around?
    -Anything else we should be doing? Checking doors for heat (I don't even know what I would do differently if I found a door which was hot)?
    -I know what a flash over is but I don't know how it affects me as a first-on-scene police officer? I don't know if there is a chance we would be engulfed had we opened that third floor door? Besides dark, smoky windows, how would we know if there is a danger of a flash over? Are they common? I was concerned that, while kicking apartment doors, I would open one and just be suddenly engulfed with no warning.

    Found an article with some good tips:
    http://www.firefighternation.com/art...olice-officers

    Please, any other comments or suggestions are welcome. Trying to learn from this incident so I can respond better for the next one. This thread might save someone's life.

  • #2
    This is not a direct response to your question and I know it will sound dumb, but I always tried to look out for my guys.

    There was smoke inhalation, albeit minor and you have no idea what was burning and what you inhaled. Even though everyone feels fine, after the event is over, make sure everyone files a Worker's Compensation Report of Injury for smoke inhalation, but mark it "Information Only", meaning it is not to be processed but is to be kept in your personnel file. Each of you makes a copy for your self and stashes it away safely somewhere at home, to be kept until well after you retire. Do this after every inhalation exposure you have during your career.

    Later on down the line if you develop pulmonary issues that require expensive medical treatment or leave you unable to work, you will have documented ongoing cumulative exposures that may have contributed to you condition and can justify a workers compensation claim, payment for medical treatment and disability retirement.
    Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

    Comment


    • #3
      Makes sense L1. Around here it's not uncommon to run into guys with "9/11 related illness". Cops and firemen had to breathe that stuff in, and years later some got sick and were forced out. I guess it's no different at the routine fires
      I make my living on Irish welfare.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ProfessorBlinks View Post
        Hey all,

        First of all, *please* don't let this turn into a debate about whether or not police should be entering structure fires. This thread isn't about a police officer's decision to enter a building building, its about what to do after that decision is made.

        Tonight I responded to a structure fire. City PD, 3 story building, 2 apartments per floor. Decision was made by myself and 2 other police officers to enter the building prior to fire dept arrival and to clear the building of possible trapped occupants.

        What can we do to mitigate risk when we decide, as police officers and first on scene, to enter a working building fire?

        Things we did right tonight:
        -No one went in alone We went in as a group of 3.
        -Telling police dispatch that there may still be someone trapped inside the building.
        -Communicate with each other. No one gets left alone.
        -Immediately exit the building upon fire department arrival. Brief FD with intelligence you have.
        -Don't go above the lowest point of the fire.
        -We all stayed low and kept our heads out of the smoke.

        Things I will be doing in the future:
        -Advise police dispatch that specific officers will be checking the building.
        -Closing doors behind us.

        We initially checked the first floor and then moved to the second floors. All apartments were unoccupied. Little smoke on first floor, only about a foot of smoke on the second floor ceiling, Went to check the third floor, smoke coming from underneath door, door is locked, and we turned back. FD arrived about 4 minutes later, pulled a 30 yoa male out of said apartment. Last I knew he was still alive but the doctors don't expect him to survive the night. 3rd degree burns on top half of body with full arrest on scene.

        Looking back, I know I did everything I could, but I still wonder if we could have [relatively] safely checked the third floor and possibly performed a rescue. The bedroom was where the fire was contained to, he was found on the kitchen floor.

        Questions I have:
        -Is there any reading / online training on the dangers of fire?
        -Should we start at the level of the fire and work down, or should we start at the bottom floor and work our way up?
        -When do you stop and turn around? I get that fire is hot and smoke is bad, but is there any specific dangers to watch out for? Is there a good guideline on when it is significantly more dangerous and we should turn around?
        -Anything else we should be doing? Checking doors for heat (I don't even know what I would do differently if I found a door which was hot)?
        -I know what a flash over is but I don't know how it affects me as a first-on-scene police officer? I don't know if there is a chance we would be engulfed had we opened that third floor door? Besides dark, smoky windows, how would we know if there is a danger of a flash over? Are they common? I was concerned that, while kicking apartment doors, I would open one and just be suddenly engulfed with no warning.

        Found an article with some good tips:
        http://www.firefighternation.com/art...olice-officers

        Please, any other comments or suggestions are welcome. Trying to learn from this incident so I can respond better for the next one. This thread might save someone's life.
        The bottom line is -------------------------unless you are trained in at least the basics of fire science you should leave the fire scene alone.

