THE 270° SIZE UP

Posted: August 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

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By Brian Butler

“Yea yea I know, we’re supposed to do a 360° size up upon arriving at a structure fire.” Easier said than done.

For firefighters in urban environments with rowhomes, taxpayers, semi-detached homes, high rises, MFD’s, fortified gates and fences that prevent access, the 360° size up isn’t always going to be possible. This is when performing a 3 sided 270° is going to have to suffice. There are times when you’re initially going to have to go with a 2 sided 180° (photo) size up. When getting to the rear can be difficult for the first arriving company, take a quick peek down the sides of the building and look for indicators that the rear will be of major concern.

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“Bump outs”

If the only exterior access to the rear are through narrow alley walks between the homes, or obstructions are present that will delay your recon of the rear, keep in mind that you may lose your fire. Taking those extra few minutes because you feel you just have to get to the rear because “that’s what were supposed to do” or you read it in some tactics book, don’t be surprised when you return to the front of the building and realize that another company “stole” your fire!

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The 180° Size Up: Obviously the first due engine preparing for fire attack will have a difficult time getting to the rear of this taxpayer. The quick 2-sided 180° size up looking at the A side and down the B side while preparing for entry can tell you alot about this building. Determine the location, extent and access to the fire. Truck companies take note of the wires, fence, dumpster, and awning obstructions on the A and B sides. This 180° will quickly indicate difficulty with ground ladder placement.

The first arriving officer will have his hands full noting numerous size up factors. During a 270°, what signs can we look for on arrival where that report from the rear is going to HAVE to be made a top priority?

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Lets say you have fire showing in the front bedroom windows on arrival and the rear looks clear from the B-D side peek down the alley between the homes. That’s a good time to assign another company, the RIT team, or the battalion chief to get you a report from the rear. If you arrive and there’s a column coming from the back of the house or a glow in the rear yard, that’s a sign a report is top priority. It must be checked and a report given to the attack team before entry or upon advancing if possible.

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When the entire row of homes on the block are connected with no access to the rear, there may be an alley or street behind it. This is a perfect opportunity for the smaller chiefs vehicle to drive down and report any dangerous conditions from the rear. This information will also help the responding Battalion Chief with his strategy and tactics plan.

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Companies responding from the direction of the rear should give a radio report if there’s heavy fire, signs of collapse, power lines popping off, occupants hanging off porches, fire escapes or any other immediate concerns happening in the rear. This is also why we must pay attention to the radio while enroute. If you recognize any dangerous conditions on approach that haven’t been reported to the engine company ready to advance, let them know!

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The 180° and the glow in the back

A 360° size up sounds nice, but it isn’t always possible. Doing a 180° or a 270° is very effective, realistic, and should only take a few seconds. When you’re looking down those B and D sides of a structure, check for that glow or column in the rear, and then determine how important that last 90° is going to be.

Firehouse.com article on the 270° size-up

 

 

 

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Have you ever thought about how many propane tanks are located in your response area? Considering propane tanks supply LPG to barbecue grills, food trucks, forklifts, heaters, cars, buses, sanitation trucks, RV’s, and handheld propane torches, there may be hundreds of propane cylinders in your response district. Small 20 lb tanks are commonly used for gas grills on residential properties, while larger LPG storage tanks are located at commercial businesses, hardware stores, gas stations, industrial areas, and underground.

Every firefighter should be familiar with the dangers or propane, NOT just company officers and members of the hazmat team. The nozzleman on the engine company is the one who is closest to burning vehicles, dumpsters, and buildings. It’s especially important for the urban fireman to become familiar with the properties of propane, and how to deal with leaks vs fires involving tanks and cylinders.

What is propane?

Propane and butane are the two major LPG gases extracted and used in the gas industry. About 70% of propane is processed from natural gas. Propane is colorless and odorless in its natural state, but a commercial odorant is added so it can be detected if it leaks. The most common used odorant is ethyl mercaptan.

