Understanding & Fighting Basement Fires

This course was developed to teach firefighters and officers about the research results that were obtained from the 2016-2017 Basement Fire Tactics Research Panel in partnership with ISFSI, UL FSRI and the Delaware Co. PA Fire Academy. The Basement Fire Tactics Research Panel looked at numerous types of tactics and basement fires for the most effective and efficient attack methods.

Over the last twenty years fire fighters have died while trying to extinguish a basement fire or a fire on a level lower than the front entry point of the structure.  NIOSH has documented 34 LODD cases plus an additional 19 serious injuries at those line of duty deaths.  Typically these cases involved the firefighters falling through a wood floor assembly into a burning basement.  According to the NFPA report on firefighter fatalities in 2014, there were six LODDs that involved a basement or operating above the fire in residential occupancies. Two of the fatalities were trapped in a basement, two of the fatalities fell into a basement, and two of the fatalities were operating above the fire floor and were over taken by a rapid fire event. Many firefighters are also injured in cases involving basement fires.  Based on newspaper reports alone, in the 100 days from 12/28/15 to 04/07/16,  nine firefighters had been injured due to falls through the floor of a burning home.

During the summer of 2017, several experiments were conducted in a test fixture that represents a single family home with a basement using a variety of tactical approaches to gain knowledge on best practices in size-up, ventilation control, suppression, and structural assessment with the tactical use of thermal imagers, exterior hose streams, penetrating nozzles, cellar pipes, and PPV fans. 

Access to the basement was a test parameter; experiments were conducted with no windows, small windows high on the basement wall and an exterior basement door with large basement window on one wall.

Experiments conducted included:

  • Examining the impact of gypsum board protection of the floor assembly on the fire development & subsequent fire attack.
  • Examining the activation of an automatic fire sprinkler system and the impacts on firefighting and fire assessment.
  • Location of water application relative to the seat of the fire.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the history of modern fire attack and tactics.
  • Understand current knowledge vs. beliefs of the most recent UL/NIST findings from the basement fire tactics research panel
  • Understand basement fire LODDs and why this research is important.

Program Highlights:

  • Examining how your departments basement tactics were developed and the last time they were updated.
  • Exploring alternative extinguishment methods 

Understanding & Fighting Basement Fires Research Report

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Funded By:
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Lieutenant Matt LeTourneau, Philadelphia FD,  passed away on Saturday, January 6, 2018 in a tragic LODD after succumbing to his injuries suffered from a structural collapse while fighting a rowhouse fire.

Matt was an essential part of the research team and also a contributor to the Tech Panel of the ISFSI Basement Fire Research and Curriculum.   In honor of his contributions, the ISFSI Understanding and Researching Basement Fires project will be dedicated to his name. 

Understanding Basement Fires

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