Roof and Ceiling Collapses

There have been two fire ground collapse events this week; the first in Gary Indiana on April 5th, the other in Washington DC on April 8th that resulted in a total of eight firefighters being injured. The collapse conditions presented themselves during the course of operations in which suppression or search and rescue operations were being conducted. Each occupancy and construction type presents unique challenges and risks related to construction, materials, dead load and resiliency when impacted by fire, heat or fire suppression activities.

Maintaining effective and focused situational awareness of developing and progressing fire conditions, position and company assignments, and related monitoring of occupancy risk profile conditions may provide timely insights to changing conditions that may influence the incident action plan, strategies and tactics deployed or implemented.

As always, when physical conditions allow and there is an uncertainty of building risk profiles, occupancy charactoristics, construction type and fire conditions, a 360 is advised.

Never under estimate the severity of what may transpire when a partial collapse of a roof or ceiling assembly may have on operating companies and personnel.

  • When ever feasible, timely opening up of concealed spaces within the ceiling void, cockloft or truss loft of a roof assembly is imperative to assess the extent of fire, travel and intensity.
  • Observations openings within the ceiling membrane (from below) or roof deck (above) allows assessment determination for impingement of structural or support members and systems.
  • Use caution and be conservative in the use of Thermal Imaging devices for determining extent and magnitude of fire conditions within the concealed compartment; Refer to test results from the UL Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions Report and test data, HERE
  • When feasible, ensure eitehr dedicated truck/ladder companies or assigned task resources are available to provide coordinated tactical support to interior suppression and search and rescue assignments to manage fire behavior factors with appropriate incident, occupancy and building defined tactical deployments.
  • Think about what’s burning above you…it may very well be burning around or ontop of you, if systems, assemblies or components fail.

Three Gary (IN) firefighters were injured when the third floor ceiling of a burning building collapsed on Tuesday April 5th during search and rescue operations. According to published reports their injuries weren’t believed to be life-threatening, but they were taken to a hospital.

Battalion Chief Robert Groszewski stated about 20 firefighters responded to the fire at the site of the former Campbell Friendship House. He says no one was at home when the fire began.

Groszewski says the fire may have begun in a third-floor stairwell.

Other related links;

A ceiling collapse during a fire at a three-story building in Gary, Ind., injured three Gary firefighters Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Gary Post-Tribune)

Aerial View

Aerial Delta Side

Aerial of Charlie Side, Roof and Exposure

The fire and collapse in Washington, DC has resulted in five DCFD firefghter injuries, of which one firefighter is in critical condition following a roof collaspse, entrappment and mayday in an unoccupied single family residential structure during primary search and rescue operations that was known to have homeless people occupy the structure on occassion. According to various published reports, companies were making entry with pronounced fire conditions when the roof collapsed trapping the operating companies.

Reports from both and DCFD provided the following; DC Fire & EMS Department spokesman Pete Piringer indicated that five firefighters were hurt during a two-alarm house fire at 813 48th Street, NE. The fire was reported around 12:40 this morning. Three of the firefighters were from Rescue Squad 3 and were caught in the collapse of the roof of the one story, wood frame, single family home. At 7:30 AM Piringer reported one firefighter was in critical condition with significant burns, the other three with varying degrees of burns with expected early release. 

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Aerial View from Bing

For some previous insights on ceiling systems, refer to the Gypsum Board Ceiling Systems and Firefigher Safety post related to the Los Angeles (CA) FD line of duty death of veteran LAFD Firefighter Glenn Allen who died in the line of duties in February 2011 from injuries he sustained when a ceiling collapsed on him in a house fire. (HERE)

Filed Under: BuildingsonFireTactical OperationsThe Collapse Zone


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