Buildings with half-stories over full-stories present special challenges for firefighters because of the knee walls that create confined spaces. These structures are usually single-family dwellings, but some larger structures may be renovated into multi-family dwellings.
Knee walls are vertical walls that stretch 3-4 feet internally from the floor toward the peak of the roof in the half-story part of the structure. A concealed space is created behind the knee wall and usually extends the length of the room and is most times used for storage or concealing plumbing or electrical wiring. These concealed spaces present an increased risk for rapid fire extension.
Half-story buildings can be found anywhere, even in South Florida (there are several in my battalion, especially in the older cities).
Apply Intentional Command to efficiently synchronize resources and effectively attack rapidly evolving, complex and severe problems.
Full Speed Size Up
What is the occupancy?
What is the life hazard?
Where are the occupants?
Where is the fire?
What is the fire doing to the building and where is it going?
What is the ventilation situation?
What problems are created, and what tactical and Command solutions (strategies) must be applied?
Key Things to Remember
The keys to fighting fires in half-story buildings:
- aggressive truck work on the fire floor and floor above
- timely advancement of hoselines on the fire floor and floor above
- adequate resources (firefighters, equipment, and water) to stretch and operate lines and open up concealed spaces