First unit on scene did a quick size up & was ready to report
when I arrived moments later. Pumps were running, recycling water through the live-hose systems & back into the tanks to keep them from freezing.
By the time the second engine company was briefed we had made contact with the owner/builder & developed an understanding the type of construction we were dealing with.
The blaze appeared to have started from a chimney fire in the stove pipe of the wood burning shop stove. The fire was between the inner ceiling & sheet steel roof. The RV would not start and we had nothing big enough to pull it through the snow. That created a 'save it all or lose it all' situation.
Our plan made quick use of the ladder and scaffolding the owner had nearby. After assuring the electrical power was off, firefighters rapidly engaged the fire, taking care to keep the essential fire hoses & nozzles from freezing. It was about 10* above zero.
Heat was building and fire began to show all along the roof line, in some cases burning through the soffits. We were getting close to a critical point and had to catch this as quickly as possible if we were to catch it at all.
The firefighters were on task. Using portable screw guns we managed to gain interior access to the fire & start suppression activities while firefighters on the outside of the structure used chainsaws and fire axes to gain access through the upper walls.
Within an hour of arriving on scene we had control of the fire and saved the greater portion of the building. Mop-up took a few hours more.
All in all 16 firefighters, including two as mutual aid from nearby Republic Fire Department, four additional EMTs, five suppression apparatus and one standby ambulance engaged this emergency call.
Unique situations surrounding this fire:
- Winter conditions; which challenged access, operations, and equipment.
- Remote location (common in our fire district). We use tenders as portable hydrants carrying our water in bulk to support pumpers & engines.
- Excellent construction techniques held fire in place and increased our chances of success.
- Owner/builder present and had speciality tools we don't normally carry on apparatus (scaffolding, portable screw guns, etc).
How did we meet the challenges:
- Immediately established command under ICS (Incident Management System).
- Command assigned Safety Officer(s) to establish safety control of scene.
- Closely monitored firefighters and command staff for fatigue, stress and exposure and mitigated accordingly.
- Keep the water moving; either onto the fire/structure or recycling into the tank. We did have one pump go down to the cold when someone mistakenly shut down a nozzle, but managed to fix it back at the station.
Okay, signing off here now - remember as the cold weather continues stay safe with the use of fire, heaters, stoves, heat tape, extension cords and the like. If it seems unsafe, its probably better not to take the risk.
PS photos by members of Curlew Fire Department (none by me)
If you're interested in winter firefighting here are a couple links to research.