LP-gases belong to a family of chemical compounds known as alkane hydrocarbons, meaning they are made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms only. Propane is 1.5 times heavier than air. The combustible materials in propane are carbon and hydrogen (hydrocarbons). The oxygen needed to burn propane vapor is obtained from the air. Air is made up of 20% oxygen, 79% nitrogen and 1% other gases. Any ignition source must provide enough heat to the mixture of fuel and oxygen to raise the temperature of the propane to its ignition temperature, which is between 920°F and 1,120°F. The flammable limits (explosive range) for propane: LEL 2.15% UEL 9.60%

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When responding to a reported LPG barbecue grill fire involving a propane tank, the initial company officers concerns should be exposures, and the possibility of a BLEVE. Upon arrival, try to determine what’s burning, where it’s burning, whether the relief valve has activated, exposure issues, and the size of the tank. This will help determine the initial actions on apparatus placement, strategy and tactics. The gas grill fire may turn out to be a grease fire or food burning with no threat to the propane tank. It’s possible the hose leading to the tank regulator may be burning and the flame is being fed by the propane from the tank. These can easily be handled by extinguishing the fire with an ABC fire extinguisher, water can, removing the oxygen by closing the lid of the grill, or closing the cylinder valve supplying the tank (righty-tighty). Stretch a handline to protect exposures such as exterior siding, overhead awnings, or a deck. Use a 30° fog pattern in the vapor space of the propane tank if the cylinder is threatened by flame impingement.

REMEMBER: Never extinguish an unisolated pressure fed flammable gas fire unless the fuel source can be isolated. Leaking gas can migrate away from the container and may find another ignition source.

If there’s no fire visible and it’s only an LPG leak (detected by smell of ethyl mercaptan odorant) eliminate any sources of ignition (pilot burner, cigarettes, lighter, electric motors, switches, flares, static discharges, cell phones) evacuate the area, and ventilate nearby structures using PPV. Use a CGI (Combustible Gas Indicators) to determine the level of flammable vapors in the area, determine the source, and control the release. Take readings in nearby structures and basements as a precaution. REMEMBER: Propane is heavier than air and will settle in low areas. (Propane vapor density is 1.52 at 60°F.)

TIP: Propane flammable range is 2.15 – 9.60. Each cubic foot of liquid propane will boil off 270 cubic feet of propane vapor.

Any decision to approach a propane tank showing direct flame impingement on its vapor space must be made on a case-by-case basis after evaluating the hazards and risks, and determining if an adequate water supply has been established. If you arrive to hear a jet engine sound, evacuate the area, stretch a line, and prepare to take cover. The relief valve has activated and a high pressure flame should be visible. Most likely the cylinder valve connection is cross-threaded or leaking. Any flame impingement on the vapor space will heat the propane tanks shell; the tank will have to be cooled to prevent a BLEVE. From a safe area such as the corner of the home or a garage, wearing full PPE, cool the cylinder with a line before approaching to shutoff the flow of propane gas, or play it safe and just cool the tank and let the LPG burn off. Again, decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis as tanks can fail within minutes of direct flame impingement.

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Firefighters should be aware that a functioning PRV (Pressure Relief Valve) on a burning propane tank is not a reliable indication that the tank is safe to approach or a reliable indicator of when or if the tank may fail.

TIP: A propane tank contains liquid and vapor. Fire heats the tank shell in the vapor space area more rapidly than the liquid area.  By the time steel reaches 1,800°F it has lost 90% of its strength. A propane tank will eventually relieve pressure either through a split in the tank in form of a jet flame, or the container fails. In most cases, the PRV will function early in the fire. If the valve handle has melted away, a pair of vise grips can be used to shut the valve, BUT it would be much safer to just let the gas burn off while cooling the tank from a safe distance.

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This propane tank fire was caused by a cross threaded hose connection. The leaking gas caught fire and raged around the tank outlet. The tank was connected to a grill that was up against the home causing the siding to melt. An 1 3/4 hoseline with a fog nozzle should be used to go back and forth cooling the tank and extinguishing the exposed siding of the house until a second line is in service. If upon arrival to a gas grill propane tank fire with exposure to the home you notice the relief valve is activated and the jet engine sound is present, KEEP BACK a good distance and cool the tank from an area of protection such as the side of a house, behind a garage or large vehicle. If the home is starting to catch fire, go for a 2 1/2 line for more reach from the safer distance. Upgrade the incident to a full structure assignment and request Hazmat response.

TACTICAL OBJECTIVES: The primary tactical objective is to cool the outside of the portable cylinder protecting the shell and reduce the pressure to the point that the pressure relief valve closes and the cylinder valve can be manually closed. The secondary objective is to protect exposures, extinguish any structure fires, check for extension, and monitor nearby structures for propane gas.

