You Make the Call – Man Hole Fire

You Make the CallIt’s been a quite day at the big house in your Department.  You are assigned to the busy engine and were ready for one hell of a day.  Today it will be quality, not quantity that gets you.

The bells ring and you have been dispatched as a single engine resource to a reported man hole fire in the City Center.  This area has heavy commercial, light industrial and some high occupancy buildings.  You have smoke showing from the firehouse as you pull out.  Convinced there is no way a 60+ foot column of smoke is your job, you are silent on the air at first.

As you arrive on the scene the wind is still, temps in the mid 60s and it is the early afternoon.  Turning the corner what you see is similar to this photo.

Obviously since you are first on the scene the responders in the photo have yet to even be dispatched.  Your driver is uphill and upwind, mainly because he’s that good and your crew is still in their seats.

What is your initial report for this incident and what resources will you request, if any? You make the call.

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44 thoughts on “You Make the Call – Man Hole Fire”

  1. From the pic it looks like the area has already been cordoned off so that takes care of traffic and passers-by. There is a lot of data that would need to be collected in this scenario namely “what’s down there”. I have to assume that given the nature of the area we could be looking at anything from communication cables (phone, data), cargo/merchandise (in underground storage areas for local biz), electrical cables/wires/transformers (NOT Optimus Prime), etc. This knowledge would be key in combating what ever is burning, addressing risks, determining extent (if any) of Haz Mat concerns and how to address potential need for evacuating nearby businesses. An additional concern is that this is a below grade fire with limited means of egress, difficulty of access (how far down does this go and how far till seat of fire), extremely poor visibility and that operations would very challenging. For some reason I can’t shake the image of an exploding transformer (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/explosion-on-sixth-avenue/) and the consequences thereof.
    I would say you’re going to need a decent amount of personnel because this will beat people up, you’ll probably need public works/city engineer to learn more about what’s down there, I assume EMS is already on scene (for responders and civvies) and air supply (not the band) abundantly on hand. Obviously if you have specialized units equipped and trained in this type of work, call them in (if they are not yet already inbound). I’m also thinking this may not be a straight “water” application based on the fuel; foam/chemical may be the way to go.

    1. Going with this fellas response good overall assessment. Now wheres the command vehicle so we can sit and watch the festivities…

  2. From the pic it looks like the area has already been cordoned off so that takes care of traffic and passers-by. There is a lot of data that would need to be collected in this scenario namely “what's down there”. I have to assume that given the nature of the area we could be looking at anything from communication cables (phone, data), cargo/merchandise (in underground storage areas for local biz), electrical cables/wires/transformers (NOT Optimus Prime), etc. This knowledge would be key in combating what ever is burning, addressing risks, determining extent (if any) of Haz Mat concerns and how to address potential need for evacuating nearby businesses. An additional concern is that this is a below grade fire with limited means of egress, difficulty of access (how far down does this go and how far till seat of fire), extremely poor visibility and that operations would very challenging. For some reason I can't shake the image of an exploding transformer (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/ex…) and the consequences thereof.
    I would say you're going to need a decent amount of personnel because this will beat people up, you'll probably need public works/city engineer to learn more about what's down there, I assume EMS is already on scene (for responders and civvies) and air supply (not the band) abundantly on hand. Obviously if you have specialized units equipped and trained in this type of work, call them in (if they are not yet already inbound). I'm also thinking this may not be a straight “water” application based on the fuel; foam/chemical may be the way to go.

  3. I thought that you were talking about a medical emergency like this.

    “A 68 year old man accidentally used capsaicin cream instead of hemorrhoid cream.”

    Sorry for the bathroom humor, resume normal blogging.

  4. I thought that you were talking about a medical emergency like <Ma href=”http://ipcblog.org/2010/02/10/midnight-7am-35-calls/”> this.

    “A 68 year old man accidentally used capsaicin cream instead of hemorrhoid cream.”

    Sorry for the bathroom humor, resume normal blogging.

  5. Well, I really have no idea what to do. A few years ago I dispatched a call similar to this but there was very little smoke and lots of heat. It turned out to be an electrical vault on fire, and before the crews could even attack the fire they had the Electrical Company come out to tell them what to expect when they got down there after pouring gallons of water into the vault.

    For all I know, it was Space Monkeys or Aliens – time for marshmallows and hot dogs.

  6. Well, I really have no idea what to do. A few years ago I dispatched a call similar to this but there was very little smoke and lots of heat. It turned out to be an electrical vault on fire, and before the crews could even attack the fire they had the Electrical Company come out to tell them what to expect when they got down there after pouring gallons of water into the vault.

