It’s Still A “Vacant” Building…

Posted: January 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

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By Brian Butler

The above  “what’s-left-of-a-half-a-semi” is a “vacant” building on a street full of vacant and burned out homes. Upon arriving at this fire, a man jumped out of the rear window and ran from the scene. We never assumed it was unoccupied…

There’s an on-going argument in the fire service about using the word “vacant” when it comes to structure fires involving vacants!. It’s the battle of- vacant vs abandoned vs derelict vs hazardous vs ______ fill-in-the-blank. Interpretation can be simple..

Let me explain, and it’s okay if you disagree…

The term “vacant” is appropriate. It doesn’t mean it’s “empty” or unoccupied, it means that the buildings status is vacant (yes really!). It’s not legally occupied by renters or owners. Squatters and trespassers illegally occupying the property doesn’t change the definition of of the buildings original status before it catches fire.


This also means that we don’t always assume its not occupied. It signals caution, not defensive..Let’s not get caught up on several different terms. The arriving firefighters do not know if the buildings owner “abandoned” the property or still owns it and just neglects it. Some vacants are hazardous and dilapidated while others are in good shape and structurally sound; we really don’t know for sure even if it has been marked, what has happened to the building since? (roof cave-in, interior scrapped, prior fires etc..)


We’re not idiots, let’s keep it universally simple and not assume because it’s deemed a vacant (or non-vacant) that there are no occupants, just like we don’t assume there are no holes in the floor, needles, furniture, children inside, fire in the basement, and other various dangers many of these VACANT structures have.


It also signals to all incoming companies to the POSSIBILITY of a dilapidated, abandoned structure, board ups, holes in floors, drug paraphernalia/needles, hoarding conditions, open roofs, illegal utility, missing stairs, rotted floor decking, early collapse, and various other hazards and conditions to prepare for on arrival. KIS?!


Schedule for your department:
“The ‘Occupied’ Vacant” 🔥 Fires in Vacant, Abandoned, and Dilapidated Buildings.

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