According to an old firefighters’ saying, “when the stick goes up, the building comes down.” The stick refers to the aerial ladder, which is...

According to an old firefighters’ saying, “when the stick goes up, the building comes down.”

The stick refers to the aerial ladder, which is the big ladder on the top of a ladder truck. One method of fire attack is by elevated master stream, which involves an engine supplying an aerial ladder with water unless the truck has its own pump.

Last week, a fire at a Harrisonburg apartment complex required two elevated master streams in order to stop the fire in the building of origin. The cause of the fire was determined to be improperly discarded smoking materials. The fire started on the first floor outside of the building, spread to the vinyl siding and raced to the attic.

Many things go into the decision to resort to an elevated master stream operation. It happens when conditions on the inside of the building have been determined to be unsafe for firefighters. The chance of fire spreading beyond the building of origin might occur if the fire is not rapidly extinguished. The best way to get to a fire is by using an elevated master stream, with the understanding that the incident commander is writing off the building once the elevated master stream is ordered.

This kind of operation puts a large quantity of water in the building quickly. I have seen water flowing down stairwells and out of doorways that looked like a creek that had experienced a flash flood. Water weighs 8-plus pounds per gallon, which adds a lot of weight.

I heard that the third floor had collapsed in Harrisonburg, which is easy to understand once you understand the amount of fire in the building and the large amount of water that was flowing.

One of two things would have been determined before an elevated master stream is deployed. The first, and hoped for, report is that all occupants of a building have been accounted for. This is a difficult determination on a multi-family dwelling.

The other determination would be that, if there were occupants in the building, there was no chance of their survival due to fire conditions and occupants’ possible location.

Life safety is the No. 1 priority at any incident.

The most dangerous mode for firefighters to operate in is the rescue mode.

An elevated master stream is the epitome of a defensive operation, in other words, a fire attack that takes place from the outside the building.

This fire occurred because of someone’s careless handing of smoking materials. Smoking materials should only be discarded in a properly designated receptacle designed for smoking materials.

Those living in an apartment are at the mercy of neighbors. Renter’s insurance may be a requirement for a lease. If not, renter’s insurance is worth every penny.