Building Fire in Paterson

Building Fire in Paterson
By Deputy Chief Peter Danzo

At 1715 hours on January 16th, companies from Paterson Fire Departments 1st battalion were dispatched to 1005 Madison Avenue for calls reporting a building fire. While leaving quarters a few blocks north of the fire, Ladder 1 reported smoke in the area quickly followed by Engine 1 reporting a working fire in a 2-1/2 story frame. Battalion 1 arrived and reported heavy fire on the first and second floors with exposure problems on both sides and requested a second-alarm. Upon arrival of Deputy 1, Chief Del Valle, he reported heavy fire with extension into the B exposure, a 2-1/2 story mixed used frame and shortly after requested a third-alarm bringing all on duty seven engines, three ladders, and the rescue to the scene. Heavy fire broke through the roof of the original fire building and companies reported heavy fire in the attic of the exposure, due to deteriorating conditions, command pulled all members out and set up a defensive attack.

As the bulk of the fire was knocked down, companies re-entered the bravo exposure where they found fire running the walls and ceilings, additional lines were stretched into the building and a fourth-alarm was requested bringing mutual aid companies to the scene.

At approximately 21:00 hours, command reported the fire PWH with companies continuing to hit hot spots and releasing some companies. Units remained on the scene for several more hours overhauling and hitting hot spots. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation by the PFD investigations unit and the county prosecutor’s office arson squad.

Dash Displacement

Dash Displacement
By John A. Sahatjian

As First Responders, we all know that no two extrications are the same. What makes rescuers superior at extrications is an understanding of the entire crash, the task at hand (short term and long term), and having multiple plans in place. Having a plan A and B may not work in all scenarios. Having attack plans c-z ready to be implemented at any moment, while having those tools needed may end up saving a life. Having all plans ready and staged is of vital importance.

With any extrication, training or incident I have been involved with my practice has always been to bring a spreader and cutter to the car. We as rescuers can achieve almost anything with those tools while beginning our operation, with the rest of the crew staging other tools for our plan B through Z.

During extrication, performing a dash displacement has shown to cause more problems for rescuers. Why is this a common occurrence? How do we get better at it? We, as rescuers have to train more frequently in these skills. This is a technical rescue that we want to be “100% – 100% of the time”. Just like a RIT deployment, we do not want to be “figuring out” our supplemental air pack at that time we need to use it.

As we know, there are many different ways to complete a dash displacement maneuver. Something I live by in training extrication is the saying “I am teaching you methods techniques and options, there are many different ways to accomplish the same thing and we need to know all of them.” Therefore, we as rescuers need to know we have the options either to do a dash roll or a dash lift.

A dash roll using a hydraulic ram pushing on the lower section of the B post and the extension end of the ram on the A post. There are many variations of this including pushing on the lower steering column instead of the A post. The objective of a dash roll using a ram is to roll the dash toward the front of the vehicle and open space between the driver seat and the steering column.


  1. Using a large ram you gain a large amount of distance to roll the dash and steering column.
  2. No need to have cribbing directly under the A post rocker panel like in a dash lift.


  1. Once the dash roll is complete, the ram restricts the passenger compartment access.
  2. To do a dash roll is much easier with some integrity left in the lower B post and upper A post.

A dash lift using a hydraulic spreader is conducted by creating a gap in the rocker panel, in the lower portion of the a pillar inserting the spreader tips and lifting the dash and steering column creating space between the occupant and the dash / steering column.


  1. When doing a dash roll with a ram, the ram restricts patient access. Compared to a lift when the spreader is positioned perpendicular to the vehicle to leave the passenger compartment very accessible.

Think of the idea of “raising the bridge or lowering the water” Our task of the lift is to create space to remove the patient. Do not get caught up in getting 27 or 32 inches of lift out of the dash. If your cribbing was not positioned properly before the lift (underneath the floor where the spreader tip will be) you can still “lower the water” (meaning lower the floor section and gain access to the patient’s feet.


  1. Once you gain a lift in the dash and the spreader opens you lose surface area contact with the spreader tips creating a possibility of the spreader kicking out causing a hazard to rescuers and the patient.
  2. Cribbing must be placed underneath the floor directly underneath the spreader.


The relief cuts for the two operations can be the same, and the most important part of the operation.

Cut 1 – Take a large cut out of the lower portion of the a pillar at the rocker panel

Cut 2 – Cut the a post High at the roof line or remove the roof completely.

Cut 3 – Moving forward to the fender cut a chunk through the fender, cutting between the fire wall and the shock for the front tire. (If possible, remove the front fender to access the frame of the vehicle.) It is important to remember to cut a large chuck out if possible so when the dash rolls forward the two ends of the cut to don’t touch and fight one another.

When making your relief cuts it is important to make sure these cuts are completely through each section or you will be fighting the mechanics of the vehicle when trying to get a lift or roll. When conducting the actual lift or roll it is imperative to have a cutter standing by ready to assist incase the relief cuts have not been properly done. Another important thing to remember is once you start the lift of a dash roll and begin to gain space you never close the tool and reposition, this may cause the dash pedals and ect to put even more pressure back down on the patient and possibly injuring them further.

