Firefighters go through a rigorous training. A crucial part of their training is understanding the building types. This part is utterly important because a seasoned firefighter should be able to date a building and recognize tendencies indicating the building might collapse. Unless he’s accustomed to multiple building types, he can never pull off what’s expected from him.
Types of Buildings
There are five main types of buildings. We’ll discuss them at length, but before doing that, let’s feed ourselves with some useful information:
- Recognizing a building type helps ventilate it in the most efficient way.
- The best time to identify a building is during the pre-planning stage.
- Most municipalities abide by the Universal Building Code and NFPA 101.
The Ladder Crew
The ladder crew handle the most difficult aspects of the job. Just when a fire is getting out of the grip, the ladder crew show up. The crew members do their best to stop the fire from spreading. They even risk their lives. The NFPA documented the fire safety codes keeping the ladder crew in mind.
The five types a building can be broken down to are:
A fire-resistant building can be of many types, mostly a highrise. Such structures are the most rotund among all existing building types. A highrise is at least 75 feet tall. However, some government agencies have proposed to declare buildings with height of 35-55 feet as highrise. A fire resistive building normally has steel and concrete mixture as its basic materials. The advantage of such build materials is they can hold a fire for a long time.
The problems: The key disadvantage of a fire-resistive structure is that it doesn’t allow the firefighters to perform some crucial ventilation operations, such as cutting a hole on the roof, horizontal ventilation because of the windows being thick and made of tempered glass.
New buildings and remodeled commercial structures fall into this category. The walls and roofs of such buildings are built with non-combustible materials. The buildings either have tilt slab or reinforced masonry. The roofs of such buildings have decking and metal structural members. Lightweight concrete and insulated membrane could be found on the top of a non-combustible building’s roof.
The majority of non-combustible buildings have been constructed in recent times. They were built keeping the relevant NFPA codes in mind. They also include a fire suppression system that makes a firefighter’s job incredibly easy.
The problems: The only problem with a non-combustible building is that the routine equipment to carve out a ventilation may not work on the roof. Firefighters, especially the ladder crew, normally use circular saws and chainsaws. But they may not be useful to cut a large hole on the roof.
Heavy Timber Buildings
Buildings that are made of heavy timber use large dimensional lumber for their outward structure and interior elements. Such buildings can efficiently hold fire. The lumbers are the sign marks that the building is made of heavy timber. By observing lumbers, firefighters conclude whether or not it’s a heavy timber building.
The problems: The key disadvantage of heavy timber buildings is they are normally old and improperly maintained. The heavy timber buildings are the ones that have termites in them. This exposes the buildings to harsh weather situations and their longevity reduces.
Such buildings have non-combustible walls and wooden roof. An ordinary building can be old or new. While an old one may be built with unreinforced masonry and have a roof that’s conventionally framed, its newer counterpart has a lightweight roof system on reinforced masonry. Generally, an ordinary building has a parallel cord beam and panelized roof system.
The problems: Safety of the crew members is a big concern. When ladder crew members suppress the fire on an ordinary building, they should always stay on the ledger walls. Otherwise, their safety can be at stake. They also need to carefully monitor the condition of the roof.
A number of modern homes are made of wooden frames. Wood framed buildings above a certain height poses fire risk. The walls and roofs of those homes are made of combustible materials. In a typical wood-framed building, the walls and the roof are wood-framed and the rooftops have ceramic tile on lightweight beams. Firefighters can identify a wood-framed building by its walls and roof.
The problems: The biggest problem of a wood-framed building is their vulnerability to fire. Such a building can collapse within minutes after the fire strikes. Firefighters, therefore, need to be extremely careful while suppressing a fire on a wood-framed building.
Fire can break out in any type of building. And once it does, the firefighter must bring that under control. So, a prior idea about the buildings can come in extremely handy for them. That's because it can help them guess how the fire might shape up when it's occurring in a certain type of building. And once they have that knowledge, they can plan their steps accordingly to bring the fire under control within a short time.