Fires in attics and roof spaces present many risks to firefighters, including limited access, unstable floors, roof collapse, high temperatures, and working at height.
Attics in apartment buildings are often used as storage for the occupants, which means there is often a high fire load in these types of spaces. A fire that starts in the attic can therefore quickly become very large and require a significant response from fire and rescue services – as well as causing significant damage to the building and incurring significant costs.
An important step in fighting fires in attics is to limit the fire so that it does not spread to another area and cause more damage. To do this, the most common action is internal firefighting and BA attack.
Using Cobra from outside the attic/roof space (e.g. from an aerial appliance or ladder) will enable crews to quickly control the fire and reduce temperatures. BA crews can then enter the attic to extinguish any remaining fire, in much cooler and safer conditions.
Communication is vital. The Cobra operator may be unable to see what effect Cobra use is having on the fire, so good communication between the crew, Cobra operator and Incident Commander must be achieved and maintained in order to get the Cobra lance into the best position. Knowledge of building construction is important so that Cobra can be applied to maximum effect.
Limits firefighter contamination from toxic fire gases.
The fire and fire gases are suppressed from outside the fire compartment with firefighters only entering to dampen the remaining hot spots. This limits exposure to toxic fire gases in a confined space such as an attic. If an opening can be created, then PPV can be used as the fire crews enter. This will reduce contamination as the fire gases are ventilated.
Minimises firefighter exposure to high temperatures.
Attic/roof space fires can expose firefighters to very high temperatures when attacking using traditional methods. Cobra utilises small water droplets, which are optimised at 0.1mm. These droplets absorb significant amounts of heat energy very quickly. This reduces the temperature within the fire compartment, allowing firefighters to enter a much cooler environment with a significantly reduced risk of backdraft or flashover.
Getting equipment in place to fight a fire in an attic or roof space can use up valuable time. Utilising Cobra from an aerial appliance, or from an adjacent compartment, reduces the amount of time taken to get water into the fire compartment. The equipment is light in weight and easy to handle, which enables rapid deployment. The training programme that underpins Cobra gives fire crews the ability and confidence to deploy Cobra very quickly on arrival.
Limits damage from fire and water.
Using traditional firefighting methods when fighting fires in attics/roof spaces uses a considerable amount of water – 450 litres per min or more. This will result in significant water damage to the rest of the property. Cobra uses 60 litres of water per minute – considerably less than traditional firefighting methods. A fine water mist used into a hot compartment will result in evaporation of the water and very little or no water damage.
Limits water use.
As Cobra only uses 60 litres of water per minute, an 1800 litre tank of water will last 30 minutes with continuous Cobra use. This gives fire crews an opportunity to secure further water supplies where needed – vitally important in areas where water supplies are scarce.
Reduces environmental impact from the fire.
The rapid fire and fire gas suppression associated with Cobra means that less toxic emissions get into the atmosphere. Reduced water consumption means less contaminated water runoff gets into watercourses.
Benefits of Cobra use
- Limits firefighter contamination from toxic fire gases
- Minimises firefighter exposure to high and very high temperatures
- Quick intervention
- Limits damage from fire and water
- Limits water use
- Reduces environmental impact from the fire
Source: Johansson, N., & Van Hees, P. (2010). A study of attic fire with the uses of statistics and fire investigations. (LUTVDG/TVBB—3152—SE; Vol. 3152). Department of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety, Lund University.