Since each MVA rescue is going to be different than the last you responded to, members need to be proficient and understand what the task is at that specific incident. Remember to “read the wreck” and prepare a plan of attack. When that plan fails to work or doesn’t go as planned, the Officer running the incident needs to have plan B-Z already prepped to go to work. There is no time to waste in critical incidents such as these.

Do This Exercise: Help Your Shoulders

Do This Exercise: Help Your Shoulders
By: Kyle Wodynski

Seeing many first responders with shoulder issues, poor posture, and the lack of time to go to a gym to exercise, I decided to write about a simple yet effective exercise that could be done anytime, anywhere, with minimal equipment. It’s one of my personal favorites (for many reasons) that I do DAILY, and it’s known as the band pull apart.

There’s no excuse you can’t perform this exercise as you could do it anywhere and anytime. All you need as far as equipment is a band. If you don’t own one, you could buy one or more (there are different resistance levels) for a few bucks at stores that sell exercise equipment. If you travel, pack the band. If you’re on call at the station, bring the band (or get some for the station). If you belong to a gym, I’m sure they will have bands you could use for your workout and if they don’t, bring one with you.

When do you perform this exercise? Honestly, it could be used anytime during your workouts. Warm ups to get your shoulders and upper back ready. It could be the last exercise of your workout as a burnout set. Or, one of my favorite times which is in between working sets of exercises especially the bench press or shoulder press as it may decrease the risk of shoulder injuries or it may even help decrease shoulder pain while training. Now if you do not belong to a gym, perform this anytime you want throughout the day. Heck try doing it during commercials of your favorite show. You could perform this exercise before training drills to help warm up which may help with injury prevention and improved performance. If you are new to this exercise, try it as a warm-up for three sets of fifteen reps. I would use this as a warm-up before every workout whether it be lower body or upper body day. You could gradually add it in more like in between your sets of other exercises and count it as an exercise. For in between other exercise sets, aim for ten to fifteen reps. You could do a burnout set at the end where you go all out and try to hit one hundred reps with as minimal rest as possible. You could even just perform straight sets where you perform the exercise until you hit your desired reps then take a break for a minute then repeat for a couple more sets. You could switch it up daily when to perform the band pull apart (always use for warm-up) and because this exercise isn’t too strenuous and doesn’t tax your joints or central nervous system, you could do it DAILY even off days for active recovery.

The band pull apart works the muscles of your upper back and the rear part of your shoulders which may improve posture in some. Many don’t train their back or the back of their shoulders as much as they do with chest or the front of their shoulders which leads to their shoulders rounding forward looking like an ape. Not only does it look weird, but it could lead to shoulder injuries which you don’t want. It could also interfere with your performance on a job.

Here’s how to perform the band pull apart:

  1. Take a shoulder width stance while standing straight
  2. With both hands hold a resistance band shoulder width apart with your palms facing down and your arms extended straight out lined up with your nipple line
  3. Squeeze your scapula’s together (pretend you are holding a pencil in the middle of your upper back) and pull your hands out to your sides while keeping your arms straight
  4. Pause for one to three seconds then bring your hands back in front of you slow and controlled
  5. If you want to make it more challenging, get a thicker band or hold the band with your hands closer together. To make it easier, get a thinner band or hold the band with your hands farther apart
  6. Throughout the entire movement, DO NOT shrug your shoulders up. Always keep them down.

There you have it folks. A convenient exercise that could be done anytime or anywhere with a simple resistance band that will help you tremendously. There’s NO EXCUSES with this exercise. This exercise NEEDS to be in everyone’s routine whether they exercise regularly or not. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, this exercise will help. Give it a shot and strengthen your upper back, improve your posture, and keep those shoulders healthy and happy.

For more helpful fitness tips, please visit and like my Facebook page Newbreedfitness LLC. For information on how I may be able to help your department, visit my website Or if you have any questions or comments, email me at

Firefighters Battle Marcal Paper Company

Firefighters Battle Marcal Paper Company (Elmwood Park), in Sub-Freezing Temperatures: One of Bergen County’s Largest Fires
By Peter Danzo


January 30, 2019 was set to go down in the history books as one of the coldest on record with high winds and sub-zero temperatures. It also was to become the night of one of the largest fires in Bergen County history. A little after 17:00 hours, Elmwood Park Fire Department was dispatched to the Marcal Paper Company at 35 Market Street for a report of a fire. This is somewhat routine as the fire department has been there on multiple occasions over the years for fires, many small and a few larger including one that went to five alarms, however, this fire would prove to be different. As the first chief officer arrived, he reported a heavy smoke condition and what appeared to be three buildings involved in fire and immediately requested a third alarm. Companies attempted to locate the seat of the fire, but the heavy smoke made it difficult and within fifteen minutes, command reported heavy fire through the roof and embers landing on buildings and homes across the street, and he requested a fourth alarm. Approximately forty minutes into the fire, command reported a heavy ember problem and had companies chasing embers for several blocks as they were landing on houses, and a small fire started on the roof of borough hall several blocks away, but it was quickly extinguished. In less than an hour, all members were evacuated and switched to an exterior attack. The high winds played havoc with the master streams as the fire was rapidly spreading, command requested multiple ladders to set up around the complex and just over an hour into the fire the fifth alarm was transmitted, with the fire continuing to spread throughout the complex. A drafting site was set up with engines drafting from the Passaic River, additional alarms were sounded bringing fire companies from three counties to the scene.

