Being a firefighter has some great benefits. Riding in a truck with lights and sirens, cool shirts, the respect of your community, etc. There are a few things about this job that do stink. In my opinion, one of those things is overhaul. Sure, going to the fire and putting it out is what the public sees. They don’t see the work that goes into this. Everyone can see that the flames and smoke have stopped so why are you all still here? I know I have been asked many, many times why we were at the scene so long!
If you have any experience in the service you are aware that until you complete a thorough overhaul of the structure, the fire is not completely out. One of the worst things you can do is leave prematurely. If the fire has any life left it will rebuild and will likely consume the structure. Cellulose insulation has always been my hardest overhauls to complete. You can think you got it and a few hours later you can see smoke again! I believe the best thing you can do is remove the insulation material. This is not a popular decision with the team but, leaving it is not a good idea.
I have shared in the past that one of the items we have discovered to assist in this is the mega bags used in the agricultural feed industry. We cut the handle on a garden rake down to one foot for use in the attic. There is another tool that can speed this up as well. They make an industrial vacuum designed for insulation removal. My department looked into purchasing one of these but discovered there was a contractor in our area with one.
For training purposes this month, identify the hazards of leaving any remaining fire in the structure. Discuss the importance of exposing any hidden fires. Discuss the hazards of not wearing full PPE including SCBA during the overhaul stage of the fire. Remind everyone that the gasses at this point may be highly toxic. Identify tools used to expose the hidden hazards and have different team members describe the proper use of the tools. Identify additional resources that could be used during overhaul.
Upon completion, the department should be able to….
• Identify the need for complete overhaul
• Identify tools used for overhaul
• Discuss the use of the overhaul tools
• Identify resources available for overhaul in your area.
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon Volunteer Fire Department, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org