Basement fires are notoriously difficult and dangerous to fight, say Russ Saunders and Ben Klaene in their column “Cellar Threat” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. They cite, in particular, figures from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which investigated 18 incidents resulting in on-duty fatalities at basement fires since 1997.
However, this doesn’t mean firefighters should never enter a building with a known basement fire. Rather, firefighters should familiarize themselves with the types of construction used in their response areas and use the information to develop training programs and guidelines for adequate size-up that will help to determine the location of a fire and access to the fire area. It is important to have as much information as possible before committing to an offensive operation and to use the available information to evaluate firefighters’ risks.