The wind and sub-zero temperatures continued to play havoc, as it helped spread the fire, freeze the water in the hoses, pumps, and on the fire ground, which also resulted in two engines being placed out of service because their pumps froze. Command requested the state Neptune (high volume water) System to the scene, however, it was unable to respond. The fire eventually spread to most of the buildings within the confines of the complex including a large 4-story mill which held the famous “Marcal Paper” sign on its roof and another 2-story mill building which was over 600’ long, however, companies were able to protect the main production building, the complexes power plant, and several other buildings. After 24-hours, companies were being rotated into the fire scene and command reported they still had numerous deep-seated fires in the rubble and a demolition crew was attempting to pull apart the rubble. 48-hours later several companies remained on the scene due to pockets of fire. Miraculously no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the NJ State Fire Marshal’s Office, the ATF, and local authorities.


Chief Harry Carter

After nearly four decades in the fire and emergency service world, I can state for the records that I have attended literally thousands of fires. These incidents have occurred on three different continents and in a wide range of climatic zones. Each of these fires has one thing in common with all of the others. Each was an educational experience.

Sometimes I share my thoughts the scene. Sometimes I have discussed things over coffee in the fire station. There have been problems with this. It stems from the fact that no structured way existed within my departmental system which would allow us all to profit from the knowledge gained at these incidents and sessions.

I decided years ago that I could maximize the impact of any event I attended. I have worked to combine my study of fire protection, with an independent reading program. I have compared the events experienced during my career with the facts I have read. Then I consciously adjusted my future actions based on my range of experience, as modified by my studying and my education.

It is my wish to lay out an approach to learning from your fireground experience. In that way, you will be able to profit from the periodic exposures to danger that you will face in the emergency service world. What I am suggesting is that you and your fire department develop a Post Operations Critique procedure.

This recommended procedure would mandate that you assess your performance while the facts were still fresh in your mind. And you would be required to do it in standard fashion, in a way that could be repeated systematically throughout your department. In this way you could compile a history of lessons learned. The creation of an identifiable history allows you to study it in the future.

The post-fire critique forms a critical element in any fire department’s training program. It allows for a review of procedure. It also allows for a comparison to expected outcomes, based upon existing knowledge (wherever acquired) and guidelines. It allows for a review of any mistakes made, while their lessons are still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Let us take a look at the values attributed to post-fire critiques.

  1. They allow responders to get a clear idea of the effect of their actions on the operation.
  2. By comparing expected outcomes, to the actual consequences, fire personnel can make personal and organizational adjustments.
  3. By assessing what worked, with what did not, improvements can be made.

People will come to understand that their actions can, and do, generate outcomes. They will discover that these outcomes can be good, or they can be bad. They will then come to understand that by changing operational inputs, you can affect change to operational outputs. And your training program, as well as your operational program will be improved by everyone’s efforts.

Another critical area for improvement comes from the impact of teamwork on an emergency incident. People will come to know whom they can trust. Fortunately, the critique process allows for the identification of problems like these. Team-building training can then be undertaken to improve inter-and intra-unit operations.

It is at the skills delivery level that critical changes must be observed. Hoselines need to be stretched, ladders must be raised and water pumped. A post-incident critique allows for the identification of problem areas in the deployment and operational phases of your fireground operation.

Remember that it is not just the skills of the firefighters that need to be assessed. Command decisions need to be evaluated. This re-examination should lead to improvements in your delivery of suppression services. Take the case of an un-raised aerial ladder. During the post-fire critique phase of an operation, you discover that your first-due aerial ladder failed to raise its ladder to the roof. You find that critical vertical ventilation by the first-due truck company went undone and the structure suffered severe damage.

As a result of this discovery, you decide to take action. Wisely, you choose to discuss this matter with that unit’s commander. During the discussion he states that the aerial could not be raised because of problems with overhead wires. You mention that the task could have been done with ground ladders. And the officer responds that he made the decision to go into the building in force on a search and rescue mission.

It then becomes obvious during your discussions that the problem was not the un-raised aerial. It was a communications matter. The officer from the aerial should have notified the Incident Commander that one operational task was being substituted for another. Had that information been delivered and acknowledged, alternative actions could have been taken to insure a better overall service delivery level.