    For all I know, it was Space Monkeys or Aliens – time for marshmallows and hot dogs.

  7. Havent a clue about how to handle anything like this, what with me being safely behind the outer cordon, but Im looking forward to hearing your answer!

  8. Havent a clue about how to handle anything like this, what with me being safely behind the outer cordon, but Im looking forward to hearing your answer!

  9. Going with this fellas response good overall assessment. Now wheres the command vehicle so we can sit and watch the festivities…

  10. I’m going to say that since the smoke is brown not black or white probabaly make my guys stay in truck an call haz-mat. My guys will need to treat the crew thats over there breathing that crap. If I’m way off base please don’t think I’m stupid – I’m just not a Firefighter thats all- just Firefighter/ EMS Family. :o) Much love and respect to you all for keeping us all safe!

  11. I’d first acertain wheather the area is secured or not then I’d request, public works,EMS,HAZ-MAT,and additional engine (or engines) for man power, and if the department has a predetermined ventalation unit that might come in handy as well. After public works arrived on scene and let us know what kind of cluster $^% we were dealing with I’d deffinatly have to request hotdogs and lawn chairs on a code 3 status.Seriously though,fires SIMILAR to this are fought all the time on aircraft carriers and the main things that are utilized are ventilation equipment,man power,and a extiguishing agent (foam or dry chemical or possibly water in some cases).

  12. First thing secure a large perimeter. Second get public works to know what’s down there, than call for the concerned agency (electrical, gas….) Third, check around not to get caught in between other events like this.

    In a building fire, that smoke color tells me something is going to blow in my face… so I assume this is no sewer thing because it would get more air from other man holes and burn more freely. This seems to be confined… definitely need to know what’s down there.

  13. Going with this fellas response good overall assessment. Now wheres the command vehicle so we can sit and watch the festivities…

  14. I'm going to say that since the smoke is brown not black or white probabaly make my guys stay in truck an call haz-mat. My guys will need to treat the crew thats over there breathing that crap. If I'm way off base please don't think I'm stupid – I'm just not a Firefighter thats all- just Firefighter/ EMS Family. :o) Much love and respect to you all for keeping us all safe!

  15. I'd first acertain wheather the area is secured or not then I'd request, public works,EMS,HAZ-MAT,and additional engine (or engines) for man power, and if the department has a predetermined ventalation unit that might come in handy as well. After public works arrived on scene and let us know what kind of cluster $^% we were dealing with I'd deffinatly have to request hotdogs and lawn chairs on a code 3 status.Seriously though,fires SIMILAR to this are fought all the time on aircraft carriers and the main things that are utilized are ventilation equipment,man power,and a extiguishing agent (foam or dry chemical or possibly water in some cases).

  16. First thing secure a large perimeter. Second get public works to know what's down there, than call for the concerned agency (electrical, gas….) Third, check around not to get caught in between other events like this.

    In a building fire, that smoke color tells me something is going to blow in my face… so I assume this is no sewer thing because it would get more air from other man holes and burn more freely. This seems to be confined… definitely need to know what's down there.

  17. Ensure that there is a Full Box Dispatch (1st Alarm Response) enroute, Special Call the CO2 Unit. Establish Command until relieved by the Chief, Link up with the local law enforcement and public health/HazMat Officials to consider sheltering in place or evacuating local residents. Check with the power company to identify what may be in the subterranean vault. (If you were an astute and dedicated company officer in the area, you would already know and have a pre-plan for this eventuality) Establish the medical group for potential victims and injuries. Primary strategy for extinguishment will most likely be defensive and use of large amounts of CO2 since it may be an energized utility vault with transformers. There should be no transformers with PCB’s in the vault but I wouldn’t be my life or the life of citizens until I could confirm with the local utility company.

    1. Just so everyone knows Seb Wong is one of my bosses and is cheating by knowing everything already. Pay no attention to his common sense safety approach…that’s how he lures you in…

    2. Just so everyone knows Seb Wong is one of my bosses and is cheating by knowing everything already. Pay no attention to his common sense safety approach…that’s how he lures you in…

  18. Ensure that there is a Full Box Dispatch (1st Alarm Response) enroute, Special Call the CO2 Unit. Establish Command until relieved by the Chief, Link up with the local law enforcement and public health/HazMat Officials to consider sheltering in place or evacuating local residents. Check with the power company to identify what may be in the subterranean vault. (If you were an astute and dedicated company officer in the area, you would already know and have a pre-plan for this eventuality) Establish the medical group for potential victims and injuries. Primary strategy for extinguishment will most likely be defensive and use of large amounts of CO2 since it may be an energized utility vault with transformers. There should be no transformers with PCB's in the vault but I wouldn't be my life or the life of citizens until I could confirm with the local utility company.

