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Fire service-High-Rise Firefighting Operations

Fire service-High-Rise Firefighting Operations

Firefighting in high-rise buildings is a complex affair, even when compared to ground-level areas. Firefighters must prepare adequately and engage in helpful strategies to put out such fires successfully. A failure to work within a pre-established plan will likely cause more injuries and deaths among civilians and firefighters. Firefighting strategies differ from one place to another, just like the definition of a tall building varies from one place to another. Firefighters use techniques that are most effective in the locality. Besides, the methods used to fight such fires must align with regulations set by local authorities. High-rise buildings also differ in design, which means that firefighters must customize their strategies to align with specific buildings. Such requires them to undertake intensive training to ensure that they are well equipped to handle fires depending on the building. In most cases, firefighters set their base two floors below the affected floors upon arrival, but they will put up their base outside if the entire building catches fire. The air supply in a fire incident is limited; hence, firefighters must act precisely to save lives and property.

Resource Floor

Once the firefighting team arrives at the resource floor (two floors below the burning floor), the team ought to scout for two factors. First, they should confirm if the floor is suitable for the firefighting team and equipment throughout the exercise. Besides, the floor’s design provides the team with a clear view of the floor affected by the fire. Firefighters should also evaluate the area to decide whether it can suitably host a rehabilitation centre for fire victims and injured firefighters. If the resource floor does not satisfy these conditions, the team should move directly to the affected floor and launch operations. Apart from the storage and mechanical rooms, all rooms are essentially replicas of the resource floor (Ma & Guo, pp 685-689). After confirming the two factors, an attack team moves to the stairwell to launch stairwell operations.

Critical Stairwell

According to CDC (n.p), the stairwell in a high-rise building involved in a fire incident means many things to firefighters. First, firefighters can only get into most high-rise buildings through the stairs. Also, it forms a centre for backup teams who wait outside. As mentioned earlier, fire incidents, especially in enclosed areas, are affected by air shortages during fires. The second crew stays at the stairwell, waiting for the current team to get out before intervening. Besides, fire situations change quickly, and sometimes fire teams may need to retreat if the fire situation poses severe threats to their lives. In that case, the stairwell is their only leeway to safety. The stairwell, essentially, is the command centre for freighters in a high-rise building. Firefighting teams discharge pressure here before facing severe razes.

Due to the importance of the stairwell, the training should equip them with skills to ensure safety in this critical area. Common mistakes in the stairwell include the abandonment of equipment by the firefighting team in the stairwell (Ma & Guo, pp 685-689). Also, crowding the stairwell might limit movement and hinder operations. If firefighters make these mistakes, the likelihood of them succeeding is marginal at best. Therefore, they must abide by their company guidelines and, most importantly, maintain discipline even in hostile fire conditions.


Ventilation in a high-rise building involved in a fire incident differs significantly from one-story or two-story buildings. As a result, the procedures used to put out the fire also differ. Tall buildings are naturally fire-resistive, meaning that they are designed so that they will not collapse in case of a fire. However, the feature allows the fire to spread rapidly in the structure (CDC, n.p). Some areas may not be reachable by the fire team externally. Also, the stack effect is possible in high-rise buildings, a situation whereby fire and smoke come into the hallway, thereby blocking entry. With such limitations, there is a need for comprehensive strategies to ensure the safety of fighting teams and fire victims.

The remedy to ventilation issues in high-rise building fires is vertical ventilation. However, it is crucial that the fire team first confirms the stairs that terminate at the roof access before applying vertical ventilation. In an unfortunate incident in Philadelphia, three firemen were killed while trying to access the roof of a thirty-eight-floor building (Ma & Guo, pp 685-689). The firefighters ended up on the 38th floor, one floor below the rooftop, due to disorientation. Therefore, marking suitable stairs will go a long way to save lives.

Standpipe Considerations

The first consideration to make when using a standpipe is to follow the specific firefighting guidelines of the particular company. The standpoint is ideally connected to the floor below the fire floor (CDC, n.p). That makes sense in terms of access. Firstly, it ensures that the controller of the standpipe does not obstruct the firefighting team. Besides, the firefighters do not have to work around the standpipe controller as this may distract them. Also, having the standpipe one building below grants the firefighting teams a chance to retreat if they face extreme fire situations.

Another recommendation is to lift the entire hose pipe to the floor just below the fire floor. Stretching the whole pipe to the floor below the fire floor requires a lot of energy from the crew (CDC, n.p). Also, it requires the firefighters to coordinate well, mainly if the fire incident occurs on higher floors.