It is in ways such as this that a post-fire critique can refine your overall operation. There are a number of things that can be improved by an immediate post-fire review:

  1. Improve individual performance
  2. Improve teamwork and coordination
  3. Teach importance of teamwork
  4. Use it to avoid accidents
  5. Learn how to do things better

Now that we have an idea of what post-fire critiques can do, let us take a look at how to perform them. For them to be of value, they must occur immediately after the emergency is fully stabilized. They must occur while the lines are in place, before any breakdown or cleanup takes place.

After the incident has been brought under control, the incident commander should gather their personnel at an appropriate location and review the just-completed operation. The team should review their actions. Each member of the team should contribute facts about the tasks they performed and how they did them.

Events must be allowed to unfold in a non-threatening environment. Everyone must come to an understanding of what was done and how it was done. The object is to be sure that things are done better next time. No yelling, screaming or blame distribution is to be allowed. This is similar to a brainstorming session where a free and open attitude communications and cooperation must be encouraged.

It is very important that each member of the team speak openly and honestly. This session is not for blame or apologies. It is a fact-finding session. And if the mood of the group is defensive, nothing positive will happen.

It is up to the team leader to maintain the lines of communication. The discussion needs to be upbeat and frank in its reviews of the events that have just occurred. The object is to reach a consensus on the operation and how it might be improved. Once this task is accomplished, the team can return to the task of going back in service for the next alarm.

The post-fire critique can be an excellent tool for operational growth and improvement. Let me urge you to begin conducting them as soon as possible.


To Vent or Not to Vent…Not Every Time
By Ret. Capt. James Bonelli, Passaic FD

As we all know; coordinated ventilation with fire attack is paramount for a successful operation. It provides improved conditions to our members operating on the interior of the building. It releases products of combustion built up from the fire burning within a structure. Heat and smoke are released through our vent openings increasing survivability to any occupants trapped inside.

There are many studies in past few years providing technical information on how fires react when firefighters vent top side. This is not one of them!

I would like to focus on peak roof ventilation operations. Sending members to operate on a roof is a high-risk operation. Risk versus gain analysis must be done. As an incident commander giving the order to vent the roof; many considerations must be made. Location and extent of the fire is critical. At what stage is the fire in? Fire that has consumed much of the roof structure and is already in the free burning stage is NOT the time to send members to the roof.

Many publications show well-involved roof structures about to collapse and firefighters ascending ground ladders to start a vent hole. You have to ask; what do they hope to gain? The risk is too high with nothing to gain. The building is most likely a loss.

Building size up is critical. Are lightweight trusses present? If so the presence of a ridge beam is missing; creating no place to hook our roof ladder. Operating off an aerial device or horizontal ventilation is our only options. No firefighter should operate on a lightweight truss roof system.

The number of firefighters assigned to vent the roof should be kept to a minimum. Two to three firefighters on the roof will be plenty to perform the task. Do not overload an already compromised roof.

If operating off a roof ladder maintain contact with the ladder. Do not leave the safety of the roof ladder. A backup firefighter should maintain hand contact with the member making the cut; as to signal the firefighter operating the saw with a slap on the back in case danger is present. With the saw running communications will be difficult. The backup firefighter is the eyes and ears of the member cutting.

When making the vent hole; consider the reach of the pike pole you’re using to push down the ceiling. The vent hole is usually placed close to the ridge; a six-foot pike pole may not reach the ceiling below. Consider moving your vent hole down the roof.  When attempting to push down the ceiling you may encounter plywood on the attic floor; making it impossible to vent the top floor effectively.

Roof ventilation is performed on top floor fires only.

Balloon frame homes are the one time that roof ventilation is acceptable when fires involve basements. Due to the open vertical void spaces running from basement to attic area. Well involved fire conditions in the basement will extend quickly to the attic bypassing the first and second floors. Roof ventilation will help relieve conditions in the basement and smoke in the attic.

Platform frame structures involving fire conditions on the top floor or attic would warrant roof operations. Although an aggressive interior attack on the top floor and good truck work (pulling ceilings) would have positive results in conjunction with an outside vent firefighter performing horizontal ventilation. When pulling ceilings on the top floor; work in conjunction with the hose line. Do not pull too far ahead of the hose team. This should be an orchestrated effort.

Many times it seems roof ventilation is performed when all else has failed! And other times it’s a knee jerk reaction because the incident commander is out of ideas to gain control of a well-involved fire. It may seem firefighters operating on the roof are highly visible to the public and it gives the impression the fire department is “doing something”. Do not send members to the roof unnecessarily.

When the fire has been extinguished and residual smoke is in the structure; this is Not the time for roof venting operations.

As mentioned earlier; roof ventilation should be well thought out and many considerations must be calculated before commencing roof vent operations. Some departments prohibit peak roof venting altogether.

Sometimes roof ventilation is not an option. Knowing when Not to vent the roof is as important as knowing when to vent!