TIP: Propane pressure regulators are designed to control propane vapor pressure. They reduce the higher gas vapor pressure inside the storage container to a lower and more constant pressure, which is necessary to operate gas appliances like heaters, stoves, safely and efficiently. NFPA 58 requires the use of two-stage regulator systems for most fixed installations in buildings. NFPA also requires that all 20lb cylinders be equipped with an OPD (Overfill Protection Device).

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Vehicles: Propane is often transported via railcars and delivery trucks. Other vehicle uses are LPG vehicles, forklifts, buses, food trucks, and RV’s. LPG powered passenger vehicles must have their PRV’s vented to the outside of the vehicle. They are required by NFPA 58 to be identified with a diamond shaped label on the lower right rear of the vehicle with the letters “PROPANE” on the silver or white reflective badging.

First arriving officers should immediately suspect and be aware of propane tanks on RV’s, forklifts, and food trucks. Transport trucks with large storage tanks are obvious, and LPG passenger vehicles have badging placards on the back (pic above). Some vehicles could have 20 lb LPG tanks located in the trunk, or in the bed of pickup trucks. Unsuspecting firemen may be approaching a dangerous situation if they’re not aware of hidden propane tanks being heated during a vehicle fire. One sign is an activated relief valve or pressurized flame with a loud jet engine sound. Like any modern day vehicle fire, be cautious when approaching vehicle fires. If the occupant is present, ask him/her if there are any gasoline/propane tanks or any other hazardous materials in the trunk.

If called to investigate an odor of propane gas in a parking garage or parking lot, check to see if there are any LPG vehicles. Once identified, use CGI’s to investigate the source and obtain readings. Evacuate people from the area, control ignition sources, identify the source of the leaking propane, and stop the leak if it can safely be done. The fuel tank will usually be in the trunk and will need to be opened to access the tank valves and fittings. DISCONNECT THE BATTERY before you open the trunk. The contact switch for the truck light is a potential source of ignition.

If the LPG powered vehicle is heavily involved in fire, prepare for a possible BLEVE. Evacuate the area, request police for traffic control and from a maximum and safe distance, protect any exposures from the vehicle fire or pressurized flame coming from the vehicle (although rare, the PRV can fail). When the PRV is properly activated, it should not be an indicator that a BLEVE will not occur. After a risk/benefit analysis, unless there’s an occupant trapped in the burning vehicle or in immediate danger, let the LPG burn off; the vehicle can be replaced.

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How many times during an entire career will the average firefighter respond to a propane leak or fire involving a forklift? These are extremely rare incidents, but they do happen. First arriving crews must quickly and carefully determine whether or not the propane tank is involved, rescue priorities, exposure problems, evacuation, and requesting additional resources if needed.

Forklifts are powered by motor fuel service propane cylinders that are usually configured to supply liquid propane to the engine rather than the vapor. They can have as many as five openings in the service end of the cylinder. Fittings may be threaded or flanged. Each service valve opening is marked for either vapor or liquid service. Most cylinders are equipped with a PRV (Pressure Relief Valve) set to function at 375 psi. If the forklift is on fire and the tank is threatened by heat or flame exposure, stretch two handlines and cool the tank while extinguishing any fire involving the forklift. Wet any exposure combustibles if necessary. Keep a safe distance, evacuate any workers nearby and let the LPG burn off while cooling tank from maximum distance. Extinguish the fire involving the forklift (NOT THE TANK!) and apply a 30° fog at the vapor space for several minutes before making any decision to approach and close the tank supply. Contact the local propane marketer for technical assistance in removing and disposing the cylinder.

TIP: Motor fuel cylinders can rupture under fire conditions even if the PRV (Pressure Relief Valve) is not functioning.

Dumped Tanks: In urban areas, 20 lb propane cylinders are often dumped in alleys, dumpsters and vacant lots. Be suspect of tanks or disposed cylinders in dumpsters, garages, sheds, and even basements during structure fires.

Firefighters arriving to a dumpster fire should assume that hazardous materials may be present and approach with caution. If you hear hissing sounds coming from a well-involved commercial dumpster, it might be a relief valve blowing off. Although propane emergencies and BLEVE’s are rare, preparing for them by being proactive can save firefighters from injuries.

Close Call: Watch Propane Explosion During Fire In Maine-Click Here.

This explosion engulfed a forklift with the operator barely escaping with his life. See the full story and more video at The Blaze.

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Above: The first due engine found a fully involved fire in a camper trailer with propane tanks venting and fire extending to the garage. Firemen were able to quickly control fire and extinguish the fire approximately 20 minutes after arrival. Quick action by fire department personnel prevented the fire from extending to the residence, and the possibility of an explosion of the propane tanks.