        Standing there looking "dumb" waiting for the hose jockeys (term used with the utmost affection and respect) is actually the prudent thing to do for many reasons. You have mentioned a few of them.

        As a former Law Enforcement Rescue Paramedic, I was cross trained in the basics of fire science AND MORE IMPORTANTLY had proper turnout & auxiliary breathing gear but rarely did I enter a burning building unless requested by the (very rural) fire departments I assisted.

        In your description above you made some statements showing just how dangerous your incident (and your response to that incident) was. I have highlighted them in red.

        I am sure you will ignore what I am saying above.....................because I am not answering your question the way you want. But unless you can actually SEE a victim inside the building , a police officer shouldn't be entering a burning building and definitely should not be trying to do a building search.

        L-1 talks about the long term effects of smoke inhalation ----------I am more worried about the immediate dangers. Let the trained AND equipped professionals do their job while you make the scene safe for them
        My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

        Comment


        • #5
          It's really tough to say what you should do because the bottom line is, without proper equipment and training you shouldn't be in there.

          There's no way to give you a "right" answer. I was a VFF, I've been trained, I've been in burning buildings... and I'd hesitate without proper equipment.

          Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, I won't second guess when I wasn't there... but you're taking an ENORMOUS risk. There are things in buildings, that when they burn, can put you out immediately if you breath the fumes.

          Closing the doors and so on is great and all... but the most important thing if you DO go in is GET BACK OUT FAST. Don't worry about the details.
          "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

          "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

          Comment


          • #6
            You don't go in.
            You don't get ABOVE a fire.

            Flashover? BTDT. Got the scars to prove it, and the charred gear and melted helmet souvenir...

            In short: you are risking lives for no reason other than it makes you feel good. How about keeping access clear, knocking on doors, moving neighbors out of threatened structures?

            You, or one of your team, are going to burn or die in a horrible way.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ProfessorBlinks View Post
              Looking back, I know I did everything I could, but I still wonder if we could have [relatively] safely checked the third floor and possibly performed a rescue. The bedroom was where the fire was contained to, he was found on the kitchen floor.
              I think the answer to this is probably NO. I don't think you could have SAFELY done this. If you had made the rescue without getting you or your partners hurt it would have been lucky and at some point your luck might run out.

              Trying to read up on firefighting is kind of a double edge sword. You might learn just enough to get yourself into even more trouble.

              It sounds to me like you guys put together a pretty decent game plan and turned around when you needed to. When I'm first on scene to a fire, my priority is usually to evacuate apartments or houses that haven't caught yet but are likely to. That's doing quite a lot. As for the "target" house, I usually leave that alone. Another important thing we can do for FD is gather intel. Start asking the neighbors if the neighbor is home, what does his car look, what time does he usually get home from work, etc. Also, have your dispatch call utilities such as electric and gas and have them get their guys en route. They will be needed eventually.

              The most important thing to do is DON'T BLOCK THE FIRE TRUCKS. When I respond to a structure fire, I'll usually park 5 or 6 houses away and on the sidewalk. We've had guys park directly in front of the house, lock their doors, and run off the save the day while FD is trying to work their way around the patrol car. Big time rookie mistake!! Unfortunately, major structure fires are pretty rare so we don't get many opportunities to train for them.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'll say this, just don't. We should not be running into fires unless it's utmost extreme and dire circumstances, and even then it's iffy. With no protective gear or breathing apparatus, we would be nothing more than a hindrance to the fire department. Ever had to drag another policeman out of a fire who went in to save the day? I have, and I still have the scars to prove it. Smoke inhalation is a quick killer. I understand it's against our nature to just stand back when people are in need of help, but we we all need to remember the bigger picture.
                In Memory of A Fallen Hero

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by reils49 View Post
                  Makes sense L1. Around here it's not uncommon to run into guys with "9/11 related illness". Cops and firemen had to breathe that stuff in, and years later some got sick and were forced out. I guess it's no different at the routine fires
                  We don't run into a lot of burning buildings, but we do traffic control at a lot of forest fires and wind up breathing in all sorts of crap that's in the air. Our folks also do a lot of escorts behind slow moving CalTrans (highway department) truck to keep them from getting run into as they mass spray weed killer along the side of the highway. Again, what gets inhaled during the process may be problematic. After every detail like that an "information only" workers comp injury report goes in the officers' file.
                  Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    In brief, unless I'm working for a public safety (cross trained in firefighting) agency, I have no business in a fire scene whereas I could become yet another victim for the firefighters to have to deal with.