Building Your Own Props

Building Your Own Props
By Robert Policht

In the past we covered a topic that discussed training on a budget. This brought out working with equipment that is readily available on the rig or at the firehouse. One of the topics included going out with the crew and playing a sport. Other topics included using a ground ladder as a low-profile prop that a firefighter would have to maneuver through while maintaining their SCBA orientation. The fire service is something that has been and continues to be developed daily in every firehouse. While the norms seem to be shifting from learning by reading a textbook to watching a training clip on social media and then discussing it. There is more to being a sound firefighter than just a few seconds of a video clip. But what these clips may potentially teach everyone is how to think a little bit differently about a certain subject.

Someone may view a clip and begin to think on a broader horizon where they may need to build some type of prop to further continue their training and education. The fire service has historically been a field that many members have an interest or background in some sort of trade. Whether it be construction, plumbing, etc. Together all of these skills can be brought together to develop a better learning environment for firefighters. There are a variety of props that may be built to use during training. Some of them include a stud prop, bailout window, wires entanglement, and many more.

The Studs
The studs prop is one that many of us have had the opportunity to go through during initial firefighter training. The normal distance between two studs in framing construction is 16 inches. By creating various widths between studs, it will create an obstacle that would allow for a firefighter to adapt and overcome during training. This exercise would make the firefighter perform a low-profile maneuver with the SCBA whether it be shifting the unit in-line with their profile or conducting a complete removal of the unit. In addition to just the bare studs, the prop may be altered by constructing it on an angle or adding some realism to it by fastening sheetrock to it. Now the firefighter would have the opportunity to conduct breaching techniques in addition to the low-profile maneuver. This prop may be built as a mobile or stationary product. The possibilities are endless.

The Bailout Window
The bailout window may be built in a variety of layouts. First it must be determined what kind of bailout; personal safety rope system or ladder. Both of these have their own criteria that may need to be stressed to have a more fluid evolution. For a rope bailout you need the space to conduct your slides. In the case we are discussing, a ladder bailout will require enough space to attach a modified ground ladder to the prop. The prop was developed enough for firefighters to train on the basics of the ladder bailout and transitioning from a window to a ground ladder. A larger prop such as this one also allows for some modification that will allow for other mounts such as pipe fittings for rebar. These fittings hold the rebar to conduct a variety of cutting evolutions as well as impalement training.

Wires Entanglement
The wire entanglement prop has several different shapes and sizes. It may look more open between two knee walls or it all may be confined to a blacked-out box. Once you have a designated area that you can create such an evolution, all it takes is using anything you think may tie you up. In this case they used different types of spare wire and secured it to the two “walls.” In a case that you cannot make a stable prop, you can put together a couple of benches and add variables such as ropes to create a similar effect.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what kind of training simulator you may have. You’re only limited to what your mind can think of. In the fire service it is preached to “Think outside of the box,” so why not apply it to how we train? Think above and beyond while maintaining the fundamentals of the craft.

Fire Ground Size-Up and Operations in Churches

Fire Ground Size-Up and Operations in Churches
Part 1 – Construction
By Deputy Chief Mike Terpak

Firefighters will be called on to respond to incidents at churches that come in all designs, shapes, sizes, and ages. Churches can be anything from 200-year-old gothic-style, heavy timber structures to modern contemporary buildings composed of all light-weight building materials. Luckily, a fire in a church is not an everyday occurrence. Many fire service members will go their entire careers without responding to a significant fire in a church. For those who have experience, it will be limited.

Many will agree when I say that a structure fire that involves a heavy timber church will be one of the most difficult, resource-intensive, and challenging fires anyone will ever encounter. There is nothing easy about a fire that involves one of these large structures. When we take into consideration the age of the building, its size, the class of construction, and the large unreachable void spaces, it should not surprise anyone that fire can gain possession of the entire building in a short period of time. The important point to remember when attempting to control a fire in one of these buildings is knowing what you can and cannot do in the short time that you have. Options may be limited, and dan-gers escalate quickly. It is important for a fire officer to recognize them.

In the United States, the classic heavy timber designed church can be well over 100 years old and is a well-known symbol in many towns and cities throughout the country. These structures will often span an entire city block. The Class 4 heavy timber construction will often feature masonry exterior walls with large interior timberwork, covered by a steeply pitched slate roof. Buildings of this style, although considered one story in height, can have roof peaks reaching 60’ or higher and steeple heights reaching 150’ or higher. Large interior timberwork will make up a significant portion of the building’s skeleton. Large columns and girders of wood will support the floor and roof spans, while the timbers used to support the roof system may be erected in various truss designs. The triangular design and the scissor-type truss are two of the most common designs used to support the peak area over the nave of the church.

