A look at vent, enter and search in Baltimore
You’ve heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”; this is the one they are referring to. It offers several valuable lessons from a truck company’s perspective.
From the photo, we can tell that this is a two story, end-unit rowhouse of ordinary construction. Structures like these that were built prior to WWII have a common cockloft which will come into play a little later in this discussion.
While we can’t tell where the fire originated, it is known that it is presenting from the windows on the Bravo (2) side, towards the rear on the second floor. Above the same windows, you can see the handle of hook from the roof team. This is a top floor fire and they are performing vertical ventilation directly above it, which is exactly what they should be doing. This action is imperative to prevent the fire from extending laterally to the exposures. Judging from the smoke beginning to push from the vent between the two Delta (side 4) exposures, they will have to move hastily (this can be seen to the right of the street light and under the aerial ladder).
Another member of the truck company has set up a ground ladder to perform VE(I)S. More than likely, it is a 24′ ladder that is extended two feet to reach the bottom of the sill. He knew that the stowed length of a 24′ ladder is 14′ in length and subconsciously calculated the distance between the ground and the bottom of the window. In this particular scenario, it was two clicks of the dawgs.
Vent, Enter, Isolate, and Search is typically conducted when you have a report of someone trapped and there is a delay in reaching them through the path of least resistance (the interior stairs). The delay, in this case, comes from the boarded up windows and doors on the first floor but in reality, it could be caused by a number of reasons. Although you may not have received an indication that someone was trapped inside, this fire had to have started somehow and more than likely it wasn’t electrical in nature. It needs to be searched simply because it is our job and no one else will do it. It is not a matter of survivability profiling as much as it is common sense.
After a short climb, the firefighter is about to make entry into the left window. Although you can’t see the top pane, you know that it has been cleared in its entirety because of the volume of smoke coming out without restriction. The bottom pane of the middle window is opened, but there isn’t any smoke coming out. This is because the open portion is serving as an air intake, while the glass in the top portion is restricting the ability of the smoke to exhaust out. The neutral plane is even with the meeting rail between the upper and lower sash. Very rarely will you find a better example of how crucial it is to compartmentalize yourself from the fire. While you take note of the smoke level, consider that if the firefighter were unable to see anything while duck-walking or crawling across the floor, putting his ear to floor to get a layout of the room would be very beneficial.
Without ever stepping foot into this room, I can tell you that the middle and left windows are in the same room while the one on the right is in another that has more of a direct path to the fire (hence the lower neutral plane). If the firefighter entering the room fails to close the door immediately (even if he finds a victim while heading towards it), he is likely to encounter a rapid fire event within minutes, barring any interaction of the engine company. If and when he does close it, he has bought himself at least a few more minutes and conditions within the room that he is searching will improve dramatically.
This truck company is on the ball in a big way, right down to the aerial positioned to defend the rest of the block. Take this photo and use it to your advantage. Share it with others and create your own discussion or drill. You don’t have to have water on the fire ground in order to function.
– The Truck
Baltimore City Truck 10, B shift working. All photos taken and provided with permission by Battalion Chief Frederick Ruff of the Baltimore City Fire Department.
Special thanks to Lt. Matt Saylor and his crew. Please visit his page on Facebook titled “Hanging Around the Firehouse“.
“A Refresher Course in VES” McCormack, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com 1 January 2012
“How to Perform VEIS” Frassetto, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com 20 December 2012
“Making a Window Entry for Ventilation or Search” Dugan, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com 31 March 2009