Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Highlands

The Highlands is is a series of large apartment complexes perched on a hill overlooking the community. As the city in which the Highlands is located has strict zoning laws, the Highlands is beautifully landscaped, master planned and a comfortable place to live.

It isn't cheap to live in these apartments, few young people live there. Most of the occupants are in their mid 30s to mid 40s, a lot of DINKs divorcees, professionals and even a few cops and firefighters call the Highlands home.

All of the complexes have wide driveways, some garages and wide, beautifully landscaped open spaces between the buildings. Some of the buildings are three story and, as aesthetically pleasings as they are, are not real conducive to firefighting. 

Few of the second floor units and none of the third floor units can be reached with a pre-connected hose line. The stairways require a dry stretch as they have many turns and are pretty narrow. The landings are large, which allow for the positioning of 100' of charged 1 1/2" before entry. A typical lay into these complexes would be stretch 150' of  2 1/2" with a wye up the stairs onto the landing, then a bundle of 100' of 1 1/2"  for attack.

Getting to the roof  would be tough in some cases, the truck company will be hard pressed to get close enough to use the main ladder. The 35 ft ground ladders will reach the roofs, however landscaping and grading issues don't make this a sure thing either.

My shift has had three fires in the Highlands over the past several years. All could have been serious fires involving injury and the displacement of numerous people. I wrote about two of the incidents, HERE and HERE.

The third incident occurred last week while I was cavorting in the desert. The call sounded good with a couple of telephone reports followed by a report of an activation from the alarm company. My replacement arrived on scene at the gate and found nothing visible. He had everyone stage at the street, drove into the complex and arrived at the reported building. He again reported nothing visible, though the alarm was sounding. A few moments later he found the right apartment, the one with water running out from under the door.

After entering the apartment, he found the fire extinguished and overhauled with the activation of three sprinkler heads. No ventilation was required, no exposures were threatened and no injuries were reported. The second engine and the truck company were kept and assigned to assist in water removal, the District Commander and the balance of the response were released.

The entire incident was resolved within an hour, only two units had water damage - the unit of origin and the one directly below it.

On the surface, it would appear that design features of the building that would be supportive of firefighting efforts were ignored and that they were sacrificed for an even more effective design feature - automatic fire sprinklers. Personally, I don't believe the architect made a conscious swap, aesthetics were likely the priority over fire protection.

However, the enactment of a strict fire sprinkler ordinance made the architect design them into the building, nothing else. For us, it seems like a fair trade, for the builders it seems like a nuisance and unnecessary expense and for the occupants, well they probably never even think about it.

All I can say for sure, is that in the Highlands, on the "B" shift, it's sprinklers 3, Fuego 0.

3 and 0 is a winning record in anyone's game.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Captain Schmoe,

    Is a "dry pull" when you pull the hose without any water in it? Is it the hose's stiffness or its weight that makes pulling it in tight spots a problem? How much does a hose full of water weigh?

    Thanks again for writing.

  2. Good questions Wayne, sometimes I forget that a lot of my readers are from other walks of life than my own.

    You guessed right about the dry pull. Most of the weight in a hoseline is when it is full of water or "charged".

    A fifty foot section of charged 1 3/4" hose weighs about 75 lbs. Of that, about 55 lbs of it is due to water.

    A fifty foot section of charged 2 1/2" hose weighs about 140 lbs. of that, about 107 lbs. is due to water.

    A typical pre-connected hose line is 200' long. Needless to say. empty hose is a lot easier to move around than charged lines.

    Stiffness of the hose is also a factor, especially in stairways and confined areas.

    That doesn't relieve us from the need to have the line charged and ready to flow water before entering an area where there is an immediate risk of fire involvement.

    Some people enter a high risk area before charging the line, sooner or later it will bite them in the ass. There is no guarantee that the engineer (apparatus driver) will get you water when you need it. Sometimes stuff happens and it takes longer to get water than you would like.

    Water - don't go in without it.

    Thanks for the questions Wayne, sorry it took so long for me to reply.

  3. Captain Schmoe,

    If you want a part time job after you retire, teach. You're good at it. Great answer, thanks!

    Wayne Conrad

  4. Thanks Wayne - I doubt you'll see me in the classroom after I retire. I was pretty tough on teachers as a kid, karma can be a bitch!

    Thanks for reading.