Hanging ceiling/attic space: The space encompassed by the roof support members is often referred to as the hanging ceiling space, the attic, or the cockloft. This area above the nave or auditorium ceiling and the underside of the roof deck can be quite sizable. Heights can range from 12’ to 18’ or more and will often cover the entire church auditorium. Access-ing this space will be extremely challenging. Often the only entrance to this space will be through a small trapdoor that is reachable by a narrow staircase or access ladder. Further-more, there will be little to no flooring in the attic space. Anyone venturing into this space will only find a catwalk of wooden planks to traverse the area. Stepping to either side of the planking could cause a person to fall through the plaster ceiling of the auditorium. The attic space will also lack suitable lighting. When lighting is available, it is generally limited to one or two 100-watt bulbs at best. Any smoke within this space greatly reduces visibil-ity in an area where it usually is already limited. An attempt by a firefighter to enter the hanging ceiling space should be approached with great caution and should only be con-sidered for a small incident. Fires of any real magnitude are too dangerous to be fought from this area.

Vaulted ceilings: Vaulted plaster ceilings will make up the underside of the roof space. These heavy ornamental ceilings could extend 50’ or more above the church auditorium floor. Supporting columns for the ceiling are constructed with large wooden timbers or cast-iron columns. It is important to note that the presence of cast-iron columns may not be immediately apparent from within the church auditorium. Often, they will be framed out and covered with ornamental plaster. If cast-iron columns are present within the building, they will most likely be visible in the unfinished areas of the basement or cellar.

The main concern for the firefighter from the heavy ornamental plaster ceiling of a church auditorium is the possibility of large sections failing and dropping to the floor as fire spreads to the attic space. Sections weighing 100 pounds or more can drop into the church auditorium and could bring large lighting fixtures down with them. Anyone struck by sections of the ceiling will be seriously injured or killed.

Roofs: Roofs associated with heavy timber churches will most often be slate tile over wood planking. These roofs will often date back to the building’s original design and construction. Slate is a material that is virtually unaffected by exposure to weather. These roofs will generally last a lifetime. With pitches of 45° or more, often the biggest opera-tional concern from a slate tile roof will be any tiles that loosen and dislodge during fire department operations.

Wood, wood, and more wood: Wood is obviously going to be the chief combus-tible concern with this type of structure. Wood will not be limited to columns, roof decks, and supporting systems. Interior walls will often be constructed of heavy plaster over wood lath. They may initially give the appearance of a masonry constructed block wall. Void spaces will also be a concern. The interior walls within the church can be hol-lowed/framed out anywhere from 16’ to 20’ from the actual exterior masonry walls to accommodate the building’s original heating ducts. These large void spaces are highways of fuel that will allow fire to move up to the attic space as well as possibly drop down into the basement/cellar with little effort. In addition to the wood lath behind the walls, church interiors often will contain wood trim, wood wainscoting on the walls, wooden pews, wooden benches and balconies, and wooden choir and organ lofts. These buildings are like neatly arranged lumberyards.

Altar and choir/organ loft: The church altar will be found at the rear of the auditorium. It is the raised area where the priest or pastor conducts the service. Some of these areas are very ornate and decorative. If you look closely at them, you will notice an extensive amount of building material used in their design. From the raised marble floor to the dec-orative columns and trim, an altar presents a significant dead load. This is a collapse con-cern when fire is below.

Tapestries may be draped across the columns and walls or may be suspended from the ceiling in the altar area. Combined with the numerous lit candles, often present in this style of church, this creates an immediate concern. You should expect candles to be lit during a service, with many more glowing during the holiday season. It is interesting to note the effects from many years of burning wax candles. Wax vapors from the lit can-dles will leave a coating of flammable resins on walls, ceilings, and tapestries. This will add to an already heavy fire load.

The choir and organ loft will be located in the front of the church. It will generally be behind you as you sit for church service. This raised area is generally considered an open second floor within the auditorium. The loft space will not be large, but it is still a cause for concern. Access is normally through a door and up a small staircase off the front vestibule. Anticipate a tight climb if you need to access this space. The next time you have the opportunity, measure or estimate the distance from the front door of the church to the actual church auditorium. The distance into the vestibule and under the choir loft will likely average around 30’. In the event part of your operation will include deploy-ment of a master stream into the church auditorium from the front door, you will need to move the nozzle/appliance at least 30’ into the interior. If you do not, you will only be hitting the underside of the choir/organ loft with your hose stream.

Floors: Floors in heavy timber or wood frame churches can be constructed of a marble, terrazzo, or a tile surface over a wooden floor deck supported by columns of wood or cast-iron. Depending on the floor material used, it could easily mask fire conditions below.

Windows: Large older churches are also known for their oversized windows that in most cases will contain ornamental stained glass. The glass may be extremely valuable, very expensive to repair, and often irreplaceable. This may make firefighters reluctant to break any windows in an attempt to ventilate the building. Because of the value of the stained-glass windows, many churches in high-crime areas may also have installed wire mesh, metal grates, or possibly plastic coverings to protect the windows. Protective covers may also have been installed over the windows to prevent birds from perching on the windows sills, since bird droppings can destroy the lead-lined glass and sill. Any obstruc-tion covering the window will affect your ability to ventilate the opening.

