Building Construction

In the past, firefighters were often recruited from the trades or from the military. With technological advancements, computers, industrialization, robotizing what used to be completed by humans using hand tools, and outsourcing to third world countries, the use of hand tools and trades has changed. Thus, many of the up coming firefighters have not been taught how to use saws, hand tools, basic construction concepts, and mechanical skills. This presents a challenge for the fire service since a good portion of what we do is based around building systems and processes.

Understanding basic construction concepts and types provides for safe and sound decision making on the fireground. The "whys" of today's firefighter need to be able to answer these questions for safety and proper deployment of resources.

Understanding the desired outcome before making commitments, based on the understanding of the "whys" will reduce injury and deaths of firefighters and utilize the resources more efficiently to reduce damage. Understanding the five types of construction is imperative to firefighter safety and survival. Proper tactical decision-making and crew deployment are dependent upon understanding types of construction and fire prevention codes.

What burns in a Type I constructed building?
The contents! How do collapses occur in this type of construction? What types of USAR team will you need to respond to collapses in this type construction and why?

What burns in a Type II constructed building?
The contents, but it is not protected to the same level as Type I construction. When does sprinklering or sprayed on intumescent materials become an issue. In the World Trade Center collapse, a big part of the reason the buildings collapsed is because the fire protective material was removed by jet fuel, exposing raw metal, essentially making it Type II construction.

What implications are known when we discuss the difference between modern and legacy Type III construction and "WHY."
The impacts include collapse zones affecting proper apparatus placement to heavy stream appliance application onto a lime sand mix that degrades the product between bricks making them projectiles and eventually will lead to collapse.

What are the implications of Type IV Heavy Timber, where was it used, where is it most commonly scene?
What are the implications of collapse and fire load that affect tactical decision-making? How does this type of construction affect crew management and deployment? Does it take more staffing when dealing with mill construction and three inch flooring materials?

Type V construction is the only fully combustible construction type.
What does that mean and how do they protect. How does a content fire differ from a structure fire? What does that mean? Does smoke showing from the attic area vs. an occupant area affect the way you attack the fire? What is the difference between legacy and lightweight wood constructed Type V buildings? How does that affect your tactical decision-making? How does modern fire behavior affect each of these construction types?

If any of these situations are a concern, these questions have spurred some thoughts and cause you to seek the answers of "why?" Please take these questions and identify building construction and its effect on fire behavior. You have an obligation
to consider the safety of your firefighters before committing them to any task. Go to our Tactical Simulations utilize the educational component of the simulation process to practice these skills.

Thank you and let us leave you with one thought:
"Train like your life depends on it because it does and be safe out there!"