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Firefighters Quarterly Magazine
>> Another Hazard for the Roofman
Another Hazard for the Roofman
While out on drill one day the company decided to check out the “new condominiums” which are actually Old Law Tenements under renovation. From both the inside and the outside the renovation looks like just about any other. Two apartments per floor running front to rear, exterior brick walls are left exposed on the inside of the kitchen areas for a stylish look, and the usual upgrades to sell these apartments as condos. But the roof was a surprise. Upon exiting the bulkhead we stepped on to a deck. This deck had walls that were about six feet high with a small exit door leading to the gooseneck ladder. The clearance between the rear deck walls and the edge of the roof was less then a foot and a half on one roof and less than four feet on the other roof. The walls are supported by 2 X 4’s nailed or screwed on an angle to the deck floor support joists on every other upright. Upon further inspection we found two on this block of tenements and suspect more will be coming in the future. See accompanying photos.
The floor of the deck is supported by 4 X 4’s horizontally spaced approximately 16 inches apart and the vertical supports below, which are also 4 x 4’s, are placed on some of the horizontal members at uneven intervals with Styrofoam blocks under most where they touch the roof membrane. Others are supported by small Styrofoam blocks stacked on top of each other.
From the front of these buildings you can not discern that there is anything unusual about these roofs. Once you arrive above the cornice via the aerial, you will then notice the deck walls. Anyone with tool will be able to get through these walls, they are not constructed in a substantial manner what so ever. The real problem here is once you breach the wall and enter the deck area you will have to assure a second means of egress. The rear door leading to the gooseneck is narrow and may have to be widened or removed for access / egress. Once the rear is checked and the bulkhead door is opened, the deck walls that conceal the shafts will have to be breached to ascertain the conditions.
Should there be a top floor fire requiring the roof to be cut, the task will be delayed because of the deck. Cutting the deck boards will not be a problem, they are just 5/4 by six inches and we will go right through them. The problem I foresee at a top floor fire is the reaction of the Styrofoam support pads and the 4 X 4 horizontal supports. Given the reaction of Styrofoam to heat, the deck may drop in some areas and not in others. Additionally, once the deck boards are removed the 4 X 4 horizontal supports will have to be cut and removed inside the area that is to be vented. By removing these supports the reaction of the remaining deck will be somewhat predicable. The areas directly to either side will drop down creating a slope toward the area to be vented creating a hazardous area, especially if it is wet.
When cutting this deck to vent the roof you can use a regular partner saw to open up the deck. You will have to create a large enough hole to enable you to reach in and cut the roof after opening up the deck. If a cutters edge roof saw is available it would be the best choice, it will allow you to reach in to the first hole to cut the roof using the added length of the chain saw to give you an added safety margin. The first person to the roof will have to make the Incident Commander aware of this condition so it can be added in to the size up. The location of the fire, the volume of the fire and the knowledge of the deck will allow the Battalion Chief to create an accurate plan of attack and call for additional units if the conditions warrant.
If the fire is through the roof the added fire load will be substantial and a line will be needed possibly stretched through exposure two or four to the adjoining roof. As with any line used on a roof, coordination is the key to success. A shaft fire may be concealed at first but the tell tale column of smoke may be our initial clue. Although our standard operating procedures for a shaft fire should be followed an additional line may be required on the roof again.
Although is seemed that the permits were in order, and of course there was no one around to speak to, this unusual addition had been passed on to the local companies and buildings has been notified. It’s just another obstacle that we will have to deal with and overcome.
1- Upon exiting the bulkhead you step
on to the deck.
2 - A look at the deck from the rear
toward the front
3 - Looking from the front to the rear
where the exit gate is for the goose
4 - Look how narrow the opening really
is to the goose neck.
5 - Looking from one deck to the other with the intermediate building having only
an iron fence at the bottom of the slope from the cornice.
6 - You can see the shaft in this picture with the exhaust vent sticking up
7 - In this photo you can see how the walls are being held up. Not a problem for
the roof man to defeat.
8 -You can see how narrow the area
to the rear of the fence is if it
becomes necessary to transverse the
roof in the rear. With a decent
smoke condition this can be quite
9 - A look underneath the deck shows how the Styrofoam is placed. This is toward the front.
10 - A view of both roofs.
Notice the Styrofoam beneath
the deck floor joists and the
light weight construction holding
the upright posts in place.
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