Thermal imaging: As we venture deeper into the difficulties associated with these structures in our next article, thermal imaging will be the fire officer’s best friend. Large void spaces, high ceilings, and marble floor surfaces will not give firefighters the early heat indicators needed to make an assessment on the fire’s location and extent. Thermal imaging cameras deployed from multiple points by educated operators can give vital in-formation to decision makers about large, complicated structures.

The above is an excerpt of the soon to be released book, Fire Ground Size Up, 2nd. Edition.

For seminar information you can contact Chief Terpak at or 973-726-9538, or you can also follow him on face book at Mike Terpak Fire Service Training and Consulting

Leadership Doesn’t Just Happen

Leadership Doesn’t Just Happen
By Dr. Harry R. Carter, FIFireE, CFO


My friends, my years of studying the many aspects behind the concept of leadership has formed a great part of my professional life for well over four decades now. Let me suggest that my research has identified the fact that some people really are better leaders than others. I’ll now ask you a critical question. Why? Is this luck, fate, education, experience, or some combination of all of these?

Allow me to further suggest to you that effective leadership comes about as a result of hard work and a strict adherence to certain personal and professional standards of performance. I am offering a recommendation to you that those individuals who experience the most success in positions of leadership are those who spend the requisite amount of time learning the principles of effective leadership and then applying these principles to the leadership of their folks. These people then take great pains working to maintain and refine those skills and principles.

The formula for leadership success is as simple to state as it is difficult to implement. Some people also work to continually refine their leadership style based upon their experience. Those things that lead to success are kept in their personal arsenal of skills and those things which do not are discarded. For many years, people in the fire service looked to the now-discredited physical traits theory to define what a leader is or should at least look like.

These traits were used to select and cultivate future candidates for positions of leadership. Therefore, if you didn’t look like a leader, you never got to be a leader. As we all thought we knew back then, leaders were all tall, blond muscular, decisive, tough, and possessing that chiseled look of a movie-star type of leader.

Now we know just how much bull was involved in the explanation of those old leadership theories. Not all leaders were tall. How would you explain Napoleon and Hitler under these types of traits? Heck, they sure as heck were not nice people at all. Fortunately, we have moved well beyond an emphasis on the physical traits exhibited by an individual. We now use different concepts of what it takes to succeed in any position of leadership.

The things which we look for in our leaders have a lot more to do with mental characteristics and moral attributes than with a person’s physical endowments. Let me stress to you that while traits are no longer the major determinants in selecting and developing our leaders, we do need to emphasize that such folks must behave in a respectful and morally-correct manner. We are not looking for the brutish people who come across as foul-mouthed, unkempt, and slovenly people. That much I know for sure.

Let me also strongly stress to you that people in positions of leadership must have an even temperament and act in a calm and rational manner. No one likes to follow a person who is constantly shooting from the hip and going off half-cocked. I know that I have never felt comfortable in the presence of the ‘Chicken Little, the sky is falling sort of folks.’ People in leadership positions need to serve as a rock-solid foundation for the actions of the organization and the performance of their subordinates.

Leaders should be calm and even in their demeanor and act as a fulcrum during stressful situations. A successful leader must exercise sound judgment and make logical decisions based upon the facts which are available to them. Some decisions, such as those on the fireground must be made quickly, while others should be studied and analyzed to ensure that the proper data has been gathered for the making of that decision. A successful leader will be the one who is able to exercise sound judgment and make rapid analyses of the available information and alternatives.

Effective leaders are enthusiastic about their work. This genuine commitment which they live in the midst of their labors is contagious. It spreads to subordinates, who, in turn, derive a similar level of satisfaction from their work. Such a leader builds an aura of trust and stimulates creativity among the work team. They do not toss cold water on the troops once they get them thinking and acting. They guide rather than herd or drive their people.

Good leaders are dependable. Both superiors and subordinates know that the word of such effective leaders is their bond. People have no reason to doubt those leaders who earn the trust of their associates on a daily basis. People who work for leaders like this are well aware of the fact that they will receive valuable direction and solid backing in all of their labors.

It is most important for a leader to fully and completely know and understand their job. They must also know the jobs of the people with whom they work. I say this for one simple reason. How can a leader tell a follower that there is a problem with the manner in which they are performing their job, if they have never learned what the job looks like when it is properly done? This is incredibly important for an organization’s success.

Leaders must be able to solve daily problems as they arise. Letting things slide is one sure way to guarantee future fire department failure. In working the leader/follower equation, the leader must be fair and impartial at all times. They must concentrate on their subordinate’s concerns, while shunning any sort of favoritism towards members of the work group.

I urge all people in positions of leadership to remember that their followers work with them and not for them. This is a simple grammatical distinction which can pay great dividends to the person in the leadership role. When the troops are out there taking a beating, you will not see the true leader sucking down a cup of coffee at the fire ground rehab center or warming themselves up in an out-of-the-way spot.