  19. Not too good on this sort of thing, hell we don’t even have a single wet hydrant in our response area, let alone manholes. Gonna need special ops, the utilities, PD to secure the area and clear out a safe zone, city engineers to let us know what we are facing. I too noticed the smoke first (ALWAYS READ THE SMOKE FIRST) and I am suspecting electrical with lots of wire/cable involved and probably some energy driven heat. What I want to know first from those on the scene is if anyone is down there. If yes, what PPE do they have or WERE they breathing forced general ventilation (if so, we have a recovery to deal with later). If no rescue is needed, secure the scene, collect information, search the surrounding area for extension. Hopefully between the Battalion Chief and the engineers we can get enough information to come up with a plan.
    Now, how did we all do? You gonna make us wait until Monday Justin?

  20. This looks like something that happened in our area once a year or to ago. The Chief ordered tender operators to dump there water in to hole. That was 4000 Gals than everyone being lucky went home. The next morning the Chief found out it was a 3 phase line the burned. Not all Chief’s know everything so if you don’t think its right its your job to speak up and your Life.

    1. Indeed dumping water down a burning hole sounds like a nifty idea, but thinking through what is down there and reading the smoke gives away a lot as some readers above have mentioned. Seb Wong also mentioned being able to bring in a special CO2 unit, not many jurisdictions have that, but I bet the utility company has something up their sleeves. But you are right, it is everyone’s job to be the Safety Officer on every scene.

    2. Indeed dumping water down a burning hole sounds like a nifty idea, but thinking through what is down there and reading the smoke gives away a lot as some readers above have mentioned. Seb Wong also mentioned being able to bring in a special CO2 unit, not many jurisdictions have that, but I bet the utility company has something up their sleeves. But you are right, it is everyone’s job to be the Safety Officer on every scene.

  21. Not too good on this sort of thing, hell we don't even have a single wet hydrant in our response area, let alone manholes. Gonna need special ops, the utilities, PD to secure the area and clear out a safe zone, city engineers to let us know what we are facing. I too noticed the smoke first (ALWAYS READ THE SMOKE FIRST) and I am suspecting electrical with lots of wire/cable involved and probably some energy driven heat. What I want to know first from those on the scene is if anyone is down there. If yes, what PPE do they have or WERE they breathing forced general ventilation (if so, we have a recovery to deal with later). If no rescue is needed, secure the scene, collect information, search the surrounding area for extension. Hopefully between the Battalion Chief and the engineers we can get enough information to come up with a plan.
    Now, how did we all do? You gonna make us wait until Monday Justin?

  22. This looks like something that happened in our area once a year or to ago. The Chief ordered tender operators to dump there water in to hole. That was 4000 Gals than everyone being lucky went home. The next morning the Chief found out it was a 3 phase line the burned. Not all Chief's know everything so if you don't think its right its your job to speak up and your Life.

  23. Just so everyone knows Seb Wong is one of my bosses and is cheating by knowing everything already. Pay no attention to his common sense safety approach…that's how he lures you in…

  24. Indeed dumping water down a burning hole sounds like a nifty idea, but thinking through what is down there and reading the smoke gives away a lot as some readers above have mentioned. Seb Wong also mentioned being able to bring in a special CO2 unit, not many jurisdictions have that, but I bet the utility company has something up their sleeves. But you are right, it is everyone's job to be the Safety Officer on every scene.

  25. Great post, HM! Tough read, good experience for those in a suburban or rural area like myself! Like many of those above, thankfully haven’t seen one of these before! Great stuff! Learning, and thinking, have taken place!

  26. Great post, HM! Tough read, good experience for those in a suburban or rural area like myself! Like many of those above, thankfully haven’t seen one of these before! Great stuff! Learning, and thinking, have taken place!

  27. Great post, HM! Tough read, good experience for those in a suburban or rural area like myself! Like many of those above, thankfully haven't seen one of these before! Great stuff! Learning, and thinking, have taken place!

  28. Great post, HM! Tough read, good experience for those in a suburban or rural area like myself! Like many of those above, thankfully haven't seen one of these before! Great stuff! Learning, and thinking, have taken place!

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