                    "Young Cop Me " (no- not an Asian name) would have done it in a blink-of-an eye, and did, and nearly got killed.
                    I also once tied a rope around my waist and jumped into a river to save a young lady from drowning. The story was in the news, the bosses acted like I was a hero in public, but I got my butt handed to me in private. Young Cop Me was pizzed, but now I understand. They were right.

                    Know your role.
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                    In 2017, the sales of my LEO related decals allowed me to donate over $350. to LE/ Military related charities... THANK YOU!!! Check them out HERE...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CCCSD View Post
                      You don't go in.
                      You don't get ABOVE a fire.

                      Flashover? BTDT. Got the scars to prove it, and the charred gear and melted helmet souvenir...

                      In short: you are risking lives for no reason other than it makes you feel good. How about keeping access clear, knocking on doors, moving neighbors out of threatened structures?

                      You, or one of your team, are going to burn or die in a horrible way.

                      A lesson learned from personal experience, fire may not be the only danger in a burning structure.
                      I agree with my colleague “You don't go in”.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's extremely rare that we would arrive at a structure fire before the fire brigade but I would never enter a building that's on fire.

                        I'm not trained or equipped to deal with structure fires and I'd hate to make an extra casualty for the firies to deal with. I could also be prosecuted for not taking reasonable care for my own health and safety (felony equivalent offence).

                        I treat fires like suspect packages: create a cordon and let the experts handle it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by swat_op506 View Post

                          "Young Cop Me " (no- not an Asian name) would have done it in a blink-of-an eye, and did, and nearly got killed.
                          I definitely get that. And that's why I wouldn't criticize the OP or anyone else for what they did in the heat of the moment. If I were there, I might have done something stupid. But I guess at the very least we shouldn't PLAN to do something stupid.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            After spending 38 years as a firefighter, retiring as a Fire Chief, I would say DO NOT GO IN FOR ANY REASON! While your intent was noble, smoke contains carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide (death penalty gas), phosgene, and all kinds of CANCER CAUSING AGENTS. The modern buildings and their contents contain so much synthetic **** that liberates so many bad things that I just can't explain it in this short of an answer.

                            Next we have the super heated air that will burn your airway and KILL you with just one breath! Inhale that 1500+ degree air just once and you cook your mouth, throat, and lungs beyond repair.

                            Next, we have your polyester or synthetic blend uniform. When it reaches its melting point or ignition temperature (well below 1500+ degrees) it will melt on to your skin and become one with your body. This will continue to cook your skin resulting in full thickness burns (3rd degree burns) and removing the melted uniform entails scrubbing it off with VERY stiff brushes repeatedly over a period of many days or even weeks. Then comes the skin grafts and very long term hospitalization for the repairs. Not to mention the months, even years of physical therapy to get back some form of "normal" movement.

                            Don't forget how many firefighters it will require to locate you and rescue you instead of engaging the actively burning fire and searching for civilians who need rescuing.

                            And Finally, think about the mental anguish your fellow officers, friends, and family will experience while you go through all of the pain and suffering associated with what I described above, not to mention what they will go through if you don't survive.

                            As a side note...I spent 16 years as a Reserve Police Officer and have seen it from both sides. I would absolutely NOT try to enter a burning building without ALL of my firefighting protective equipment for the above stated reasons. I would provide dispatch with a size-up of the situation which they would relay to the incoming cavalry, but I did not even consider going in without the appropriate tools.

                            Thank you for your service, and I hope you or anyone else is not offended by my response, but after so many years of service, I was happy and proud to be able to make it to retirement in good health so I could enjoy my family and grandkids. Even after 8 years of retirement, I do still miss it, but I am enjoying other stuff just as much.

                            Do only what you are trained to do and don't try to "wing it". Any simple mistake can be disabling or fatal.
                            My comments are my personal opinion and are based on my life experiences and training. They are not to be construed as legal advice in any form as I am not an attorney. Should you act on any of the information I provide in my comments, you do so at your own risk!!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Year one I went into an apartment looking for a cat. A ****ing cat. I was an idiot.

                              Now, unless I see someone or hear someone screaming.. hell, even then it would depend on the circumstances. We're not trained for that and we have no gear. If you go in there and something happens, you've only succeeded in creating another problem that FD has to deal with.

                              Comment

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