My friends, you lead from the front or you don’t lead at all. A good leader is also diplomatic and tactful in dealing with people from both within and without the fire department. Mutual trust is really important in the fire service. I say this because we must all depend on one another to perform as a team in some really threatening situations and environments.

People depend upon the leader and the leader most certainly depends upon their people. The conscientious fire service leader exercises an appropriate level of concern for the safety of everyone with whom they work. You must remember that every person is a unique individual. While one person may need a great deal of supervision, direction, and guidance, others may not. Some may only require the merest suggestion in order to proceed to complete the necessary task or assignment. You need to learn how your people tick so that you can provide the proper level of individualized supervision and leadership to each.

True leaders really get to know their people as individuals. They encourage group participation in the planning phases of their work and provide each person with as much responsibility as they believe their troops can handle. It is critical for the leader to remember that one of their primary responsibilities to their people and their organizations is the development of a corps of well-trained, dedicated, and motivated followers. To ignore this role is to guarantee failure within your fire department.

Let me also suggest to you that maintaining the proper balance between authority and democracy requires a wisdom which does not come easily to some people. However, the effort which it takes to provide that balance will be rewarded by the high success rates exhibited by people working under such a leader.

It has been my pleasure to share some very basic thoughts on the concept of leadership with you. If you wish to become a leader, you must put forth the effort to learn as much as you can about what a leader is and what they do. In order to do this, you must devote a great deal of time and effort. Leaders do not just happen.

If you are a leader, work to be the best you can be. If you aspire to be one, hitch your wagon to a person you hold up as an example of what a leader should be. You might even wish to approach them and ask them to mentor you as you move along the road toward becoming a leader. I just want to close with a simple bit of advice which I have learned over my fifty-three years in the fire and emergency service world: “Leadership doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it.”

Making a List Checking it Twice

Making a List, Checking it Twice!
By Kyle Kwodynski

We all use lists to help keep us organized and focused on what we need to do or get done. They come in handy whether it’s for shopping, jobs, activities, etc. Without them, it’s difficult to stay on track with what we need to accomplish. Not the kind to use a list? The new year is coming, maybe you should consider trying one, especially if your goal is to improve yourself physically and mentally.

Every year, for the new year, many decide that they will be exercising and eating better to improve their physique and overall health. That’s awesome, but unfortunately, many end up quitting after a month or so. There could be a host of reasons they stop. Perhaps they are too busy to fit exercise into their day. Some get bored with their training regimen or even become discouraged they aren’t seeing the results they wanted. This suggests that they didn’t take the time to sit down and think of REALISTIC goals they wanted to work for.

Now there are some that take the time to write out their fitness goals but sometimes their goals aren’t realistic. Some will write down they want to drop thirty pounds in a month. Some want to increase their bench press by twenty pounds in a week. While others want to be on a cover of a muscle magazine within a year of training. These are goals, but not realistic goals. You want to start with small goals that are achievable. Once you achieve it, come up with a new achievable goal. Challenge yourself to better yourself.

Here’s where the list comes in handy. Write down your fitness goals on a piece of paper and make a couple copies. Hang one up on your refrigerator where you may see it when you want to grab some food. Put one by your mirror in the bathroom where you will likely see it first every morning. Put another one by any piece of fitness equipment you may have in your home. Lastly, carry a copy with you so you can always look at it when you feel you need to. Yes, it sounds weird having the same list all over, but hear me out. You’ll see it many times throughout the day which will remind you of your goals and keep you motivated. You may have a day when you want to skip your morning workout or eat something that’s not on your clean diet plan but seeing your list of goals may help keep you on track. Heck you may not want to go to the gym after work but seeing that list you’re carrying around may change your mind. You never know, this may be your biggest motivation.

Motivation is most important when it comes to achieving your goals. Lose motivation and you’ll quit. Stay motivated and you keep going. By having a list of goals, you will have a target to work for.

When you achieve one of your goals, you will feel happy but remember, you want to come up with a new goal to replace the one you achieved right away to keep you motivated in bettering yourself. Keep one of the copies of the list you made/completed. You are competing with yourself to be better than you were the day before.

Now why would you want to keep a copy of all the lists with your accomplished goals on it? At the end of the year, look at where you started and where you finished. Depending on what your goals are and how your training and nutrition were, you may see a big change whether it be in bodyweight or how much you increased strength in your lifts, even how your physique looks. You likely conquered many goals throughout the year because you set small goals for yourself which may end up helping you achieve a larger goal overall.

So, for many of you who have a new year’s resolution that involves fitness and health, write down your goals and get a couple copies made so you can see your list in several places to help keep you on track and achieving your goals. Use this list to help you compete with yourself and stay motivated. Just remember, write down small goals that are achievable and keep coming up with new ones.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season and good luck in 2019!

For more helpful fitness tips, please visit and like my Facebook page Newbreedfitness LLC. For information on how I may be able to help your department, visit my website