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Be careful when approaching a fire involving an RV. The propane tanks can be anywhere, including under the vehicle. Use caution and locate them to see if the relief valve has activated, or fire is threatening the tanks.

DO NOT always assume that the activation of a relief valve will prevent a BLEVE. See VIDEO here.

Sources: Propane Emergencies 3rd Edition  UrbanFireTraining

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Every minute of the day brings the potential for a machinery rescue response. Think about it, how many vehicle extrications are there in the U.S. every single day? How many rings are cut off by rescue companies and emergency room personnel every single day? How many kids get their fingers stuck in toys, bicycle parts, or their head stuck between railings every single day? If we put vehicle extrication aside, many common machinery rescues are minor extrications, disentanglement, disassembles, cutting, lubing, or simply repositioning someone out of a pinch. Think about all the potential entrapment, pins, crushes, and stuck limbs that can happen in your response area. From train stations, elevators/escalators, industrial and manufacturing plants, kitchens, amusement parks and car washes, to correctional facilities and auto shops, what accidents could happen that would require a machinery rescue response? How many people are operating all terrain vehicles (ATV’s), snow blowers, construction and agricultural equipment in your response area? Believe it, the potential is there!

After attending a “Man vs Machinery” class at the New York State Technical Rescue Conference, put on by PL Vulcan Training it took no less than 72 hours later to put a well-equipped machinery tool box in service. They are relatively inexpensive to put together and each kit should be equipped for the type of response area it will serve. Urban areas will differ from rural areas (agriculture machinery). The tool boxes are great for practicing skills like removal and cutting of rings, meat grinders, pvc pipe, railings, or fishing stuck fingers out of fuel fillers. The training and use of numerous tools and tricks of the trade make firemen more creative when it comes to thinking outside the box, which can contribute to a successful rescue someday. Every firefighter should highly consider attending a “Man vs Machine” training day.

Below is our “machinery” tool box and a compiled list of potential accidents and incidents just waiting to happen, including types of occupancies where they might occur. It should make one realize that it’s very possible the “machinery” tool box will eventually be utilized, or utilized again.

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Below: A list of tools to consider for a MACHINERY kit:

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Tools (continued) and occupancies where accidents might occur.

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Types of potential incidents:

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WHAT IF? A single truck company is dispatched for a stalled elevator. Upon arrival, the company officer notices the elevator is stuck on the 7th floor. He sends the low man up to the penthouse to secure the power and makes his way up to floor seven. The low man enters the roof area and hears loud screaming coming from the elevator machine room. Upon opening the penthouse door, he sees an elevator repairman covered with blood with his arm caught in the drive sheave area of a geared traction elevator.

This is most likely an amputation at best, and a serious machinery accident. The low man has been to over 50 elevator calls, but didn’t expect this. Having knowledge of elevators and machinery rescue may help with initial actions in this particular scenario. Power shutdown, additional resources, medic, and disassembly comes to mind. If his tool belt/box is present, it might have the tools needed to take apart the drive machine around his arm. The point here is, “you never know.”

For more on elevators, visit UrbanFireTraining.Com
For more on machinery rescue, visit PL Vulcan Training Concepts.

Above photos of Machinery and Agricultural rescue training at the NY State Tech Rescue Conference held at the New York State Fire Academy.

The Power Of The Water Can!

Posted: April 8, 2015 in Suppression

Arriving to a well-involved basement fire, an extra man with a water can can take the basement window out and dump a water can into the basement in less than a minute while the interior crew is stretching in. This will create 567 cubic feet of steam, absorbing up to 23,000 BTU’s.

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BTU’s- The amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by 1° F.

* 1 gallon of water= 8.34 lbs.

* 1 gallon absorbs 1,251 BTU’s when going from ambient temperature (62° F) to 212° F.

* 1 pound of water absorbs 970.2 BTU’s just changing from liquid to steam at 212° F.

* Water expands 1,700 times when converted to steam at 212° F.

* There are 7.48 gallons of water in one cubic foot. (1,700 divided by 7.48 = 227.27)

* 1 gallon of water will expand into 227 cubic feet of steam.

What a well coordinated attack looks like. Water application and ventilation.

What an uncoordinated attack looks like. Breaking windows well before line charged.

Read the smoke. Pre-flashover warning. Windows being broken, no water applied.