Although firefighters put on protective gear, they ought to be careful when approaching fire situations. First, the front liners determine if the fire is manageable. Their protective equipment allows them to face severe fire situations, even just for a few seconds. If they find the condition too harsh to bear, they should retreat, move the hose pipe to the stairwell, and look for an alternate attack point. Stretching the entire hosepipe to the floor below is quite helpful in such situations. If the standpipe is many floors below the fire floor, lifting it may take a lot of time and endanger the lives of firefighters and potential victims.

According to an official firefighting GUIDE (n.p). The size of the hosepipe also matters in fire situations. One of the factors determining the hosepipe to be used is the level of British thermal units in burning buildings. Most fire companies recommend a 1.75 hand line for fires with 175gpm. On the other hand, a 2.50-hand line is recommended for fires with 250gpm. The past two decades have characterised a significant change in the amount of BTUs firefighters expect in fires. In the 1990s, most fires from most buildings produced about 800btus per pound. However, today, firefighters expect 20,000btus per pound. The increase is attributed to the plastics and furnishings used in modern facilities. Therefore, firefighters ought to simultaneously confirm such details from the building’s construction engineers and owners as firefighters respond to fire situations.

Strategic and Tactical Priorities

The priority of firefighters whenever they arrive at a fire situation is to save the lives of those trapped inside a building. To achieve this, they need to stick with universal standards of response. Most of these standards are determined by the responding company (CDC, n.p). The primary goals include the safety of the people trapped inside and firefighters, locating the fire’s source, and extinguishing the fire. For this reason, firefighters do not act in haste after arriving at the fire scene. While it is tempting to pull the hose pipe nuzzle and start extinguishing the fire, professional firefighters must conduct a strategic analysis before engaging.

The first action once firefighters arrive at the scene of a fire is to evacuate victims. They are then moved to a nearby area that is out of danger to receive the first medical response before being transferred to the hospital (CDC, n.p). That means fire teams may be required to use external access points before moving to staircases. Most fire victims usually hang by the windows anticipating help, which may be a crucial moment to save lives.

Most fire companies anticipate intense fire situations when responding to high-rise fire incidents. As a result, initial responders come with high-rise kits and tools to force entry. The strategy is partly meant to act as an alternative if staircases are inaccessible or too toxic even for firefighters to pass. Also, it can help save lives as the team looks for alternative entry points.


According to Ponniah (n.p), firefighters face situations that do not allow the application of standard guidelines. In such cases, firefighters are expected to use their instincts and respond to the problem effectively. Such a situation faced first responders during the Grenfell Tower fire in London. The fire spread so quickly that it seemed to have engulfed the whole building. In this situation, it would have been challenging to go up 20 floors to rescue people without an air supply. Besides, the high rate at which the fire spread little firefighters to lower floors, which limited their access to the critical stairwell. Additionally, fears that the building could potentially collapse demotivated responders from making initial responses.


High-rise fire situations present a uniquely challenging case for the initial responders. Unlike first or two-story buildings, fire responders in high-rise buildings have to face other challenges that go beyond putting out a fire. They must, therefore, follow company guidelines and act with precision when responding. Upon arrival, the strategic priority should be to rescue fire victims alive. For this reason, they need to come with high-rise kits, a convenience rope, and forced entry tools to forcibly enter if that is what it takes to limit fatalities. Firefighters should also locate a resource floor, usually two floors below the fire floor. The fire floors act as a command centre and safe space for firefighters. Another critical element firefighters ought to identify is the critical stairwell, which serves as a retreat centre if the fire situation changes suddenly. Also, they need to establish ventilation to enhance access to the fire area. However, sometimes the problem is so intense that the responders need to use their instincts.

Works Cited

Ponniah, K. (2017, August 4). How are fires fought in high-rise blocks? BBC News.

CDC. (2020, May 28). Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2007-37 | NIOSH | CDC.

Ma, Qianli, and Wei Guo. “Discussion on the fire safety design of a high-rise        building.” Procedia Engineering 45 (2012): 685-689.

GUIDE, INTERIM PLANNING. “Managing the Emergency Consequences of Terrorist   Incidents.” (2002).


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How can firefighters effectively manage and mitigate fire emergencies in high-rise buildings?

Fire service-High-Rise Firefighting Operations

Fire service-High-Rise Firefighting Operations

Students will submit a term paper on an approved fire service-related topic. The paper is to be a minimum of 5 pages. The paper will be completed in 12-point Times New Roman font and be double-spaced. Appropriate references need to be cited at the end of the paper.

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